Welcome to our detailed travel guide on the Gili Islands of Indonesia! We are Yvi and Simon – and together we are traveling around the world, sharing our pictures and moments on our Instagram account: @travellovestorys. We have been a couple for four years now and come from the same small village in Germany near the Dutch border.
Our first visit to Thailand in 2019 was the inspiration for our world trip. The wonderful people, culture and food that we discovered made us curious about Asia. We are both cosmopolitan and adventurous people, so it was clear to us that we wanted more of these experiences and that we have to see the beauty of our planet. Due to the pandemic, we had to wait a bit but finally we started our journey in Sri Lanka in the summer of 2022.
Countries Visited on our World Trip
We have been traveling every year since 2019 and have been lucky enough to see many countries. In total, we have visited 36 countries. In Europe we have visited Portugal, Spain, Italy, the Netherlands and Poland as a couple. Outside Europe we have been to Thailand, Panama and Jordan.
Our open-ended tour of the globe began in July, 2022 and already we fell in love with Sri Lanka, got engaged in Malaysia, traveled through Indonesia and explored Vietnam. We are currently in Laos. Our next destinations are Northern Thailand, Cambodia, Singapore and Australia. And next year we plan to go to South America, Central America and North America.
We spent two months in Indonesia. One week we did a jungle trek tour in Sumatra and saw orangutans! Then we went to Java for three weeks. Finally, we visited Bali and its nearby islands like Nusa Lembongan, Nusa Ceningan, Nusa Penida, Gili Trawangan, Gili Meno, Gili Air and Lombok.
What we loved about Bali was the lifestyle and vibe. Surfing in the morning, yoga at noon and delicious food in the evening. Additionally, the islands around Bali were amazing – the unique nature, pristine beaches, sights such as the temples and the friendly people. All in all, we had a great time.
How to Get to the Gili Islands
Our vacation in the Gili Islands lasted for five nights. We spent two nights on Gili Trawangan and three nights on Gili Air. For Gili Meno, we took a day trip. We went via speedboat from Nusa Penida to Gili Trawangan. The trip was about one and a half hours and it cost us around €10 each. It was a relaxing and enjoyable journey to the Gili Islands – we felt safe.
The whole time, however, we could only sit inside the boat. But we could imagine if the sea was rougher that you would get nervous or feel uncomfortable. For those who have a weak stomach, we recommend taking sea sickness tablets before the boat ride. We researched in advance the transfer prices and possibilities from Bali to the Gili Islands. There are two main options – one more expensive and one cheaper.
The most expensive choice starts in Padangbai and you travel via speedboat for two and a half hours to Gili Trawangan. The price for this is just under €22 per person one way. The cheaper but also slower alternative is the public ferry from Padangbai to Lombok, Lembar to Bangsal (you have to organize your own transfer) and then with a local boat to one of the Gili Islands. This journey takes seven hours and costs a little over €5.
Differences Between the Islands
The Gilis are a small group of islands between Bali and Lombok. This archipelago consists of three small islands named: Gili Trawangan, Gili Air and Gili Meno. The Gili Islands are the turtle hotspot around Bali. If you look under the water you will definitely encounter more than one turtle.
However, there is more to experience than just the turtles. You can also see colorful fish and other species. Furthermore, each island has its own charm and offers an unforgettable time. Let us begin with the largest and most famous island – Gili Trawangan. This island is no longer a secret. Sadly, the island is crowded with tourists and some of the corals have died. But the beaches around the island and the color of the water are incredible.
Another special thing about this island is that there are no cars or scooters. To explore Gili Trawangan you can use a bicycle, sit in a carriage or go on foot. In the evening, you can eat very well at the night market and there are often parties at the beach bars which last until the morning. In short – we recommend this island for party people, backpackers and families.
Gili Meno is the smallest of the three and it lies between Gili Trawangan and Gili Air. In less than two hours you can walk around the island, which is home to only 500 people. The locals here live from fishing and tourism. Gili Meno is popular as a honeymoon destination but other travelers won’t be disappointed if they day trip to this little corner of paradise.
