A trip to Gili Trawangan from Bali

I must confess, the reason why Gili Islands featured in my itinerary was because of Instagram! A couple of years ago, I saw someone’s picture on a swing, in the middle of the water, and I knew I wanted to go there. A bit of research and turns out, the beaches are gorgeous, the vibe is amazing and it seems like the perfect place for a vacation. Why did I choose Gili Trawangan specifically? I’ll tell you that in a bit.

Gili Trawangan Port
Gili Trawangan Port

There are three Gili Islands – Gili Air, Gili Trawangan and Gili Meno. In my research, I read a lot of articles about how Gili Air had all these amazing resorts, a very laid-back atmosphere and a certain romance about it, making it the top choice for honeymooners. Since I was on a solo trip, this ruled out Gili Air immediately (who wants to be alone in between all the cooing lovers, am I right?). On the other hand, Gili Trawangan seemed to be a party island, with great nightlife, amazing sunsets and a happening crowd. Gili Meno, as I read, was in between the two, slightly remote making it ideal for couples but also having cafes, beach grills, lazy hammocks and beautiful beaches.

Gili Trawangan Port
Gili Trawangan Port

The winner – Gili Trawangan! I was alone, wanted to enjoy the good nightlife, go for full-moon parties and of course, the swings I had once seen on Instagram were on Gili T, giving it a clear advantage over the others. Thus, began my expedition, to fit in a trip to the island in an already packed 7-day itinerary for Bali. How was the experience? – well, mixed!

Click here to read 10 things I wish I knew BEFORE travelling to Bali

Gili Trawangan was gorgeous! Exactly like it seems in the pictures – breathtaking green waters, white sandy beaches, mouthwatering seafood, cafes and restaurants playing live music, hammocks, bean bags, refreshing cocktails, happy hours during sunset, little wooden huts to stay in, all-day parties, bicycles or horse carts to explore the entire island, street shopping, and a vacation-feel, a place that seems so far away from ‘home’, so relaxing that you cannot do anything but have fun!

Dreamy sunset at Gili Trawangan
Dreamy sunset at Gili Trawangan

The painful part was getting to the island. My research pulled up a lot of ferry companies, and I chose Samaya One (bad decision!). All ferries depart from Padang Bai, which is about 1.5 – 2 hours from the centre of Bali (Kuta or Seminyak). When you book your trip, the ferry company arranges for a shuttle pick up from your hotel to take you to Padang Bai. The journey is long and slow – traffic in Bali is bad and the roads are narrow. Once you arrive at Padang Bai, you’ve to queue up to collect your ‘boarding passes’ and then wait for boarding the ferry.

Our ferry was scheduled to depart at 10 am but I was in a queue (under the sweltering summer sun) for almost 2 hours, with no information being provided whatsoever about the departure of our ferry. There was utter chaos, vendors were selling fruit and water at ridiculously high prices, looking at the desperately thirsty, hungry and waiting crowd of people. In the meanwhile, some private company ferries did depart but we waited for a long time for ours, Samaya One.

The Exile Gili Trawangan
The Exile Gili Trawangan

Click here to read The perfect 1-week Bali itinerary

Finally, at 12 pm (yes, 2 hours late, and without any explanation as to why), we boarded our ferry for what was meant to be a 90-minute journey. However, we only arrived at Gili Trawangan at 3.30 pm, again, without any explanation as to why the trip took double the amount of time. Having left my hotel in Bali at 7.30 am, after 8 hours, you can imagine how irritable I would have been. Thankfully, the picturesque waters and the beaches, the call of the hammocks and swings, calmed me down and I immediately dropped my bags off at the hotel and headed to the beach. A cooling Mojito was just what I needed!

