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When I was planning our trip to Indonesia, I will admit I initially got confused when trying to plan travelling from Bali to The Gili Islands. There are endless lists of various ferry companies all offering a variety of services all of which were different prices.
Then to further complicate things, when I spoke to people who had previously visited they advised me to wait until I was in Bali to book a transfer – a piece of advice I opted to ignore.
I opted to ignore this for one main reason, we were only in Indonesia for two weeks, travelling on a tight schedule means you need to have everything running like clockwork, the slightest inconvenience or delay can ruin a whole trip. If you are planning a similar trip then I would advise you do the same as well. Travel between Java, Bali to Lombok and the Gili islands is a popular backpackers route and therefore easily done.
Other Indonesia posts to help you plan your trip:
The perfect 2-week itinerary for Indonesia
Where to swim with Turtles in Bali
11 Photos which will make you want to visit Gili T right now
The best scuba diving school in the Gili Islands
Bali Animals: What to avoid and ethical alternatives
Where to see Orangutans in Borneo, Indonesia
Everything you need to know about the Mount Batur Sunrise Trek
How to easily get from Bali to the Gili Islands
How do I get from Bali to the Gili Islands?
By far the most popular route is by fast boat, these are the boats usually used by tourists as opposed to locals and will run multiple times throughout the day between all three islands (Gili Trawangan, Gili Air and Gili Meno).
Generally, the same boat will go to all three islands and you will be given a sticker to wear which indicates which Island you will be alighting at. The transfer time is generally an hour and a half to two hours.
At present all fast boats leave from Pandang Bai, which is located near Kuta. As most of the boat transfers leave early to mid-morning, I would recommend staying in the Kuta area the night before your transfer, however, for an additional fee, some companies will provide a pick up from your hotel as well (if you are staying in a different area of Bali).
When you arrive at the boat terminal there will be multiple different boats, ensure you know the name of the company you booked with to ensure you queue in the correct area.
Where can I book a fast boat ticket from Bali to the Gili Islands in advance?
The first point I need to make here is book your transfer with a reputable provider. There are so many different websites which sell boat tickets from Bali to the Gili Islands, some of which look legitimate, some not so much.
For advance bookings of tours and transfers, I will always use Get Your Guide. Not only do they offer a wide selection, but all transfers also have reviews and in case plans change, you can cancel most bookings for free up to 24 hours before they start.
Be sure to print your transfer tickets out before you leave the UK, this again is for ease when you reach the boat terminal on the day of your transfer.
For guidance, you should be looking to pay around £30 – £40 for your return transfer from Bali to the Gili Islands when booked in advance. This advance booking guarantees you a place on that boat.
Can I just turn up on the day?
Yes, you can, however, especially during peak season, these boats can get extremely busy. If they sell out, they sell out and if they sell out before you get your ticket you will not be travelling to the Gili Islands that day. Therefore if you are travelling on a tight schedule I would not advise this.
One benefit of not booking your transfer in advance is that it usually will be cheaper, this is due to both the exchange rate and not booking through a third party.
Many hotels and hostels in the area will also sell boat tickets, as a third party seller there may be an increase in price, however, generally they will include a taxi transfer to Pandang Bai as well.
Please be aware there are no cars on the Gili Islands, therefore, you will not be able to book a transfer at your final destination. The good thing is all of the Islands are small, so walking will not be too far.
I urge you not to make use of the horse and carriages on the Gili Islands. Horses and carriages are used to transport people to various hotels and resorts, sadly, the horses are not kept in good conditions and there are currently no regulations on how the horses are used. The horses are used on a constant cycle throughout the day carrying heavy of loads of tourists and their bags, this is terrible enough without factoring in the Indonesian heat which they are forced to work in. Alongside exhaustion and dehydration, the horses often have various sores from badly fitted carriages, spinal and muscular pain from uneven loading or excessive weight as well as eye problems.
This cruel practice is currently thriving on Gili T because tourists do not want to carry their own bags to their hotels in the heat. Please think about the continuous strain the horses are put under if you are visiting the Gili Islands.
Are there any cheaper options?
Yes, there is a public ferry transfer which is most commonly used by local people who are commuting between Bali and Lombok Islands, on arrival at Lombok you will then transfer to a public ferry from Lombok the Gili Islands. The travel time for this route is a lot longer, around 6-7 hours, therefore it is not recommended for people travelling around Indonesia on a tight schedule.
The public ferry is considerably cheaper at around £3 each way. However, I will mention there have been concerns for health and safety for these ferries in advance, especially as they do cram a lot of people on them. For comfort and ease of mind, I would always advise you to travel on a fast boat.
Is boat the only way to get from Bali to the Gili Islands?
If you are feeling super fancy you can always book a private helicopter between Bali and The Gili Islands, however, it is probably going to set you back a whopping £800, so you are probably best booking the fast boat in advance.
You can also reach the Gili Islands from Lombok. Lombok has its own airport, from the airport you will need to take a two-hour transfer to the boat terminal, from here it is only 15 minutes by speedboat.
The best Gili Island Accommodation
During my visit, I opted to stay on Gili Trawangan, the busiest of the 3 islands and most popular with backpackers and scuba divers. I stayed Little Coco’s bungalows which I would highly recommend. This property is 3 minutes walk from the beach. Situated in Gili Trawangan, Little Coco Gili Trawangan Villas offers accommodation with a private pool and free WiFi. This villa also features an outdoor swimming pool. If you are backpacking Indonesia and therefore looking for more hostel vibes then DPM Gili T. Diving Hostel & Bar comes highly recommended.
Gili Air is known as the quieter and more luxurious Island, however, with this comes higher accommodation prices. Here Pink Coco comes highly recommended. Featuring an outdoor swimming pool and direct access to the beach, Pink Coco Gili Air is located in Gili Air. Among the various facilities of this property are a garden, a terrace and a spa centre. Guests can enjoy a drink at the bar or a meal in the restaurant. Free WiFi is provided. Decorated in bright pink furnishings, the rooms at PinkCoco Gili Air have air conditioning and a flat-screen TV. Every room in the property has a private bathroom.
Gili Meno is the smallest of the three islands and by far the most peaceful and underdeveloped. On this Island, I would recommend Gili Meno Escape. Set in Gili Meno, Gili Meno Escape offers accommodation with private terraces. All rooms boast a flat-screen TV with satellite channels and a private bathroom. Guests can enjoy pool views. At the hotel, all rooms are fitted with a balcony with a garden view. Selected rooms have a kitchen with a fridge. At Gili Meno Escape include a private seating area.
Travelling from Bali to the Gili Islands is an extremely popular route taken by both backpackers and holidaymakers, as mentioned if you are travelling on a tight schedule, or just prefer convenience, then I would recommend booking your transfer in advance.