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Gili Air on a Budget: Planning Your Visit

In Beaches, City Guides, Indonesia by Erik Van GilsonLeave a Comment

Find out why we chose to stay on Gili Air – with prices, photos & info on accommodation, food, drink, transport & diving on this Bali island paradise.

Looking for a vacation from traveling with easy access, amenities galore, and no motorbikes racing past? Then check out Gili Air on the Gili Islands, Indonesia – our favourite over here at DIY Travel HQ.

* Don’t forget to purchase travel insurance before any trip to Indonesia. We’ve been using World Nomads for over 10 years. It’s the best-value provider we’ve found but there are other important things to consider. Check out our post and find out which of our claims were successful or denied.

Gili is a collection of three vehicle-free satellite islands just off shore from Lombok:

  • The largest and farthest from mainland Lombok is Gili Trawangan and the social hub for the chain
  • Gili Meno is sandwiched in the middle and is the smallest and calmest island
  • Closest to Lombok is Gili Air, the “porridge is just right” island

Bali & Lombok Itinerary

Bali or Lombok? Beaches, islands, volcanoes, temples & rice terraces… with so much to see & do, find out the top 5 places to visit in the ultimate Indonesian itinerary!

Read more
Slow Boat Gili Air Lombok

Arriving of Gili Air by slow boat, the goat made it too!

Gili Air is the only island with natural springs, and for this reason has the only local inhabitants mingled into the island’s fabric.

This being said, hotels and restaurants close to the water may still have salty water so remember to check before agreeing to stay somewhere.

The combination of locals, a more intimate atmosphere while maintaining amenities, and cheaper prices makes Gili Air a winner among the three islands!

We also recommend Lonely Planet’s Indonesia Travel Guide to help you plan your trip.

Main Street Gili Air Lombok

The main strip of Gili Air

Local Food Gili Air Lombok

Local food at one end of the island

Coffee Shop Gili Air Lombok

Hip coffee shops amongst local stalls on the main street

Things to See & Do on Gili Air

  • Diving

The main reason to come to the Gili Islands is they are a chill diving getaway.

The calm waters, plethora of dive shops, and relatively easy access from Bali makes Gili a popular place to try diving or take a course.

Due to damage from warm currents and cyclones, coral is average for open water divers and starts getting better at 18+ meters.

Check out Learn to Dive on Gili Air for more information on Gili Air dive shops.

Dive shop pool

Dive shop pool

  • Snorkeling & Beaches

For non-divers other activities include walk-in snorkeling, sunbathing, strolling around the island, or sampling food from “the strip”.

Many of these activities revolve around Chillout Café. The most popular beach and snorkeling spot can be found out front.

Beach Gili Air Lombok

Inviting waters infront of Chillout Cafe

The sandy, gently graded shoreline is a great place to play in the shallows or launch into snorkeling without fear of stepping on coral.

High tide is required at other locations. You can spot several clusters of coral, tropical fish, and mantis shrimp make an occasional appearance.

Tour options: Snorkeling Trip from Lombok

Schools of Fish at Gili Air

Schools of fish

Puffer fish with coral

Puffer fish with coral

Mantis shrimp

Mantis shrimp

  • Enjoying Island Life

A stroll around the island takes about two hours on foot, and best attempted in the cooler morning. It is possible to rent bicycles with oversized tires meant to tackle deep sand, but everyone still ended up walking alongside the bikes.

On your tour of Gili Air, expect to find several strips of restaurants and accommodation parallel to the sea, sand bars at low tide in the north, cute horse drawn carts with car tires, and an odd field with grazing livestock.

Local Street Gili Air Lombok

Local life is just a street away from the main strip

Gili's version of Uber

Gili’s version of Uber

Local livestock

Local livestock

Accomodation on Gili Air

There is a wide range of accommodation options from dive resorts down to locals that slapped together a few bungalows to cash in on the Gili Islands popularity.

Despite a backpacker scene years ago, most accommodation is upgrading to air conditioning and driving the prices up accordingly.

Budget (fan) bungalows tend to average 200,000 IDR / $15.00 with some offering multiple night discounts:

Alka Cottages Gili Air Lombok

We stayed at Alka Cottages for 180,000 IDR per night

Alka Cottages Gili Air Lombok

A simple fan room just a few rows back from the main strip

For those staying several days, it is a savvy idea to purchase your own large water container even if you don’t drink it all.

Cheaper places tend to have bore water, which contains heavy minerals. This means you cannot rinse waterproof camera cases, or lather well. Signs of bore water include metal faucets that appear rusted with white warts, one of several signs of decay you may come across on the island:

Rubbish Gili Air Lombok

Rubbish gets taken over to Lombok by boat everyday

Eating & Drinking on Gili Air

The majority of the action takes place on the southeast coast of Gili Air. The dive shops, accommodation, and restaurants are all located in a short strip. This makes comparison shopping convenient, and allows the opportunity to hop from place to place.

Keep in mind that you are on island time so even the simplest order can take more than 30 minutes to receive, even if you are the only customers.

The best value on the island goes to Chillout Café for their 200 gram fish bbq with two sides at 55,000 IDR / $4.00:

Chillout Cafe Gili Air Lombo

Delicious meal of mahi-mahi, salad & chips for 55,000 IDR

Chillout Cafe Gili Air Lombo

Seafront dining – budget dinners don’t get any better than this! At Chillout Cafe, you can sit on cheshire, on a raise platform facing the sea or in the restaurant proper

The best place to reconnect with the outside world over drinks/juice is Munchies Cafe as they had the most reliable Wi-Fi.

Munchies Cafe Gili Air Lombok

Enjoy pizza, spring rolls & juice with a view at Munchies Cafe, for a total of 75,000 IDR

Getting To & From the Gili Islands

Most visitors to the Gili Islands will be arriving from Bali, and either returning or moving on to Senaru to conquer Mount Rinjani.

Visit Getting to the Gili Islands for detailed information so you can plan your trip.

You can also purchase fast boat tickets here.

Our favourite Bali island is Nusa Lembongan – check out our comparison guide Gili Islands vs Nusa Islands & let us know if you agree.

Gili Air Sunset Over Bali

Don’t miss sunset over on the north coast, overlooking Bali & Mount Agung in the distance

Did you enjoy reading our guide to Gili Air on a Budget?!

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Boat in the water on Gili Air


*** The Final Word: Gili Islands are overrated but not a bad place to spend a few days ***

Which Gili Island did you choose to visit & why?

5 Shovels

Super easy DIY travel around city centres

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Visited in September 2015


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