The Gili Islands are made up of three tiny tropical islands (Gili Trawangan, Gili Air and Gili Meno) off the northwest coast of Lombok in Indonesia. These islands are a tropical paradise, without the hefty price tag of other tropical island destinations!
The Gili Islands are the ultimate tropical escape. These islands are tiny (Gili means small) and are home to everything we love about the tropics including pristine white sand beaches, stunning sunsets, sea turtles, world-class diving, crystal clear water, laid back local lifestyle and of course a bunch of coconut trees! There are no motorised forms of transport, not ever scooters. The only way to get around is by walking, cycling or a horse-drawn carriage.
If you’re looking to escape the hustle and bustle of mainland Bali and are after a true tropical paradise to relax, unwind and even party hard, then the Gili Islands may be the perfect place to add to your Indonesia itinerary.
In this guide to Gili Trawangan (Gili T for short), we are sharing everything you need to know about Gili T. After reading this post, you should have a crystal clear idea of whether this beautiful tropical island is a destination for you!
Gili Trawangan is the largest, most developed and most popular destination of the three Gilis. However, this island does have a distinct reputation for being a lawless, wild, backpackers party island (think Koh Phangan). There are amazing hostels, beach bars, pub crawls and parties hosted by a different place each night on a bustling main strip.
This is the place to come if you are after some fun, a great buzzing atmosphere and want to let loose a little bit! While Gili T does have this reputation of being pretty wild, there is more to this island so don’t be put off if partying with young Aussies isn’t your thing. All you need to do is head inland or towards the northwest for more tranquillity and peace (plus you can always dip into the party scene when it suits you).
Gili T also has stunning tropical beaches, incredible diving, snorkelling, iconic sunset spots and so much more. If you love the mantra ‘eat, swim, party, sleep, repeat’ then maybe Gili T has something for you.
Things to do in Gili Trawangan
Gili T has a reputation of being a budget-friendly party island since it was ‘discovered’ in the 90s. This is someone's idea of heaven and maybe someone else’s idea of hell. At least you now know what you are getting yourself into!
In recent years, Gili T has become much more of a luxury-friendly destination with plenty of beautiful resorts and restaurants to accompany the hostel scene.
On Gili T, a different bar will take turns to host a party each night of the week into the wee hours. If you want to get involved in the party scene this is how! It will become immediately clear once you are there who is hosting what night (as it’s what most people will be constantly talking about!).
The popular party spots are concentrated on the main strip (don’t stay in this area if noise and raucous tourists get on your nerves) on the east of the island and include The Jungle Bar, Paradise Sunset, Jiggy Bar, Lava Bar and Evolution Bar.
It’s important to know that Gili T’s party vibes were heavily subdued by the pandemic. Visitor numbers plummeted and many places are just starting to reopen or have closed down completely. If you go there in 2022 it might be a little bit less of a wild scene than it was before COVID. Gili T, however, is always going to be a place to find fun times.
If diving isn’t your thing, that’s okay! There is also plenty of incredible snorkelling on Gili T. The best marine life for snorkelling is located on the northern coast. Either walk or cycle there and you will easily find a place to hire a snorkel.
You can also opt to go on a snorkelling tour from Gili T which will take you snorkelling around all the Gili Islands. You will be taken to the best and most famous spots such as the iconic underwater sculptures. You can choose a shared tour or a private tour. The shared tours are much cheaper but both are very affordable. There will be no shortage of operators at the port trying to sell you a snorkelling tour!
Gili T is one of the best places in Indonesia to go diving and one of the most affordable places to get your PADI licence. Many diving schools will teach you how to dive so you can go and enjoy the amazing reefs, fish and turtles in the surrounding sea. Diving trips start at around $35 USD and PADI courses start at around $70 USD. Always shop around for a diving school once you’re there and don’t be afraid to negotiate the price!
Explore the island
Due to the size of Gili T and the fact that there are no motorised vehicles, one of the best things to do is to explore the entire island by foot or bike. This will be a welcome relief if you’re coming from the hectic Bali traffic!
The entire island can be explored by bike in a couple of hours and there is only one main road circling the island, making it super easy to not get lost. You can rent a bike for an entire day for just a few dollars. If you venture further inland, away from the beach, be mindful of the local Muslim culture and cover-up.
