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Guides,  Indonesia

The Ultimate Travel Guide: Gili Trawangan

White sandy beaches, turtle filled turquoise oceans, raving drug-filled parties, vibrant coral reefs, tropical sunshine and incredibly potent psychedelics are just some of the reasons why Gili Trawangan has always been the ultimate tropical paradise!

Wedged in between the iconic island of Bali and the lesser-known Lombok, Gili Trawangan for the last couple of decades has been the prime spot for people in the know. Gili Trawangan wrote the guide on what an island getaway should be, and for years has been the go-to place for people in the know!

If you didn’t know, now you know! So before you plan your entire trip around the much-overrated island of Bali, hop on a boat and check out this vastly underappreciated island. Let me guide you on everything you need to know about the nirvana that is Gili Trawangan.

Where is Gili Trawangan?

The island of Gili Trawangan makes up one of the three Gili Islands which lay off the coast of Lombok in central Indonesia. Gili Trawangan is the biggest and most populated of the three Gilis and acts as almost a central hub to guide you on your way to the surrounding smaller islands.

Getting to Gili Trawangan

The remote, sparsely populated Gili Islands are only accessible by boat. Thankfully, due to the cluster formation of Indonesia’s many islands, the Gilis are easily accessible by several different kinds of vessels, from tiny paddle boats to speed boats and public ferries.

Though you’re able to access Gili Trawangan from practically every island which surrounds it (as money talks in Indonesia), the islands are most commonly reached from the two bigger islands it finds itself between, Bali and Lombok.

Getting from Bali to Gili Trawangan

The most convenient way to get to Gili T for most travellers is from Bali. Boats leave from two ports on the Eastern part of the island, Padang Bai and Amed.

Most fast boats operate in Padang Bai from 9 – 9:30 am and cost about IDR 500,000 – 700,000 for a 2 – 3 hours journey.

The port of Padang Bai. Photo by tinofrey via Wikimedia Commons

Not only is Amed a hidden gem in an unknown part of Bali, but it’s also closer to the Gilis, making it a quicker journey! Fast boats by Pacha Express leave from 9 am – 4 pm every day and cost around IDR 688,223.

As this is by far the most popular route, you’re best off booking tickets beforehand. Also, make sure your booking includes a hotel pick-up service which should make everything a whole lot easier!

Getting from Lombok to Gili Trawangan

The fastest and most convenient way to get to Gili T is via the nearby island of Lombok. Both public ferries and speed boats depart daily from Bangsal Pier between 9:30 am – 16:30 pm. Tickets can be bought on the morning of travel from the port.

The public boat takes about 30 minutes and leaves as soon as the boat is full. Tickets cost between IDR 15,000 – 22,500.

There’s also a fast boat which leaves from Bangsal every hour and takes about 15 minutes, however, it’s much more expensive at IDR 85,000 per person.

A list of the top 15 highlights in the beautiful nature-filled tropical Indonesian island hidden in the shadow of Bali, Lombok.

Click here!

When To Visit Gili Trawangan?

The Gili Islands lay within striking distance of the equator, and thus finds themselves in a lush tropical paradise. With hot and humid weather throughout the year, there’s little respite for the fair-skinned amongst you. Each year is divided into two; a wet season and a dry season.

Land ahoy! Photo by Jorge Láscar on Flickr

The dry season lasts from April to October, with peak temperature reaching 33°C during October. The wet season lasts the rest of the year from November to March with January being the wettest month.

The peak season for visiting Gili Trawangan lasts from July to October when the water conditions are at their best, little rainfall, and the sun isn’t quite as scorching!

Getting Around Gili Trawangan

If you’re sick and tired of the buzzing horde of scooters that dominate the streets of Bali, then you’re in luck! Gili Trawangan has NO form of motorized transportation on the island whatsoever! There are only 3 ways to get around the island is by foot, bicycle or horse and cart.

Renting a bicycle is one of the must do’s during your time on Gili Trawangan and easily the best way to guide yourself around the island! As it’s pretty much a flat route around the entire coast which can be done in an hour or two, there are few better ways to explore the island! There are dozens of places that you can rent one for as little as IDR 40,000 – 50,000 a day. Most accommodations will even provide one for you!

In the heart of the main strip. Photo by Benvewikilerim, CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Though it may not be a taxing journey, the road will tend to disappear on occasion! So if you want to avoid carrying bikes over sandy trails or simply save yourself a bit of cash, then walking is still a great option and quite a picturesque one at that!

There are also a number of horses and carts along the main avenue, though it’s probably best to avoid these. For the most part, these poor creatures aren’t treated the best. Excessive whipping, overloaded luggage with multiple plus-sized passengers and scorching heat makes it pretty tough for them. What’s more, it’s completely unnecessary and, being Indonesia, you’re most likely to get ripped off anyway!

