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Gili Islands in 2022 VS 2018: Is Now a Good Time to Visit?

Gili Islands in 2022 VS 2018: Is Now a Good Time to Visit?

With Indonesia (and my home country New Zealand) recently opening up after a long tourism drought, I figured it was time to dust off the passport and return to the life of a jet-setting travel blogger. What’s it like to visit the Gili Islands in 2022? Has it changed since my last trip in 2018? Keep reading to find out!

Gili Islands in 2022: The Covid Affect 

The first thing to note about visiting the Gili Islands after Covid is fairly obvious — its quiet. The general consensus is that the number of tourists sits around 30% – 40% lower than pre-covid levels. 

That’s not a bad bounce back considering the borders have only been properly open for a few months, with pre-departure tests only scrapped a couple of months ago (vaccination still required). I think people are meant to wear masks in certain indoor settings but no one does. I saw one couple wearing masks out of 100 or more on the fast boat between Bali and the Gili Islands. If that concerns you I’d give Indonesia (and heaps of other counties) a miss for a while.

 

The Crowds

The three Gili Islands have always had their own vibe. Gili Trawangan is the party island, as well as the one to choose if you want to stay in a big resort and have a good selection of restaurants, bars and cafés. 

It’s noticeably quieter, but popular restaurants and bars, especially around the port, are quite busy. I tried to get a seat in one of the cafés but it was full! Getting a restaurant sun bed right up front is still tough (people tend to linger there for hours) — but leave the waterfront areas and it’ll be very quiet. 

Gili Meno has always been quiet. It’s more of the romantic couples getaway island. There’s very little nightlife there at the best of times. I noticed that a lot of places on Gili Meno don’t have Wi-Fi — it’s a bit of a throwback to what Southeast Asia used to be before the explosion of smart phones. 

Gili Air is kind of in between and is a good spot for travellers who find Gili T too hectic and Gili Meno too quiet.  There are heaps of eating and drinking options and it’s got more of “backpacker” vibe than the other two.

The Beaches

The beaches on the Gili Islands are obviously as beautiful as ever. If you’re travelling in Bali and are a little disappointed with the beaches there then hop on a boat and get to the Gili Islands. Hopefully the photos in this post, all taken on my 2022 trip, will convince you.

READ MORE: Bali in 2022 VS 2018: Is Now a Good Time to Visit?

Prices 

I’ve found accommodation to be slightly cheaper, which is an obvious by-product of less demand. It seems to be picking up all the time though — before long it’ll be back up to capacity.  Everything else — tours, transfers and food seems to have stayed the same.

Closures 

As you’d expect after two years without tourists, some businesses haven’t survived. There are also a lot of resorts and restaurants that seemed to be in hibernation, ready to open when it makes commercial sense to do so. 

If it’s your first trip to the Gili Islands you won’t notice the difference, but if you like to return to the same spots year after year you might be saddened by a closure or two. 

Getting to the Gili Islands 

This hasn’t changed either from what I can see (although frequency may have decreased slightly). From the main tourist spots in Bali you can book easy transfers which pick you up at your hotel and take you to the port in Padang Bai, where you’ll be put on a fast boat to the Gilis. I paid 300,000 IDR ($20 USD) from Ubud to Gili Air.

It’s easy to get between the islands too. “Public” boats go infrequently (40,000 IDR), other ones are more frequent but at twice the price.

Should You Visit the Gili Islands in 2022?

Yes! If anything it’s better when it’s a bit quieter, especially Gili Trawanagan. What was once a heaving party island with clogged streets is now far more laid-back. It won’t last long though, so if you like things on the calmer side and are good at finding deals, 2022 is the ideal time to visit the Gili Islands.

Are you planning a trip to Indonesia? Check out my post about the best things to do, including volcano hikes, outer islands exploration and heaps more.

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Jon Algie

A travel blogger from New Zealand who hates talking about himself in the third person and has no imagination when it comes to naming websites.

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Nei

Saturday 27th of August 2022

I find your perspective very rose glasses-y, I’m on Gili Air and compare to my last trip here in 2015 there is almost no more beaches on the all north part, it’s all built up, some protection walls/ terrassa on the sea crumbled down because of lack of maintenance, when you have sand it’s covered with dead corals, and half day there is no water because of the tide. Also like a third of places (restaurant/ hotels) are completely abandoned, with bungalows on the beach half destroyed, empty pools, they will need a lot of investment before they can operate again, definitely not « dormant ».

And globally, when you traveled around south east Asia, the beaches here are not Thailand level, Togian in Sulawesi, or even Malaysia level, they’re narrow, almost covered by sun beds, if not full concrete terrassa, it’s easy to make pretty instagramable pictures of any place, but that’s definitely not the truth of the Gilis…

Jon Algie

Saturday 3rd of September 2022

Thanks for the comment -- interesting perspective! I was on all three islands a month or so ago and they didn't seem a lot different. There are still heaps of good beach areas and the nicer spots seem to have rebounded pretty well. There are definitely rough areas on all of these islands (most beach destinations I guess) so visiting the right areas is important. I wrote a post about the best beaches on Gili Air a few years ago and past a certain point north the beaches aren't good (and probably never have been). Pretty much every island has a mixture of good and bad beaches though.

The sand isn't perfect either because of the corals, but that's a common problem in places like this (even on the island we stayed at in the Maldives). This has always been the Gilis though -- a little curious why you chose to visit again!