There’s something about the Gilis in Indonesia that make people want to stay there forever. I’m not sure if it was the amazing group of people I met on the trip, or if it was just the simplicity of the islands itself. Whether you’re looking for crazy parties, some quiet time for soul searching, or a romantic getaway with your partner, these 3 islands each have something to offer!
Gili Meno is the least crowded, extremely quiet and is made up of mostly resorts and sanctuaries for couples, lights are out early in the night and there hardly seems like there’s a night life on this island. Here you can find yoga retreats and dive schools at a slightly more expensive price
Gili Air (pronounced Ah-eer) is a slightly moderate island with a good balance of resorts, budget accommodation and some bars & cafes that open til a slightly later time. There’s also yoga retreat camps and dive schools, with a nightlife that’s barely enough to start any wild parties. I’ve observed quite a fair bit of couples here and a lack of shops and more cafes and restaurants all over the island.
Gili Trawangan (also known as Gili T) is the typical backpacker party island with lots of young travellers looking for a crazy time. Nightly parties, night markets with food that’s affordable and many budget accommodations, this is the biggest and the most popular island out of all the 3 gilis. There’s practically a small town area in Gili T, with more residential zones inland where the locals live. However if you’re looking for something more expensive and slightly quieter, you can go around to the back of the island from the ferry pier.
I spent most of my time on Gili T because I was alone, and was extremely uncomfortable when dining in a candle-lit beach cafe surrounded by couples. Not that I mind being alone but the servers would be overly friendly, coming up to ask me every 15 minutes or so if i was okay, and questioned why I was by myself. Jeez, I get that they’re being nice, but I don’t exactly need to be reminded that I have no company 5 times while having dinner.
Here are some highlights of Gili T :
Best thing about Gilis is that there aren’t any cars, only horse carriages! Exploring on foot or riding a bicycle is ideal since it only takes 90 minutes to make a loop on a leisurely stroll.Â Some of the roads are slightly tough to cycle through since it’s all sand so expect to get off and wheel your bicycle at some point.
Getting a bicycle : rent from your guest house or try asking if your room rate comes with a bicycle. Sometimes haggling this way works too 😉
The hostels on Gili T are a lot more expensive than the private accoms, especially those inland and away from the beach. Most of the people I met in the hostel at the pre parties don’t even stay there! Plus i’ve heard of bed bug issues from guests who have stayed in the hostels. Totally staying clear from that one. My favourite guesthouse was Gerard Guesthouse. The price was right, place was comfortable and basic, includes breakfast and the guys running the place were especially friendly
Beach bumming away from the crowd
Gili T is crazy popular so it’s only natural that the beach here is littered and filled with people all over the place. There are, however many secluded beaches that are perfect if you want to be away from the crowd. All you have to do is go around to the other side of the island, and you can even find good snorkel spots !
Snorkelling & Diving
The difference between taking a snorkel tour and without is that you see more since a boat will take you out around all 3 gilis, off the coast where there are less damaged corals and sea life. I didn’t take a tour but was still lucky to have seen a huge turtle on the sea bed eating away! Diving is supposedly famous here with frequent turtle sightings, but I didn’t dive because I don’t have a licence (yet). Since the Gilis is also where you can easily find bioluminescent planktons, you can imagine how amazing the night dives are going to be.
The popular joints that most people hangout at are Scallywags, Kayu Cafe and the warungs inland. Seafood grill and BBQ is extremely popular and are fresh and of a reasonable price. As compared to prices of food in Java, of course the cost is a lot higher. But something I’ve noticed about Gilis is how people seem to spend freely like they have no budget, myself included! I blew $10 on a salad when that could have easily paid for 3-4 meals at a Warung. But when you’re in good company, that’s what happens. 😉
For local food, go around the Warung shops inland, although the price might be similar to the ones by the beach, or try to find what little street food there is near the pier, such as the fruit salad with sweet sauce topped with peanuts.
At night, visit the famous Night Market for some Nasi Campur or desserts. There’s a wide variety of food, grilled and BBQ as well. Or the restaurant next to Sama Sama serves a 20,000RP dinner deal – pasta that comes with a free flow salad buffet bar
The party here never stops. But there are popular nights when the party goes on til the morning, or beach raves. Since it’s a small island, word gets around and everyone will most likely go to the same places ! If you’re traveling alone, head to the Gili Backpackers hostel for pre-drinks and meet some people. I’ve noticed that people on the island can get quite cliquish especially if they’ve already formed a group, and that makes it difficult for solo travellers to meet people. The hostel is a great place to go for pre drinks since they have a bar and usually a great crowd that plays games before heading out to the main stretch along the beach
Sama Sama Reggae Bar & Irish Bar are my favourites. There’s events ALL the time since this is practically a party island, and Sama Sama is one of the more popular places that have live band and DJ spinning music til late. Girls, be sure to catch free drink promos on ladies night at the Irish bar.
Last but not least, on the far West end of the island lies Sunset Bar… which is THE place to go if you want to catch paintings in the sky on a daily basis! You can rent a bicycle to cycle out, or take a 15-20 minute walk depending on which part of the island you stay in. They have daily campfires and a really chilled out ambience and is perfectly located for picturesque views of the sunset! Magic shakes can also be found on the menu here 😉
If you don’t wish to be at the bar but still want to catch a view of the sunset, right before you arrive at the beach there is a long stretch of wooden platform/viewpoint where many people laze around and have a beer. Great place to meet people too!
*Thanks to Yvonne for some of the mobile pictures! Lost my phone in Bali along with all the pictures in it :