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Backpacking to Gili Trawangan: The Complete Travel Guide

Backpacking to Gili Trawangan can prove to be a wonderful experience. Popularly known as Gili T, this place is the largest of the three Gili Islands. The other two being, Gili Air and Gili Meno.

All three of these sister islands together comprise an important part of the Indonesian archipelago. Out of the three Gili Islands, Gili Trawangan is the most popular amongst backpackers and solo travelers. Gili Air and Gili Meno, though extremely beautiful islands, are more secluded. Therefore, they are more of a couple and honeymoon getaway.

With all the parties, late nights and crazy water activities, Gili Trawangan is like the wild but responsible child of the three sisters. It is for this reason that backpacking to Gili Trawangan becomes such a pleasurable activity.

In my current blog, I will share my Gili Trawangan backpacking experience with you along with all the other important travel information. This will include the budget breakdown as well. I hope that my experience at Gili Trawangan helps you plan your trip better.

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Backpacking to Gili Trawangan

As someone who absolutely loves the ocean, backpacking to Gili Trawangan from Mumbai (my home city) was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.

Along with a friend, I planned a dive trip to Gili Trawangan. This place will always be close to my heart as it was here where I got certified as an advanced open water scuba diver.

Even though our main purpose of the trip was a dive trip, we also enjoyed the unique island culture that Gili Trawangan displayed.

From scuba diving to simply chilling on the beach, from tasting different types of cuisines to street shopping, we tried to do it all and our experience was an absolute blast.

Backpacking to Gili Trawangan A lone swing at one of the sea side locales at Gili Trawangan. Things like this add to the leisure of a trip. I’ve been lucky to have come across the most interesting sights during my backpacking trip to Gili T. Picture credits: Tanvi Gautama

Imagine hearing a different song every time you walk past the wilderness. Imagine inhaling all types of delicious aromas from the eateries you stop by.

Imagine experiencing a vibrant culture full of colours, music and light. Imagine experiencing the tranquility of the blue ocean waters. It is mystical.

I know, I have gone all John Lennon on you but that is exactly what backpacking to Gili Trawangan feels like.

Essential Travel Information for People Backpacking to Gili Trawangan

Gili Trawangan is a small island that is around 3 km long and 2 km wide. This means that you can either walk around the entire island in approximately one and a half hour or cycle around in about thirty minutes. 

This is how big Gili Trawangan is as a locale! It was meant as a sarcasm. Its quite small.

As a traveler visiting Gili Trawangan, you should be aware of the basics of this locale. It will help you understand the region better.

Location

Northwest coast of Lombok in Indonesia

Best time to visit

Dry season of June to September

Accessibility

Throughout the year

Currency

Indonesian Rupiah (IDR)

1 USD = 14202 IDR

1 EUR = 15922  IDR

1 INR = 205 IDR

(These are the exchange rates at the time of my travel. They are subject to fluctuation in the future. So do check with the current day exchange rates)

Language

Bahasa Indonesia is the official language. However, English is also widely spoken

Accommodation options

Hostels and Home stays make for budget stay options. They are extremely nominal.

Food availability options 

Restaurants, cafes, street food, night market

Transportation on the island 

Walking, cycling, horse cart

Safety level

Very safe for travelers. However beware of natural calamities

Adventurous activities to try

Free diving, scuba diving, snorkeling, surfing, kayaking

Shopping tip

Avoid buying clothes, footwear and even souvenirs from Gili Trawangan. Reason being, the variety is very less and costs unexpectedly high. Shop this stuff from mainland Lombok.

Important travel tip

Drugs are readily available in the region. But you are not to consume them because the drug laws are extremely stringent in Indonesia.




Now that I’ve shared the essential travel basics, let me now elaborate on the budget of your trip.

As a budget traveler, I suggest that you don’t spend more than 12,318,054 IDR for a 5 to 6 day trip. This should include flight tickets, accommodation, adventure sports and sightseeing.

Since I traveled from India to Gili T for 5 complete days, it cost me 60,000 INR (12340777.42). If I were to convert it into US Dollars, this will amount to 853 USD. In Euros, this will amount to 761 EUR.

I could have further reduced the cost but since I had my diver’s certification course, it cost me more.

Complete Budget Breakdown for Backpacking to Gili Trawangan

Budget for any backpacking trip is of paramount importance. The more money you can save without having to cut down on locales and activities, the better it is for sure.

