Getting to the Gili islands of Lombok

“You know you are on vacation when you have Pringles for breakfast.”

We’re off on an epic 2 week trip starting in the Gili Islands of Lombok and ending of the far away eastern islands of Indonesia to see the Komodo dragons. It’s going to be one heck of an adventure, and a non-preplanned one too. Ever since our backpacking with the kids stint in Belize, we don’t plan as much any more.

We started our morning at 6:30 am, when the shuttle to take us to the port town of Padangbai picked us up. No time for breakfast, but enough time to buy snacks.

We’re taking the 1 1/2 hour speed boat ride to Gili Air, stopping briefly at Gili T and Gili Meno. We’ve heard horror stories of crowded, unsafe boats, but this isn’t one of those. The boat is not full and there are plenty of life jackets on board. The interior is fresh and clean and, oddly enough, has pretty paintings of flowers on the walls.  The Sea Marlin has exceeded our low expectations and we’re riding comfortably. Miss I is napping with her thumb in her mouth while Mr. King and G sit in back and watch the 3 engines stream us across the waters to the island paradise of Gili Air (pronounced “Aye-ear”).

The Sea Marlin Fast Boat to Gilis. Free water included!

The Sea Marlin Fast Boat to Gilis. Free water included!

P.S. The entire journey on the water was quite smooth. No sea sickness!

A Traveler’s morning diet

G is having Pringles and Bangbangs and bananas for breakfast. It’s what we could muster up at the dock snack stands and it’s travel delicious because it’s something we don’t eat at home. Mr. King gets a sly look on his face as he sneaks this junk food to my children. He has such limited will power. My disapproving look acquiesces to accepting the Bangbang chocolate bar myself. If you can’t beat them, join them. Trail mix is our next course.

How to get to the Gili Islands from Bali

Option 1: FAST BOAT

Fast Boat from Padangbai or Ahmed direct to Gili.

Padangbai is closer to Ubud and the southern beach towns, but if you’re in Ahmed already, then go from there. It’ll cost you the same. From Ubud:  1 – 1 1/2 hour shuttle to Padangbai then board the 1 1/2 hour fastboat to Gili. It’s an easy travel and a tour company takes care of all the details. You just show up.

Total travel time = 3-4 hours

Cost = negotiable, but not more than $60 per adult.
We got a good deal and paid 300,000 rph per adult ($30) and 280,000 for our 4 yr old. Under 4 is free. That included the transfer from Ubud to Padangbai. However, each travel agent is different and we met people who were quoted a price of 1.2 million per adult! A fair price with transfer from your hotel to the boat is $30-60 (300,000-600,000 rph)

Option 2: CHEAP, but SLOW.

From Padangbai, take the slow ferry for 30,000 – 50,000 rph ($3-5). This takes 5-6 hours and drops you off the coast in the southern Lombok town of Lembar. Then hire a taxi to drive to Bangsal and catch a boat to Gili (9,000 rph).

Time = 10 hours

Cost= Less than $20, but it depends on how many people can split the taxi fare with you.

Option 3: Hate Boats? You can FLY, and then DRIVE and then BOAT.

Fly from Bali to Lombok. Hire a taxi from the airport to Sengigi or directly to Bangsal and then ferry over to Gili.
Time= Total time depends on the ferry schedule to Gili. In the low season there are only 1 or two boats, so if you miss those, you’ll be spending the night in Lombok. Don’t forget to include the travel time to the airport, the waiting, etc.  Our friends took this route and took 2 days to reach Gili. They spent the night in Sengigi. If all goes smoothly, it’ll probably take you about 10 hours, including your time to the airport, etc.

Cost: TOTAL = $50-70     Flight $25 – 50  Taxi = $20 Ferry to Gili $1.00

Whatever option you choose will be part of your adventure. We chose to do the fast option, since we were going to be traveling through Lombok on the other half of our journey and we wanted to just get there.

Now, there are direct fast boats from Bali to Gili.

Now, there are direct fast boats from Bali to Gili.

