As the Gili Islands has grown in popularity, as one of the most popular island destinations in Indonesia, especially over the last ten years, so has the infrastructure and transport sectors facilitating passage to the island paradise. The Gili Islands now cater to a much larger market segment of the tourism market mostly due to a larger selection of quality budget and mid to high end accommodation options on the islands. Gone are the days where the islands only visitors were locals from neighboring islands and nomadic backpackers from foreign countries.
There is now a brand new airport on the nearby mainland on the island of Lombok that can cater for both domestic and international flights. For those preferring to fly to Lombok as opposed to taking the 2.5 to 3 hour boat ride from Bali, the flight takes a mere 30 minutes from Bali’s International Airport. The two major domestic airlines from Bali to Lombok are Garuda and the normally domestic carrier, Lion Air. Lion air is the cheaper option with return tickets from around $45 Aud and Garuda is around double that as it tends to provide better service and has somewhat of a better safety record.
Once you’ve landed in Lombok the next part of the journey is overland by taxi or minibus to the seaside village of Bangsal Harbour, these services are available from the Lombok Airport. If you can find a registered Blue Bird Taxi then take that option as they are regulated and the meter will be legitimate and not tampered with. You should expect to pay around $35 Aud for the 2.5 hour journey to Bangsal Harbour from the airport. Once you reach Bangsal it’s a mere 30 minute boat road to the mystical Gili Islands. This is a great and very easy way to get to the Gili’s.
If you don’t mind a longer boat ride instead of catching a flight to Lombok, you can take a fast boat from the Bali mainland at Serangan Harbour which will take around 2.5 hours or take a shuttle bus to the port at Padangbai and then a 2 hour boat ride direct to the Gili islands. Some fast boat operators from Serangan now go directly to Gili Trawangan, the largest of the Gili Islands. Return tickets with some of the major fast boat operators from Serangan will set you back around $ 160 Aud. The larger companies will often provide hotel pick-ups at around 7am with departure times from Serangan Harbour direct to the Gili Islands at 9am. Some of the more reliable fast boat operators include Gili Getaway, Blue Water Express, Gili Cat, Gili Gili, Ocean Star Express and Super Scoot.
There is a strict policy of no motorized vehicles on all three of the islands, thus leaving bicycles, by foot and the horse drawn carriages called Cidomos as the only means of transport. Gili Trawangan, the largest island, is only 3km’s in length making circumnavigating the islands quite easy. If you want to hop
between the islands and do some exploring there is a regular taxi boat service, a one way fare is around $4 Aud or around $35 Aud for flexible drop off and pick-ups for a larger group on a day out.
The perimeter of the islands provides a suitable walking path featuring a combination of small paved roads and sandy pathways. To circumnavigate Gili Trawangan it will take about one hour on foot, the paths here are the best laid out of the three islands.
There are plenty of places to rent bikes on the island and most hotels and home stays have a few on hand for you to rent. Try to find a bicycle with extra fat tires; they help you traverse the more sandy sections of the paths without incident. Expect to pay around from $ 5 Aud for a 24 hour hire period or maybe opt for an electric bike for around $10 Aud.
Last but not least is the horse drawn Cidomo, somewhat of a traditional icon on the islands, these wooden carts are pulled by a single horse and prices are regulated by the local authorities, so as to avoid overcharging unsuspecting tourists