Let me breakdown the budget for you below. The costs of various things mentioned is based on my own travel experience. Thus, you can reduce them even more.

Accommodation

Budget stays are in plenty at Gili Trawangan. The starting price for most hostels will be around 117,404 IDR. If you prefer a home stay in a shared accommodation arrangement, it’ll cost you around 30,000 IDR.  If you need the entire place to yourself, you will end up spending at least 400,000 IDR. Mind you, these prices are just for a night.

Food 

On an average, you can consume a delectable meal at a low to moderately expensive eatery for around 30,000 IDR. If you’re a street food lover, this cost will be reduced to less than 15000 IDR. Dining at plush restaurants or lounges will cost you a lot of money. All thanks to taxes that the Government levies there.

Bottled water

If you don’t want to consume normal water, you need to spend on bottled water. This will cost you around 5600 IDR per bottle.

Transportation

Transportation will comprise the bulk of your expenses because it will include both external and internal transport. External transport in the form of flights will cost you much more than internal transport. A good way to strike deals here by booking months in advance or traveling off season. Internal transport expenses will come in the form of bike rentals (if you prefer them). They cost as less as 32,000 IDR. Alternatively, you can hike around.

Adventure sports

Two most common adventure activities are scuba diving and snorkeling. Scuba diving will cost you around 450,000 IDR and snorkeling will cost you about 15,000 IDR. 

Note: Planning a budget trip to Gili Trawangan is not hard at all as long as you’re willing to be flexible with your accommodation and do not mind trying the local street food.

Backpacking to Gili Trawangan Sign boards to various places along a lane in Gili Trawangan. The locale is as spontaneous as these sign boards. You never know what you might find on your next step. Picture credits: Tanvi Gautama

Gili T is a gorgeous island that offers all types of beautiful locales, restaurants, cafes, pubs and 24 hour convenience stores.

Free wifi is available in almost every eatery and ATMs can be spotted throughout the busy areas of the island.  Basically, anything you need as a traveler will be available to you here.

Backpacking to Gili Trawangan is a must for all individuals who are looking for fun day time adventures and exciting nightlife vibes.

How to Reach Gili Trawangan?

In order to reach Gili Trawangan, you need to board a flight till Lombok from the nearest airport from your home city. In my case, it was Mumbai in India.

Once you reach Lombok Airport, hire a cab to reach the Public Boat Harbor Ward at Bangsal Pier. This journey will take around an hour and a half.  From Bangsal pier, either take a public ferry to reach Gili Trawangan or take the tourist shuttle to reach Gili Trawangan.

Backpacking to Gili Trawanagn Route from Lombok airport to the Public Boat Harbor at Bangsal Pier to finally Gili T. Map credits: Google

The route is simple and you will reach your destination with ease. Just make sure to know the timings of ferry service. Else, you might miss your chance.

The public ferry from Bangsal Pier till Gili T will take around 40 minutes. It will cost you 15,000 IDR (i.e. 1.06 USD or 0.94 EUR or 73 INR). The frequency of service is only twice a day – 7:30 am and 4: 30 pm.

Lombok Airport to Bangsal Pier in a cab will take around 90 minutes. It will cost you 250,000 IDR (i.e. 18 USD or 15 EUR or 1217 INR).

 A tourist shuttle from Bangsal Pier till Gili T will take around 25 minutes. I will cost you 80,000 IDR (i.e. 5.63 USD or 5 EUR or 389 INR). The frequency of service is only twice a day – 8:15 am and 4: 30 pm

My personal journey from Mumbai till Gili T comprised of the following stages.

Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj International Airport at Mumbai –> Zainuddin Abdul Madjid International Airport at Lombok –> Cab till Bangsal Pier –> Ferry from Bangsal Pier –> Gili Trawangan.

Traveling from Bali to Gili Trawangan

 In case, you are traveling from Bali to Gili Trawangan, you can hire speedboats or public ferries from either Padang Bai or Amed. Most individuals traveling from Bali are in Gili T for mini stays only.

Padang Bai to Gili T

If you are coming from Padang Bai, then you can use the Blue Water Express Speedboat which is a well known service. There are frequent trips between 9 am to 9:30 pm. It takes around an hour and a half from Padang Bai to reach Gili T. This will cost you around 450,000 IDR.

 You can also use the public ferry.  Travel time will be 8 hours. The ferry service is every hour. This will cost you 40,000 IDR.

