There is something very special about the Gili’s. For me, Gili Air is the perfect island, a place we called home for 15 months. I won’t lie, my heart is still there.
The Gilis are one of the few world-wide islands without cars. That’s right – no motorised transport allowed, isn’t that blissful?
Spending so much time here made us realise, there is so much more to Gili Air island. If you don’t just want to laze around in a beach hammock sipping from a fresh coconut (although surely that is the definition of paradise?), there is plenty more to see and do.
There is no better time to visit Gili Air than right now, and this insider travel guide will help you choose what to do
If topping up your tan doesn’t suit you, Feet Do Travel show you 25 of the best things to do in Gili Air.
Gili Air is located off the west coast of Lombok, Indonesia and a two hour fast boat ride from Bali. There are no cars, vans, bikes; no motorised transport means no traffic noise and far less pollution.
The taxis of the island are called Cidomo’s; horse-carts that take tourists with their luggage, and goods around the island. The gentle clip-clopping sound of horse-carts is a welcome relief to noisy engines.
The circumference of the island is only 5km, so you can easily walk or hire a bike to cycle around. This provides perfect peace and quiet to help your brain relax and unwind. No wonder Gili Air and the GIli Islands are fast becoming the go-to paradise destination for people around the world.
I will address the elephant in the room; yes Gili Air was affected by the Lombok Earthquake in August 2018, but the island has fully recovered. Yes Gili Air is safe to visit! I personally know people who have been and they had a fantastic time.
We were in the earthquake, and stayed for three days afterwards. We saw how the island rallied together to resume life as quickly as possible. Residents are strong, resilient and they love their island so wanted to make it paradise again. All restaurants and accommodation are open, and tourists have been visiting safely since September 2018. Locals and business owners on Gili Air, the Gili’s and Lombok depend on tourism to survive. With less tourists on the islands, NOW IS THE BEST TIME TO VISIT.
I’m going to start with the obvious, because most people visit Gili Air for a white sand beach. Yes, there are a lot of things to do in Gili Air, but it’s an island made for relaxation. You don’t have to sit in the sun, you can grab a sunbed with umbrella, sit in a baruga, order a cold local Bintang beer, or maybe even a fresh coconut (don’t forget your bamboo straw). Scallywags/Chill Out on the east and Mowies on the south west are popular sunbathing spots.
Protect our Reefs! Please use Reef Safe Sunscreen when swimming, snorkelling or diving in the ocean. Bonus: these products are also palm oil free, or use sustainable palm oil!
How's that for guilt-free sunbathing?
Cost: Bike hire is 50,000 IDR for 24 hours
It only takes two hours to walk around the entire island. Dip your toes in the ocean, walk along the sandy paths, stop for a cool drink and people watching at one of the beachside restaurants.
If you really want to know the island and how locals live, walk inland where you will be rewarded with fields of palm trees, free-roaming cows, the odd goat, chickens and cats. Gili Air is a cat island and no dogs are allowed, as they are deemed dirty by the Muslim culture. Gili Air is a Muslim island, so please remember to cover up when away from the beach areas, you wouldn’t want to offend anyone.
At my last count, there were six sea swings and at least two hammocks. Another opportunity to stroll along the beach, admire the beauty of clear aquamarine ocean and capture Instagram-worthy photos. Bliss!
OK so wandering around the island looking for art isn’t exactly the same as in Penang, Singapore, or even Canggu on Bali, but it’s still fun. And quirky. Having a little mission opens your eyes to things you may have initially missed. From Carved wooden ornaments to painted walls, totem pole road signs and thought-provoking quotes, looking for quirky art is a nice way to wile away the hours (in amongst sipping a coconut or cold Bintang, you are on holiday after all!)
There are many fantastic restaurants around the island serving Western food, but to truly experience Indonesia and the Gili Island Sasak culture, eat locally. There are small restaurants all over the island called Warungs which serve must-try delicious dishes. Find a Warung, order a local dish, and enjoy island life like a local. Sunny’s in the north is rated very highly on Trip Advisor. Our favourites were Warung Kampung near Ruby’s (which is also amazing), and Panchy Robeck just around the corner in a peaceful field.
Cost: Courses start from 290,000 IDR per person for 1 - 1.5 hours
Once you have tried the local food, why not take an Indonesian Cooking Class. If you want to recreate a delicious Mie Gorang when you return home, this is the activity for you. There are a couple of places to choose from, Warung Sunny in the north and Gili Cooking Class near the harbour who run three daily classes to suit your budget (suitable for vegetarians). All classes focus on traditional Indonesian cuisine and can be enjoyed by everyone in the family.
