There are a few ways to reach the Gili Islands from Bali — I’ve done this journey a few times now and have some tips to make the journey as smooth as possible (and a word of warning about a company I travelled with recently).
I didn’t take many photos of these journeys so most pictures in this post are general Gili Islands shots — hopefully they inspire you to visit and ignore the hassles of getting there.
Bali to Gili Islands Fast Boat
Fast boats travel from Bali to the Gili Islands (and return, obviously) and should take around 90-minutes (plus a transfer from your hotel to Padang Bai, and the usual waiting around).
I’ve done it a few times and it’s a good option, assuming you book with a decent company. I found this out the hard way on my recent trip to Indonesia (August 2022). I booked a ticket through an agent (in Senggigi, Lombok) with Karuniya Jaya. It was the worst customer service I’ve encountered in all my years of travelling.
The boat, which started in the Gili Islands before picking a few people up in Senggigi, ran out of petrol shortly before Padang Bai. It took two hours to sort out, during which time the boat got way too close to the rocks on two separate occasions. Two hours of bobbing around just offshore. No one on the boat explained anything. The captain locked himself in the cockpit and wouldn’t come out. No communication. No concern for their customers.
Finally another boat pulled up with some petrol — we couldn’t believe it took so long! I read some TripAdvisor reviews afterwards and the same thing happened a couple of weeks earlier. You can forgive mistakes, but this clearly wasn’t a mistake, and the least they could have done was be apologetic about it.
It didn’t end there. After finally arriving in Padang Bai we were told that the transfer we’d paid for would be really slow– if we didn’t want to spend 3.5 hours getting to our hotel we’d better book a private taxi. They kept on insisting, saying the bus that would drop us off was massive (and full), and we’d have to wait for them to drop everyone off.
A few minutes after denying their request, they showed me and five other people to a car. Not a bus in sight. I’ve never seen such blatant lying and deception from a tour company before. The driver was really pissed off the whole ride — and no thought of an apology for the boat incident either. I arrived at my hotel at 6 pm after getting on the boat just after midday. Everyone on the boat was annoyed, and I’m pretty sure not a single one of them would travel with Karuniya Jaya again.
I’m not about badmouthing businesses. I’m just recounting my experience — after reading this far I’m sure you can decide whether you want to support a company like this. If not, when booking a fast boat between Bali and the Gili Islands, confirm which boat company it’ll be with and remember the name!
I probably wouldn’t have even written this post if it wasn’t for this experience, but I felt it was my duty to tell this story. The other fast boat journeys I’ve been on (can’t remember all the companies, but I’m pretty sure Blue Water Express was one) were all fairly straightforward, so don’t be put off — just be careful who you book with.
I’ve never done the ferry, or slow boat, from Bali to Lombok but it seems like a decent option if you’re on a budget (and would have been about as fast as my recent “fast boat” experience). It’s a bigger boat, with better seating and the chance to walk around, as opposed to being packed into a slender speed boat.
You’ll have to get to the port in Bali and then from the one in Lombok to wherever you’re going, but it could be a good choice if you’re after an adventure and have plenty of time. I’ve done ferries like this to other islands and they aren’t bad — you’ll be travelling with mostly locals as well as rather than a boat full of tourists.
The flight from Bali to Lombok is only around 25-minutes and you’ll get some nice views assuming you’re in a window seat. Of course you have to get to the airport in Bali and it’s quite a long way from the airport in Lombok to Bangsal (the main port for the Gili Islands).
It’s a great option if you’re planning on seeing some of Lombok. Kuta and Senggigi are the most popular beach towns and offer up a different experience to the beach towns in Bali.
Don’t Arrive Back in Bali the same day as your flight
The fast boats seem to be late quite often, and it’d be a huge mistake to rely on them to make your flight in time. Leave at least a day back in Bali up your sleeve and you won’t be nearly as stressed if your boat runs out of petrol!
Are you travelling from Bali to the Gili Islands? Which option will you go for? Let me know in the comments below!
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