You can find white beaches just for yourself. The island isn’t overrun with tourists like Bali or Gili Trawangan. Gili Meno is ideal for people who want to relax and read a book. The last one is Gili Air and it’s a mix of the other two islands. Visitors can walk on lonely beaches, snorkel and spot turtles, enjoy the sunset with fresh coconuts, chill with live music at a beach bar, dance the night away, practice yoga and try some delicious dishes and smoothies.
The following activities can be enjoyed on all of the islands: snorkeling, slurping a coconut on the beach, relaxing on the beautiful beaches, circling the islands on a bicycle, watching a movie in an open-air cinema and attending a yoga class. Specifically for Gili Trawangan you can snorkel to the underwater scooters, ride horses on the beach, participate in the beach clean-ups, taste the local food at the night market and party all night.
Gili Meno also has some unique activities only offered there such as snorkeling to the underwater sculptures and enjoying your honeymoon undisturbed by tourists. Gili Air is perfect for exploring the spectacular underwater world. You can’t go wrong with any of these islands!
Favorite Places in the Gili Islands
It’s hard to name a favorite place on the Gilis as each island has its own charm. Each one has touched us in a unique way. To name something epic that you can’t experience anywhere else: the underwater statues at Gili Meno and the underwater scooters at Gili Trawangan. We were alone at the underwater scooters, and had time to take photos and enjoy the moment.
We saw the underwater statues on a snorkeling tour, but that was also magical. You see the pictures all the time on Instagram and now you are there! During this trip, we also swam with turtles by ourselves. This was a cool experience to see how elegant and smooth the turtles move. Another highlight was just the island of Gili Meno itself. We enjoyed relaxing on the beach, soaking up the sun and admiring the blue color of the sea.
Top Things To Do in the Gili Islands
We recommend staying on Gili Trawangan or Gili Air overnight, perhaps for two or three nights. You can find accommodation in every price range – whether for backpackers or families. One day isn’t enough to see all the highlights of the Gilis. You can then make a day trip to Gili Meno and explore this island in one day, or just relax for the day. With Gili Trawangan or Gili Air as your base, here the top of five things to do on the Gili Islands:
- Open air cinema
- Relaxing day at a white sand beach on Gili Meno
- The Night Market in Gili Trawangan for cheap and delicious food
- “Bask Nest” in Gili Meno and “Vespa” snorkeling point in Gili Trawangan
- Turtle Beach on the island of Gili Trawangan, and with a bit of luck you will be able to encounter turtles from the beach and snorkel with them.
Best Memories from this Trip
One of our favorite moments was the snorkeling tour around the Gilis that was a truly special experience. So we got the possibility to see all of the surrounding islands and were able to explore the underwater world. When we snorkeled with the turtles and to the underwater statues we were alone, which made it better. We suggest booking a private tour for this.
Some friends of ours were on the Gili Islands at the same time and we also met new people. We were able to share a private tour and create an individual tour. It started early in the morning and we got to enjoy the moments to ourselves without the hassle of a group. That was magical.
Another great memory was the open air cinema on the beach of Gili Trawangan. When the sun went down we watched “The Lion King” directly on the beach with snacks and beers. The night sky was full of shining stars. It was one of those pinch yourself moments that you will never forget.
Tips for Visiting the Gili Islands
On the one hand, of course, all the highlights of the Gili Islands that we have mentioned should be experienced. The list offers a variety of activities and there is something for everyone. In a way the islands are similar to each other, yet somehow different and beautiful. That is why you should take your own pictures of the islands to capture the differences.
For us we discovered a perfect mix on Gili Air, which is why we recommend H&R Resto. The food is tasty, the selection is large and the price is cheap. A valuable tip, which applies not only to the Gilis but to the whole of Bali: prices are negotiable with tours, transport, accommodation and sometimes at the markets you can save money by bartering. We suggest doing this since Bali has become expensive compared to five years ago!