The Three Gilis

Gili Trawangen (aka Gili T)

The boat stops at Gili T and Gili Meno, the 2 other islands in this island chain. Gili T is a party island and a majority of the young backpackers get off there for cheap drinks and an active night life.  I bet mornings start really late on this island.

Gili Meno

Gili Meno is the quietest of the islands and doesn’t have many restaurants or accommodations. It would be the perfect place to sit, do nothing and enjoy the water and sand privately. Elizabeth Gilbert came here on her Eat, Pray, Love journey.

Gili Air

We stay on the boat for Gili Air, a combination of being laid back, yet having enough restaurants for variety. Disembarking the fastboat to GiliA tout takes us through the green interior of the island. It’s beautiful! Cows, goats and chickens graze and it feels like we are in the country until, just beyond the trees, the familiar turquoise waters reflect the sunshine streaming across the ocean.

It’s a small island, but a 5 minute walk turns into 15-20 minutes with a 4 & 2 year old eager to find walking sticks that are just right for their “hike”.

Interior of Gili Air

Interior of Gili Air

We have no reservations and the tout shows us a few places ($15 for a basic bamboo bungalow in the interior village & 35 on the beach). Neither of which suited us, as the smell of mold and dampness was something that we didn’t want. We’ll spend the extra money and find a nicer place. We rough it enough and when we do find a nice place for a great price, we’re uber-grateful. We wanted western comforts: a nice shower, no mold, freshly laundered sheets, a delicious breakfast, a pool and optional A/C.

We stop for a bite to eat near Manta Dive Resort and turns out they have 1 room left with all of the western comforts, on the beach for $40/night. Done! We swam in the salt water pool, walked around a bit and relaxed.DSC03284

There is no motor bikes or cars, only bicycles and horse drawn carriages – which only amplifies the notion that island life is not about getting anywhere fast – it’s about enjoying where you are. Which we are.

Walking the sand road of Gili Air

Walking the sand road of Gili Air

But nothing could prepare me for what I experienced the next day.

To be continued….

10 Responses to “Getting to the Gili islands of Lombok”

  1. Rebecca April 1, 2013 at 8:01 am #

    Wow! It looks awesome. And think…just one year ago, you were taking gorgeous pictures on the other side of the world in Antigua!

    • S King April 1, 2013 at 8:34 am #

      It is wild to think about how unmade plans unfold!

  2. Hannah @ Getting Stamped April 1, 2013 at 8:28 pm #

    Great post! We went to Gili T on our honeymoon and LOVED it! We were looking into the fast boats and Gili Cat wanted over $1million per person, we waited to book until we were in Bali. We ended up paying 500,000 which we thought was good but heard of people paying much less like you! We are going back to Gili T on our upcoming 2 year long trip, be there next April!!

    • S King April 1, 2013 at 8:46 pm #

      The longer we stay here the better we are at figuring out prices. Glad we could help!

  3. Travel with Bender (Erin) April 2, 2013 at 9:03 am #

    would love to go so nice 🙂

  4. Diana Pettersen June 3, 2013 at 3:50 pm #

    Hi! Thanks for sharings all your adventures wiht us! We are a family who has no clue about Bali but wants to go there for vacation next year. What about snakes in Bali and Gili Air?

  5. Barry September 18, 2013 at 4:31 am #

    Lovely article, we never did see Gili Air as we went for a week to Gili Meno, but the whole area around there was just fantastic! Thanks for sharing, great memories!

  6. Theresa Burkard January 18, 2014 at 11:09 pm #

    What a thorough article. I really enjoyed reading this and it kinda takes me back to last year when I also visited Gili Island. Anyway, later I found out that there’s plenty other beautiful islands in Indonesia like Derawan Island or Kei Island. Have you heard about that? I usually read for my daily digest about Indonesia’s tourism destinations. You should read it too, and maybe one day we got bump into each other in some place in Indonesia. 😉

  7. kerry woods April 25, 2015 at 12:06 pm #

    I have never visited Lombok or Gili. And I have never heard of these two places as one of the main tourist destinations in Indonesia. How the easiest access from the international airport in Indonesia to get there? is there a cultured society also like in bali? Looks like Gili was very worth to visit. I love the nature, has a green all. Is Amazing. Nice information.


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