I spent 48 hours on the island and here are a few things I recommend you keep in mind for your visit:


- Keep at least 2 days for the island

- Rent a bicycle to explore, the island is not very big; you can go from one end to the other in a span of 2 hours

- Rent a horse carriage if you have luggage and the hotel is not right next to the ferry terminal; there are no proper roads and dragging your suitcases on that uneven road can be painful

- Keep a buffer in your travelling time (for example: do not schedule your flight from the airport on the same day as arrival back from the island)

- Stay in The Exile, a very cute beachside hotel with a lovely bar on the beach, with bean bags and a swing, right in the middle of the water

- Remember that there are 4 swings in a row, not just one, and you can get superb sunset pictures at any one of them (The Exile, Pandawa Beach, Ombak Sunset, Malibu)

- Visit the south & east side of the island after sunset, to make the most of the nightlife

- Go for a full-moon party (if there’s one)

- Explore Gili's underwater paradise

The Exile Gili Trawangan
The Exile Gili Trawangan


- Use SAMAYA ONE ferries, they’re extremely inefficient and unprofessional

- Carry large luggage; try to take backpacks which are easier to store on the ferry as well as carry around while on the island

-Forget that there’s a queue to get the perfect sunset picture on the hammock/swing, so make sure you’re there in time or you’ll miss the sunset

- Forget to eat before 11 pm because although parties and DJ music goes on until 2 am, kitchens usually close earlier

- Live too close to the mosque (there’s only on the island) or you’ll be woken up by the call for prayers at 5 am

-Forget that although mushrooms are easily available, it is illegal and you’re taking a risk upon yourself if you accept to buying and trying them

Yet another gorgeous sunset at Gili T
Yet another gorgeous sunset at Gili T

All in all, despite the horrible transit journey, the experience was amazing and Gili Trawangan lived up to its reputation of offering everything a perfect vacation destination should. A trip to Bali would be incomplete without a visit to at least one of the Gilis.

134 thoughts on “A trip to Gili Trawangan from Bali”

  1. I love Bali. Been there 8 years ago. I assume it has changed so much! By the way, do you consider visiting Vietnam Medha? I would love to host you for a tour around the ancient city of Hue.

    1. I would love to visit Vietnam! I probably will in 2020, how kind of you to offer to host me for a tour in Hue. It’s a great idea, let’s be in touch!

  2. Wow, thanks for the “DONT’s” at the end of the post. It’s really helpful. The beach is really gorgeous, I think I have to add Gili T on my visit list 🙂

  3. That’s so cool and helps me a lot since I am still thinking to visit Gili Trawangan or rather Lombok in April. Your impressions gave me a good perspective since I heard mixed impressiones about the Gili islands. Your photos are really nice, I love the color of the water there. Looks truly like paradise.

    1. Lombok is also pretty nice from what I’ve heard. I did not have the time else I would’ve gone there too!

  4. Isn’t it amazing how one picture on Instagram can inspire us to travel? I’ve heard great things about Gili. Such a bummer that your ferry service was bad, ugh! I hope you gave them a bad trip advisor review!

  5. That water looks absolutely unreal! The next time I’m in Bali, I’ll definitely have to go to Gili Trawangan. I love that I’ve now discovered the destinations of those Instagram ocean swings!

  6. The water at Gili Trawangan looks so blue and pretty!! I would love to visit sometime. I’ve seen those swings on Instagram too, and they do look amazing and have tempted me to take a trip there, too! The transit there does sound pretty horrible, but the views and landscapes would make up for it in my mind too! Thanks for the tips on do’s and don’ts!

  7. I have heard so many fab things about Gili that I feel that I just can’t wait to get there anymore! I loved Bali, and from these gorgeous photos and your experience, Gili looks totally convincing for an Instagram filling holiday!

  8. Wow such a bummer about your experience getting to the island! I’m glad it ended it up being worth it. Gili T sounds like such a paradise! I visited Bali 2 years ago but only visited Ubud and Kuta. After I left I heard all about the Gili Islands and I was so bummed I didn’t go! After reading about your experience I’ll be sure to book a more reputable ferry company and I definitely want to get a picture on the swing in the water!

    1. That swing in the water, during sunset or during the day, was a priceless experience and a fantastic photo spot!

  9. The photos are absolutely lovely – and the swing with that gorgeous sunset and silhouette, amazing! Great tip about staying too close to the mosque. I wouldn’t want to be woken up by prayers at 5 am! I think I would just love exploring this place – looks like a photographer’s dream!

    1. All the Gilis are gorgeous from what I’ve heard. Unfortunately, I could only visit Gili Trawangan but that was a priority for me, because of the swing!

