When we decided to live on Gili Air, Indonesia, we had no idea where to start. We didn’t know anyone on the island, and didn’t have a clue how to find a place to live.
The advice provided in this guide is relevant for anyone wishing to stay either on Gili Air or for any country in the world. Pick and choose what is useful for the length of time you intend to stay. We have already used this knowledge in the Philippines where we have made our new home.
But for the moment, let Feet Do Travel help you make a home on GIli Air.
Please note, all prices given were correct at the time of writing, however situations change, and Covid-19 lockdowns have had an impact on tourism globally. Prices go up and down so this article is meant to be a guide to help you.
Gili Air is a small island with a circumference of 5km located north west of Lombok, in the Nusa Tenggara Province of Indonesia. By boat, it’s a 20 minute journey from Bangsal, Lombok, or two hours by fast boat from Bali which is further west.
There is a large and friendly ex-pat community on the island, so not only caters towards Westerners setting up home, buts it’s a popular tourist destination with plenty of amenities.
There are also “worker horses” to carry goods from the harbour to supermarkets, building materials from A to B, and scuba tanks to the islands’ compressor rooms for filling every day/evening.
Living on Gili Air is like being in a bubble. No cars, no traffic, no crime, just happy people smiling and saying hello wherever you go. Gili Air is full of like-minded people, everyone cares about the island, the world’s oceans, environment conservation, and reducing single-use plastic usage. For a hands-on learning experience, many people stay with Gili Shark Conservation.
Yogis – There are two Yoga Centres on the island which have Yoga or Meditation retreats. Gili Air provides a peaceful mind making it the perfect island for these practices.
Travellers/Backpackers wanting time out – After travelling some of South East Asia’s hectic areas, Gili Air is a beautiful place to chill for a month or maybe longer to recharge the batteries.
Travel Bloggers/Digital Nomads – People like me, who love beach/hammock life, and simply want to call a place as beautiful as Gili Air “home”. (Although the internet does prove frustrating at times, more on that later).
We initially visited Gili Air for our wedding anniversary, within 30 minutes we had fallen in love with the island.
We decided to make Gili Air our home for just a couple of months, those two months turned into 15 months. First, we needed to find a place to live, staying in tourist accommodation would be far too costly. I wish we had this blog post back then, as we knew nothing about setting up home on Gili Air.
Most important, is finding yourself a permanent base, and there are a couple of ways to do this. The majority of accommodation are called Homestays.
1. Gili Air’s dive community is very friendly and super helpful. If you are planning to scuba dive around the Gilis with a particular dive centre, ask any dive professional if they have any recommendations.
2. Get an agent – if someone has an agent, get them to put you in touch with them. He will look after many properties on the island and can take you to a few places. We have recommended our agent (Alun) to many people, and he has found them a home.
3. Ask an ex-pat if there is an island Facebook Community group then join. The one here is called Gili Air Pinboard, there is also a separate group on Gili Trawangan. Once you have been accepted, ask in the group if anyone has any long term rentals available.
2,600,000 - 3,000,000 IDR per month
Basic accommodation suitable for one person; very small kitchen with single hob and fridge, no air con, no hot water, bedding, balcony (may have table and chairs)
3,500,000 IDR per month
Accommodation suitable for two people; small kitchen with double hob and fridge, air con, no hot water, bedding, balcony with table, chairs and clothes dryer.
4,000,000 IDR per month
Nice accommodation suitable for two people; small kitchen with double hob and fridge, air con, hot water shower, bedding, a fan on your balcony with table, chairs and clothes dryer
4,000,000 – 6,000,000 IDR per month
Nice accommodation suitable for two or more people so rent can be shared, more than one bedroom, sometimes separate living room available, air con, hot water shower, balcony with table, chairs and clothes dryer.
1. The mosque – Gili Air is a Muslim island. If you are close to the mosque, you could be woken at 4.30am with the call to prayer. If this will wake you, choose accommodation further away.
2. Homestays with lots of children – Indonesian’s are very social people, and often congregate on a baruga. Lots of children will mean more noise, and the locals often to talk to each other at a high decibels (a polite way of saying they shout). Locals wake up early, talk and begin their daily sweeping chores any time from 5 to 6am.
3. Roosters and chickens run around everywhere on the island. Roosters do not cockle-doodle-doo at dawn, they do it whenever they feel like it, whether this be 1am, 1pm, 4pm. You cannot stop this, it’s just something you need to be aware of, but you do get used to it.
4. Other roaming free animals are cows. One day we caught a “dear cow” stealing bananas which were left unattended from a table. It’s also a cat island, no dogs allowed, so cats are everywhere – useful for you to know in case you are allergic to them.
