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  • Writer's pictureDearbhla

The Gili Islands:

White sandy beaches encircle the Gili islands and small fishing boats dot the periphery. Located just off the coast of Lombok, coconut palm trees line the beaches and souvenir shops are aplenty.

Parts of the Gilis are a picture-perfect paradise if like you ignore the smattering of plastic and depending on the time of year, throngs of tourists. Each island is quite different so it depends on what you're looking for! Cars are forbidden, so bikes, pony and trap or walking is how you get around. We didn't bother with getting a horse and cart (they're everywhere) and expensive. Plus, the poor horses looked tired and dehydrated.

With regards to getting to the Gilis, you can get a boat from either Padang Bai or Sanur (right near Kuta). From Padang Bai you shouldn't pay more than IDR 200,000-250,000 one way. From Sanur it would be around IDR 300,000-350,000. If buying a ticket in Bali, most will allow you to do an 'open' return. We did this. You just have to tell the company a day in advance when you want to go. You can only leave from Gili Trawangan.

If you can, I wouldn't bother staying overnight in Padang Bai. The open sewers are rat-infested, which is great fun in the dark! Topi Inn is quite nice if you have to stay and the food is good. The ferries leave quite early from Padang Bai so make sure you leave yourself time in the AM. Also haggle with the price of the ferry. We ended up getting one for IDR 200,000 pp, including transport back to Ubud (never take the first price and make sure you shop around). It takes around 1 1/2hrs from Padang Bai to Gili Trawangan.

Accommodation prices are pretty much the same on all the islands, ranging from IDR 70,000 (~$7) -> IDR 200,000 ($20) for the cheap(er) places. Breakfast was provided at every place we stayed. There are no ATMS on Gili Air or Gili Meno.

Gili Trawangan:

"Gili T" is a hedonist's dream. It's very much geared towards tourists. If you are looking for beaches, partying and diving, it is the place to be. It is great fun, and has some fantastic food. It was certainly NOT the idyllic island it's been advertised as being. We were so disappointed disembarking the boat initially. The beach has been cut off to make room for the abundance of souvenir shops. A far cry from the white washed sea shores, fringed with cute boutique shops and coconut palm beach huts the brochures promised. But it’s good craic for a night or two. There are ATMS on Gili T but I would bring cash just in case. You can also hire bikes on all the islands but Gili T is the only one where the road is paved for most of the island. You will end up pushing the bike at points to get through sand. The beaches on the other side of the island are really lovely and much quieter.

As it was rainy season, our feet found themselves taking us to lots of spa treatments at 'Exqisit' - from facials to massages. Definitely do this as it’s much cheaper than anywhere in Europe.

If you have a bigger budget, we stayed in Vila Ombok for two nights for a bit of luxury- it was one of the most expensive hotels on Gili T (at the time). You can pay to use their pool even if you don't stay. We also stayed at the Pesona Resort. It's a really nice place with a pool, luxury compared to many of the backpacker hostels, but it's right on the strip so we wanted something a bit quieter.

Scallywags is a lovely seafood restaurant; fresh catch of the day, and the cocktails are top notch! There's a really good Irish Bar that I recommend having a boogie in called Tir Na Nog. Plus, the bar tenders give you free drinks if you are Irish...

Rudy's is good fun but be careful as there was a young man who got methanol poisoning from the drinks there when we were actually on Gili T. Don't drink the vodka in Rudys as it is laced with Arak so better off to go and have a beer, where you can see them opening the bottle.

Gili Meno:

Gili Meno is the smallest of the three Gilis, and definitely the more'romantic' and pristine. The diving here and snorkelling is stunning. It is definitely worth a day trip if you are short on time. It's not expensive and you could practically swim to it from Gili T. There was much more of a couples vibe so if you're travelling alone and looking to meet people, you might want to start off in Gili T. It was lovely to come here and lie on an empty beach after partying on Gili T for a few nights. It's much more quaint. The local village is just off the beach and the primary school is not too far away so it definitely doesn't feel as touristy.

If you go here… head towards the jetty and start there, swim away from all the shops (in the opposite direction of Lombok) and you’ll see a whole host of tropical fish and turtles. You don’t need a guide, just hire some snorkelling gear (around IDR 25,000). When we did it, we saw four turtles and swam with one of them for about an hour.

We didn't make it to Gili Air but I hear it's a mixture of the two. If you have time you should definitely do it.


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