The Gili Islands are 3 tiny islands off the coast of Lombok in Indonesia. We stayed on Gili Trawlagan which is known as the 'party island'. Gili Meno is where families stay and Gili Air is the romantic, quiet one (apparently). The type of parties the island provides (a lot of drinking and pub anthems) was not for me but fear not! the island has much more to provide with some of the clearest water I have ever swum in, a copious supply of shrooms and ridiculously beautiful sunsets. We stayed at the Lisa Homestay which I booked through booking.com for $55 for 3 nights. It was nothing special, especially in comparison to our accommodation in Bali but it did the job. We had our own bathroom and balcony and breakfast was included every morning. For food we ate at the night markets for $3 each.
We booked our boat to Gili from a travel shop in Seminyak for $35 each. We had left it really late (we were leaving the next morning) and I couldn't find anywhere affordable online. So when we walked past this guy's sign we decided to book it straight away (you can 100% get it for cheaper than $35 if you shop around... Next time i'd pay $20 max). The ticket included a transfer to the port in Padangbai so the next morning we got up early, went to breakfast at Cafe Bali and then waited for our transfer at 10:30. The drive took just under 2 hours and we arrived at around 12:30. Our boat didn't end up leaving until after 2pm and there isn't a whole lot to do in Padangbai... We spent a lot of time waiting around in the sun (which Ebbs was ridiculously unhappy about, I was okay cause I had a book to read). We got fresh pineapple juice and mi goreng from a local café for $5 for lunch. If you are prepared for the long wait then your time at PadangBai could actually be really pleasant. There are lots of cheap cafes around and a relatively fine beach that you could lay your towel on and read/tan while you waited.
Because we didn't know it was going to be a long wait we just stood in the cue (thinking it was going to be our turn to get on any second) which made our time pretty unpleasant. Once we were on the boat, we were crammed into a tiny cabin that was made for about 20 people but fit about 70... They overload the boats with motors (Ours had at least 7) to make them go faster. There have been many instances of fires and boats sinking on this stretch of water but luckily for us our journey was uneventful. My biggest regret was not sitting on the roof. The wind would have been such a relief from the heat in the cabin but by the time we had sat down (Ebbs insisted we sit inside) the top was full. ): ): I slept most of the way anyway.
We made it safely to Gili by 4:30 and then walked from the port to our accommodation which only took about 10 minutes. The islands are tiny, so don't stress too much about finding where you are staying once you arrived as it can't really be that far away. Also don't be the dickhead that rides in the horse-drawn carriages... The horses are treated like shit and they are super irritating weaving through the crowded pathways. Use your legs or hire a bike!!
If you can, I would recommend flying to Lombok (travelling around Lombok because you can't not) and then getting the $1.50 local ferry across to the islands to avoid the boat from Bali. The whole process was a little exhausting and pretty expensive for Asian travel, plus once you're on Gili there are a million travel stalls with competitive prices where you can get the fast boat back to Bali for $15 easily.
The day began with another ridiculously oily and delicious banana pancake on our balcony before hiring bikes for $5 each per day. Although this is pretty pricey it is literally impossible to get around the island without a bike as there are no motor vehicles and walking everywhere takes a lonnnng time. As cool as our pink and purple vintage bikes looked, they weren't so practical on the sandy, potholed Gili 'roads'. I recommend at least some suspension unless you enjoy being battered and bruised like we were. Ebbs was keen on hiring a surf board but they cost $10 an hour and the surf was rubbish so we just went for a swim and lay on the beach instead. We spent the rest of the days riding around the island and stopping every 10 minutes or so to swim or get pineapple juice. Our favorite stretch of beach was on the north end of the island just before (or after) the mushroom bars. Of all these bars we spent most of our time at Marley bar where we knew the owner (who was friends with the guy we stayed with in Bali) and Atmosphere bar which had swings and hammocks for seats and had a plentiful supply of psytrance. There is also fantastic snorkeling off the same side of the island as Marley bar which is also known as Turtle point. Ang, our friend from the bar, lent us some snorkeling gear and we spent a few hours swimming among colorful fish. The water is ridiculously shallow in this area until it drops off, so you'll have to walk out backwards with flippers on for a few minutes to avoid cutting your feet on the reef. For lunch we ate at one of the restaurants on the sand for a few dollars each. I usually got fried rice with egg and vegetables and a fresh juice for $3.50.
Magic mushrooms are a big thing on the island and although we struggled to find them at first (they aren't in the main bars at the front near the port) once we found them they seemed to be everywhere. The nice beach at the north of the island was surrounded by beach bars with coloured umbrellas and bean bags and a ready supply of shroom shakes. We took the medium strength mushrooms that they mixed with pineapple juice (wasn't the tastiest thing ever). I won't bore you with what we did for the rest of the day but it was fun and if you come to Gili I recommend!!
The nightlife here is as expected for a backpackers location. Given that the entire island is made up of people aged 18-25 I actually expected it to be a little wilder however it was mostly bars playing reggae music and top 40 hits (which you all know I LOVE) with lots of beer pong...
other: $55 (bikes and mushrooms)
Total for 4 nights: $302 ($151 each)