The Gili islands in eastern Indonesia off Lombok island has become the top pick for backpackers in the past years. The Gilis are comprised of three islands: Gili Air which is nearest to Lombok, the relaxed Gili Meno, and party paradise Gili Trawangan. Only a boat ride away from Lombok and Bali, the Gilis are less-crowded and quieter with more pristine beaches, making it a refreshingly peaceful escape for those who are travelling in Indonesia.
Prices and Budget tips
Getting around – Motorised vehicles are not available on the islands. Options include renting bicycles for about 13,500 IDR per hour, riding horse-drawn carriages, and, perhaps the best choice, going on foot, can be done by following the coastline. Tickets for boat rides going from island to island are at 25,000 IDR per person.
Lodging – Being a backpacker’s paradise, the Gilis have a lot of affordable accommodations, with rooms going as low as about 125,000 Indonesian Rupiah (IDR) per night during off-peak months. Air-conditioned private rooms with en suite bathrooms average can go as cheap as 400,000 to 500,000 IDR per night for two people.
Dining – The islands have many restaurants serving a variety of international cuisines. Food is cheap, ranging from from 40,000 IDR to about 70,000 IDR. Fresh seafood can go for about 135,000 IDR. For even cheaper eats, one can try the street food stalls, where food can go for as low as 13,000 to 20,000 IDR.
Drinks should be ordered with caution and bought from trusted sources, with some incidents of locally produced drinks poisoning tourists.
What to do – The main draw of the Gilis are its water activities, with its pristine beaches and inviting waters. Scuba diving is popular there, with fun dives costing as low as 37 USD, and discounts for those who provide their own gear. Non-divers can also enjoy snorkelling, which starts at about 60,000 IDR for a day trip that includes four snorkelling spots and mask rental. The Gilis also have some reef breaks, which make for waves perfect for surfing. Those who want to stay dry can try a scenic ride around the island on a horse-drawn cart.
Enjoy the beach – White sands and clear, temperate water are a fixture in the Gilis, and divers and non-divers alike can enjoy the experience of laying out on the shore to catch their fair share of sun. It is certainly a cost-effective and relaxing way to make the most of the Gilis’ natural beauty.
Water sports – Those who want to experience some water action can take part in the aqua sports that are offered on the islands. Feel the sea breeze as you parasail, get an adrenaline rush while wake boarding, test your balance by learning to waterski, or rent a boat and spend a day sport fishing.
Surf – The waves in the GIlis, particularly in south Trawangan, are made for surfing, and are consistent throughout the year. Beginners and experts alike can enjoy the waves with lessons available for both first-timers and intermediate and advanced surfers.
Bike – Exploring the islands on foot is one thing, but it is a different pleasure altogether to take a bicycle around each island. Bikes can be rented for about 1 USD per hour, so you can spend half or even an entire day on a bike, just following the coast. Be sure to bring some food, swimwear, and sunblock so you’re ready for a picnic by the beach at any point in your ride.
Snorkel – Those who don’t dive don’t have to miss out on the thriving marine life in the Gili islands. Big groups have the option to rent a boat, while solo traveler and smaller parties can join other tourists. Fees usually include mask rental, though an additional fee may be charged for rental of fins. Snorkeling trips usually cover three or four islands, where people can see turtles, fish, and marine life.
Dive – As mentioned earlier, scuba diving is a big thing on the Gilis and offers more affordable rates compared to Bali. Many dive centers populate the three islands. With many dive sites surrounding the Gili islands, dive enthusiasts can look forward to seeing a wide variety of marine life, including scorpion fish, cuttle fish, lion fish, all kinds of rays, and many kinds of sea turtles, which the islands are known for.
Freedive – Free yourself of the weight of the heavy scuba gear and learn to experience the deep blue in a more pared-down way by taking up free diving. Lessons are available in certain dive enters in the Gilis, so it’s a great opportunity to level up your diving experience, especially if you’re already an advanced diver. Of course, safety should be your top priority, so it is important to communicate openly with the instructors and dive masters regarding safety instructions and free diving rules and procedures.
Get up close an personal with the turtles – The Gilis are known for being a haven for sea turtles, so close encounters with this creatures are almost inevitable if you go diving or snorkelling, especially in areas where they are known to stay. Resorts and dive centers will be able to tell you where best to find the turtles during your stay. However, one doesn’t have to even go underwater to see the turtles. Sanctuaries on the beaches of Trawangan and Meno give anyone a chance to come close to these magnificent creatures.
Kayak – Feel like an explorer and experience the Gilis by kayak. North Trawangan has areas such as Karma Kayaks, X, and X where one can hire a kayak or do a guided tour. Lots of marine life can be seen by taking a kayak tour.
Party – Gili Trawangan, the largest of the Gilis, also has great nightlife. Parties are held there regularly, around the clubs and bars, which normally don’t close until 4 in the morning, or even until sunrise. Trawangan’s southern end is where Full Moon parties take place, where DJs or live music keep the party going until the early morning.
Lombok day trip – Just a boat ride away from the Gili islands, the bigger island of Lombok has a lot to offer — from trekking the X-feet tall Mt. Rinjani, to drinking up some culture and history by visiting sights such as X, and X. If you haven’t had enough of surfing, you could also do it there.
Chill – A bit off the regular tourist trail, the Gili islands are very laid-back so it is the best place to unwind, relax, and basically do nothing. With an amazing beach to relax on, break open that book you’ve been wanting to finish, or just catch up on some much needed sleep.
Scuba Diving in Gili Islands?
Check out our Gili Islands dive guide and start planning your next dive trip!