Here’s a situation I’m sure many of you are in. You’re in Bali (or planning a trip there) and want to head over to the Gili Islands for a few days – but which is the best Gili Island for you? On face value they all look pretty similar – clear blue water, white sand beaches and Instagrammable (I hate that term by the way) resorts and restaurants. The three main Gili Islands do have different vibes though – keep reading or you might end up at the wrong one!
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Gili Trawangan (generally referred to as Gili T)
Gili T is the largest of the three main Gili Islands (I say main Gili Islands because there are some other ones off Lombok, which I won’t be discussing here). It also has the largest personality. Gili T is known as the “Party Island” and has traditionally attracted young travellers in search of nightlife. That does seem to be changing. You’ll still find heaps of drinking and loud music, but you’ll also see laid-back (and quite upmarket) resorts and travellers from every demographic. It’s easy enough to escape the parties anyway – just stay away from the main town and maybe bring some earplugs (although we stayed on the opposite side of the island to the main drag and didn’t notice any noise at all).
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Gili T is more built-up than the other two islands, so if you’re looking to do lots of shopping, eating and drinking it could be the best Gili Island for you. That’s not to say there isn’t amazing beaches on Gili T – there definitely is! In fact, our favourite beach in the Gilis is just a short walk from the main port / town on Gili T. Being the largest island, it’ll take you a little longer to get around, but your resort should have bicycles available or you can hire them from pretty much any little shop around the island. There’s no motorised transport on Gili T, or any of the Gili Islands (although in saying that I did see a motorbike in a non-touristy part of the island). You get around by cidomo (horse and carriage) – there’s debate about how ethical these are so you might just want to cycle around or walk.
All in all, Gili T is a solid choice – there’s heaps to do, accommodation to suit all budgets, good nightlife and some world-class beaches.
Where to Stay on Gili T — Check out this awesome villa style accommodation we stayed at on Gili T!
From the biggest to the smallest – now we head to Gili Meno. This tiny island takes around an hour to walk around and is a little more rustic than its neighbours. There are still some top end hotels and resorts on Gili Meno, just not as many. Nightlife is pretty much non-existent outside of resort bars and restaurants, so if that’s important to you Gili Meno isn’t the best Gili Island for you.
Gili Meno has long been known as the “Honeymoon Island” – a place that is mostly suited to couples. It is a romantic little island and there are some nice places to eat and sleep. It’s not a bad place to go for solo travellers either though as long as you’re fine with the slow pace of things. The fancy resorts are mostly located on or close to the beaches while the interior of the island has the cheaper places to stay and eat. It’s worth seeking out some of the small local restaurants (warung) in the interior as the food is delicious and is a lot cheaper than the resort restaurants.
READ MORE: Where are the Best Beaches on Gili Meno?
The beaches on Gili Meno are more consistent than Gili T and chances are you’ll get a little (or often large) slice of sand all to yourself. It’s also very easy to get around Gili Meno – we stayed there for a couple of days and never considered renting a bicycle – something we couldn’t have got by without on Gili T.
Gili Air is the closet Gili Island to Lombok and has a bit of an in-between atmosphere. It’s certainly not as lively as Gili T but nowhere near as quiet as Gili Meno either. Again, there are heaps of fancy resorts and restaurants as well as plenty of budget options. We only spent a day on Gili Air, so I can’t really speak about the nightlife, but it seems like there is some late-night fun to be had. I’d rate the beaches on Gili Air slightly lower than the other two islands – although as you can see in the photos below it’s still undeniably a tropical beach paradise.
READ MORE: Where Are the Best Beaches on Gili Air?
Where to stay on Gili Air — Check out these resorts on Gili Air
So, which is the best Gili Island for you?
Well, seeing as I don’t actually know you that’s a very hard question to answer. I’m not afraid of the hard questions though so let’s give it a go. If you’re anything like me, you should go for a combination of Gili T and Gili Meno (maybe two nights on each) – you’ll get plenty of relaxation and also enjoy the livelier vibe of Gili T. If you only have one or two nights maybe go for Gili T. If you’re a loved-up couple who aren’t interested in socialising with strangers go for Gili Meno. If you’re a budget backpacker who wants a bit of everything go for Gili Air. If you love to complain about places being too touristy, avoid them all and go to Flores or Pulau Rote or Raja Ampat. If you want to see waterfalls, volcanoes, monkeys and temples and can’t think of anything worse than spending all day on a beach, stay in Bali.
Getting to the Gili Islands
The Gili Islands are a short (and apparently often rough) boat ride away from Bali. The fast boats make the journey in around 90 minutes or you can take a slow boat to Lombok and then make your way to Bangsal where you’ll take a small boat to your island of choice. You could also fly to Lombok and then head to Bangsal. We flew to Lombok, spent a few days around Kuta and then headed to Gili T via Bangsal – we took the fast boat back to Bali after our stay. Which option you choose really depends on your budget and how long you have.
Which do you think is the best Gili Island for you? Let me know in the comments below!
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