Looking for ideas on where to start your next adventure in Indonesia? I recently enjoyed a four day trip exploring Gili Trawangan so much that I just had to share my experience. Here you can find out everything you need to know about Gili T, from travel to accommodation to daytime and evening activities.
Working for Ministry of Villas offers a wealth of benefits, such as staying at lavish accommodation on beach fronts and private complexes. But every now and then I yearn for an opportunity to explore the riches of Indonesian culture that lay beyond the five star perimeter. So I began researching online for inspiration and stumbled across a heap of positive reviews for Gili T, one of three islands off the north east coast of Lombok. The photos look stunning and convinced me immediately that this was the ideal location for unwinding.
Booking Your Trip to Gili Trawangan
Gili T is accessible only by boat, via 12 boat services operating between Bali, Nusa lembongan and Gili Trawangan, Gili Meno and Gili Air. Not wanting to unnecessarily prolong my trip I chose to board a fast boat that takes one hour to reach the island. A regular boat ride may take up to three hours, albeit at a lower cost. I booked online with Gili Fastboat which saved me the hassle of haggling for an honest price at the harbor. Trust me when I say there is a price list for local people and another rather inflated version for tourists, so don’t get caught out! In total I paid IDR 500,000 for an open return ticket. The cost also included a return taxi and a quick stop off en route for lunch and tea / coffee, free of charge.
Travelling to Gili Trawangan
The boats travelling to Gili T are docked at Sanur and Padangbai, the latter offering a more flexible departure timetable. On arriving at the harbor head straight to your ticket office which will be labelled clearly on your ticket. It’s only a short waiting time until the boat leaves but you will have the chance to buy fruit, snacks and drinks from the many stalls within the harbour compound. Feeling brave? Negotiate on price, it’s almost encouraged by the vendors.
The downstairs cabin of the boat sits approximately 100 people. But if like me, you enjoy the fresh ocean spray, then you can climb upstairs to the top deck. It’s where most backpackers hang out and drink Bingtang. The journey is mostly smooth going so sea sickness shouldn’t be an issue.
Accommodation at Gili T
Gili T may be a small island (you can walk the entire circumference in 90 minutes) but there are always places to stay, which is comforting to know if you haven’t had time to find a good deal online. From my observations the accommodation on offer can be split into three types: high end, including villas; mid-range, mostly chalets; and low-range, predominantly hostels. I like to be somewhere in the middle so I can enjoy my privacy but be within a sociable environment in order to make friends and exchange advice with other travellers.
My perception of cheap accommodation from Bali is within the region of IND150,000-200,000 and I wasn’t disappointed to discover that those prices can be matched if you shop around. Don’t go with the first price you’re offered, always ask for a reduction, as sometimes it pays off. The money you save can go towards a good meal or transport. In a standard chalet you will find a double bed, private bathroom, and if you’re lucky, there will be a wi-fi connection sufficient for streaming TV shows or skyping. Accommodation is available across the whole island. The more exclusive places to stay are usually inland and away from the main track.
Daytime Activities at Gili Trawangan
There’s plenty else to do on Gili that will put a smile on your face. On my first day I went jogging around the island at sunrise, which was ideal as the weather was warm and the main street was not too busy. A horses and cart is the main mode of transport and acts as a taxi, should you prefer to rest your legs. As mentioned, a steady walk around the island can take up to 90 minutes.
Daytime cocktails at the beach bars and sunbathing also seemed to be particularly popular tourist past-times, with people spreading out to find their own personal spot of paradise. Sunset is a major event on the island and you will see a strong crowd congregate for taking landscape shots and selfies. I may have indulged in both!
Diving and Snorkeling on Gili T
The water-based tours are the main attraction during the day. I must have counted around 10 separate diving tour operators, each of which always had a steady line of business. Reason being is the breadth of beauty of marine life off the coast of the Gilis, in which I’m including the neighboring islands of Gili Meno and Gili Air. Booking up is very straightforward, although not being a diver myself I can’t guarantee whether the experience lives up to the hype.
Instead I chose to go on a snorkeling day tour with a boat full of backpackers. Our trip included three stops around the Gili Islands, where we got to swim with turtles and a variety of species of small fish. Turtle Point was my personal highlight, it felt great to be able to capture those placid creatures gliding under the waves. At just IND120,000 I fully recommend the snorkeling trip as good value. The guys in charge were ever so happy to be out on the water with us and acted professionally throughout. Lunch at a local beach restaurant was included.
Yoga on Gili T
I also tired yoga for the first time in my life. The island has a delicate, less frantic vibe than Bali about it and yoga seems to be the perfect way to embrace the zen culture. I managed to keep up with the majority of movements at class although I now know I’m not as flexible as I first thought. Men and women twice my age put me to shame! You can book up a one hour yoga class on Gili T for as little as IND100,000. Classes are up to 30 people at a time. Instructors accept people of all abilities and are patient with newcomers.
The other stereotypical past-time to tick off the list is a full body massage. From my conversations with other travelers the services seem to vary from average to exceedingly therapeutic, so it may be pot luck on the day as to the quality you receive. There’s enough massage parlors and booths to go around, but again, make sure you check out different price lists before paying for your session.
Eating and Drinking on Gili Trawangan
There is no shortage of places to buy food or drink on Gili T and it’s relatively cheap too. A buffet meal at the food market, located in the main square, is great value at IND35,000. Get used to Bingtang, it’s the only brand of beer there! Long drinks, wine and spirits can also be purchased at most bars and restaurants, although I noticed a lack of consistency in the measures and alcohol percentage, not to mention cost.
If you’re travelling alone don’t fret too much over meeting people. During my short stay I got talking to lots of interesting people, also looking to make friends, and we went out most nights to the string of bars. There’s something for everyone from bar games to live music and DJs. It’s a wholesome experience that keeps you coming back for more!
Extra Information About Gili T
Its reassuring to see fully operational ATM machines at Gili T as my initial thought was that I would have to survive on the cash I brought with me from Bali. There are several tourist desks too so you can always ask for assistance if you’re concerned about boat hire or accommodation.
So Gili T can be ticked off the list, it’s time to plan my next adventure. I’ve heard there’s a four-day trek to see the Komodo Dragons in Lombok which I’m rather excited about, which you can read about in my next entry on the Ministry of Villas Blog.