Gili Islands Travel Tips
It’s really easy to get to the Gili Islands. Most people come via Bali ( having spent a few days there) and make their way to one of the 3 Gili Islands: Gili Trawangan, Gili Meno or Gili Air. The Gili Islands or what are commonly referred to as the Gilis are now an extremely popular tourist destination.
Most people venture here in search of that solitude that they can’t quite seem to get in Bali. Travellers come in all forms from back packers, wanting to party on Gili Trawangan right through to families and couples looking to experience the magical tropical waters that are found throughout the 3 islands.
To begin with it’s important that you know the subtle differences between the 3 islands. They may all look the same but each is very distinct with their own unique personalities. So you have to ask yourself these questions: are you coming to the Gili Islands for nightlife and partying? Do you want a romantic honeymoon escapes or are you taking the whole family away for a relaxing beach style holiday? Are you a diving and snorkelling enthusiast or do you just want to hang by your Gili Islands hotel pool? What ever your reason the following handy Gili Island travel tips will help your pick the right island for your next Gili’s getaway.
Which Gili Island is Best for Me?
Gili Trawangan is by far the most popular of the 3 islands. It’s rapid development over the past decade is due in part to the establishment of the first dive schools and dive centres. From there Trawangan has grown into the party hub of the Gili’s with accommodation designed specifically for those on a holiday budget and back packers. Having said that there are so many hotels and gorgeous Gili Islands villas here to cater for the more sophisticated traveller and families all wanting to explore the marine filled tropical waters. On Trawangan there are lots of eating options with restaurants, bars and cafes throughout the island.
Gili Meno is where you come to really escape the crowds, noise and other tourists. It has long white sandy beaches with dirt roads that intersect each other and provides ample time and space for you to quietly explore the place and interact with the local Sasak villagers. If you want to party don’t come here as the locals have put a ban on loud music. There are ample styles of accommodation here on Meno for back packers and families wanting a quiet retreat.
Gili Air is the smaller cousin of all 3 islands and is a mix of the other 32. Still very quiet and laid back there are bars and restaurants where you can let your hair down. Air is the perfect medium of the other 2 islands and has some picturesque diving and marine sites. It’s the closest island to Lombok and makes a great spot to sample life on the Gilis.
Best Time to Visit Gili Islands?
Because the only way to get to the Gili Islands is by boat the best time to go is during the dry season which is between March and November. Because it’s the fry season and there’s not much rain, underwater visibility is good which is perfect if your planning to do a bit of scuba diving or snorkelling. If not, then at least it’s not raining so you can top up your tan on the beach or do some inter island day trips & exploring.
In terms of crowds and other tourists the peak times on the Gili Islands are between July and August, and the Christmas / New Years period December & January.
Because the are so many ex pats living in Indonesia, especially Bali expect the crowd numbers to surge, prices to go up and hotels rooms to be fully booked out between the very long holidays of Idul Fitri (varying dates, usually between July and October), Christmas as well as the Balinese day of silence Nyepi. Within these dates make sure you book your Gili Island hotel accommodation well ahead.
What to Bring and Clothing to What to Wear
Once you get off the boat and see magical waters yo are going to want ot be the first one to grab your snorkel and start looking around. Therefore, clothing here is all about being minimal. Board shorts, bikinis and water orientated clothing is the best fit here. Forget formal attire. Even at dinner times in the resort is all about being casual.
Some handy gear to bring is all the usual island stuff which includes; sunscreen, mosquito repellent, protective clothing from the sun, a decent paid of UV sun glasses and just light clothing. If you want to do some exploring or waling a good pair of sandals or sturdy walking shoes is advisable.
Phone and Internet
If your coming to the Gilis from Bali and have a local SIM this will work on the Gili,s. Generally speaking mobile / Smart phone coverage is good all over the 3 islands and the drop out rate is fairly low considering the remote location. There are visibly mobile towers on all islands so no need to worry abut Wifi. It’s fairly decent. Having said that it will not be like back home so expect slow download times in some hotels and guest houses.
Currency, Money Exchange and ATMs
There are the usual currency exchanges all over the 3 islands and rates will vary depending on where your changing your money. Our advise is to change your money in Bali into local Indonesian Rupiah and take it with you to the Gilis to avoid loosing too much.
ATMs of CIMB Niaga, a major bank chain all over Indonesia, are found in major areas of Trawangan. Just walk into the nearest convenience stores (Circle K) and you will see and ATM. There are no ATM’s on Gili Meno so you will have to have your money with you or your credit cards which are accepted in most hotels and resorts.
Safety and Security
It all starts with the boat getting over to the Gili’s from Bali. make sure you use a reputable company and these are found mostly in the Sanur area where the boats depart from. Also although the Gili’s may seem really carefree and laid back make sure you use the safety deposit boxes found in the hotels. Keep you guard up at all times as loosing your passport, valuables and wallet can and does happen even in this idyllic paradise.
When in the water take the usual precautions and be aware of your surroundings the whole time. If your not a good swimmer stay close to the shore within a couple of metres. It’s always a good idea to go snorkelling with a dive buddy or partner in case you get into trouble.
If your leaving to scuba dive or planning on doing a few dives its best to go with a major PADI licensed dive centre, and avoid spontaneous dive trips offered by locals selling them on the beach. Padi dive centres are located on all three Gilis with Trawangan having the most.
Shopping on the Gili Islands
There are loads of local vendors on all 3 islands with items that are perfectly suited to island life; sarongs, t shirts and light dresses. You can bargain but be respectful and don’t push too hard. Remember they need to make a living as well. Shops open at about 10 am and close around 7.30 or 8 pm depending on the trade. You may get hassled on the beach by local sellers, but just be polite and say no.
If you want to have a cocktail only drink them a the more recognised hotels. There have been cases of alcohol poisoning with local bar owners trying to save money by serving you brewed local Arak in replace of the imported more expensive alcohol. Stick to the local cold bintangs if you feel like a sunset drink. a lot safer and less of a hangover!