The best part of a cooking class, is the feast at the end!
Yes there is shopping on Gili Air! From small boutique stores selling clothing for both men and women, to local beachfront stalls. You can buy handicrafts made from wood or coconut shell, locally produced jewellery and homeware, sarongs or bamboo hats. Coconut oil is a popular purchase, and all make perfect gifts or souvenirs. (Please be a responsible traveller and don’t buy anything made from shells)
A what?? Yes, you can have a permanent reminder of your time on Gili Air and get yourself a tattoo. Located in the harbour, most people walk right past it without realising it’s there. I bet you weren’t expecting to see this on a list!
Cost: Public Boat is 35,000 IDR per person, fast boat is 85,000 IDR per person
You may have chosen to stay on beautiful Gili Air, but why not island hop? Gili Meno is the quietest island with the best beaches for that perfect Robinson Crusoe experience, whereas Gili Trawangan has the best shopping and party vibe. For a sense of how the islanders live, grab a public boat to hop between the islands. Alternatively, the fast boat service runs every hour, and tickets can be purchased at the harbour. You can pop to the neighbouring island first thing in the morning, and return in good time to watch the sunset.
Did you know there are more Gili Islands further south?
Check out our posts on the Secret Gili Islands:
Gili Asahan, Gili Gede, Gili Sudak & Gili Kedis
Cost: 100,000 IDR per person for 4 hours
Who wants to see Nemo? If you want to explore the islands in a lazy way, do it on a boat! The Glass Bottom Boats and snorkelling trips take you to all the best spots around the three islands. There are plenty of tourist information booths around the island with whom you can book. I personally love the underwater statues off Gili Meno; some people think they are creepy, but this artificial reef attracts plenty of fish (and turtles).
Important Note: If you are snorkelling, please be responsible, and choose an operator that does not feed the fish. Bread is not a fish’s usual diet and can kill them. The relationship between fish eating algae off coral is important to sustain our struggling coral reefs. And please, do not touch or chase turtles.
This is my favourite activity on Gili Air! I have personally found the sunsets on the Gili Islands to be some (if not the) best in the world. There is nothing better than sitting on a beach bean bag with a cocktail, cold Bintang or fresh coconut in your hand watching the sun set behind Bali’s Mount Agung.
The sky can turn pink, orange or red, even when it’s cloudy the sunsets are spectacular. Along the west coast there are plenty of beach bars and restaurants to choose from but for me, the best sunset spot on Gili Air is Gili Lumbung. For that Instagram-worthy shot, Gili Lumbung has one of the island’s sea swings, sometimes a live guitarist, and they serve great food. The perfect way to end your day!
Who said Gili Trawangan was the only party island? If you want to let loose when the sun has set, there are a few party places to choose from.
Cheeky Monkeys – Cheeky Tuesdays – DJ, Deep House & Techno
Chill Out – Tuesday – House Music Beach Party
Legend – Wednesday night 9pm – 4am – Commercial, Electronics
Lucky’s Bar – Electronics, Psytrance
Saparis – Beach parties, look out for the posters.
The Hostel hosts “snorkel tests” for Dive Masters who have just qualified, and this is a great place to get to know the friendly ex-pat dive community. Just ask for a vodka joss, it’s the Gili Islands’ favourite!
Note: The above nights/events are subject to change.
If partying isn’t your thing but you enjoy live music, there are quite a few places to choose from.
Bel Air, Gili Lumbung, Grand Sunset, Raja Bar, Santai – most nights
Boogil’s sunset lounge – Saturday & Monday Nights
Puri Vida – Reggae Band Saturday night
Nothing screams “holiday in paradise” than chilling on a beach with friends, listening to a live guitarist or band. It’s my favourite way to spend an evening.
Every night from 8pm at Ombak Paradise on the south-west coast, you can settle down on the beach and watch a movie. A poster displays the movie shown “tonight” and “tomorrow night” enabling you to pick which evening suits you best. At 7Seas on the east coast, they have movie and dinner packages, just check out the board for details.
15. Join a quiz night
Every Wednesday Shark Bites host Rock N Roll Bingo which is always good fun, and very busy! Some people start their evening at the quiz, then go up to Legend’s to continue the party – choice is yours!
