Gili Air is the most easterly of the three Gili Islands off Lombok.
Gili Air looking back to Mount Rinjani on Lombok
Of the three Gilis, this is the island closest to Lombok. Traditionally, Gili Air was seen as the domain of families and couples wanting a quiet, off-the-beaten-path escape, while the rowdier hoardes had their fun on Gili Trawangan. With Trawangan now upscaling so obviously, more and more backpackers seem to be chosing Gili Air as their primary option. This island has more of a rural, established feeling than the other two, and it is no surprise that many of the local Gili Islanders seem to prefer living on Gili Air, and that it has the highest permanent population of about 1,800.
Most of the accommodation and other tourism facilities are on the south and east coasts, facing Lombok. The boat landing is in the centre of the south coast. A coastal path leads you around the perimeter of the island, and a leisurely stroll all the way around will take about 90 min. For such a small island, the maze of paths that criss-cross the island can get surprisingly confusing, but these always lead back to the coast path eventually.
The sea is calmest in the morning and all transport stops running in the late-afternoon, well before dark. During periods of southerly winds and in July and August especially, the swell can be a bit hairy and you are very likely to get wet on the crossing. It is advisable to place laptops, cameras and handphones in waterproof bags for the crossing. You will need to wade through shallow sea when disembarking, so wear either appropriate footwear, or none at all.
Amed Sea Express offers a twice daily high-speed schedule to Gili Air from Amed on the East coast of Bali. Boats depart Amed at 10AM and 3:30PM with arrivals on Gili Air at 11:30AM and 5:00PM. Prices are Rp 600.000 (one-way) and Rp 1.100.000 (return) and tickets can be booked online.
Scoot Cruises also now departs from Sanur in Bali and stops in Lembongan, Lombok and Gili Air. Island Getaway go directly to Gili Tawangan but offer a transfer service to Gili AIr as soon as you arrive.
Public boats depart from Bangsal between 8AM-5PM but often no later than 4PM and are fewer in number than go to Gili Trawangan. The voyage takes about 30 min and the official price is Rp 8,000. Sometimes these services only depart when there are enough people, normally a minimum of 15 is enough. If numbers are insufficient you may have to endure a wait at Bangsal. The official maximum is 20 people but sometimes the boat is overloaded by the time it is ready to depart. The best time to be sure of a crossing to Gili Air is 2PM-3:30PM in the afternoon however this can vary, especially with weather or passenger loads.
Buy your tickets direct from the official Koperasi Angkutan Laut Karya Bahari office. In Bangsal this is located inside the main building near the door at the eastern corner. The Koperasi operate the Public Boat, the Shuttle boat, the Island Hopping boat and also offer (official) Charter boats.
There is a ticket office on Gili Air to buy your ticket back to Bangsal, it is located adjacent to the arrival and departure point.
Public boat (ferry)
- This is the standard method to reach Gili Air and is used by both local residents and tourists. The maximum number of passengers is fixed at 20 persons but it is often overloaded with goods and or passengers. If it seems clearly unsafe due to either overloading or prevailing weather conditions then it is most likely best not to board it.
- Bangsal to Gili Air 1 way is Rp 8,000
- Gili Air to Bangsal 1 way is Rp 8,000
- This service supplements the Public boat (ferry) service.
- Bangsal to Gili Air departs at 5PM, the official price is Rp 26,000.
- Gili Air to Bangsal departs at 8:15AM, the official price is Rp 26,000.
(This is more expensive than the standard Public boat cost officially fixed at Rp 8,000).
- The official charter boat service provided by Koperasi Angkutan laut Karya Bahari is permitted to carry a maximum of 12 persons.
- Bangsal to Gili Air 1 way is Rp 155,000, return Rp 290,000
- Gili Air to Bangsal no published price
- Gili Air to Senggigi 1 way is Rp 480,000, return Rp 690,000
- Informal and unofficial charters are also available from private operators to travel from Bangsal to Gili Air. If requiring one try to deal only with the boat operator, ignore the touts and 'facilitators' and use your time over a negotiation, any hint of haste or urgency is sure to raise the price.
Perama  has a small office on Gili Air next door to Villa Karang, and they offer daily transfers from Senggigi at 9AM for Rp 90,000. These should not be relied on outside of the peak tourist season though. Perama is unlikely to take you to Gili Air if you are the only passenger.
Departing from Bangsal to either of the three Gili islands is rarely pleasant due to the very persistent touts who infest the place, just try to ignore them and do not listen to their generally fanciful tales that involve you paying them money to solve an imaginary transportation problem. They often provide a chorus of gloomy predictions regarding the alleged unavailability of services, then if successful they just place unknowing passengers upon the normal scheduled service or a private charter at an often seriously inflated prices.