What’s to See on Gili Trawangan?

If you’re hoping for an extensive sightseeing experience, then look elsewhere. The Gili Islands pride themselves on their slower pace of life and ability to enjoy the simple things in life. Warm weather, vibrant calm oceans and total relaxation. That being said there are still enough things to keep you engaged during your island getaway.

Spend Time on the Beach

The pristine sands of Gili Trawangan. Photo by Midori, CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

What else are you supposed to do on a tropical sunkissed island? Despite its small size, the island has a handful of different beaches! Even though each has its fair share of stunning views, amazing swimming conditions and plenty of nearby facilities, each still has its own unique trait.

The entire eastern edge sees the greatest number of visitors, as it has the highest congregation of hotels, beachside restaurants and bars. On the northeast, the shallow waters make it your best bet at spotting turtles! To the southeast, as it’s close to the bars and clubs, this beach is by far the most popular choice amongst the backpacker party crowd and thus has the highest congregation of drug-fuelled raves…or so I’ve heard.

Not a bad place to spend an evening. Jorge Láscar, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

In complete contrast, the western edge is a tranquil escape that’s more in line with a desert island theme. From Sunset Beach in the northwest to Malibu Beach in the southeast, the stretch of coastline has a tasteful number of quaint little beach bars with plenty of bean bags and hammocks to drop you to another level of luxury. This is also where you’ll find the infamous Gili swings (more on that later). Needless to say, this is the spot for sunset chasers and Instagram attention seekers.

Getting Into the Ocean

gili trawangan guide turtles
Swimming with the happy turtles!

Now that you’ve had your fill of the coast, time to dive into the ocean! With perfect conditions year-round, the waters that surround the island are regarded as some of the most vibrant and ecologically diverse in the country AND the whole of Southeast Asia!

With such diverse marine life scattered amongst the radiant coral reefs, there is plenty to marvel at! The area is one of the best places in the world to spot wild sea turtles, and you’re almost guaranteed to run into one each time you get into the ocean!

gili trawangan guide statues
The underwater statues off the coast of Gili Trawangan. Photo by Enrico Strocchi on Flickr

If you’re looking for something with a bit more bite, then you can head out to Shark Point where you’ll be able to spot some reef sharks and stingrays! Off certain spots of the coast, you can even hunt down some underwater statues! For the more experienced divers amongst you, how about exploring some spectacular shipwrecks like the nearby Glenn Nusa 1 or Bounty Wreck nearby. How much more convincing do you need?

Even if you didn’t bring the right gear, you can easily rent some from one of the many nearby dive shops. If you prefer to have a knowledgeable guide on the best spots in Gili Trawangan, then there are plenty of tours you can join! You can either join an oversaturated tour group for IDR 100,000 or charter your own boat for around IDR 250,000 per person.

Go Island Hopping

The tranquil beaches of Gili Air. O.ugartemendia, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Though Gili Trawangan may be the largest and most notorious in the area, there are plenty of other nearby Gilis and smaller uninhabited islands for you to explore too!

Both Gili Air and Gili Meno are also very popular spots that also have some incredible diving waters! As they have much more of a relaxed vibe and an even more secluded feel to them, they’re the preferred choice by honeymooners and wishing to avoid the party atmosphere.

Public boats can guide you twice a day between the three Gilis, with the first leaving at 9:30 am and the last boat leaving for Gili Trawangan at 3:20 pm.

Gili T Swing

Gili trawangan guide swing
A romantic moment in paradise

Attention wanna-be influencers, this is your money shot right here!! The viral image of the swings looking out into the distant ocean has become synonymous with Gili Trawangan, and a big reason people know of it in the first place!

There are actually several different swings scattered across the island. However, if you’re after the best photos then make sure you head out to the swings on the western side of the island so you can get the ultimate sunset shot and maximize those likes!

Take Shrooms

Gili trawangan guide magic mushrooms
Magic mushrooms for sale!

You wouldn’t travel to Amsterdam without sampling some of the finest home-grown wacky baccy, so why would you travel to Gili Trawangan and not try some magic mushrooms?!

If you didn’t know already, magic mushrooms are the island’s speciality island! It’s an enormous reason many people come to the island in the first place! Magic mushrooms are sold openly in bars along the main strip and are even advertised with eye-catching designs along the streets! Certain spots offer happy pizzas and shroom shakes to add a mythical twist to your island experience and handing you a one-way ticket to tripping balls in the best of ways.

Just a short walk along the mains trip and you’ll spot plenty of signs that mark out the places. If you prefer a surer answer, then just ask any local or hostel worker, they’ll know.

Many people come to Gili Trawangan in search of sun, surf and tranquillity, while others come for a much darker reason, drugs.

Click here!

Have a Party

Party time!

