Introducing and Budgeting Gili Trawangan

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Just over the tree tops and thatched rooftops of the bungalows in front of our hostel dorm room we could see the palette of colors swirling together for the night’s sun set, growing stronger as the minutes ticked away.

Evening was starting to settle on the small island of Gili Trawangan, and as the sun started to set, the call to prayer started to sound.

“I think I know this one,” my friend Zoe joked as we sat in our hostel dorm room chatting and relaxing after a long day in the sun.

The five times daily call to prayer molded the structure to our days on Gili T, marking the rise and fall of each one as we spent our time scuba diving, swimming in pristine turquoise waters, riding bikes around the island, relaxing on sugar white sand beaches or nursing hangovers with afternoon films in Gili Hostel.

Gili Trawangan, or Gili T as many come to call it, is one of the three Gili islands nestled in the collection of islands that is Nusa Tenggara. The biggest of the three islands, Gili T is deemed the party island despite the Islamic population in the village that calls this island home.



Gili T was touristic, flooded with backpackers and Westernized to an extreme. As such, a couple of my traveling friends suggested that I hit up the other two islands, Gili Meno and Gili Air, to set myself apart from the madness.

My main goal for Gili T was not the party. As I mentioned before, I already spent ten months traveling around Southeast Asia, the first three of which were spent constantly shaking off the night the before as we would motivate ourselves to set out exploring in the heat day in and day out.

Yet as a solo traveler – especially one who felt like there was a lot of confusion and thoughts getting muddied up in her brain – I wanted to meet people. I wanted to laugh and have fun.


I was also set to meet Lydia, my flatmate and one of my best friends from Australia, on Gili T as our paths crossed in Indonesia for just a couple of days. I had arrived in Bali and stayed in Kuta, a place that I immediately wanted to run as far away from, and so I hoped on a bus and headed to Padang Bai, the port to catch the boats to the Gili Islands.

Getting There

I negotiated a price with an agent in Kuta for a 350,000 Rupiah (35 USD) return ticket with an open return date that included a bus ride from Kuta to the port town of Padang Bai, where I would catch the ferry over to Gili T.

When the time came to leave Gili T, my ticket included a ferry ride back over to Padang Bai and a bus ride back to my accommodation in Kuta.

After talking with other travelers on the same trip, I found out that my ticket was a pretty cheap deal and I did some good negotiating – though I probably should have just done one way. I was able to sell my ticket to my friend because he had yet to buy his ticket back to Bali, and I was not returning to Bali from Gili T.

The trip from Kuta to Gili T was about six hours total, from being pick up at my hostel at around 7 a.m. until finally arriving on Gili T at around 1 p.m.

Getting around Gili T is easy as since there are no cars or motorbikes. Travel relies on renting out push bikes, getting a ride with a horse and cart or good old fashioned walking.




There is plenty of accommodation throughout Gili T that suits a variety of price ranges and is situated all over the island. There is a heap of construction going on all over the island, so I expect it will change in years to come.

The east side of the island, which faces Lombok and gets spectacular sunrises over the treacherous Mount Rinjani calling your name from across the sea, is where most everything is at – hostels, restaurants, cafes, dive shops, supermarkets, 3 ATM’s and the like.

In terms of accommodation, if it is a bungalow you are after, expect to pay anywhere from 250,000 for a bungalow with a fan and its own bathroom anywhere along the main strip facing the beach; for a bungalow with air-con, prices start at around 300,000 and go upwards from there.

Accommodation is also located down the alleys and back closer to the village in the center of the island. The further into the island you go – as long as the further down along the strip you go – the cheaper the accommodation gets. Private bungalows can be around 100,000 or more depending on the type of bungalow (air-con or fan), whether the site has a pool and other little odds and ends necessities.

Woodstock Bungalows was recommended to me, as was a place called Banana Leaf, both of which were decently cheap enough but a little too far from the beach and civilization for this city girl. If there is one thing I will pay more for, it is to feel like I am in the heart of the action.

Instead I stayed at Gili Hostel, which started to feel like home because the hostel is awesome and has an incredible staff, and because I met an amazing group of people. Beds go for 140,000 in a seven-bed dorm with air-con, its own shower and toilets, and breakfast is included in the price. It was definitely expensive, but sometimes you pay more for the atmosphere and the comfort that a place can bring you more than anything else. Additionally my friends mostly stayed here, so there was hardly any reason to search elsewhere.


The rooms at Gili Hostel were enormous, but again, the powerpoint situation was not always ideal. Luckily I picked a bed right next to one so I did not have to worry during my two weeks there. If you stay there come June, you will be able to enjoy the beach-side pool that is almost finished construction.


Another popular hostel on the island is Gili Backpackers, where beds go for 130,000 in a six-bed dorm that includes breakfast in its price. The rooms are much, much smaller – the hostel over all is much smaller – but it seems to have a good vibe and be a good alternative for when Gili Hostel is full and you are on your own traveling. (My friend did mention she got bed bugs staying here.)

There are cheaper dorm rooms in places like Jessica’s Home Stay or Aquadiction Dive Dorms that go from 80,000 to 100,000, but I found the rooms to be dark and cramped with steep steps that I was certain I would break my neck walking down at night.

It is totally possible to get away from all the noise and craziness as you go around the island so that you can feel like you are at a totally different place than what you would find along the main strip. Beautiful and luxurious bungalows, quiet afternoons and still nights, the simplicity of being isolated and feeling like the beach in front of you is all yours.

