First, the basics: Gili Trawangan (better known as Gili T) is the largest of the three Gili Islands located off the northwest coast of nearby Lombok. The other two islands are Gili Meno and Gili Air.
Gili Trawangan is famous for scuba diving and night life and has become a sort of mecca for backpackers and travelers in general. While there has been a huge surge in tourism, the island is still a small paradise.
The island is so small that no cars allowed. Your options for transportation are to walk, rent a bicycle or travel by horse-drawn cart.
How to Reach Gili Trawangan:
Due to its popularity, regardless of where in Indonesia you are embarking from, local tour operators should be familiar with transporting tourists to Gili T.
Coming from Sanur, I was able to haggle down the price of a return boat ticket, including minivan transportation to and from the docks, to 450,000 IDR/$34 on Eka Jaya speed boat service. Check with local tour operators for schedules, but there are several trips per day.
Boats carrying passengers arrive on the east, more developed, side of the island. Here you will find the majority of the island’s bars, restaurants and clubs. This is definitely where the parties are to be found. But if you are more in the mood for relaxing, consider booking a stay on the far, or western side, of the island. This side has several upscale resorts and is likely better suited for families or honeymooners. However, the beaches on the eastern side are the nicest on the island, while the beaches on the western side are far rockier and can be very shallow as the tide changes.
Best Time of The Year to Visit:
Low season for the island is February, March April and November.
High season is January, July, August, September and December.
Shoulder season is May, June and October.
Be sure to check the calendar for local or Muslim holidays that fall outside of Western holidays, as these will affect tourism and hotel prices regardless of the season.
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Where to Stay:
Gili Trawangan has an entire range of choices, from simple guesthouses to high end luxury properties. There really is something for every budget. During low and shoulder seasons, it is possible to arrive without a reservation and haggle for a better price. But in high season it’s important that you use Booking.com or another booking site to secure a reservation in advance.
During my most recent visit, I stayed at Martas Hotel. The hotel is made up of several bungalows surrounding a pool. The location was one of my favorite things about the property. Martas is located just off the main road, so it’s central to everything you want to see and do, but far enough away that the late night partying doesn’t disturb you. For a full review of the hotel, click here.
What to Do:
Get wet- Gili Trawangan is known worldwide as one of the best places for scuba diving and snorkeling. Free diving has also become popular recently. Prices are fixed across the island, so it’s best to just turn up and check out several different shops and see which one you gives you the best vibe. I’ve used both Dive Central and Gili Divers during my stays and could recommend both. You are also able to rent kayaks to explore the island. Kayaks are available for either guided or self guided tours. A guided day tour starts at 300,000 IDR/$22 USD per person.
Bonfire on the beach– many restaurants or hotels host bonfires on the beach as the sun begins to set. When you see the employees stacking wood, grab a beach chair, order a beer and watch the sunset as the logs begin to crackle.
Nightlife- The island is famous for it’s crazy late night scene. If partying isn’t really your thing, make sure to stay on either the side of the hotel where the boats don’t arrive, or at least far enough off the main road to avoid hearing the music, which goes on well into the night. For those who do enjoy a late night, different bars and clubs run drink specials throughout the week.
Explore the island by bike- Bike rentals begin at 20,000 IDR/$1.50 USD per day, and they are the perfect way to explore the entire island, allowing you to stop anywhere that looks interesting along the way. The quieter, less busy side of the island has some great restaurants and beach clubs that are definitely worth checking out.
Nothing- Gili Trawangan is the perfect place to find a hammock or beach chair, relax, and top up your tan while drinking cocktails and snapping Instagram pics that will make your friends back home jealous.
Where to Eat:
For such a small island, Gili Trawangan has a huge variety of dining options available. There are many Western options, as well as restaurants serving local dishes. My two can’t miss spots are The Roast House (for their perfectly roasted chicken and vegetables) and the night market (where local dishes are prepared fresh in front of you while you wait).
For a full post covering the best places to eat on Gili Trawangan click here.
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Would you consider Gili Trawangan for your next holiday? Let me know in the comments section below.
Practical Information: Drugs are readily available on the island, especially marijuana and magic mushroom shakes. Even though the mushroom shakes are blatantly advertised, and you will be offered drugs on the main street in broad daylight, they are not legal. Indonesia has very strict drug laws.
There is no hospital on the island, but there is a small clinic on the main road opened 24 hours a day. The nearest hospital is on Lombok.
Older or outdated guidebooks will report that there are no ATMs on the island. This is not correct. While many of the smaller guesthouses and restaurants have a cash only policy, the larger hotels accept major cards, and there are at least four ATM’s on the island.