Backpacking to Gili Trawangan Route from Padang Bai Port to Gili Trawangan via sea. You can opt for a speed boat or a ferry. Map credits: Google

 Amed to Gili T

If you are coming from Amed, you can use the Pascha Express Speedboat. There are only two trips that are made daily. One at 9 am and the other at 4 pm. The journey will take around 45 minutes. This will cost you 250,000 IDR.

Backpacking to Gili Trawangan Route from Amed to Gili Trawangan via sea. You can opt for the speed boat to reach Gili T. Map credits: Google

Transportation Tips for Reaching Gili Trawangan

 The following tips will help assist you throughout your commute. Make sure you follow them for a hassle free journey.

1. Negotiate cab prices

Getting a cab from the airport will be more expensive. Therefore, try to negotiate cab prices with the drivers outside the airport.

2. Haggle with the locals

It’s a bit of a walk from the harbour to the ferry point. Haggle with the locals before letting anyone help you carry your bags.

3. Tip people for luggage

If you are carrying a lot of luggage to Gili T, then you will be expected to tip the people who help you carry it to the boat.

4. Know the harbour timings

Bangsal Harbour is only opened from 8 am to 4:30 pm. So make sure you travel around this time only.

Backpacking to Gili Trawangan En route the Public Boat Harbor at Bangsal Pier from Lombok Airport. The entire journey offers picturesque views of lovely landscapes. Picture credits: Tanvi Gautama

In recent times, the Gili Islands have become a buzzing destination for travelers from around the world.

These eco-friendly islands boast of white sand beaches, coconut palm trees swaying in the gentle ocean breeze and are widely known for their healthy coral reefs.

This makes the Gili Islands a popular hotspot for scuba diving. Whether it is a boat dive, a shore dive or a wreck dive, the Gili Islands have it all.

Where to Stay in and around Gili Trawangan ?

Gili Trawangan is a haven for budget travelers. Not only are most properties on this island extremely cheap but they are also quite good.

You can choose to stay at this home stay known as the Little Woodstock Homestay. It is a  bedroom house with free wifi in all rooms and common areas. It’s quite safe and is located centrally from most touring spots.

You can easily get a room less than 113213.32 IDR at the Little Woodstock Homestay. This is just 550 INR  or 7.83 USD or 6.99 EUR. 

You can also bunk in this sweet little place known as the Panda Cottage. It will prove to be a full value for your money.

For a place that comes as cheap as 123599.01 IDR (600 INR or 8.54 USD or 7.64 EUR), Panda Cottage has a lot to offer. Right from air conditioning to transport services to free wifi, this place has it all.

Even family rooms are available here and not just beds for backpackers.

Adventure Activities to Try While Backpacking to Gili T

Being an island destination, Gili Trawangan has a number of adventure activities to offer. Two of my personal favourite are scuba diving and snorkeling.

The waters around the island are crystal clear. Therefore, there are a plethora of diving spots here. Every year more and more backpackers arrive here for getting professional license for scuba diving.

Well I am one of those people as well.

Scuba Diving at Gili T

Gili Trawangan is an island full of surprises when it comes to scuba diving.

I saw my first adult black tip reef shark on one of my dives in Gili T.

Backpacking to Gili Trawangan Diving gear and equipment. Once it is on, divers are ready to take the plunge and go inside water. Try not panicking. Else, you will over use your oxygen. Trust me, you’d want to save it. Picture credits: Tanvi Gautama

I did my PADI advance open water course while backpacking to Gili Trawangan. I did my course from Blue Marlin Dive which is a 5 star rated PADI dive shop.

Since Gili T is such a small island, the dive shops have a shared understanding of the prices of their dives. This means you can go to any dive shop as the prices are more or less the same.

Essential travel information about Scuba Diving at Gili Trawanagn

You have a variety of dive sites you can choose from and you never know what you might end up seeing out there in the deep blue sea.

Let me provide some useful travel information pertaining to diving at Gili T.

Dive Shops

Blue Marlin Dive and Manta Dive Gili Trawangan are two of the most popular dive shops on the island.

Water Temperature

If you do not prefer wearing a wet suit then you can you easily wear a rash guard as the waters are usually 26-28 degrees

Dive Sites

 I dived at Sunset Point, Shark Point, Bounty Wreck and also managed to do a shore dive. There are plenty of dive sites which you can figure from your dive shop.

