There’s a reason why Gili Trawangan is becoming an increasingly popular stop on Indonesia travel itineraries – the island is incredible. From its postcard-perfect beaches to its amazingly chilled-out vibe to its unreal sunsets, Gili T is an ideal place to wile the days away. Trust me, I’ve done so on more than one occasion.
Gili Trawangan belongs to a cluster of three tiny islands that radiate off the coast of Lombok, Indonesia. While you can stay on all three islands, Gili T remains the most developed and is by far the most popular choice for travelers.
Gili Trawangan has gained a reputation as a “party island,” but in my experience it’s a great option for travelers of all types. Families, backpackers, honeymooners and everything in between can be found on Gili T.
I’ve now visited Gili Trawangan twice: once in 2014 and again in the summer of 2016. During both visits I only intended to stay a couple of days, but both times I extended my time to two weeks. Whether you’re looking to party or just relax, the Gilis really do have a way of sucking you in.
At this point I’ve been able to get to know the island pretty well. If you’re considering adding Gili Trawangan to your travel itinerary, here are a few helpful hints to help you make the most out of your trip.
Head to Sunset Point for the unbelievable sunsets
The sunsets on Gili Trawangan are out of this world. It’s no wonder why every tourist and local on the island flocks to the western side of the island to watch the sun sink behind Gunung Agung (a massive volcano on Bali) every evening. And don’t even get me started on how beautiful it is to watch the colors reflect off of the island’s shallow waters. As you can see, it’s unbelievable.
During my last trip to Gili T I made a point to walk to Gili Trawangan’s Sunset Point every evening just to watch the show. Seriously, grab a Bintang and enjoy.
Get an Indonesian SIM card before getting to the Gilis
Again, Gili T is a bit remote which means that wifi is not going to be reliable on the island. Some hotels, hostels and restaurants do have decent connections but the internet will likely cut out throughout the day. And power outages are very normal here. Because I was working during my last trip to Gili T, I needed to have reliable internet. I bought a Telkomsel SIM card in Bali before I caught my fast boat to the Gilis. I was able to use it as a hotspot so I could work from my laptop basically anywhere on the island. And it really wasn’t all that expensive.
I was told this would be the most reliable provider on the Gilis because there is a Telkomsel cell tower on mainland Lombok. The connection was surprisingly good (if a bit slow). So it might be worth considering if you have business to conduct during your trip.
Be respectful of the culture
Unlike Bali, the Gili Islands and the rest of Lombok are predominately Muslim. There are two mosques on the island and you will see plenty of women (both tourists and locals) in headscarves. While the people on Gili T are no strangers to foreigners and their antics, it’s still important to be respectful.
Don’t worry ladies, it is fully acceptable to lounge on the beach wearing a bikini, but you might want to throw on some clothes while walking around the island and hanging out in bars and restaurants.
Mind the mosques
Again, the Gili Islands are Muslim and there are two mosques (masjid) on Gili Trawangan. You will hear the call to prayer five times a day, from sunrise to sunset. Because I used to live in Indonesia the sound brings back fond memories for me. But it can be loud! Trust me when I say the sound won’t be so soothing if your hotel is located right next to the mosque.
Before booking your hotel you might want to read over some reviews to make sure your hotel isn’t too close to the island’s mosques or else you will be jarred awake at 5:30am every morning.
Opt to walk instead of being carted around by horses
Because motorized vehicles are not allowed on the Gili Islands, horse and buggies (and bikes) are the primary mode of transportation. Not only are they used to cart goods around the island but they are used to take travelers to and from their hotels. From my experience the horses are overheated, overworked and underfed. Whenever I see them, I always feel really badly for them.
Every traveler gets to make her or his own decision. But I personally always opt to walk around the island – and even search on foot for a hotel with my heavy backpack – instead of using the horses. The island honestly isn’t that big and most hotels are clustered around the port, so you probably don’t really need a ride to your hotel anyway. Just something to think about.
Bring extra cash in case the ATMs don’t work
There are now a few ATMs on the main drag of Gili Trawangan. But this is a tiny and fairly remote island so don’t be surprised if the ATMs run out of cash or stop working. It happened during my last visit and I encountered some pretty frustrated travelers. I even had to spot my friend some money so he could buy a ferry ticket back to Bali because he literally couldn’t access money. It’s best to at least bring a little backup cash with you from Bali, just in case.
Book one night at a hotel and scout hotels in person
There are a surprising amount of hotels on Gili Trawangan, but many aren’t actually listed online. If you’re going to visit Gili Trawangan during peak season you should definitely book a place in advance. But if you’re visiting Gili Trawangan you’re going to find way better deals and value if you just find a place yourself.
I always book one night using Agoda. And then I just make a point to check out places in person the next day. The value of accommodation on Gili Trawangan varies wildly and some locations are really loud, so seeing places in person is key. Also, there are more and more hotels being built on the interior of the island that seem like excellent options. It’s not only quieter out there but it’s cheaper.
There is a wide range of dining options
For such a tiny island there’s a surprising amount of places to eat on Gili Trawangan. Options range from local Indonesian food to international comfort foods. And the best part is you can eat well on any budget. Almost every tourist heads to Gili Trawangan’s Night Market (located on the main drag, near the port) for dinner each night. As a vegetarian and budget traveler I always eat well here.
But what a lot of travelers don’t realize is that there are tons of local warungs (restaurants) scattered around the island. If you veer off the main drag and head to the island’s interior you’ll see tons of little restaurants serving up Indonesian staples like nasi goreng, gado-gado, nasi campur, gorengan and more.
There are also plenty of international options on Gili Trawangan, including surprisingly good Mexican food, wood-fired pizzas and more. You will not go hungry on Gili T.
Try your best to reduce your waste
Trash is an issue on Gili Trawangan. Again, it’s a tiny island so there’s no great way for locals to properly dispose of all the trash tourists produce. I always attempt to try and at least reduce the amount of plastic and trash I produce. I always travel with a reusable shopping bag and water bottle. I usually buy the largest water bottle I can find and just refill my reusable water bottle using that. On Gili Trawangan there are numerous restaurants and hotels that will allow you to refill your small and large water bottles for a small fee. I refilled mine at Le Petit Gili (located at the Night Market). I also never buy small bottles of water. Not only are they more expensive, but the amount of waste they produce is disturbing.
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Have you been to Gili Trawangan? If you have any questions or travel tips please feel free to leave them in the comments below!