As part of my backpacking month in Indonesia I made the last minute decision to explore the Gili Islands to the east of Bali – mainly owing to a slight flat spell in the surf – but it’s something I’m heaps glad I did.

Having only a week to spare I opted to head to the most popular of the 3 islands – Gili T.


Island Paradise

Gili T is the largest of the 3 Gili Islands and from the moment I first saw it I knew it had been a welcome addition to my itinerary in Indonesia.

gili t island indonesia backpacking

Well Hello There Paradise!

As my fast boat from Bali (fast is a slight over statement as what should’ve been an all in 3 hour journey from Kuta to the port to Gili turned into a rather sweaty and stressful near 6 hour ordeal!) moored up on the island I was greeted with turquoise blue water lapping onto white sand beaches – from the off it looked like the perfect island paradise to recover from a chaotic few weeks in Bali!

Having visited quite a few islands across the globe (including the Galapagos, Phi Phi and the eastern Thai Islands) the vibe was welcoming and familiar.

It lacked the boozey party vibe of Thailand though which was a welcome pace, but instead had the air of a laid back, reggae playing dive island – with scuba diving being the main draw to this part of Indonesia.

As my bag was unceremoniously dumped onto the sand (no pier here!) and with no accommodation booked (which is very unlike me) I headed out to locate a suitable place to crash without smashing my budget clean out of the water.


backpacker accommodation gili t indonesia

Kicking Back After A Hard Day On The Beach!


It quickly became apparent that Gili T was going to work out more expensive than my time on Bali (Kuta is an insanely cheap place for a backpacker), which shouldn’t really have come as such a big surprise given the fact that island getaways always come with a price tag.

Even so Gili served up a good range of accommodation – from luxury resorts at 600k per person (£40) through to dorm rooms and home stays around the 220,000 mark for a twin room (£14).

In the end I found the rather nice Sunrise Bungalows just along the beach front – just a  short walk from the main backpacker part of the island and surrounded by ocean front restaurants, shops and dive resorts.

With free wifi, breakfast and the optional 50k upgrade to switch the air con on you can’t really go too wrong!

…and yes we opted to smash that air con on in the stifling Indo heat!


Things To Do

I hadn’t really planned much to do on Gili T and went in pretty blind – with only a dive or two as the things I wanted to achieve, and to be honest like every islands paradise it comes complete with a whole host of things to keep you busy, yet retain a nice relaxing bit of downtime – and it wasn’t hard to keep that pace of life to a minimum!

cycling about gili t island bali indonesia

Hiring A Bike Is A Great Way To Spend A Day

From hiring stand up paddle boards, snorkeling the many reefs (which are a mere stone throw from the shore) through to spear fishing, cycling round the island and relaxing in the beach front bars you can pick your poison.

And with so many people offering magic mushrooms and weed you can make your islands experience as colourful or mellow as you choose – if you’re that way inclined!

**I’d also like to point out now how illegal drugs in Indonesia are – so be wary if that’s the direction you want to take your holiday!**

It was refreshing to find that Gili T hasn’t been turned into a crazy binge drinking backpacker mecca like it’s Thai cousins – don’t get me wrong there are plenty of bars and live music to keep you going but it just feels like a much more mellow place – which was a welcome change.

For me it was lazy days on the beach, ice cold Bintangs and lazy cycle rides around the stunning yet small coastline (you can do a full loop in under an hour!) of the island which passed the time.

The main draw of the island is the diving though – and with a whole heap of dive school and dive sites to choose from you’re pretty spoilt for choice. So whether you want to simply get a taster of scuba diving, fun dive or go all out and complete a dive course or dive master program this is the hub of Indonesian diving.

One of my dive instructor buddies from my time on Phi Phi turned out to be working at Big Bubble Dive so that’s who I opted to go with (and I’ll put up a post on my experience next week) but there’s plenty of choice when it comes to dive schools there.

gili islands indonesia travel

Who Wouldn’t Want To Explore Here!?


Put It On Your To Do List!

gili t backpacker island indonesia bali

Ice Cold Beer By The Beach – Perfect!

Like every slice of remote tropical beauty I’ve explored Gili T had that instant WOW factor many backpackers are trying to find. The whole place is pretty postcard perfect.

For the travelling surfers out there it’s a welcome stopover between the surf islands of Bali and Lombok (although there is a reef break on the south that fires off occasionally) and for everyone else it’s a great place to relax, unwind and find some serious me time simply taking in the sites and slowing down the rather crazy pace of life on the road.

If you’re heading to Bali I highly recommend taking a good few days out of your schedule to hop on the boat and sample life on Gili T – and with a return transfer on being around £40 per person it’s hardly going to dent your funds that much.


Have you ever hit up Gili T or any of the islands? Anything you’d add to the to do list?


27 Responses

  1. Toni

    It’s definitely on my bucket list when I get back to that side of the world. Sadly I didn’t have time when I was there a couple of years ago but it’s on the ‘to do list’ for sure…for the diving and relaxation if nothing else :)
    Toni recently posted..The day my world stood still with enjoymentMy Profile

    • Chris

      yeah I didn’t manage to fit it in on my first trip to Bali last year (mainly due to being distracted by the surf!) but I stoked I managed to get round to it eventually – totally worth fitting into any Indo itinerary!