  10. Thanks for sharing your experience on Gili T. I don’t have a great experience with boats either. I was staying on Gili Meno and went to Gili T for New Years…stupidly caught a ferry boat at midnight back to Gili Meno and me and my boyfriend at the time just about lost our lives. It was the scariest moment ever and I’m just so thankful we were okay in the end. The Gili Islands are very beautiful though. Just be careful with boat safety there and anywhere in Indonesia!

    1. Oh, I am sorry to hear about your bad experience! There are so many horror stories about the ferries in Gilis, I wish they’d pay attention and do something about it!

  11. I’ve actually been inspired to eventually visit the Gili Islands because of Instagram too! Gili Trawangan appeals to me a little less than the other more secluded islands, because I’ve past my party days, but it does sound like there are a lot of incredible experiences outside of the party scene. Would love to rent a bike to explore the island, and I’m all for a stay at the Exile, mainly to jump on that swing in the middle of the water! Thanks for the tip on avoiding the Samya One ferries – duly noted! One of those things you don’t know unless you experience it yourself or get told by someone, so I appreciate the heads up!

  12. I think that swing is etched in a lot of people’s minds! Good to know the whole experience is awesome and it’s not just about the swing!

  13. Compared to the rush of Bali, this sounds perfect as a getaway to the crowds and noise of Bali not to mention the crazy traffic. I like the thought of taking a cruise to the other islands too.

  14. Looks beautiful although I don’t know if I could deal with the transportation hassle. Thanks for the heads up. At least I know to do my research when booking transport if I do take in the Gili Islands.

    1. It’s a bit disorganized, although I am sure some ferry companies are better than the others. I’d still say, a trip to Gili Islands is worth it 🙂

  15. I never knew there are three Gilli Islands. Thanks for the information.
    Sad to hear about the ferry company but rest everything looked up to the mark. The hut where you stayed in Gili Trawangan looks quite cool and the sunset pictures are breathtaking. Loved your dos and donts and will take care of these pointers while planning a trip here.

  16. I didn’t go to the Gili islands when I was in Bali but it looks so beautiful. I have heard the nightmare ferry stories so it seems like this is the usual chaos sadly for some travellers. Its good to hear that you had a great experience when you got there. Beautiful photos

  17. Instagram is such a powerful travel tool and I’m glad you were able to use it that way. Thank you for introducing me to the Gili Islands, as I had honestly never heard of them. Any island that comes with the recommendation of renting a bicycle to explore it, is a winner in my book.

  18. I had heard a few times of the Gili islands but didn’t have the time to go during my stay in Bali. Your pics are amazing, this turquoise water is just wow! The atmosphere might be a little too much on the party side for my taste but the place itself is so beautiful that I will definitely give it a try next time!

    1. Well, if you’re not a party person, you can still just chill by the beach and enjoy. Or you can visit one of the other Gilis – Gili Air or Gili Meno.

  19. So sorry that you had an unpleasant experience before hand :'(
    I was in Gili Trawangan too last year and stayed at Villa Ombak. You are absolutely right that Gili T has one of the most beautiful sunset. And yes, just like you….the swing is my main reason to visit Gili T 😀

  20. Gili islands looks totally amazing. I am licking my lips looking at the photos. So rather be here now than in a wet and dull London! Fantastic read!

    1. Haha yes it’s quite the contrast, especially right now, to London 🙂 I love both cities though, for very different reasons!

  21. Thanks for sharing. Every time I see pictures from the Gili Islands I am incredibly jealous. They are beautiful and seem like a great time. Good tips, I think the Exile looks like a great place to stay (love the roofs on the buildings!) and I’ll definitely keep them in mind. Looks like you had a great time, aside from the ferry issue… wonder what happened there.

    1. The two days I had on the island were absolutely amazing and thankfully so else I would’ve left feeling bitter about it.

  22. These are brilliant tips! I’d never heard of the Gili Islands before, but like you, I’m getting intrigued just from the photos! Thank you for the heads-up about the difficulties getting there, and how to not get woken up at the crack of dawn!

  23. Bali sounds amazing – Gili Trawangan looks worth a visit, even if it is a bit commercialised. Thanks for the invaluable tips on what to avoid – your story of the late running ferry with the longer than scheduled journey would have annoyed me too!

