Updated August 16th, 2018.
The closest of the Gili islands to Lombok, Gili Air seems to have magically escaped the more damaging effects of tourism. As soon as you land on the island, you feel as if you’ve stepped into an undiscovered paradise.
Perfect for dive enthusiasts, honeymoon escapees (Gili Meno is also a fairly coupled-up place) and those feeling all partied out after Gili Trawangan… Up until recently, there were no ATMs on the island, thankfully one has now been installed.
Where To Stay on Gili Air
Boats arriving on Gili Air dock in the south of the island, so most backpackers tend to stay on the south or east coast of the island. Venture to the other side of the island and you’ll find beautiful sunsets and the newest additions to Gili Air’s backpacker hostel scene…
Either way, be warned, there’s some wading to be done when coming ashore so wear appropriate clothing and ensure your baggage is waterproof!
Begadang Backpackers: Found on the north-west side of Gili Air, Begadang Backpackers was only built in 2015 and it shows. There’s a beautiful mushroom shaped pool, a range of accommodation options (from 4 and 8-bed deluxe dorms to bamboo huts for 2), free Wi-Fi throughout and a great restaurant. There are bikes available to rent too. Check out the full review of Begadang Backpackers on our Best Hostels list.
Things To Do on Gili Air
– Walk the coastal paths: Pack some supplies and a tube of sun cream and take off around the island. You can walk around the whole of Gili Air in just over two hours. Be warned, parts of the walk are fairly remote, so make sure you have enough water and food in your backpack!
– Pedal power: If you don’t fancy walking, another great way of getting around Gili Air is to rent a bike. There are lots of places to rent from, costing around 30-50,000 IDR per day (between 1.75 GBP to 2.90 GBP). Take a picnic and your swimsuit and go exploring!
– Learn to cook Indonesian style! Right near the harbour you can find Gili Cooking Classes, a local cooking school run by Indonesian chefs. Learn to cook traditional dishes using the freshest ingredients, then eat the lot. Yum!
– Swim underwater like a dolphin: Have you heard of ‘subwinging’? It’s the latest underwater craze! Pulled behind a boat, the subwing allows you to take a deep breath and dive beneath the water to get a unique view of the coral reef. Or, grab a snorkel and do it the traditional way…
Food & Drink
Stick to what the Gili Islands do best – freshly caught fish that’s grilled in front of you, with views of the ocean. If you’re on a budget, head to one of the island’s many warungs (small local café/restaurant serving traditional Indonesian food). If you’re looking for home comforts then they can also be found, from pizza restaurants to milkshake bars.
In terms of drinking, Gili Air is a great place to chill out and let your liver recover. But if you do feel like socialising, there is, of course, the obligatory island reggae bar (Legend) as well as a few other cocktail spots – just ask your hostel team.
Top tip: Avoid salads whilst staying on Gili Air. There’s no fresh water on the island, so purified water is imported by boat but not always used…
If you tend to get seasick, travel to Gili Air during the morning when the sea is calmest. It’s usually a small boat, so pack your valuables in waterproof bags and prepare to wade in from the boat to the shore!
From Bali, there is a fast boat service twice every day that leaves from Amed (in the East). Expect to pay around 600,000 IDR (35 GBP) for a single journey or 1,100,000 IDR (64 GBP) for a return ticket.
If you’re travelling from Lombok, public ferries leave from Bangsal harbour three times a day, taking less than half an hour to reach Gili Air. Prices vary from 15,000 IDR (0.88 GBP) to 35,000 IDR (2.04 GBP)
To get between the Gili islands, travellers usually have to travel back by public ferry to Bangsal on Lombok, then get a different ferry to their island destination.
Where to go next:
Lombok: Now that you’re well rested, head to Lombok to hike Gunung Rinjani, trek through the jungle, wander the markets or hit the surf.
Bali: Craving the hustle and bustle of big island life? Get the boat back to Bali, surf hotspot of South East Asia and the gateway to the rest of Indonesia.
The Gili Islands: Don’t leave the area before you’ve had the entire Gili island experience! Read our destination guides to Gili Meno and Gili Trawangan to decide which one is up next…
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