With the most upscale resorts and boutique shops out of all the Gilis, Gili T is suitable for everyone from backpackers to families. Want to arrive by helicopter? Gili Trawangan has it’s on helipad!
Gili Trawangan and the Gilis are some of the few world-wide islands without cars. With white sand beaches, scuba diving, snorkelling, island hopping and much more, Gili Trawangan is a special place to visit.
So, is its reputation as a party island warranted if it’s a place everyone can visit?
It's not a large island and it takes around 2 – 2.5 hours to walk all the way around. Like it’s neighbours Gili Air and Gili Meno, no motorised vehicles are allowed so the only form of transport are cidomos (horse & cart), walking, or you can hire a bicycle. During the day around the harbour, you dodge cidomos, bicycles and a plethora of people; it’s the Indonesian version of Amsterdam!
The island is part of a Muslim culture, so modest etiquette should be practised, You will see westerners walking/cycling around the main strip wearing bikini’s and exposing bare chests to show off tanned and toned abs as if they were strutting along Sunset Boulevard, but his is disrespectful to the island residents. So please, be respectful and wrap a sarong around you or put on a t-shirt, the locals will be very grateful.
The guys working here were super friendly at all times and we had so many laughs with them. When it was Suvryan’s birthday, he kindly shared some of his birthday cake with us.
Immediately upon our arrival, we were endeared to Gili T and had a good feeling about the island. Unfortunately we only spent four days here as our Indonesian Visa was due to expire, otherwise I have no doubt we would have stayed longer.
Circumnavigating the island
We decided to take a stroll around the island one day to find out what it has to offer, and it was lovely. As it’s a sand island, beaches are a-plenty and we found a few beautiful white sand options to choose from. One of the most popular (which also means it’s the busiest) happens to be at the harbour. As it’s on the main road, there is a lot of “traffic” and if you are feeling sociable and energetic, you can have a game of beach volleyball.
They sell fresh, cheap snacks, meat on skewers, rice, veg, traditional Indonesian food and cakes for those with a sweet tooth. Wee ordered a plate full of food, a couple of Bintangs and sat around on a plastic seats enjoying our delicious dinner for 30,000 IDR each (£2 GBP).
Watching the sunset
If, like me, you love your sunsets, then the west coast is the place to be and there are a couple of options if you are staying on the east coast as we were.
Thankfully, there is a road that runs straight through the island so you can either grab a cidomo (which most people do), cycle or walk it in 30 minutes. There is a warung half way along if you wanted to stop and grab a cold drink or couple of beers (who doesn’t love a walking beer?).
One of the popular island activities is snorkelling and you can either take a trip to the best spots around the three islands, go on a glass bottom boat or hire a mask and snorkel and do it yourself off the beach. The latter is what we chose to do. There are a few popular snorkelling spots around the island but one of the best for finding turtles is on the north coast (by La Moomba restaurant).
When the tide was high, we swam out from shore into the warm, crystal clear calm waters and found a turtle swimming near a giant barracuda – we didn’t know which one to look at! During our 30 minute swim, we also saw pufferfish, a lone batfish, butterfly fish, Moorish idols, a small school of sergeant majors and a small school of surgeon fish. Not bad at all.
Gili Eco Trust have introduced artificial metal reef cages (called Biorock) which are fed a constant voltage of electricity to encourage coral regeneration and are a natural attraction for all forms of marine life. There are now 33 individual projects in the Gilis' and its possible to snorkel or dive round them.
We saw quite a few people paddle boarding which you can combine with sunset yoga. Oh yes, test your balance by doing yoga poses on a paddle board!
Fancy island hopping? Check out the
25 Best Things to in Gili Air
It would be wrong of me not to mention the partying on this island, after all, this is what it has become famous for! If you like live music, head to Sama Sama which has great reggae bands playing every night and it’s also a cool place to chill out with a beer.
If the clubbing scene is more your thing, to start off the party, Jiggy Bar run booze cruises from 1pm – 7pm on Wednesday and Saturdays. For nightlife, bars take it in turns hosting big party nights and will close at 3am when all the others will shut at 1am. Recent government initiatives (which I will mention below) may have affected the weekly party schedule so it’s best to ask around and check what is happening before you get yourself all dressed up and raring to go!
One of the downsides of a small island and rapidly increased its tourism is litter control and waste management. Gili Eco Trust work hard to help preserve the island’s beauty the best it can and have educated some local establishments to follow suit.