The situation arising from the activities of pestering touts combined with confusing and inadequate formal services at Bangsal is the source of many disappointments and complaints.
From Gili Trawangan and Gili Meno
To move from one island to another the formal procedure is to take the Public boat (ferry) to Bangsal and then a further similar ferry to the required island departing from Bangsal. To return the reverse is required. This can be confusing and co-ordinating the timing with the connecting boat departing from Bangsal may be either difficult or elusive. There is also a limited official inter-island Island Hopping service provided.
Ferry operators may sometimes enter into informal arrangements with passengers to journey inter-island. In this situation a passenger boards a boat that is meant to go directly to Bangsal from one of the three Gili islands but instead it detours and sets down on the beach at another island whilst en-route. The prices are a movable feast but people will normally pay a price of around Rp 25,000. Inter-island access on the public boats in this manner is dependant upon timing, weather, loading, payment and the inclination of the crew to facilitate an inter-island journey and such arrangements are not officially sanctioned. The standard procedure is to travel to Bangsal and make a separate trip to the different island or to use the very limited official service. The price for a single journey Public Boat ferry journey from Gili Trawangan is Rp 10,000 and Gili Meno to Bangsal is Rp 9,000. The price for the subsequent Public boat to Gili Air from Bangsal is Rp 10,000, this assuming the required connection was made at Bangsal.
Official tariffs and schedules
The tariff for all Koperasi Angkutan Laut Karya Bahari services was last set by decree of the Regency of West Lombok in May 2008. This koperasi now falls under the new jurisdiction of the Regency of North Lombok.
Departure and arrival times may vary due to operational conditions and other random factors such as loading times and delays arising from waiting for sufficient numbers of passengers prior to departure. Overloading may occur and caution should be exercised if considering boarding or travelling on an overloaded boat. If there are too many people requiring transport they may be left behind and a substitute service may or may not be available. Try to limit your dealings to official koperasi personel only and avoid entering into any discussions or negotiations with local touts and facilitators. Only a few of them will be of any assistance at all and most will endeavour to confuse the traveller so that they accept an inflated price for the provision of an existing service. Do not buy tickets from anyone other than an official ticket seller.
Official Koperasi services include:
- Public boat
- Shuttle boat
- Island Hopping boat
- Charter boat (Koperasi)
Island Hopping boat
- A limited formal Island hopping boat service is provided by Koperasi Angkutan Laut Karya Bahari, this is the same local koperasi (maritime transport co-operative) that provides the Public Boat ferry service.
- Gili Air to Gili Trawangan in the morning is an indirect service. Take the Island Hopping boat leaving Gili Air for Gili Meno at 8:30AM. The same boat then departs Gili Meno for Gili Trawangan at 8:50AM.
The official Gili A to Gili T Island Hopping price is Rp 23,000. Hopefully you will only pay once. The alternative is to go to Bangsal and look for the boat to Gili T but may be best avoided due to the issues at Bangsal.
- Gili Air to Gili Trawangan departs at 3PM and the official price is Rp 23,000
- Gili Trawangan to Gili Air departs at 4PM and the official price is Rp 23,000
- Gili Air to Gilli Meno departs at 8:30AM and the official price is Rp 20,000
- Gili Meno to Gilli Air departs at 4:20PM and the official price is Rp 20,000
- The official charter boat service provided by Koperasi Angkutan laut Karya Bahari is permitted to carry a maximum of 12 persons.
- Gili Meno to Gili Air 1 way is Rp 170,000, return Rp 320,000
- Gili Air to Gili Meno 1 way is Rp 170,000, return Rp 290,000
- Gili Trawangan to Gili Air 1 way is Rp 195,000, return Rp 350,000
- Gili Air to Gili Trawangan 1 way is Rp 195,000, return Rp 350,000
- Gili Air to Senggigi to 1 way is Rp 480,000, return Rp 690,000
Informal private charters are also available. Prices are subject to negotiation, take your time over the process.
Walking is the best option as you can wander around the whole of Gili Air in about 90 minutes.
Bicycles are widely available for rent for Rp 30,000-50,000 per day. Some hotels might give you one as part of your accommodation package.
There are fewer horse carts (cidomos) here than on Gili Trawangan, but they are still not hard to find. If you are planning an early morning departure and have heavy bags, it is wise to ask your hotel the day before to book a cidomo for you. Short trips will cost about Rp 30,000 per person.
