The Gilis are three tiny islands, reachable by boat in about two hours from mainland Bali. They consist of: Gili Trawangan (or Gili T), the largest of all three and known as the party island; Gili Air, a slightly smaller and less built up island which is slowly catching up to Gili T; and Gili Meno, a tiny remote island with few shops and restaurants, no nightlife, less tourists, and generally just not much of anything.
This post will be about Gili T and Gili Air, as I didn’t go to Gili Meno. After learning quite how remote Gili Meno is I knew it wasn’t for me – I much prefer cities and lively places with lots going on to islands, and while I really enjoyed Gilis Trawangan and Air, I think if I went anywhere smaller I’d go cray. I know some people prefer these quiet, less touristy places, in which case Gili Meno would be perfect!
What to do?
These are tiny islands – Gili T is the largest, and we cycled around the whole thing in about half an hour. So bear this in mind when I tell you there isn’t much to actually do. They’re absolutely stunning, and a perfect place to drink, chill, and sunbathe, but I personally wouldn’t stay more than a week. We met a guy who was staying on Gili T for three months which would send me insane, but each to their own. Aside from being a beach bum though you can learn to dive, go snorkeling, visit the turtle sanctuary (Gili T), take part in various water sports, or rent a bike to do some exploring!
There are zero motor vehicles on any of the Gili Islands, so the only way to get about is by foot, bicycle, or horse and cart taxi. We felt the horse taxis were cruel though so didn’t use them – you really don’t need to, the islands are so small that it isn’t hard to walk anywhere, even with luggage.
Where to stay?
When we got to Gili T we fancied some privacy, so didn’t stay in any of the hostels here. I think the best ones though are Gili Castle and My Mate’s Place, the former of which has to be booked in advance as it’s really busy. We stayed in a couple of home stays, neither of which were worth a mention here!
On Gili Air we stayed in Begadang Backpackers hostel which I absolutely LOVED! I was almost put off by the fact that the rooms are literally bamboo/straw huts containing only a mattress, a mosquito net and a fan, but don’t let this phase you! It’s actually really fun sleeping in one of these and the mosquito net protects you from any nasties in the night. The whole hostel is outside and communal, there’s a lovely pool, a cute little bar, ping pong table, basketball and volleyball nets, plus there’s a restaurant just outside that serves authentic local food and brings your order over to the hostel. It’s just a really cool, friendly setup.
Oh, and did I mention the KITTENS!? I’ve been a firm dog person for 22 years until I came to this place and played with all its cats and kittens, some had just been born!
I’ve gone on about this place for ages now but it really made my time here, if you go to Gili Air you HAVE to stay at Begadang!!
Gili T is the party island, and its main strip next to the pier is busy every night. The Beer Pong Bar is always packed full of backpackers for obvious reasons. There are a few reggae bars, Sama Sama is the most popular, and has a live band on every night. There’s a rock bar called Rudy’s, which despite having nobody in except the staff and a band performing to an empty room, we couldn’t resist. We had the funniest night in here watching a Balinese band cover the Arctic Monkeys – the singer may not have known the words, but his Sheffield accent was on point!
Further down to the left of the pier past Sama Sama, you’ll find a host of magic mushroom bars. These are probably best visited around sunset. Indonesia is absolutely zero tolerance on drugs – punishable by death – but oddly magic mushrooms are openly advertised on the Gilis (I think this has to do with the lack of police there). So if this is your thing you’ll have no trouble finding them.
The night market on Gili T is the best for food. It’s sort of like a pick n mix of different veg and sides and you can pick different BBQ’d skewers to go with it – the red snapper is amazing! Other than this you should steer clear of the main strip in Gili T when looking for places to eat; the further you walk back through the little side streets you’ll find much nicer local restaurants that are so so cheap. Warung Bambu on Gili Air is a tiny Indonesian restaurant that’s famous for their special martabak – a battered parcel of chicken, vegetables and cheese, much better than it sounds. Near the pier in Gili Air there’s a place called Shark Bites as well as an organic restaurant for good western food.
If you’ve been to the Gili Islands, then let me know what you thought! Maybe you loved Gili Meno and think I missed out? Tell me in the comments below!
Just a few more pictures of these beautiful islands!