Flashpacker’s guide to the Gili islands
THE GILI ISLANDS WERE MADE FOR THE FLASHPACKER. You know, the sort of traveller who’s on the road for three to six months at a time, doesn’t leave home without a camera, laptop and iPod and prefers upmarket digs with hot water showers and air con. The traveller who’s said goodbye to sleeping in dorms and impossible shoestring budgets.
Travelling in style, on a budget is what the Gili islands and Bali are all about. Easy on the pocket and big on traveller satisfaction.
Where else can you retreat to a tropical island paradise, where white sand beaches are pristine, and waters are shallow and crystal clear, and the sun shines all year round? And yes, all yours for a small fortune.. It’s an island escape that’s fit for a king, on a commoner’s wage. This is our fashionable guide to living in paradise, for the flashpacker on a reasonable budget (who won’t compromise on comfort, or skimp on experience).
Getting to the Gili islands for US$1
Getting to the Gilis from Bali is going to cost you IDR900.000 for a return trip via Padang Bai or IDR450.000 from Amed. If you’ve already done the Bali thing, then why not land in Lombok? The public boat costs less than US$1, it takes about 20 – 30 minutes to get to the islands. For that price, we’re not complaining.
Besides, it’s a great way to snap tons of photos and mingle with the locals. But pick a good day for it, when the ocean is as flat as a pancake. Otherwise, you might be in for a very bumpy ride. And that’s not flash at all.
Find out more about Getting to the Gilis from Lombok.
Accommodation in the Gili islands
Accommodation in the Gili islands, similarly to Bali, changes drastically within the US$10 – $30 price range. At the lowest end, you get very basic island dormitory accommodation. We don’t want that.
US$20 will get you a shabby room (without the mod cons of course), then in the US$30 bracket you’ll find clean bungalows located close to the beach. If you’re sharing with at least one other person, then you’ll start getting into more modern beach bungalows, with air con and fresh water showers for around US$60 per night.
Where do you find these accommodation gems? We’ve done the leg work for you. Check out these 8 AirBnB Gili island stays under $75
Eat and drink well
If you alternate between eating local, beach snacks like Indonesian style corn on the cob, and one café or restaurant meal, you’ll be able to eat pretty well for US$10-15 a day on the Gili islands.
When it comes to happy hour specials and the promise of free drinks for ladies on Thursday, ask a few questions.
“Did you say Arak Attack?” I’ll pass, thanks.
Stick to Bintangs. They’re cheap enough, and safe to drink.
Pamper yourself on the Gili islands
A massage, manicure or hair cream bath has got to be on any flashpacker’s itinerary. Especially in the Gili islands where these wonderful indulgences cost as little as US$10 a pop. Why stop at one massage? Have two. In a spa or right on the beach. Whatever you prefer.
The best things in the Gilis, are free
There are more than 25 things to do in the Gilis, but the best things, as the saying goes, are free. Watch the sunrise over the Lombok straight while lingering over a second cup of coffee. Read a book in the shade, cooling off periodically in the inviting waters. Walk around the island in the late afternoon, perhaps stopping to admire the sunset in the company of an icy Bintang.
The thing about being in the Gilis is that you’ll want to do as little as possible, and quite simply bask in ultimate paradise.
A few more tips
Travel super light. There’s no motorised transport in the Gilis, and fast boats drop passengers (and heavy suitcases) off on the beach.
Don’t swim between the islands. The currents are strong, and the islands are further apart than they seem.
Stick to Bintangs. Going home with methanol poisoning from Arak is not flash.
Keep your kit on. Sunbathing topless is a distinct no-no.
The Gili islands are a muslim territory. If you’re wandering around the village, your micro-mini cut-out tunic isn’t the most appropriate attire. Cover up with a sarong.