When you visit, please bear this in mind and use the recycling bins provided and say no to plastic as often as you can. For more information on other conservation and environmental initiatives Gili Eco Trust have introduced, please visit their excellent website.
Want to travel Plastic Free when you visit Gili Trawangan? Here are 7 Easy Ways to Travel Plastic Free
Gili T was the first of the three islands to begin development and tourism in the Gili’s was a IDR 130 billion business (nearly 8 billion GBP or 9.5 billion US Dollars).
Some of the beachfront establishments had built structures 5-10 metres from the shore which violated the permitted 30 meter limit. The local government stepped in and re-claimed the beaches increasing public access.
In February 2017, the 143 bars and restaurants were pulled down. We visited a week after and saw sections which were just a pile of rubble but it's all been cleared up now, and you will not notice anything different. In July 2018 Gili Air and Gili Meno followed suit under the Government's instructions.
Update - Gili Trawangan after the earthquake
I'm going to address the elephant in the room - the magnitude 7 earthquake which struck Lombok and the Gili Islands on 5 August 2018. Nearly all loss of life occurred on Lombok. The locals that live on the Gili islands are mostly from Lombok, and nearly every person lost at least one family member or friend.
We were living on Gili Air at the time and were in the earthquake. We saw how residents of Gili Air and Gili Trawangan rallied together to resume life as quickly as possible. Residents are strong, resilient and they love their island so wanted to return it to paradise as quickly as possible.
All restaurants and accommodation are fully operational, have been open since end of 2018, and you will not notice any debris. Locals and business owners on Gili Trawangan, the Gili’s and Lombok depend on tourism to survive, and with less tourists on the islands, NOW IS THE BEST TIME TO VISIT.
Yes, if you want to party, go to Gili T. If you want to go to an island for white sand beaches, water sports, sunbathing, horse riding, good food and friendly people –go to Gili T.
The Gili Islands are a 30 minute fast-boat ride away from Lombok and 2 hours by speedboat from Bali (Padang Bai or Sanur). If you wanted to island hop between Gili Air, Meno & Trawangan, it will take you around 20 minutes to travel between each one using the local “Island Hopper” boat.
If (like me) you are concerned that the “local Hopper Boat” will be rickety, small and over-crowded … don’t be. They are a good size, sturdy and tickets can be purchased easily and with confidence from a desk at the harbour.
Where to stay
There are places to suit all budgets, from the boutique hotels to mid-range and hostels/homestays for the budget traveller. As we fit into the latter category, we stayed at the simple but delightful Gilibong Bungalows and loved it! We find places to stay by looking at Booking.com then compare reviews against Trip Advisor before booking.
You can book your Gili Island hotel or homestay through our website as we have an affiliate partnership with Booking.com. Click here to visit our Hotel Booking Page then search as normal. There is no extra cost to you but you will be helping us!
Travel Facts & tips
- The local currency is Indonesian Rupiah - £1 GBP = 16,000 IDR
- Their official language is Bahasa Indonesia which is similar to Malaysian and is used throughout Indonesia in general.
- If you can use just a couple of Indonesian words, this will give you big smile in return, even if you simply use “Pagi” (morning) and “Terima Kasih” (thank you), it will be hugely appreciated.
- A 30 day visa is given at the time of arrival in Indonesia (not for all countries, check with your embassy) but if you want to stay longer, you can obtain a 60 day visa in advance at consulates and embassies.
- There are plenty of ATM’s on the island so you don’t have to bring wads of cash.
- Just like it's neighbours Gili Air and Gili Meno, there is a very low crime rate on this island so you will feel completely safe.
- Free Wi-Fi is available in most places around the island including homestays, bars and restaurants.
- In addition to the beachfront restaurants, small, family run restaurants known as warungs are dotted all around and are a cheap and tasty way of eating locally.
- Bring a small torch for the evening as there are parts of the island that do not have lights, especially if you want to watch the sunset on the west coast and walk to the east coast for dinner.
- All toilets for the restaurants are “public” so carry a small packet of tissues and antibacterial handwash in your bag as they don’t always have toilet paper or hand washing facilities.
- Electricity on the island can sometimes be interrupted, so be aware of this as it can affect internet access and all important ATM machines.
Have you heard of Gili Trawangan and did you always believe it was a party island? Have I managed to change your mind now? Let us know in the comments below!
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