Every other Saturday, the Waterfront have a general knowledge quiz where you can win prize money. If the drinks are flowing and you’re having a good time, take the party to The Hostel … it’s what most people tend to do! Another vodka joss anyone?
Cost: 100,000 IDR per class
If you are new to yoga, or practice regularly and wish to attend a class on Gili Air. There are two places offering a variety of daily yoga classes, retreat and meditation centres. Flowers and Fire also host a Monday “curry and a movie”, and at H20 there is daily Aqua Yoga 10.45am.
Cost: 1 hour hire is 150,000 IDR, SUP Yoga is 270,000 IDR
SUP is the perfect way to enjoy the tropical waters of Gili Air. You can hire one yourself from Blue Marine Dive, or for the more adventurous, try a SUP yoga class! There is also the option of sunrise or sunset SUP class. If you want to be out on the ocean enjoying the peace and tranquillity, SUP is a great activity to try.
Cost: Starting from 110,000 IDR for a 1 hour massage
You’re on holiday, so why not pamper yourself in paradise? There are many beautiful massage centres around the island for your total relaxation. Have a massage, reflexology, nature baths, facial, manicure, pedicure, spa packages – you name it Gili Air has it! Highly recommended are Jasmine and Bel Air. If you are after a luxury experience, head to Slow Villas.
Cost: 50,000 IDR for one session, 100,000 IDR for a 1 week pass and 150,000 IDR for a 2 week pass
If fitness is your thing, no need to stop when you are on Gili Air! Throw on your trainers and take a jog around the 5km island, it’s a popular morning and late afternoon activity. Alternatively, Holiday Fit have two air conditioned gyms with free-weights, punching bags and fitness equipment. The older gym is located in the south a few minutes away from the beach, the new one is in the north-east.
Around the corner from Flowers & Fire is a small badminton court, and next to the harbour is the “football field” where you can join the locals in a friendly game.
If you want to help keep GIli Air beautiful, take part in a beach clean up. Gili Shark Conservation and Trash Hero work with the dive centres around the island, so join one that is near you. For just 30 – 45 minutes of your time, you are rewarded with a free beer or soft drink. Not only will you have the feel good factor of reducing the amount of rubbish that will end up in the ocean, you will meet like-minded people and be a part of the island community. Go on, be a #TrashHero, keep Gili Air a #PlasticFreeParadise.
21. Take part in a Conservation Experience
If getting involved in a beach clean has made you appreciate conservation, Gili Shark Conservation offer various conservation programmes, including one for Sharks and Turtles. What better way to learn about the ocean and our environment than to speak to passionate experts.
Cost: Prices are set across the GIli Islands, all include equipment hire. One fun dive for a qualified diver = 490,000 IDR, One day Discover Scuba = 900,000 IDR, Open Water Course = 5,500,000 IDR
Scuba Diving the Gili Islands is the number one activity on Gili Air, and why not! With warm year round temperatures and visibility up to 30 metres, it’s perfect for all levels. Did I mention turtles? Many believe the Gili Islands are the turtle capital of the world. For fun diving, we recommend the very personable Gili Pilih just up from the harbour.
Not qualified? Take a one day scuba experience or “get your PADI” with a three day Open Water Course at Oceans 5 who are right on the harbour. They also carry out regular reef and beach clean ups to help the environment, and are the only Disabled Diving centre on the island. Anyone can learn to breathe underwater.
Snorkel kit hire cost: 50,000 IDR for a day
If scuba diving isn’t for you, no worries! Snorkelling is very popular right off the beach, and there are many local stalls hiring sets.
If you are snorkelling, please be a responsible snorkeller. Do not stand on the coral or attempt to touch/chase turtles or any marine life. Do not feed the fish. I know it is amazing to have fish swimming all around you, but bread isn’t their natural diet and can be harmful to them. It also means they won’t eat algae off the coral which is needed to sustain a healthy reef.
Cost: Pricing starts at 1,950,000 IDR for a 1 day course
Freediving is quickly becoming the new scuba diving. Whilst there are a few centres on Gili Air to choose from, I personally recommend Freedive Flow just up from the harbour. The centre is professional yet relaxed, and teach absolute beginners through to Instructor Trainers. If you want a taster to whet your appetite, try the half-day introduction. They run both AIDA and PADI courses as well as breath hold workshops for surfers (perfect if you are going to Bali afterwards!)