  2. Veronica

    Ah I wish I came here when I was travelling in looks gorgeous! I went to Nusa Lembongan next door which was the cutest island, stunning scenery and diving. I love your blog! Looks like you have a very adventurous life :).
    Veronica recently posted..Making Friends in NYCMy Profile

    • Chris

      it certainly is a great place to kick back and enjoy the slower pace of Indonesian life Veronica! Never made it to Nusa Lembongan myself, was going to dive there but got an ear infection :( still something to go back for hey!?
      Glad you like the blog!

  3. Putri Erdisa J

    Whoa what a cool experience you got there in Gili! You should come back to travel more of Indonesia, though. There’s still a lot of other amazing destinations in Indonesia like Derawan Island or Raja Ampat. You can check for updated information about traveling in Indonesia. Cheers!

    • Chris

      to be honest I get sucked into the surfing in Bali too much when I head to Indonesia – I really should make the effort to check out some new places!

  4. Adeline

    Fab pics! I’m planning to go to Gili Trawangan too in the near future. How was Big Bubble? I’ve heard good reviews about them but their website doesn’t give any pics!

    • Chris

      Hey Adeline, you’ll love the island – heaps good! Bib Bubble was awesome actually – they’re in the process of moving shops this year, hence the lack of pics – chuck me an email if you plan on diving there as I can get you a discount!

  5. Gita Listya A

    Wow those pictures look awesome! Thanks for writing about Gili Trawangan. This is such a great article :) Anyway, if you need more reference about Indonesia maybe you can also visit, I also read some informative articles there. I hope it could be useful for you too.

  6. Lisa

    Hi Chris

    I’m visiting Cambodia and Vietnam in May/June, then would like to end up in Indonesia for a week before I fly back to England, for some chilling/partying/sunbathing time. A bit of culture would be lovely if possible too!

    Looks like Gili T might be the place, but I need to choose carefully due to limited time!

    Just wondering how Gili T compares to Phi Phi (and Koh Chang if you’ve also been there?). Loved those places and to end up somewhere like that for my last week would be perfect.

    I really don’t want to end up anywhere like Kuta – I have heard it is full of Australian stag dos and ‘lads’. I like to meet people from all over the world and would prefer somewhere with a chilled backpacker vibe where I am made to feel welcome and can relax. I will be travelling alone so somewhere where there are backpackers who want to make friends would be ideal – are there cheap hostels in Gili T?

    Sorry for the slightly long query – your website is great and you seemed a good person to ask!

    • Chris

      Hey Lisa,
      Looks like a good trip you have planned there!
      Well I love Indo and Gili T is indeed a great place to visit, however for only a week it seems like a bit of a big detour, so maybe the Thai islands would be a better shout? Have you visited Koh Tao at all?
      Gili T is waaaaay more chilled than Phi Phi in my opinion, there’s still enough party but it’s definitely a slower pace of life. I think there’s only one hostel on the island – the rest are guest houses.
      I know you’re already hitting up Cambodia but have you checked out Koh Rong Island? I’d highly recommend that as it’s super chilled and beautiful.
      Let me know what you decide to do a nd if I can be of any other help!

      • Lisa

        Hey Chris, thanks for your reply.

        I think I’m gonna settle for Vietnam and Cambodia – like you said Gili T will be a big detour. Koh Rong looks amazing though, I can see myself wanting to stay and chill there for a while!

        May go back to a Thai island at the end as they wouldn’t be too much of a pain to get to – and yes love Koh Tao! Would either go back there or to Koh Chang.

        I think all I need to do now is decide where and when to go to Vietnam – the weather seems a bit crazy. Have you been to Vietnam? I think I will pick one or two places to explore but haven’t decided which yet. Probably Halong Bay then HCM City before I go to Sihanoukville.

        Also do you think Early June would be a good time for plenty of sunshine in Sihanoukville/Koh Rong?

      • Chris

        Yeah bit off the track hey?! Glad Koh Rong has taken your fancy though!

        Unfortunately I haven’t been to Vietnam myself so I can’t really help you on that. Hmmm June – not too sure on the weather, I always visited later in the year…

  7. Okki Setyana

    Gili is very interesting. Unfortunately I still have not had the chance to visit it. very interesting. I like the pictures you show. to my knowledge, Gili is one other alternative besides Bali exotic travel locations. and the natural environment Gili more natural and beautiful. probably because they do not yet have the level of hustle like Bali. information of interest. thanks for the post.

  8. Ankur

    Wonderful write up and amazing pictures.
    Best sunset of my life was on Gili Trawangan. No doubt i returned to Gili T after Rinjani trek, though not initially planned.
    You have a new follower :)

  9. Ruth

    Awesome article! I arrive in Bali airport tomorrow morning at 7.30am and was wondering if I’d be able to make it to Gili T on the same day? Where can I organise boat tickets etc?
    Also I’m an advanced diver so any advice for dive shops you can recommend for the best experience would be great.
    Last minute requests as always!!

    • Chris

      Hey Ruth, I hope you managed to get to Gili T ok? I’d suggest Big Bubble Diving for there, such a great team!

  10. James Dutreaux

    Hey man, different even know Gilli T existed til your post. Thanks so much for sharing it with us. My next kayaking adventure is going to be there spearfishing. Enjoyed reading….keep it up :)

  11. Kevin Murphy

    Wow, it looks amazing place to spend time and to visit there like no other i would like to share the moments with many people also wants to discover this beautiful island after me.


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