Gili Trawangan has quite a reputation as a party island, think of it as the Ibiza of the East. And as any decent party island should have, the main strip has plenty of chill bars, hipster hangouts and heavy EDM ecstasy fueled raves. Even if you’re not about party life, at least one night should be spent experiencing a Gili T evening.

There are plenty of spots for you to grab a few drinks! Some of the more chilled vibes can be found in Sama Sama Reggae Bar, Blue MarlinTir Na Nog, or The Irish Pub, and Rudy’s. For those looking for a more hardcore debaucherous experience, then head over to Jungle for a night you won’t forget!

Sunset and or Booze Cruise

Boats and hoes, boats and hoes

Why not live the high life and spend your day coasting around the island on enormous yachts? Whether you want to spend your night basking in the sunset sparkling off the surface of the water after a light day of snorkelling and dining on the deck, then you can. If you want to drink yourself to death surrounded by bikini ladened women with loose morals, then you can too.

There are plenty of places along the main strip where you can book any type of cruise that you’re after! Don’t be afraid to haggle, they’ll likely jack up the price for you anyway!

Sunrise View

Gili trawangan guide view
A panoramic view of the Gilis

Though there are plenty of stunning places to view the sunset, there is only one place you should find yourself during the early morning! Aptly named Sunrise View, the picturesque trail will guide you to the minuscule peak of Gili Trawangan that’s just enough to look over the highest canopy and have a breathtaking view back towards the main island of Lombok and the tiny Gilis in between!

Japanese WWII Bunker

Gili trawangan guide japanese bunker
The ruins of a Japanese bunker

This is definitely a unique sight and something that’s left out of every Gili Trawangan guide! The last thing you’d expect to find on a tropical island paradise is a relic of one of the most horrifying events in the history of mankind!

Standing right in the middle of the southwestern pathway that leads towards the peak of Sunrise view are the crumbled remains of a Japanese WWII bunker. During the height of the Japanese empire, their rule stretched from as far west as Myanmar and as far south as the islands of Indonesia, or Dutch East Indies as they were known at the time. As such, the island pointing towards the monstrous lands of Australia was one of the first lines of defence for the Japanese empire.

Though its collapsing structure makes it hard to work out what it once was, the remains of Japanese newspapers pasted onto its walls give credence to the significant role it once played.

The ultimate guide on how to explore some of the most significant monuments and battle-sites related to the war on Okinawa.

Click here!

Visit the Night Market

Where better to sample some authentic local cuisine than in the night market? At 6 pm daily at the market square before the pier, the night market begins to take full swing, and brings in hordes of tourists and locals alike!

Amongst the many stalls are a range of specialities which include fresh fish and seafood (naturally), several rice and noodle dishes, grilled corn and so much more.

One of the most popular stands sells Nasi Campur, which is a varied mix of vegetables, eggs, meat, tofu, and fried noodles. This stall also offers them in a buffet style where you choose what you want. Great for the picky eaters amongst you!

Watch a “Stick Fight” Tournament

Fight! Photo by Oskar Seljeskog on Flickr

Now, this is definitely something worth seeing! Presean is a traditional form of combat between two randomly selected fighters who duel it out with sticks and shields. The battle is accompanied by tribal Beleganjur players adding a primaeval soundtrack to the event! It can pretty brutal, though it’s definitely an amazing sight and a great watch for the fight lovers amongst you!

Where To Stay on Gili Trawangan?

Though Gili Trawangan is a relatively small island, there are still a ridiculous amount of places available, everything from your 5-star high-class hotel suites to bargain-basement hostels! And just like the rest of Indonesia, you get a lot of bang for your buck! Hostels start as low as £3 a night and you can even find hotel rooms for £5.

Though don’t feel as if you have to slum it! There are plenty of luxury villas and stunning beachfront hotels to please even the biggest ballers out there! Rest assured, no matter what your tastes are, there’s a place there for you!

What To Eat on Gili Trawangan?

Though the island itself doesn’t have much in the realm of original eats, it does have a fair selection to please every palette! The best place to delve into local cuisine is found at the Gili T Night Market, which will also keep your spending to a minimum! Most vendors open at 6 pm and keep running until the end of the night.

Other than that, there are plenty of restaurants lining the main strip with a range of prices and quality. If you’re a picky Western eater, then not to worry, there are plenty of places to get your fix too.

Thank You for Reading! Check Out These Other Helpful Links!

Thank you so much for reading Travel Guide: Gili Trawangan! Check out these other helpful articles!

TravellingWelshman

A Welsh university drop-out on a mission to travel the world for as little money as possible. My adventures have taken me through over 30 countries across Europe, Asia and Oceania, and the list keeps on growing! From classic backpacking to working and volunteering, I have found all sorts of ways to maintain a life on the road.

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