    1. In south-east Asia, you have to deal with a lot of ‘unprofessionalism’ but some things can get so frustrating, especially when it wastes too much of your time.

  24. There is so much of Bali that I want to explore and Gili is definitely on that list! The Exile looks amazing and I think Darcee would love to stay in one of their ocean facing beach houses.
    What an amazing island of adventure!

  25. Your post still leaves me wondering how much Gili Trawangan might have changed by now. I last visited this small paradise in 2001 (or so) – a long time ago. Back then there weren’t any large parties, neither any bean bags to lounge on, or the swings you mention. Just humble cottages with the traditional ‘mandi’ baths… (No running water showers!). It was very basic and relaxed. But you also didn’t had to join a crowded line for a sunset photo. The one thing I remember best is the snorkeling of a privately rented boat (for near nothing, I think we paid AUD30 for a half day boat rental). I’ve only once or twice snorkelled surrounded by this many exotic fish.

    1. Wow, 2001 was long back! There are always pros and cons of a place becoming popular. Good places spring up as crowds come in but it also takes away the remoteness of the place. Renting boats is still cheap although I am not sure it will be as low as AUd30 for a half day 🙂

  26. OMG how beautiful is Bali I am so jealous. The Exile Gili Trawangan looks a great place to stay. Thank you for sharing DO NOT tips I will bare these in mind if I ever get to this beautiful destination

  27. I always imagined the Gili Islands to be among thé most beautiful places in the world… Looking at your pictures, I don’t think I am wrong 🙂 Very complete information as well! Thanx!

  28. So glad it turned out for the best once you got there! Loved your idea of the dos and dont’s. I can imagine the prayer calls at 5am would be a bit annoying when youre having a nice sleep! Bali looks beautiful and your photos convey this perfectly!

  29. It’s funny what inspires you to travel. I ended up in Russia because of a children’s book which had lyrical descriptions of snow. Wasn’t even set in Russia (was set in Wales). Glad the ferry trip didn’t spoil your trip and the swings turned out to be as cool as you’d hoped!

    1. Oh wow, that’s an interesting story 🙂 Yea, whatever inspires you to travel, what matters is that you enjoy the trip 🙂

  30. That’s a great post with very helpful tips for a first-timer. You picked a fabulous resort and all the pictures show what a scenic landscape Bali has. Why are mushrooms illegal?

  31. The Do’s and Dont’s are surely going to help. I am a beach lover, and Gili Trawangan looks apt for me, I have never been to Bali yet, but if I go there, I am surely visiting the Gili islands. Would prefer stay at Exile.

    1. Exile was pretty nice. Don’t expect a lot of comfort and facilities though, they’re quite basic but so much fun!

  32. Sounds like a nice place once you got there. I always recommend carrying a backpack for the exact reason you mentioned in this post. Too many times, there are uneven surfaces to walk on.

  33. Interesting read. I’ve always wanted to visit the Gillis, but never got around to it. I like the detailed Do’s and Don’ts you’ve added 🙂

  34. I also would have chosen Gili Trawangan out of the three options! Looks like you made the right choice (apart from the ferry company!). Sounds and looks lovely — hope to go myself sometime! Also, good to know about the mushrooms! 😉 😉

  35. I never been to gili although I am Balinese ?. I would love to go to gili it’s in my travel list but I never have time to go there. After read your post, obviously I really want to go directly there. You have nice blog!

  36. It’s really nice that you’ve put all this information about Bali in one accessible spot when I was there I was looking all over the internet for tips like this. I really appreciated the Do’s and the Don’ts.

  37. Wow, it looks more paradise-like than Bali itself. I have been to Bali for few months, but I never made it to the Gilis 🙁 now I know it was a mistake. Beautiful pictures 🙂

  38. I love beaches and now I want to visit Bali! I love the sunset photo, the Exile Gili Trawangan, I love your photos. Thanks for sharing!

  39. What a nice story and a beautiful place! Next year I will go to Bali and I can not wait to have a refreshing cocktail during sunset at Gili Trawangan. beautiful pics!!! 🙂

  40. Very nice pics! I definitely wanna go there, but so farrrrr for now 🙁 I’d love to rent a bike and go around the island like that, i think is one of the best ways to get to know any place! About the horse carriage… im not really in favour of that kind of treatment to the poor horses 🙁 Thank you for the tips!

