If you are ever in Bali, you should really visit the Gili Islands. The three amazing pockets of paradise are located off the coast of Lombok, only a short boat ride from Bali.
It is really easy to get to the Gili Islands from Bali. Boat tickets can be purchased from any of the multiple tourist shops dotted all around Kuta.
If you are in Ubud, you can easily find a place to book a ticket, and although I can’t speak from experience with other locations in Bali, your accommodation should be able to book a ticket for you if there are no travel agents selling boat tickets to the Gili’s.
There are a couple of choices when you are deciding how to get to the Gili Islands from Bali. The first time I went from Bali to Gili Trawangan, I took the slow boat, the local ferry. The second time, we went for the fast boat. This decision was based on the fact that we had lost time due to Nyepi,and were dying to get to the Gili Islands!
How to get to the Gili Islands from Bali?
Option 1 –
The first option is the ‘fast boat.’ This will be a relatively newish boat that travels fast, and your ticket will include pick-up from your accommodation in Bali, as well as transport to the port. (Make sure you ask the travel agent if this is the case).
There are also more expensive ‘high speed’ or ‘luxury’ boats on offer, but the regular fast boat is all you need.
We paid 200,000 Indonesian Rupiah (€14.50 / $15.40 US / $14.50), but were quoted different amounts from different places. In Kuta, there are literally hundreds of travel agents, so you can easily find another if you are being quoted too high a price for your boat to the Gili Islands.
Most of the packages include the following:
-Pick up from your accommodation.
-Transport to the dock/pier.
-Boat ride to the Gili Islands.
We purchased our ticket the night before we left.
You pay upfront, and tell the travel agent where you are staying. You will be given a receipt and a time for pickup.
Bear in mind that the time they say you will be picked up at isn’t exactly set in stone. But you will be picked up, so don’t worry.
On the morning of our departure, we waited outside our accommodation for close to an hour before a minivan came. We took off down side streets to pick up other travellers. By the time we had filled the van, it seemed like a long time had passed and we were still on the streets of Kuta.The drive took a few hours to get to Pedang Bai.
We were given coloured stickers to wear and our bags were unloaded and moved somewhere. Everyone went to the cafe to wait. We ordered the delicious big rolls that are the staple of many a backpacker’s diet. Tuna, with a crinkle cut piece of cucumber and some tomato. Yum.
After a while, people started to move to the pier, so we followed them. We got on to a modern looking boat and took an airplane-like seat in a bright cabin.
The journey was accompanied by the sound of a DVD being blasted from the front of the boat. It was really hot, and my pen stopped working due to the heat. You can sit out on the deck if you prefer. The fast boats stop at each of the Gili Islands, so just pay attention to the crew as they announce which island is coming up.
We got off at Gili Air, jumping into the crazy clear water and making our way to the blindingly white sand.
We had arrived with no accommodation booked, as is the usual way. After gathering our strength. we put our backpacks back on and started walking on the sand path, happy to be on our tropical island.
How to Get to the Gili Islands from Bali?
Option 2 –
Another option to get from Bali to the Gili Islands is the local ferry. This is much cheaper than the fast boat to the Gili’s. It takes longer, and involves more driving. See, when you get the local ferry from Bali to the Gili Islands, you depart from Padang Bai, and the ferry goes to Lembar Harbour in South-West Lombok. From there, you have to get across Lombok, in order to get another boat to the Gili Islands.
We took this route on my first visit to the Gili Islands. I can’t remember the price we paid, (pre-blogging days!) but it did include our transport in Lombok, and it was cheap.
The ferry ticket itself costs 40,000 IDR (€2.90 / $3 US / $4 AU).
When we did this trip, we left from Ubud, and we got transport to the port in Pedang Bai. It’s a 37 km drive. The ferry departs from Padang Bai every hour each day and it takes 4-6 hours. When we did it, the departure time was 7 am. However, the ferry departed long after 7 am, and the journey was very slow.
When you get to Pedang Bai, you will wait around for a while before being told to walk the fair distance to the ferry. You should stock up on snacks here. We bought a rice dish wrapped in a banana leaf that was nice.(And you know I’m always packing enough biscuits and snacks to keep me going!)
You aren’t guaranteed a seat on the slow ferry. We sat on the ground and leaned on our backpacks, but there wasn’t much room where we were, as people needed to walk past us. The breeze was nice, but the engine was very loud and the ground was vibrating.
There are inside seats, and seats that are on the upper deck and in the shade. They looked like the best ones to get.
When you get to Lombok, you have to get a taxi or some form of transport to Bangsal harbour. In our case, we were able to get a mini bus that was part of our ticket.
(I’m not 100% about this, but I think when you get off the ferry, there is a long walk to get to where the mini buses are. We may have gotten a tuk-tuk. Sorry I can’t remember for certain!)
We drove for a while before stopping for one of those delightful ruses that are so typical of a South-East Asian trip. Officially, we had to stop to get the onward boat tickets or something. In reality, we hung around for about an hour and were encouraged to buy return tickets to get back from Gili, and to pre-book accommodation. If you have never experienced this before, you could easily think that buying a return ticket is the right thing to do. It’s not. Just say you don’t know where you are going after the Gili’s.
The drive in Lombok is pretty. There are rice fields and lush green landscapes to enjoy.
You will have to make yet another stop at a cafe on the side of a dirt road. You are told you are waiting for the boats or something.
We had to wait for a while, and were strongly encouraged to buy things, as it would be our last chance. We were told there was no mozzie spray and other essentials on the islands.
We actually fell for this one because we didn’t want to risk having no mozzie spray. Rest assured, you can buy all of these things on the Gili Islands, and the mozzie spray was one third the price that we paid.
After a while, we were told that the boats were down the road, and we should go now. This was a bit of a challenge for me and the girls because of the damn backpacks and the stretch of road that seemed too far. We were encouraged to pay for a horse and cart, which we did, and then felt like complete amateurs as we passed our fellow backpackers with their sensible bags.
Once you get down to the water, you get on a wooden long boat. These boats are nice, and it’s relaxing to be on them, with the wind in your hair as you approach the Gili Islands while the sun is setting.
When we arrived after the fast boat, it was afternoon. We had time to look for accommodation, go for a swim and enjoy our first Gili Air sunset with a drink. When we arrived on Gili Trawangan after the slow boat, it was dark and by the time we found accommodation and got something to eat, it was pretty late.
Recap: Getting to the Gili Islands from Bali by Boat
Book your boat from Bali to Gili from any travel agent, or your accommodation.
For the fast boat, expect to pay 200,000 ($20)
If you wish to take the ferry, the cost of the ferry ticket is 40,000 (€4). There may be extra charges if you book through a travel agent, which is recommended as they will sort your transport on Lombok, as you need to get to another port once you arrive in Lombok.
The fast boat takes under half a day, as you are picked up early, at around 7am, and you arrive at the Gili of your choice after lunch time.
The slow boat journey starts early too, but you arrive on the Gili Islands when it is getting dark.
Both boat options have an early start.
Both involve not really being sure what’s happening.
Both do involve a good bit of travel.
So, in terms of saving time and money – on the local ferry you will spend less. If you take the fast option, you will have less travel time, and you don’t have to drive around Lombok.
In terms of time, you only gain a few hours.
So, if you aren’t too pushed for time, and you want to save money, then take the ferry.