Equipment:

Do not worry about this, as most of these dive shops include full equipment in the price or you can always rent it out.

Tip

Avoid consuming alcohol before diving. You will not be permitted to dive in case you do.

 Note: If you are absolutely certain about scuba diving, make sure to book your dives online. You might get better deals. 


Getting your scuba certification in Gili Trawangan is actually a great idea considering the waters are warm and calm. You have a visibility range of 30mts at times and an abundance of colourful marine life all around you.

Could you find a better classroom? I assume not.

 Snorkeling in Gili Trawangan

 There are multiple speedboats which organize snorkeling trips every day. They even rent out fins, mask and a snorkel in case you do not have the required equipment.

These trips take you to three points during the day. Lunch is included in the overall price. Snorkeling in the Gilis is a wonderful activity that you must go through.

Near Gili Meno (the boat will take you here) is an underwater sculpture of lovers holding each other. Diving here is not possible as it’s very shallow so snorkeling is your best bet.

In case you are not a strong swimmer, do not fret as there is an always option of using a life vest.

Backpacking to Gili Trawangan The Underwater Sculptures at Gili Meno have become a hotspot for snorkeling enthusiasts. Depicting a circle of 48 life-size figures, standing together and curled up on the ground, the piece is expected to become covered in corals. Picture credits: Tanvi Gautama

Your backpacking trip to Gili Trawangan will turn out to be a lot better if you are aware of some handy tips. These will help you save a lot of hassle.

Travel Tips for Backpacking to Gili Trawangan

The following travel tips should be kept in mind at all times.

No drugs

Do not consume drugs as Indonesia has a very strict policy against it.

No alcohol for divers

Do not consume alcohol before or in-between your dives.

Use booties

The beaches have broken corals on the shore. Therefore it’s advisable to use booties if you want to take a dip.

Pay for beach lounging

If you just want to lounge on the shore with a sun umbrella, you will have to buy something from the restaurant as they belong to private hotels.

Pay tips

Always tip the local people who help you out.

Dont litter

Please do not litter around the island. Also, avoid using plastic at any cost.

Carry a steel bottle

 Being an island, Gili T can dehydrate you. So carry a steel bottle that you can refill at places.

Stay hydrated

Stay hydrated at all times. After all, you’re living on a sunny island. Allow water is your best friend.

Apply sunscreen

Sunscreen is important in the tropical climate of Gili T. If possible, use a reef safe one.

Carry medicines

Make sure to carry your own medicines to avoid any hassle. Gili T comprises of a lot of cats. So watch out for allergies.

 Backpacking to Gili Trawangan Your backpacking trip to Gili T cannot be deemed as complete until you lounge at a beach on a hammock. This picture aptly describes the ambiance of this pretty island destination. Picture credits: Tanvi Gautama

5 Things to Do in Gili Trawangan as a Passionate Traveler

There is no dearth of things that you should be doing as a traveler at Gili Trawangan. However, the 5 things that you should most certainly pursue are being mentioned as follows.

Go cycling around the island

Rent a cycle and go across the island, witnessing its many beaches and landscapes.

Take a plunge and dive underwater

If you’re at Gili T, you must definitely go under water and tour amidst the marine life.

Watch a movie at the beach

A lot of beaches in Gili T host movie nights. Go watch a movie by the sea for free.

Eat at the night market

Market Square in front of the boat pier on Gili Trawangan is venue for the daily night market. Eat your heart out there.

Backpacking to Gili Trawangan Cycling across Gili T can be an absolutely fun filled activity. Not only can you circumnavigate the entire island but also witness majestic views. Just rent a bike and go island voyaging. Picture credits: Tanvi Gautama

Backpacking to Gili Trawangan has been a really nice experience for me.

Spending time by the sea side, exploring the depths of the ocean world, feeling the nature around and connecting with my inner self have been the highlights of my trip.

You should plan a trip to the region soon and find out its beauty for yourself.

Happy wayfaring.

About the Author

Tanvi Gautama

Tanvi Gautama

Tanvi Gautama is an absolute water baby. She is a certified PADI dive master and will turn into an instructor very soon. Tanvi loves the oceans and cares deeply for their internal environment. She believes that in order for human beings to have a better life, the nature-man equilibrium should co-exist. She currently resides in Mumbai, India and has an academic degree in Sociology and Anthropology.

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