The Gili’s are three small idyllic islands off the coast of Bali, Indonesia. They are Gili Air, Gili Meno and Gili T.
These three islands have no paved roads or airports. This makes them beach paradises for vacationers, but getting there can be tricky. I did a ton of research–I’m talking over a span of months–and I could not be happier with how smoothly it went.
There’s a larger island nearby, Lombok, that acts as a jumping off point for the Gili’s. Lombok has an airport, paved roads, a hospital, police station, etc.–in short, it provides the necessities needed to keep the smaller islands operating.
Knowing that, there are three main ways to access Gili Air, Gili Meno and Gili T–each of them have pros and cons, which I’ll outline below.
Getting to Gili Air by Fast Boat
Cost of Fast Boat: Averages $40 USD each way, per person.
You can take a fast boat from Bali to any of the Gili Islands. This will take you 3-4 hours, depending on sea conditions and which island you choose.
Factor in driving time to a harbor because it can add an hour or more to your trip. (Most fast boat companies will pick you up from your hotel at no extra charge.)
Fast boats to the Gili Islands depart from Padang Bai in east Bali (about an hour from Ubud) and Serangan in south Bali.
Fast boats depart Bali harbors early in the morning and arrive to the Gili Islands in the afternoon. Then they make their return trip Bali in the afternoon.
We were traveling to Gili Air from Ubud, where travel time would have been approximately one hour to the nearest harbor, Padang Bai. But we did not want to take the risk of traveling by fast boat.
- Most direct route
- Less planning required
- Fastest route, just ahead of flying.
- The fast boat industry in Bali is not regulated.
- The body of water you’re crossing is known to be choppy and there are many days with rough currents. Since the industry isn’t regulated, boats will run even when the currents are bad and you won’t know until it’s too late to turn back.
- You may encounter swindlers. Only book one-way tickets, as travelers have reported companies not honoring return tickets.
- People have reported terrible experiences with sea sickness, fear/lack of safety, ruined luggage and even capsized boats.
- If the weather is visibaly bad, the boats won’t go out–so you could be stuck in Padang Bai or Serangan for an extra day or two.
- You’ll get dropped off at the harbor of each island, which may mean a long walk on unpaved roads with luggage.
Getting to Gili Air by Plane
Cost: $55 USD each way for plane + car + boat.
This is the safest and most comfortable option. If the weather is visibly bad then the fast boats won’t depart and you could end up waiting at the harbor for an extra day or two. It was storming on the day we traveled, so we were grateful we had chosen to fly.
We headed to the airport in the rain, and by the time we were pulling up to Gili Air it was sunny and beautiful. We were told that it hardly ever rains on the Gili Islands–it’s as if they’re protected by a little bubble.
From our hotel in Ubud, the travel time to the airport was about an hour–which would have been equidistant to the harbor if we had taken a fast boat. For that reason, we didn’t see the hour commute to the airport as an inconvenience.
Budget airlines such as Air Asia offer flights for about $20 each way. We “splurged” for Garuda Indonesia because it’s a legacy airline we trusted–the cost was $30 each way.
Surprisingly, Garuda Indonesia operates a Boeing-757 on this route so you have plenty of overhead storage space for luggage. The entire flight was 19 minutes. Punctual, comfortable and easy–they even served a boxed lunch to everyone.
Garuda Indonesia is part of the SkyTeam alliance, so if you have Delta benefits you’ll earn SkyMiles and get priority lane access, early boarding, lounge access and free checked luggage if you’re an ElitePlus Medallion.
Once you land in Lombok, you need to take a taxi to the Bangsal harbor–this drive takes about two hours. There will be plenty of drivers in front of the airport. From Bangsal harbor you will take the public ferry to the Gili Islands. It takes 15 minutes to get to Gili Air, 30 minutes to get to Gili Meno and about 40 minutes to get to Gili T on the ferry.
OR do what we did and book a private driver with a private fast boat. We used Omar after seeing excellent Trip Advisor recommendations. He was waiting for us at the airport, had a comfortable air conditioned SUV and told us about Lombok as we took in the incredibly scenic views.
Instead of going to Bengsal harbor, he took us to his private harbor where his private boat and crew were waiting for us. They handled all of our luggage and dropped us off right in front of our hotel, where the manager hurried to get our luggage for us.
The whole journey was so easy and comfortable. Not only that, but it didn’t take too much time. We left our hotel in Ubud at 7:30 a.m. and arrived to Gili Air at 2:30 p.m. Here’s a link to Omar’s Trip Advisor page–I seriously cannot recommend him enough.
Omar quoted us about $100 USD roundtrip for the two of us total, which we split. That ended up being $25 each, per way–a great price for the services we received.
- The airlines are regulated.
- Airfare from Bali to Lombok is inexpensive–averaging $25 each way.
- If the weather is bad, planes can still fly in the rain. It was stormy on the day we traveled to Gili Air, so we were glad that we opted to fly over taking a speedboat.
- By reducing the water travel time significantly, this is the most reliable option–we spent about 15 minutes crossing from Lombok to Gili Air.
- It’s the most comfortable travel option of the three.
Cost: Averages $55 each way for flight + private driver + private boat, per person.
Getting to Gili Air By Ferry
Cost: approximately $5 USD each way, per person.
There is a public ferry that travels from Padang Bai to the Gili Islands once a day. It’s basic and inexpensive, but could save you some money if you’re willing to spend more time traveling–you’ll give up almost a whole day getting there this way.
- The ferry is large enough to handle choppy waters and rough currents safely.
- This is the most inexpensive option at about $5 each way.
- The ferry is bare bones, but it’s probably more comfortable than getting sea sick or capsized on a fast boat.
- This is your longest option as it takes about 7-8 hours.
- It only departs from Padang Bai.