Relax on the beach
If you don’t like the beach, then do not go to the Gili Islands. Of course, enjoying the pristine is a must when on Gili T, otherwise there wouldn’t be much to do. If you love lounging on the white sand, working on your tan, then cooling off in the warm turquoise waters, then Gili T is for you!
The east side of the island is where the main jetty is. Many of the boats are parked on the beach and this is where all of the activities leave from, meaning it's not the best place for swimming. Head to the north and you will be spoiled by a wide white sand beach, perfect for relaxing and swimming.
The west side of the island is quieter and is home to some luxury beachfront resorts. This beach is worth exploring! The south and southwest sides of the island are popular spots for sunset, with many beach clubs set up on the sand to help you say goodbye to the sun in the most perfect way.
Explore the circumference of the island by bike or foot and find the best beach for you. Note, the best time to go for a sea swim is at high tide.
Watch the sunset every night
If there is one thing Gili T is famous for, it’s a cracking sunset. Turn watching the sunset into an evening ritual! Don’t miss it, even if it’s cloudy. You may be surprised by the best sunset of your life.
To watch the sunset, make your way to the southwest of the island. This is the most popular spot to watch the sunset and many people flock there for it. Get there early to make sure you get a front-row seat on a bean bag at one of the beach clubs. The Exile and Sunset Paradise bar are both great sunset spots.
If you prefer more tranquillity for your daily light show, consider waking up early to watch the sunrise on the east side of the island. Or perhaps stay up late enough to see it! You won’t be disappointed.
Visit the night market
The Gili T night market is on each night at 6 pm in front of the main jetty on the east coast of the island. This is the place to indulge in local street food for a great price. Find stalls selling skewers, rice, vegetables, seafood, grilled corn and more.
Dine out at cafes and restaurants
There are now a plethora of cafes and restaurants on Gili T which have something for everyone. The best cafes and restaurants for tourists are concentrated on the east side of the island.
Recommended cafes for vegan and healthy food include The Banyan Tree and Kayu Cafe. Other notable cafes to visit include Coffee and Thyme, Scallywags restaurant, Santi Beach Club for Tahiti vibes and Hello Capitano.
If you’re after something more local and budget-friendly, head inland to find an abundance of local warnings.
Go Island Hopping
One of the best things about the Gili Islands is that even if you choose to stay in one place, you can still see all the Gili Islands by island hopping. Gili Air and Gili Meno are each a short boat ride from Gili T. There are public boats that run twice a day between all three islands, leaving in the morning and returning in the afternoon. Half a day is plenty of time to explore Gili Air and Gili Meno. For the best price, purchase your ticket from the ticket office by the jetty.
Enjoy live music at Sama Sama
One of the cool things about Gili T is this live reggae music venue called Sama Sama. Located on the east side of the island, it is in the thick of the party scene. They offer live music every night at 7 pm with amazing vibes. This is a great way to start your night or end it if you want an early one.
Get a photo at the Gili Swings and Sea Hammocks
There is no doubt that you have seen these iconic sunset images of people on swings and hammocks in the shallow water at sunset. The Gili Swings are one of the most Instagram famous spots in the whole of Indonesia. It would be rude to not go there yourself and take a couple of snaps for the record.
To find the original swings, head to the western part of the island. There will be numerous sea hammocks and swings in the sea. The swings at Ombak Sunset are the most famous ones, as they started the trend, and therefore tend to be the most crowded.
Many other resorts and beach clubs along the west coast have followed suit and created their own swings and hammocks in the sea for all of us to enjoy for free at sunset.
If you get restless easily and swimming and tanning on repeat get you bored easily, then going kayaking is the perfect thing to do on Gili T. On the northern side of the island, you can rent kayaks or go on a kayak tour. Get up and close to the beautiful water, while doing something a bit adventurous at the same time. You will likely encounter all kinds of marine life including turtles, stingrays and dolphins. Karma Kayaks is a great place to rent from.
Where to stay
The best location to stay if you’re solo or it's your first time on the island and you want to be able to get to your accommodation easily is around the main jetty. This is the most convenient place to stay and it’s in the thick of all the action with shops, restaurants, bars and the port all nearby.