If you are very lucky, your accommodation may have wifi included, but this is the exception not the norm. If you believe you can manage without wifi at home, there are many restaurants around the island which have wifi for you to use. Do note, that bad weather affects the internet which can make it slow and intermittent.
When we moved to Gili Air, we initially tried not buying a Sim Card and found it frustrating. If you have an unlocked phone, you can buy a data package.
We had a Telcomsel sim card and downloaded the app for topping up. This cost half the price of going to the shop, and is the cheapest way of getting data.
It’s cheaper to buy a sim card at the airport. In Praya, Lombok airport, the cost of a sim card with data is half the price than on the island.
If it’s not possible to download the app, or to top up for any reason, there is another option.
Opposite Siti Shop is a Maulana Cell telecommunications shop where you buy a sim card with an Indonesian telephone number (you may need to have your passport details to register). There are two different providers on the island (Telkomsel and XL), and you can purchase data in bundles for both as and when you need it.
At the time of writing, these are the prices:
Not all accommodation comes with electricity included in the rent, so you will need to buy your own which is loaded onto you meter. Electricity pulsa can be purchased at Siti Shop, Unik, and next to GoGo Juices at the harbour.
- Take a photograph or write down the code printed on the machine (shown in the picture above below the bar code).
- Go to your chosen outlet, and ask for electric pulsa, showing them the code.
- Tell them how much you would like to buy i.e 100,000 IDR, you will be charged 10,000 IDR on top.
- Give them your mobile number, the code will be text to you.
- Input the code into your electricity meter and voila!
As a general rule, we used 100,000 IDR per month. If you use more air con (which we try not to do for environmental and health reasons), or if you plug in your water cooler, you will need more. Both eat the electricity.
Some Homestays provide a water machine which will take a gallon bottle, but if you don’t have a machine, you can purchase a pump from the supermarket to obtain your water from a gallon. To purchase a gallon, the first one will be 50,000 IDR, then take your old gallon to your nearest shop and swap for a new one, cost is around 25,000 IDR.
Your kitchen will have a gas hob, you just need to buy the gas when it runs out. Take your empty gas container to the nearest shop and swap for a new one. Cost is around 50,000 IDR and lasts for many months (depending on how often you use the hob). As a rule, ours lasted about 6 months, but we didn’t cook as often as we should have.
Pretty much everyone has a bicycle, even if they are on Gili Air for a month. They can be bought and sold easily enough, and it’s cheaper to buy than rent at 50,000 IDR per day.
Gili Air Pinboard is the best place to start, prices range according to “luxuries”.
Island bike – no brakes, no gears – 300,000 – 400,000 IDR
Bike with brakes (maybe a basket) – 400,000 - 600,000 IDR
Bike with brakes and gears (maybe a basket) – 700,000 IDR +
There are also various places around the island where you can buy a bike, Yahuutt and a shop near Sharkbites. Don’t forget to haggle!!
There are small local shops dotted all around the island, most Homestays have one very close by for your basics (gas, water, snacks etc).
Siti Shop is the main supermarket on the island for all your groceries and household goods. Unik and Sriwijaya are also good, and a few large supermarkets with a bigger range of goods are starting to pop up around the island.
Kettle and other household items
If you like a morning coffee or cuppa, the easiest way to boil water is obviously in a kettle. If you are lucky enough to have a kettle, it will probably be because a previous tenant has left one!
Boiling water is old school; either use a saucepan, or if you want a kettle, add a note on the Gili Air Pinboard asking is anyone is selling one. This is also applied for any other household items … it’s always worth asking here first to save you a trip to Lombok.
Siti Shop & Unik for your basic household items; bath towels, pots, pans, cutlery, plates, cups, coat hangers etc
The cost of washing your bedding is usually included in your rent, sometimes bath towels as well. Most homestays will provide you with two sets of bedding and a towel if you are lucky.
For the rest of your laundry, the cost is between 25,000 to 40,000 IDR per kg. Your homestay will probably do this, as will many places all over the island, just look for signs.
Old school – do it yourself in a bucket. Boil hot water in a pan then pour it into a bucket with cold water and laundry powder. Leave to soak, give it a scrub – do whatever, rinse then hang out to dry.
There are a plethora of Western restaurants around the island to suit all tastes, including Vegetarian and Vegan. Small family-run restaurants are called Warungs which serve cheap and tasty local food. For local food suggestions, check out 10 Must-Try Indonesian Dishes.
There are also a lot of clothing shops and stalls selling Western clothes, bikinis, souvenirs etc. Expect to pay Western prices, but for cheaper clothes, shop in one of the malls in Mataram, Lombok. Local clothes at local prices can be found in Siti Shop.