    1. Walking around or cycling around the island is a good way to explore, definitely 🙂 But if you have luggage that needs to be taken from the ferry pier to the hotel, it kind of gets tough to drag it on the stony paths (unless you have a backpack which is great!). That’s why the horse carriage.

  41. Your journey to the island sounds miserable. The island itself, however, looks and sounds beautiful. I’ve never been to Bali, but I think you definitely chose the right island… A good mix of fun and relaxation.

  42. Reading your post made me want to go back to Gili ? such a stunning place. Great post. I really loved the sunset photo, it’s incredibly beautiful

  43. It looks well and truly idyllic, I must say! The sea is such a vivid blue, and those sunsets are so beautiful 🙂 Shame about the difficulties you had in getting to the island, but sounds like you had a great time when you got there. Swings look fun too!

    1. The swing was my favourite part. Apart from the gorgeous blue waters and the stunning sunsets of course 🙂

  44. Such a picture perfect instagram worthy destination. The last photo of sunset is so amazing. Also you carried your style to a foreign land that is pretty evident from your photos.

    1. Island sunsets are always gorgeous! This one with the swing in the backdrop was my favourite 🙂

  45. Hey Medha

    I haven’t traveled more recently, however, from my past experiences I think it is a time of learning, applying and enjoying. I believe you had fun, and the pictures are amazing.

    Have a great day.

  46. This place looks so beautiful! Thank you for sharing your tips and inspiration for wanting to travel there. The water looks amazing!

  47. A Famous Saying about Bali “We have no art. We do everything as beautifully as possible.” That’s Bali superb. Mushrooms are illegal in Bali??? well, I learned this fact just because of you. Thanks for your traveling tips which lead us to have a more comfortable vacation at Bali.

    1. Yes they are and even though you’ll get approached by people on the streets selling them to you, it’s very risky to buy. You can get into trouble!

  48. I have been to Gili T for a couple of times but never traveled from Bali, so it was sad to hear about your trip with the bad company…
    All of the three Gili has a magnificent beaches and very Instagram worthy..reading this post makes me want to go back there, thank you for the wonderful post..

    1. Yeah the ferry company really sucked the joy out of the journey but at least the gorgeous island beaches made up for it 🙂

  49. What a beautiful set of photos. How expensive are these resorts, btw? I would like to know an estimate cost for 3-4 days in Gili Trawang (ex Bali).

  50. I must confess I got envious of your adventures. I’m a travel blogger myself and this trip to Gili Trawangan is something I’d love to do.

    More power to your blog

  51. Instagram-worthy places are always nice to visit. #noshame <3 Thanks for the tip about The Exile! It sounds like my kind of place!

  52. Loved reading this post, I popped over to Gilli T quite a few times while I loved in Bali, and even spent Christmas and NYE there before. This post bought back some good memories haha, did you get out to swim with the sea turtles ? – Also one things for your dont’s list would be to drink the Jungle juice cocktails at the bars

  53. Damm these ferries but glad all the wait was worth in the end .. And that swing and hammock picture definitely more than enough reason to visit Gili .. But if that wasn’t enough full moon party .. I will defenately add this to my list when visit Bali ., what’s the best time to visit Bali?

    1. Avoid the peak season of July – Aug (it’s also very hot then) and visit in Sep – Oct, I suggest 🙂

  54. Sorry to hear about your bad experience with the ferry! But for the rest of it, your trip looked amazing. The pictures are gorgeous too! Would love to go to Gili Trawangan!

    1. The ferry experience was the worst, thankfully the gorgeous island made up for the bad time I had on the journey.

  55. Aaaaw – this looks like such a perfect hotel. The Exile and the beaches were enough to convince me but then you added Full Moon Party. And of course, a swing. What a paradise!

  56. Ah shame about your experience with the ferry company; I did my research too when I went, and had a good experience, though it was a little late coming back to Bali. Gili T is totally worth it though, and I agree with your tips apart from the accommodation. I stayed in a gorgeous eco glamping place called Cocoterie!

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