See and Do
There are 5 dive operators with offices on Gili Air. Most of them are independently run outposts of Gili Trawangan based shops. All dive shops offer a full menu of PADI or SSI dive courses and fun dives.
If you intend to learn to dive or advance exisitng qualifications and wish to avoid all the temptations of partying whilst doing so, then Gili Air is the ideal base.
- Blue Marlin, (northeast coast), ☎ +62 370 634387, .
- Dream Divers, (southeast coast), ☎ +62 370 634547, .
- Gili Air Divers, (southeast coast), ☎ +62 878 6536 7551 ([email protected]), . 8AM-8PM. French and Spanish PADI diving resort with bungalows.
- Manta Dive, (southeast coast), ☎ +62 813 3778 9047 ([email protected]), . Padi and SSI Dive courses, fun dives, night dives, experienced and professionally run. Traditionally styled bungalows are available behind the dive centre.
- Oceans 5 Dive Gili Air, Gili Air harbour, ☎ +62 813 3877 7144 ([email protected]), . 8AM-7PM. Free wifi for divers and they shop also make provision for people with disabilities.
Any of the dive shops will also be able to organise snorkelling trips for you, including hire of gear. Alternatively, there are some good spots where you can snorkel from the beach. Try almost anywhere along the east coast where the fringing reef is fairly healthy and close offshore. Be careful walking in the shallow waters though as there are a lot of very spiny sea urchins in amongst the sea-grass. Equipment can be hired from almost any cafe or shack close to the beach for about Rp 30,000, or your hotel will be able to help you.
Gili Air hardly registers a blip on the global surf scene, which is somewhat surprising. There is a poorly known, barreling right hander off the south coast called Playgili. This is by no means a straightforward wave, breaks over some very sharp coral and is best left to experienced, skilled surfers. It does not always roll, but when it does this is a good wave. Best first stop for any surfer is Ozzy's Surf Shop, where the local crew will be keen to rent you a board and chat about the conditions.
The circular walk around Gili Air is very plesant indeed. The highlight for many would be the awe-inspiring views of massive Mount Rinjani towering over Lombok.
There is one ATM on the island now. If you get stuck here without cash, Blue Marlin Dive Centre will give you a credit cash cash advance for the princely commission of 7%. The are other ATMs on Gili Trawangan.
The best bet for changing money is Oseana shop located in the Harbour. Oseana shop will change a lot of different currencies against a good rate. Ideally, make sure you bring enough rupiah cash with you.
There are a few shops selling basic necessities close to the boat landing and on the eastern coast. In the same area there are also a couple of vendors with a reasonable collection of Lombok handicrafts for sale.
In the centre of the island (in the village, on main north-south road of the island), there's a bigger shop (they have lots of smelly dried fish), selling, besides other things, some cheap foods (try donuts for Rp 1,000 if you are not afraid). Slightly cheaper than beach shops, but some sellers try to compensate for that when see foreigners, so the same 1.5 lt bottle of water could easily cost Rp 5,000 one day and Rp 4,000 the next one.
Starting at the jetty and working your way north on the east side of the island up to Hotel Gili Air, there are lots of decent places to eat. Since there is no fresh water on the island, purified shipped water is the norm, which does not mean that salads are 100% safe, but the food is generally not problematic. Many restaurants propose delicious grilled fish, freshly caught from the ocean. Choose the fish from their display stand and discuss the price. Local cooking style normally tends to overcook the fish, so it is a good idea to specify your cooking taste.
For budget travellers, there are several warungs in the village, just go inland from the harbor. Nasi campur spesial (with chicken) is Rp 10,000, as well as soto ayam. There's also a place selling bakso and (sometimes) martabak a bit further inland, almost in the middle of island. Rp 10,000 for bakso, opens in the late afternoon.
- Ali Baba, (northeast coast). 9AM-10PM. A slightly eccentric looking place in a quiet spot, but do not be too put off. Local menu and wood-fired pizzas. Right on the beach.
- Chillout Bar, (southeast coast), ☎ +6281999364607. Lovely beach location with good food. Serving some variation of Sasak food with homemade curries and satays and also Western food including Pizza's and Burgers. Night time serving one of the best Seafood BBQ's on the Island.Expect to pay about Rp 30,000 for a main dish. Open late and sometimes evolves into the main bar on the island. Happy Hour, 5-7PM with 2 for 1 Coctails & Large Bintang beer for Rp 25,000 with a bowl of snack popcorn and kerupuk for free. 7 a.m.-late.
