We knew that our trip to Indonesia wouldn’t be complete without a visit to one of the Gili paradise islands. Gili Trawangan seemed to be a crazy party place for young backpackers while Gili Meno was told to be a quiet honeymoon destination where the restaurant selection is mostly limited to the resorts. Gili Air seemed to be something between these two so that’s where we decided to head for a few days at the end of our trip to Lombok. Gili Air turned out to be a perfect highlight to our awesome Asia trip!
The small Gili islands offer a relaxing break from pollution and traffic noise as the only vehicles on the island are bicycles and horse carriers. The islands are so small that you can easily get around simply by walking. The boat trip from Lombok to Gili Air takes only about twenty minutes. As soon as we landed on Gili Air beach, we knew that we have come to a paradise. The water looked perfectly clear and the sand was white. The horse carriers going here and there brought their own addition to the atmosphere.
Even though we were traveling during the high season, we decided to take a risk and go to the island without booking an accommodation beforehand. We couldn’t find any place to stay for under 20 euros online so we wanted to try our luck by asking for free rooms in local homestays. We started walking along the road going to the inland from the harbor. We stopped by to ask for a room at Macowek homestay and they offered a spacy and nice room for 200.000 rupiahs right away.
We decided to look a bit around just to compare the prices but that was a stupid idea as all the other guesthouses seemed to be either fully booked or too expensive. We returned to the first homestay half running and luckily they still had the room available. Macowek homestay turned out to be such a great place to stay that our planned two nights on Gili Air turned to four nights. The price included a very delicious breakfast that we could choose from the menu and the room was clean and equipped with a big bathroom. The owner was very friendly and his big smile made us smile too every time. This 12 euro accommodation was the most pricey but also the best accommodation during our trip to Indonesia! This tells quite a lot about the price level in Indonesia. If you want to look for an accommodation on the spot on Gili air, you should go there as early in the morning as possible.
Gili Air doesn’t offer many activities apart from diving and snorkeling. That’s why it’s a perfect place for relaxation as you don’t even need to think if you should go to do sightseeing. We spent our days cozily sitting in beautiful beach restaurants and sipping iced coffees and smoothies. From time to time, we explored the underwater world with a snorkel. You can rent a snorkel in any place close to the beach for 35.000 rupiahs. We mostly spent time at the east side of the island where we found some very reasonably priced restaurants. We went twice to Star Bar that served affordable drinks and had a friendly service. One night we celebrated Jarkko’s birthday and went for pizzas to Pura Vida in the northern part of the island.
We really liked the atmosphere on Gili Air and there were not too many tourists for our taste. The price level was reasonable as well and wasn’t that much different compared to the mainland. Gili Air is a perfect destination to spend calm beach life, watch beautiful sunsets and dive or snorkel. We probably have to explore the other Gilis next time as well just for comparison as moving between the islands is cheap and quick.
On the way back to Bali, we decided to skip the quick but pricey speedboat and find our own way back. We did get back to Bali in a cheap way but the journey took a long time and we had to really fight about the prices with bemo drivers. After getting back to Lombok from Gili Air, we walked about one kilometer to the inland and caught a bemo full of bananas and local people going to Mataram. Once we got there, the agreed price of 5.000 rupiahs suddenly changed to 50.000 rupiahs and the driver tried to explain this by a misunderstanding. We eventually paid 30.000 rupiahs altogether and had to start to haggle the next price right away as we still had to get to Lembar harbor. We managed to get a ride for 20.000 rupiahs each and the worn-out van brought us to the ferry port.
The ferry trip to Bali cost 47.000 rupiahs like on the way to Lombok. This time, the journey took more than 6 hours because the ferry jammed close to the coast of Bali for two hours for some reason. When we finally got out from the ferry, it was already so late that there was no chance to catch a cheap ride to Denpasar. So we decided to spend the night in Padanpai and found a guesthouse for 150.000 rupiahs. Next morning we got a ride to Denpasar for 80.000 rupiahs and continued to the airport to wait for our flight to Malaysia by a local bus. If you want to travel in an easier way than we did, it’s better to book a shuttle bus ferry combination or a speedboat directly on Gili Air.
Have you been to Gilis and which one of them is your favorite?