If you are adverse to the crowds and party scene, stay on the north or west side of the island. You will be a short bike ride away from the action but will feel worlds away in peace and tranquillity. To reach your accommodation on this part of the island you will probably need to hire a horse and carriage for a small fee, depending on how much luggage you have. The north and west sides of the island certainly hold a lot of magic with the beautiful sunset, best beaches and snorkelling.
Who’s it for
- Solo travellers and groups of friends interested in socialising and partying
- Travellers who want to enjoy a tropical beach but still want a buzzing atmosphere
- Travellers who don’t mind being around younger crowds
- People who want to learn to dive and get PADI certified
How to get to Gili T
There are no airports on any of the Gili Islands so the only way to reach there is by boat. Luckily there are plenty of ferries that travel to Gili T and Gili Air every day from Bali and Lombok. Each ferry that goes to the Gili Islands will usually make a stop at each one. You can get to Gili T by boat from Bali or Lombok or from one of the other Gili Islands.
Bali is the most common place people travel from to reach Gili T. There are many direct fast boats from Bali’s PadangBai port which will take 1.5 - 3 hours. There are also other ferry services from Sanur and Serangan further south. For detailed options and routes check here!
Many fast boat providers such as GiliGili Fast Boat, Ekajaya and BlueWater Express offer transfers to the port from all of the popular Bali spots.Once you arrive at the Gili T port, you need to get to your accommodation! Since there are no cars, the only option is to walk or hitch a ride on a horse-drawn carriage. If you don’t like the idea of the horse-drawn carriage for animal welfare concerns you may like to consider choosing accommodation close to the port or packing light in an appropriate backpack. This ferry ride will set you back between $30-$50 USD.
You can also take a slow public ferry from Padang Bai, but this isn’t recommended as it will take all day (goes via Lombok) and won’t be the most comfortable journey. Use it as a last resort!
You can also hire a private charter to take you to the Gili Islands. For this, it will be best to try and find someone at the port to take you and negotiate the price. This is the most expensive option.
Another option is to fly to Lombok and get a ferry from Bangsal Port, around 2 hours from the airport.
If you are already in Lombok this is where you will go (Bangsal Port) to get the ferry to Gili T. There are frequent fast boats from Lombok to Gili T.
There is also a public ferry that runs daily from Bangsal Port to Gili T, which is a better budget option than from Bali as the journey is shorter. This boat ride can be overcrowded and fully booked in peak season.
From Nusa Lembongan
The last way to get to the Gili Islands is from Nusa Lembongan. If you are spending time on the Nusa Islands and want to head to the Gili Islands, this is a great option to save you from going back to Bali’s mainland. There are a few ferry operators running this route with options every day.
These ferry rides come with a warning!
It’s important to note that these ferry rides to the Gili Islands, particularly from Bali have a bit of a bad wrap, especially in bad weather and the busy season. Some companies are known to overbook the boat which means it can be very crowded and uncomfortable and also very delayed at times. It also means you may not even be able to catch the ferry at all. Many of the fast boat companies that are guilty of this are the ones with the bigger boats and lower prices.
However, in bad weather the bigger boats are more stable, feel safer and you will be less likely to get seasick. Whereas in the smaller fast boats, their service is generally much better and runs on time, however, if the water is choppy it may be unpleasant. If you’re prone to seasickness make sure you take some sea sickness tablets with you.
When to go to Gili T
There are 2 peak seasons on Gili T. The first is May-September during the dry season. The second is December and January due to Christmas and New Year. Note that the December and January peak season is also wet season. If you plan to go during these times, book ferries and accommodation in advance.
The low season coincides with the wet season and runs from October to November and then again from February until April. During this time everything remains open, there are fewer crowds and great deals. It will usually rain at some point each day but you should also have some fine weather and warm temperatures to enjoy. The ferry is also unlikely to be overcrowded. But if unpredictable weather and rain on a tropical island upset you, stick to the dry season.
Visiting during the shoulder months of the wet and dry season (September/October & April May) is a great time to take advantage of the best of both worlds. Fewer crowds, better prices and less rain!