- Hikmah's, (southeast coast), ☎ +62 818 05784565. Sandwiches and baguettes, using homemade bread.
- Mirage Coffee Bar and Bakery, (north coast). Out on the northern tip of the island. Coffee and bakery items, plus a full English breakfast. Mezze plates including homemade hummus.
- Sasak, (east coast). Cheaper beach restaurant. Sasak (Lombok-style) food and fish dishes, such as fish curry and grilled fish. Try their pelecing kankung (water spinach with coconut and spicy dressing) and parapek (pieces of meat or fish cooked in a tasty and spicy gravy). Rp 10,000-30,000.
- Scallywags Organic Beach Club, (southeast coast), ☎ +62 370 648792, . 8AM-11PM. Organic seafood, probably the most expensive restaurant in the islands but you can still get a meal for under Rp 100,000. Sea views, all-you-can-eat salad buffet and range of desserts. Same ownership as Scallywags on Gili Trawangan. (8.3642°S,116.0873°E)
- Tami's, (east coast). 8AM-10PM. Traditonal Sasak cuisine from Lombok, they do an especially good ayam taliwang.
- Juliantosbythe sea, ☎ 62370622179. 7am-11pm. Great range of Sasak, Indonesian and other eats at very reasonable prices. Specials are the Ikan Masak kuning(fish), satay, and good range of vegetarian dishes.Best gado gado on the island Very friendly, helpful staff
Gili Air usually has one party a week rotating at different bars during the peak season only. Locals and restaurant owners will usually mention them to you, and sometimes flyers are posted around. The party scene on Gili Air is much more low-key, and not nearly as rowdy as the wild all-nighters on Gili Trawangan.
- Legend, (north coast). 11AM-late. What would a tropical island do without a reggae bar eh? Sometimes hosts a dark moon party which goes until late.
- Star Bar, (east coast next to Blue Marlin Dive Centre). 4PM-11PM. The preferred Gili Air hang out for expat dive instructors and their students. Good quality drinks, lunch and evening meals, and lots of dive talk.
- Zipp, (south coast), ☎ +62 819 15935205. 7AM-late, depending on the season. Usually the most happening bar on Gili Air (although that is a very relative statement). Nicely appointed and in a lovely beachfront location. Gili Air's impromptu late parties are often centred here.
For those who want really cheap accommodation (Rp 50,000-100,000), the good option is to walk by the road going inland from the harbor/boat ticket office to the village. There are several homestay-type accommodation options there. In low season, the price can often be bargained down.
Gili Air budget hotels tend to bear a striking resemblance to one another and most are on the east side of the island. There is not a wide range in quality or appeal, although a few stand out.
- Abdi Fantastic, (east coast), ☎ +62 370 636421. These old-style thatched roof bungalows have been around for a long while and it shows. However, the prices reflect that and the location is great. Rp 175,000.
- Coconut Cottages, (on the east coast about 200 metres inland, north of the main strip), ☎ +62 370 635365, . About a 10 min walk north of the main strip on the island. Lovely gardens planted primarily with colourful hibiscus. Restaurant, private villa, spacious verandas on each cottage. Several other restaurants are within a 5 min walk. Ozzy's Surf shop, which arranges day trips and transportation, is about 100 m from the entrance to the Cottages. Cheaper cottages are fan-cooled, A/C is extra. Rp 250,000-550,000.
- Gili Air Santay, (mid east coast), ☎ +62 818 03758695, . 10 bungalows with budget fan cooled rooms and a family option. Set back a little off the main track in a cool, shady coconut grove. Western style bathrooms and thatched roofs. Restaurant is on the beach in front of the bungalows. Rp 150,000-550,000.
- Kira Kira, (turn off the main road at the sign for Sejuk, its right next door to Sejuk), . checkin: 12 noon; checkout: 11AM. Small cottages with hammock and balcony, friendly staff. About 10 min walk from the harbour or Rp 50,000 in a cidomo. Rp 120,000-200,000, includes breakfast and taxes.
- Mawar, (just behind the boat landing), ☎ +62 813 62253995. Traditional style bungalows are a little bit tired but offer good value to the budget-minded. Free breakfast, coffee/tea all day. Hospitable family. 4 bungalows set back from the beach in a shady coconut grove. Each has a little verandah with a hammock. From Rp 80,000.
- Nusa Tiga, (south beach, right from the harbor). Basic, but cheap bungalows not so far from the sea. Rp 80,000 (low-season).
- Resota, (just behind the boat landing), ☎ +62 818 05715769. Virtually next door to Mawar and little bit more upmarket. The verandahs all equipped with the obligatory hammock. From Rp 275,000.