There is no hospital or dentist on the island, the nearest is in Mataram, Lombok. Harapan Keluarga Hospital is an International Hospital that comes highly recommended, and most staff speak excellent English.
There are a few Blue Island Clinics which run 24 hours, these are the best option for an emergency. There are also various “doctors” who can help with minor conditions such as sunburn, ear infection etc. I don’t believe they are professional trained, and you will be charged Western prices which tend to be 150,000 IDR for any tablets you require.
Siti shop sell Amoxicillin for 10,000 IDR per strip of 10 tablets, the doctors will sell it for 150,000 IDR for a strip of 10.
Indonesia has a few different visas which can become confusing and complicated, it’s therefore best to check the Indonesian Immigration Website which explains all visas in detail. I will cover the basics here.
You cannot work in Indonesia on any of the following visas, if you do, you will be thrown out of the Country. If you are a digital nomad, you are not technically classed as “working”, because you are not paid by an Indonesian company, although this may change at any time.
30 days – “Visa on Arrival” - given for free when you enter the country at any place within Indonesia
60 days - “Paid Visa on Arrival” – only available in the following airports: Jakarta, Bali and Lombok. You pay US $35 at the airport, then you need to go to Immigration and extend your free visa by 30 days for a further fee.
180 days/6 month – Social Visa – for this you need to apply outside of Indonesia (Singapore for example, if you need an agent, contact us). You also need an Indonesian sponsor who will provide you with a letter to present to immigration. For your Social Visa, you are initially given a 2 month visa, you then go to Immigration to extend every month up to 4 times.
New visas can only be obtained outside of Indonesia, so make a holiday of it! Singapore and Kuala Lumpur are the two most popular choices as flight times are only a few hours, however Thailand, East Timor and Australia could also be considered.
Contact the agent via WhattsApp or email (whichever details are given), and out of courtesy, let the agent know where you obtained their details. The agent will do everything for you, you just have to give them your passport and the fee – this is why you need to find someone you trust!
Cost (at the time of writing)
Paid Visa on Arrival extension – 750,000 IDR per person
Social Visa Sponsor letter – 500,000 IDR per person
Each Social Visa extension – 750,000 IDR per person
You can do the extensions yourself, however it takes a few days for each extension to be processed. You first need to go to Immigration in Bali or Lombok a few days before each extension is due, then return later to collect your passport. Sometimes the most time and cost effect way is to get an agent, your agent can also be your sponsor.
If you know someone on the island before you enter Indonesia, ask to use their agent who can also be your sponsor. If not, you can enter Indonesia on a two month “Paid Visa on Arrival”, and find an agent/sponsor on the island.
Crime is very low, and practically non-existent. I don’t know the statistics, but I have never heard of any violent crime being committed. You can walk around any time of day or night, without fear of sexual attacks, mugging, knifes or guns. This feeling is exceptionally rare in the world we live in today.
There are no police or police station on the island, the nearest is in Lombok. Island matters, including crime, are handled by the “head of the Island” (Kantor Desa or Kepala Desa in Bahasa)
If there is any crime it’s petty theft, mostly committed by people coming from Lombok. They steal quick-grab items for easy sell such as laptops, cameras, GoPros, and money if lying around, just the same as anywhere else in the world.
If they are caught, the punishment is shameful – but brilliant.
Local Gili Airans cannot abide thieves. When a thief is caught, the police are called over from Lombok who parade the thief around the island. Crowds of locals come out from their homes and shops, shout abuse and sometimes throw things at the thief. Not quite as bad as the Cersi scene from Game of Thrones, but “Shame” is definitely brought upon them. The perfect deterrent!
Gili Air Travel information
Gili Air, the Gili Islands and Lombok are all Muslim which is more conservative than its Hindu neighbour Bali . A couple of things to be aware of: please dress modestly when away from the beach area, wearing a bikini around the streets will undoubtedly offend the locals. 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.
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.
We suggest checking ferry schedules ahead of time, and booking in advance online with Bookaway. It will save time and hassle, and help you plan your travel itinerary.
Note: Sometimes the sea conditions during July & August can be quite wavy, and fast boats can be cancelled. If you need to fly out of the country on a visa run, consider booking an internal/external flight.
Gili Air – At-A-Glance facts
Religion – Muslim. Indonesia has the largest number of Muslims in the world, and Ramadan is observed annually.
Language – Bahasa Indonesia (similar but not the same as Bahasa Malaysia)
Currency – Indonesian Rupiah, £1 = 18,000 IDR
Climate – Tropical with two seasons; Wet/Monsoon is October to April, Dry is April to October
ATM’s – There are seven on the island, but cash is king. A 3% charge is added to credit cards
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