NOTE: The island is forever experiencing a power outage, so know that your “air-con room with free wifi” will only really be an air-con room with free wifi about 10 percent of the time.


There are an endless number of things to do on Gili T, but scuba diving sits at the top of the list. The waters sparkle under the sun, and I have never seen a map so inundated with dive spots – all of which go across the three Gili Islands. Stay tuned for a scuba-focsed post where I will dive into all you need to know about diving in the Gilis.



If scuba diving is not your thing, then you can head out for some snorkelling. Some scuba schools let you jump on the boat and bring you to some of their dive spots where you can snorkel free of any costs (this maybe only if you dive you with them, but I am not sure). You can hire snorkel gear out all over the island, and you can also take a snorkelling day trip in a “glass-bottom boat” (re: a cottage-sized window in the floor) that will take you snorkelling around the three islands, with the chance to hop off and relax on the islands as well.


Hiring out bikes is another popular thing to do, and the cost can start at around 40,000 per day. Typically it is around 50,000, but I haggled well. You can ride bikes around the island, but be warned: At the time of writing, it was best to go in the middle of the day around 3 p.m. when the temperature seemed to drop dramatically. The island does not have a paved path all the way around, so at times you will have to get off and walk your bike through the thick sand for what feels like hours on end. This is obviously not ideal in the heat.



You can also hire a bike just for sunset, which should cost you no more than 25,000 for about two hours. Sunset Bar is a popular place for many to head, but I found that if you head way past it, past Exile Bar to right where the pavement ends and the sand starts, you get a front row seat on a fairly deserted beach.



Last but not least, another popular activity is paddle boarding. Friends of mine rented out boards for around 100,000 for one hour and spilt the cost between them, each getting a half hour out on the water. Some days the current was really strong, and paddle boarding would have been a good challenge, and other days it was flat enough where people paddled their way out into the waters, took some sun or tried doing things like headstands and handstands to no success.


I ate a fair amount of the local food, getting my breakfast for free at my hostel and always being excited when it was banana pancakes and not an omelette. For lunch, I would often get a rice cone for 10,000 that had inside it rice, chicken and some spicy sauce that you would mix all together and would taste wonderful. My friends and I occasionally went to Gili Viking for a lunchtime meal, which would cost around 30,000 for some local Indonesian food like fried noodles and around 40,000 or more for some Western food.

My pre-sunset snack was always corn, and it was the best thing on this entire planet. Two men stood outside our hostel every day and cooked cobs of corn over a small grill on their cart, and every day I would get it doused with some spicy sauce and salt, and my lips would go numb. I loved it, and it cost 15,000 – expensive for a piece of corn but it is the best 15,000 I ever spent.

The night market was always a good place to hit up for dinner when you are traveling in a group. Everyone can pick what they want form the different food carts and reconvene at a table together, and meals here I found cost me no more than 30,000 – including my dessert. You got a decent amount of food – from chicken to spring rolls to vegetables to local Indonesian dishes – forĀ  incredibly cheap.





Gili T is known as the party island, but it works on a funny system.

Every other night is a big night out on Gili T, which my hostel owner said is usually to respect the locals and keep the island from sounding like a boom box every night. Like university, each night is also a particular bar or place, and since I rarely actually knew what day of the week it was (for travelers every day is Saturday), I can not remember which night was which bar. Whoops.

But some of the popular places were Sama Sama, where you could go and listen to some live reggae music (and be caught in the hottest moshpit of sweaty bodies known to man), Sunset Beach Bar to finish off nights and walk home as the sun rises; the Irish Bar, which we had an absolute blast in dancing until 3 a.m. one night; and Jiggy Jigs (or something or other), for the island’s cheapest drinks


There are also two different companies that run boat parties on the island, one of which is the original boat and one of which is a massive yacht in the backpacker budget. We went for the latter, with girls paying around 175,000 and guys paying about double that. The boat party was an epic afternoon spent cruising around the Gili Islands in the sun.

You will be introduced to vodka joss shots on the island, which for the Americans who read this sort of tastes and crackles like the fun dip we used to eat when we were kids. They are pretty cheap and commonly done in the last few minutes before happy hour is over at Gili Hostel.


This is actually painful and made research for some articles so disgustingly slow. Head to Flash Internet, owned by a guy named Eddie who is my saving grace on Gili T (he is a local guy who is my favorite in all of my travels), for 300 rupiah per minute to use the internet. Other places charge around 400.

The internet is practically non-existent, though, and the constant power outages make it impossible to get things done when you actually have things to do.


Life on Gili T can be pretty cheap, and I would say that I managed to live on about 250,000 to 300,000 per day – excluding my scuba diving. This was simply talking accommodation, food, any money spent on internet and partying, which I did not do much of because I do not like feeling hungover in the heat, and I was doing one dive every day in my last week on the island.

To live simply, budget anywhere from a little more than 2 million RP – about 300 dollars – per week. Again, this is eating local food, finding cheap accommodation, doing activities sparingly (so not every day) and going out for beers. You could definitely live off less, but I think a lot of people come here for the party and spend a good chunk of their money on nights out.

For a more comfortable lifestyle, you can live off more than that if you wish, spending about double that if you are staying in fancier accommodation, eating out at restaurants and doing all the activities that are offered.



Category: Asia, Indonesia

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