- Sasak homestay, (Centre of the the village, walk 200-300 m inland from the harbour, turn right at first intersection and watch the left side, it is located just after Warung Muslim and no signs are posted over the entrance). 3 clean homestay-type rooms with small veranda each, nearby to main village shop and several warungs. 5 min walk to either harbor or east coast. From Rp 60,000, after bargaining), breakfast Rp 20,000-30,000.
- Rumah Si Pitung, (Short walk Behind Oceans 5 Dive), ([email protected]), . Villa/Bungalow with 2 rooms rented either together as a villa, or separately as bungalows. Private courtyard, garden and modern facilities including air-con and fully insulated rooms, hot and cold water, satellite digital TV and DVD players. This accommodation is of a quality hard to find in the Gii Islands now.
- Corner Bungalows, (east coast), ☎ +62 819 17229543. Newish and well designed bungalows with wooden features and hammocks on the terrace. About Rp 400,000.
- Hotel Gili Air, (north coast), ☎ + 62 370 643580, . A bit out of the way on the north end of the west side of the island. Tranquil grounds, restaurant, modern bungalows. They have four levels of rooms ranging from standard to luxury. US$20-62.
- Manta Bungalows, (southeast coast), ☎ +62 813 53050462, . 5 traditional style bungalows and 6 garden rooms/ 3 family rooms, all with A/C, hot water and outdoor bathrooms. Breakfast is included. Swimming pool, central to the main beach and restaurants. Has a generator which is advantageous as electricity is a problem throughout the islands. The coffee shop serves Illy coffees, teas and juices. Friendly staff. US$40-70.
- Matahari Bungalows, (northwest coast). This is just about as far away from the main strip as you can get. Newer, mid-range lumbung-style bungalows and some older options at budget prices. About Rp 300,000.
- Scallywags Mango Retreat, (southeast coast), ☎ +62 370 645301 ([email protected]), . Six rooms with private garden and outdoor shower, flat screen TVs with satellite service, mini bar, wifi. Also has a restaurant on the beach. From US$70. (8.362652S,116.087229E)
- Sejuk Cottages, (east coast), ☎ +62 370 636461. Well designed and maintained, thatched roof, split level lumbung-style cottages. The living areas are upstairs and all have ocean views. The downstairs bedrooms have outdoor bathrooms attached. Swimming pool and the Blue Marlin dive operator is nearby. From Rp 500,000.
- Sunrise Resort, (southeast coast), ☎ +62 370 642370 ([email protected]), . Two storey bungalows in the main strip of the island with an open room downstairs and an upstairs bedroom. Four room categories, the majority of which have a direct sea view. Mature garden, Gili Air Divers operates from the resort. US$30-100 depending on season and room standard.
- Villa Karang (formerly Gili Indah Hotel), (south coast), ☎ +62 370 637328. Good quality bungalows. The grounds are not that nice though, and the south side of the island is more prone to rough water and can be quite windy. The name is misleading as they are not offering villas. About Rp 400,000.
- Villa Casa Mio (formerly Sunset Paradise), (West coast), ☎ +62 370 646160 ([email protected], fax: +62 370 649330), . checkin: 3PM; checkout: 11AM. Quiet beach, 4 beach houses/cottage, each with different theme and design. All have cold/hot running water from Lombok, open air bathroom (some with massage shower) and friendly service. Free wifi in all rooms.
The Casa Mio Siesta Beach Restaurant has sea views and natural style decoration. International and Indonesian food. Breakfast, fresh ground coffee. Beachside seafood BBQ, fresh made curry. Internet is also available for dining guests. The cafe has a 2Mbps internet connection, speed may vary though due to local conditions. From US$75-99.
The island has mobile telephone coverage by the major Indonesian networks (Telkomsel, XL, Indosat, Axis, poor coverage by 3), and there are a couple of public telephone offices.
The internet has improved a little on Gili Air in recent years, but is still usually painfully slow and very expensive at around Rp 24,000-30,000/hr). Mobile internet (especially with introduction of unlimited plans since 2009 in Indonesia) is a much better option, if you have your own laptop or a smartphone. GPRS/EDGE access seems to be quite slow on Gili Air, however, depending upon the operator used it may help to go to the eastern or western beach to try for a better connection.
- Gecko Cafe. 8AM-9PM. The best of a bunch of pretty poor internet options. Rp 30,000/hr.
- Hop over to Gili Meno for further seclusion and a real desert island experience.
- Back to Lombok and Mount Rinjani for one of the best climbs anywhere in Indonesia.
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