Cost: 2 x 25 minutes inc equipment is 450,000 IDR, Private Tours can be arranged for special occasions
Ever wanted to swim like a mermaid, or surf underwater in a James Bond type stunt? For a different type of water fun, Subwing the Gili Islands! Subwing is the new snorkelling, and you feel like you are flying underwater. It’s easy to learn, suitable for all ages, all fitness levels and is very addictive. If you are an adrenaline junkie, you can dive down, do underwater somersaults, you can even stand on the board. For a lazy snorkelling experience, stay on the surface and enjoy swimming with the turtles and fish. Do you have a GoPro? Clip it to the board and film yourself!
Travel and island information:
How to get to Gili Air
From Lombok: You can fly to Praya, Lombok, which is about 90 minutes by taxi from Bangsal Harbour. A boat from here takes around 30 minutes.
From Bali: 2 hours by fast-boat from Bali (Padang Bai, Sanur or Amed in the north). We have always used Eka Jaya which is one of he most popular companies to use if you are based in south Bali. Tickets can be booked online or by your hotel in Bali. From the North, have a look at Gili Gili's website for the options.
Note: Sometimes the sea conditions during July & August can be quite wavy, and fast boats can be cancelled. If you are travelling during this time from Bali, it's best to book an internal flight.
From Gili Meno or Trawangan: Local "Island Hopper" boats run twice daily and take about 20 minutes. Tickets can be purchased at the harbour on the day. Cost is approx 20,000 IDR.
Visa for Indonesia
A 30 day visa is given at the time of arrival in Indonesia (not for all countries, check with your embassy). If you want to stay for longer, there are only three entry points where you can ask for a "Paid Visa on Arrival"; Jakarta, Bali and Lombok. The cost is $35 which allows you to extend your 30 day visa for another 30 days.
Best time to visit Gili Air and Indonesia
Gili Air is in the Southern Hemisphere with a tropical climate. Average year round temperature is 29°c. They have two seasons: Rainy season is October – April, Dry season runs May – October. July & August is high season so prices will be higher.
The currency, and ATM’s on the island
The local currency is Indonesian Rupiah £1 GBP = 18,000 IDR
There are currently eight ATM’s on the island so you don’t have to bring wads of cash. The locations are: 2 x at the harbour (BNI & Mandiri), 2 x opposite Scallywags on the east coast (both CIMB), 2 x by Bel Air (BNI & Mandiri), Blue Marlin on the north-west coast (CIMB) and Ombak on the south-west coast (BNI). (NB: There have been a few reports of cards being cloned at Mandiri so please be careful.)
Wi-fi on the island
Free Wi-Fi is available in the larger hotels, some homestays, most restaurants, and some Warungs.
Do note that electricity supplies on the island can be interrupted at times. This means the internet can be affected, so put down your phone and just enjoy the beauty of the island.
Be a good traveller - be culturally aware
When entering a shop or someone’s home, please remove your shoes as it’s considered disrespectful not to do so.
The Muslim culture doesn’t eat pork, ham, bacon etc, so it’s not widely available, however you will find it at establishments owned by Westerners.
There are a plethora of places to choose from to suit every budget. We always use and recommend booking.com. Choose your accommodation for the hand-picked and highly recommended list of places below and book in confidence with booking.com.
Hostels & Budget: Gili Air Hostel and Fantastic GIli Hostel (both by the harbour), 7Seas Backpackers (east coast)
Begadang Backpackers, Captain Coconuts and Gili Buana Hostel & Backpackers (in the centre of the island)
Homestays and Guest Houses: Budget accommodation with private bathroom facilities.
Sasak Bungalows: These are popular for a “traditional” experience, and are spacious and private. One Love Bamboo Bungalows provide budget accommodation. We recommend and have stayed at 3 Angel’s Homestay.
Resorts: There are plenty of Dive Resorts if you wish to combine your stay with diving. Oceans 5 and Manta Dive are the best two.
Villas, Luxury Resorts and Spas: Slow Gili Air, Stay Shark Villas, Bel Air Resort, Villa Monti, Nautilus Villa, DeCoca Villa and Suites, A Villa Gili Air, Kempas Villa
Want to learn the lingo?
The official language is Bahasa Indonesia, although you may encounter some people who speak Sasak, the local dialect for Lombok and Gili Air.
Even if you say just a couple of words in Bahasa, the smiles you receive in return will make it worthwhile.
Pagi = good morning
Terima Kasih = thank you
Makasi = thanks
Apa Kabar? = how are you?
Bagus = good
Enak sekali = delicious food
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