Raise your hand if you’ve ever dreamt of leaving it all behind and trading your busy life in the city for a carefree existence on a tropical island. If the “no news, no shoes” way of life appeals, you should definitely consider booking a trip to Gili Trawangan. Here is our laid back island guide to Gili T.
Gili Trawangan – The Basics
Gili Trawangan, or Gili T for short, is largest of the three Gili Islands scattered just off the coast of Lombok. (The two smaller islands are called Gili Air and Gili Meno.) Though it is the largest of the three, Gili T is still a very petite island – the island measures at just 15 square kilometres in total.
It’s difficult to find any official numbers, but Gili Trawangan is estimated to have a permanent population of around 1,500 people. Though the Gili Islands are a popular destination for travellers visiting Bali, the islands are in fact more culturally influenced by neighbouring Lombok where, unlike on dominantly Hindu Bali, majority of the population are Muslim.
How to Get to Gili Trawangan
First of all, there is no airport on Gili Trawangan. To reach the island, you need to land at Ngurah Rai International Airport in Bali or Lombok International Airport. From here, you catch a boat to Gili T.
From Bali to Gili T
From Bali, it’s recommended to depart from Padang Bai on the east coast. You can also depart from Sanur, but this usually means your boat will also make a pit stop in Padang Bai. There is one company, Gili Getaway, offering direct boat transfers from Serangan to Gili Trawangan with no stop overs on the way.
Padang Bai is located about 90 minutes from Bali’s international airport. It is recommend to spend at least one night in Bali rather than heading for Gili T straight from the airport. Most boat companies include pick ups from the most popular tourist areas, but do make sure to check what’s included when booking your ticket. It’s good to note that the complimentary transfers are usually shared with other passengers meaning you might be stopping several times on the way. For the smoothest transfer experience and especially if you’re travelling with children we recommend paying a little extra for private land transfers to and from the port.
As always with boat travel in Indonesia, it’s important to remember that safety standards are not always on par with those in Australia or Europe. The best rated companies will probably be a bit more expensive, but do consider paying a little extra for added safety.
From Lombok to Gili T
Most of the fast boats from Lombok to Gili Trawangan depart from Teluk Nara, which is located about 90 minutes from Lombok International Airport. Fast boat transfers from Lombok to Gili Trawangan take only around 30 minutes
As the travel time between Lombok and Gili Trawangan is significantly shorter than from Bali to Gili T, it’s worth considering catching a domestic flight from Bali to Lombok and making the short boat ride over to Gili T.
Getting Around Gili Trawangan
Gili Trawangan is a very small island and you can walk the island from end to end in less than an hour. No motorised vehicles (cars or motorbikes) are allowed on the island, so there are basically three possible ways of navigating the island:
- Horse buggy (cimodo)
Bicycles are readily available throughout the island – you can rent one directly at the port or have your accommodation arrange one for you. Some villas have complimentary bicycles included in the rates. Parts of the island have no street lights, so if you’re biking or walking around after dark, it’s a good idea to bring along a head lamp.
A Note About Accessible Travel
Unfortunately, Gili Trawangan is not the best destination for travellers with reduced mobility. There are no cars or motorbikes on this small island and the only feasible modes of transport are bicycles and horse buggies. It’s also worth noting that getting to and from the island entails climbing on and off the boat.
Where to Stay on Gili Trawangan
First things first: Gili Trawangan is a small island, so you shouldn’t worry too much about staying in the “wrong” area. That being said, there are definite perks to staying in different parts of the island so a little research beforehand goes a long way.
Close to the Port
The eastern shore of Gili Trawangan is where it all happens. The port is located on this side of the island, so this is where you’ll first land on the island – and a lot of travellers never make it much further. Gili T’s main beachfront strip is lined with restaurants, beach bars, resorts and dive shops. This is a great place to stay if you’re looking to party or simply want to be close to the action. The southern tip of the island is the best place to stay for sunset views.
Vila Ombak is a great beachfront resort that brings you to the heart of the action. Vila Ombak offers classically styled one and two-bedroom private pool villas and the resort also features two public pools (hello, swim up bar!), two restaurants, a spa and a dive centre. Our favourite feature? Their nightly beachfront movie screenings!
Bringing the family to Gili Trawangan? Gili Pear Villa can host the whole group with its three bedrooms. The villa offers a stellar location close to the beach and comes with all the mod cons you’ll need from an island home, including a private pool.
North & West Shore
Gili T is a small island, so you really don’t need to venture far to get away from the crowds. Hop on a bike and head for the northern tip or the western shoreline for calmer beaches and great restaurants. This is a more relaxed setting compared to the buzz surrounding the port, with a few great villas and small resorts facing the beach.
Villa Coral Flora is a beautiful villa with a lot to offer. First there’s the location. The villa is built along the beachside lane and guests have access to a private stretch of beach with sun loungers poised for tanning. The villa itself is a beauty with white washed decor that captures the beachy feel of Gili T perfectly.
Sunset Palms Resort is a beautifully bohemian estate shaded by palm trees within a three-minute walk from the beach. The resort features a breezy open-air restaurant and bohemian style one and two-bedroom villas crowned by a thatched roof, each with their own private pool.
All though Gili T is first and foremost a beach destination, there is something to be said for staying inland – not least because some of the best villas are hidden this way. Staying in the centre of the island also means you’ll have easy access to whichever beach tickles your fancy on that particular day.
Les Villas Ottalia offers beautifully styled one and two-bedroom pool villas connected through lush walkways covered with exotic flowers. Next to the spacious villas, Les Villas Ottalia features a beautiful poolside restaurant. Les Villas Ottalia is under 10 minutes away from the beach.
Travelling with an entourage? Well you’re in luck as Palmeto Village offers a whopping 10 bedrooms for you and your group. The bedrooms are housed in antique Gladak houses surrounding the villa’s turquoise swimming pool. Palmeto Village is just a hop and skip from the beach on foot or by bicycle.
Great Restaurants on Gili Trawangan
Pearl Beach Lounge is a gorgeous bamboo structure built along the beachside boulevard – it really is hard to miss this stunner while strolling down the street. The venue serves international cuisine and makes for the perfect setting for a romantic beachfront dinner.
A cute thatched roof venue nestled inland, Pituq Cafe is a vegan venue that’s sure to win over even the most die hard carnivore. The colourful dishes are beautifully presented and you’re sure to leave with a full belly. The laksa is delicious and the cakes simply melt in your mouth.
If you’re looking for yummy Indonesian food you should definitely head to Made’s Waroong. This unassuming eatery serves both western and Indonesian dishes, but it’s definitely the local grub where Made excels. True to island’s laid back vibe, Made’s tables are set right on the sand, close to Wilson’s on the north shore.
Gili Trawangan Night Market
If you want to get a feel of the local way of life rather than sampling tried and tested western dishes, make your way to the bustling night market nestled along the main strip close to the port. This is a great place to try some local dishes and cut back on costs if you don’t feel like paying the higher prices for international cuisine.
Gili Trawangan is a worthy addition to any Bali or Lombok itinerary – though if you ask, this island is a destination in and of itself. If you’re planning a trip to the island, don’t hesitate to contact our team. Our villa specialists can help you find the perfect place to stay on Gili T and our free concierge service means your stay will run smoothly from booking all the way until check out.