Gili Trawangan – Indonesia – Information


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OCTOBER - NOVEMBER 2022:

Beach Tour 59


OVERVIEW:

In my previous post (Gili Trawangan – Indonesia – Getting There) I talked about how to get to and find accommodation in Gili Trawangan (GiliT).

You can check out 12Go to have a look at ‘getting there’ options:

It is assumed that you plan to be here for 60 days … arriving with a standard 30 day Visa On Arrival (VOA), then extending your VOA by another 30 days. This gives you upto 60 days for your GiliT ‘experience’.

… now let’s talk about what it is like to ‘live’ here …


PLEASE NOTE:

The currency in Indonesia is the Rupiah (or the ‘IDR’). I will refer to them as IDRs. At the time of writing, the exchange rates were:

US$1EU€1GB£1
Published Wholesale Rate15,21814,87016,888
Effective (Actual) Exchange Rate14,96914,62816,612

You will NOT get these wholesale rates; expect to lose about 2% (see the ‘Money / ATMs‘ section, below). I lost an average of 1.65%.

Over time, these exchange rates will change. Please check the current rates


ABOUT:

Gili Trawangan (GiliT) is located off the north west coast of Lombok Island. Lombok Island is located immediately east of Bali Island.

GiliT is the largest of a group of 3 Gili Islands: Gili Trawangan (GiliT), Gili Meno (GiliM), and Gili Air (GiliA).

The Gili Islands are serviced by ferries from Bali (usually from Sanur or Padang Bai) as well as from the local ferry dock at Pelabuhan Bangsal (Bangsal) on Lombok Island.

GiliT is about 3 km long by 2 km wide and has about 800 inhabitants. This number is bolstered by 1,000s of tourists all year round.

GiliT used to be a Prison Island. Starting in the 1970s, GiliT was used as a ‘stopover’ for the Bugis people from Sulawesi who, later, settled here with people from Sasak and Bali.


TOURISM:

Out of the 3 Gili Islands, GiliT has the most diverse facilities for tourists and is known as the ‘Party Island’.

GiliT holds many all-night parties that rotate each night between (what tends to be) the same group of venues. They get pretty crowded.

Attractions

The most popular thing to do on GiliT is SCUBA, party, laze around the beaches, party, sunbathe, swim, and party 🙂

The Gili Islands are known to be one of the 6 cheapest places in the World to learn how to SCUBA dive (I learnt, myself, on GiliA about 7 years ago). GiliT attracts experienced SCUBA divers too. There are many Dive Shops to choose from. This means that many Dive Instructors are based here and GiliT has a big ‘dive culture’. You can snorkel almost anywhere and get a reasonable experience close to shore but the north-east beaches are said to be the best.

I have had nearly 100 dives in many locations around the World. I do not rate the Gili Islands very highly for SCUBA diving. Poor fishing practices in the past (use of dynamite) has destroyed a lot of the coral … but, if you want to learn to SCUBA on the cheap, there is nothing wrong in learning here.

Other attractions include Horse Riding, Kayaking, and Surfing.

You can travel between the Gili Islands and Bangsal using motorised boats and speedboats.

It is not a secret that there is ‘drug scene’ on the island … Magic Mushrooms seem to be widely available (and openly advertised).

Malacca Hill

Malacca Hill is the highest point on GiliT and is used as the ‘evacuation point’ in case GiliT gets hit by a tsunami. There are many ‘evacuation point’ signs around the island … all pointing to Malacca Hill. Let’s have a look:

If you want to have a nice walk, fine. If you are hoping for beautiful and scenic views over GiliT, forget it. But, I am told, that it can be nice up there for sun rise and / or sun set 🙂

Power

The power sockets in Indonesia are the same as in Europe. Bring a Travel Plug if you need to convert.

I always travel with a Universal Power strip that also has USB charging ports. I carry a set of plugs and just swap-out the plug on the end of this Power Strip according to the country I am in. In this way, with 1 plug swap, I get all of the power and USB ports that I need for all of my devices.

Unlike when I was in GiliA 7 years ago, power on GiliT is reliable and available 24 hours each day. There are very few ‘outages’.

Money / ATMs

You will find many Money Changers near the boat dock but watch out for the Money Changer Scam.

There are lots of ATMs on GiliT (even down the back streets) but they are not always working / reliable. If you know that you need money, start trying ATMs a day or 2 earlier than when you actually need the cash. Make sure that you check for the obvious scam devices.

PLEASE NOTE: ATMs inside banks in Bali only charge a Foreign Currency Conversion Fee of about 1.5%. The ATMs on GiliT add an ATM Fee and charge a total fee of 3% to 4%! The ATMs in the back streets tend to charge 4%. Those on the ‘main street’ near the boat dock charge 3%.

SUGGESTION: Stock up on cash in Bali before you come to GiliT.

Many places accept payment by Credit or Debit Card.

In general, you should not have a problem changing a IDR100k note.


THE BEACHES:

GiliT is a small island, you can bicycle around it in about 1 hour. Almost all of the coastline has beaches … some better than others. Almost everywhere you can find somewhere to eat, sit, and / or laze on a lounger.

Let’s have a look around the island at these beaches. We look at 3 areas (1) The North Coast (2) The West Coast (3) The East Coast:

The North Coast

The North Coast is quieter than the East Coast. It is ‘rustic’ and less developed than the rest of the island … there is a good reason why:

Generally speaking, the beaches are ‘poor’ with lots of broken coral which continues into the water. Once in the water, this broken coral quickly gets mixed with stones and rocks close to the shoreline.

You can find some decent spots for some beach time (some areas offering some shade under trees) … but, you will not get good wading / swimming unless you wear watershoes … even then, be careful.

The West Coast

The West Coast is busier than the North but is, also, still quieter than the East Coast:

The Western Beaches are better than those in the North. These beach areas are popular because you can see both the sun rise and the sun set.

Some of the beaches are quite wide. Most of the beaches still have a lot of broken coral which continues into the water. The wider the beach, the more likely you are to find a ‘sandy spot’ free from too much broken coral.

However, most Western beaches suffer from the same problem as those in the North: stones and rocks start very close to the shoreline. Again, you will probably not get good wading / swimming unless you wear watershoes.

The East Coast

The East Coast is the ‘busy’ side of the island. The town area is where you find the main ferry / boat dock. South of that dock is known as the ‘party area’. North of that dock is known as the ‘beach area’:

The beaches south of the dock are poor and you, probably, won’t want to beach here nor swim here. The beach area at the Ponte Surf School is OK (with some trees for shade) if you don’t want to swim.

For 150-200 metres south and north of the dock, boats anchor and the beaches are ‘poor’ … if you want beach time you, probably, want to avoid these areas completely.

The best beach area on the island is found in the 200-300 metres stretch between Mango Dive & Bungalow and the Turtle Beach Bar.

You get the best of all worlds:

  1. Lots of restaurants and bars with lots of seating choices;
  2. Sandy beaches (some areas with trees for shade);
  3. Less broken coral underfoot; and
  4. Rocks the furthest away from the shoreline.

For the best experience, I still advise you to bring watershoes.

Conclusion

All beaches suffer from broken coral which continues underfoot into the water. The difference between beaches is (1) width and (2) how soon it gets rocky close to the shoreline. When I talk about it getting ‘rocky close to the shoreline’, this is what I mean … this is what is hidden underwater (and, exposed at low tide):

Compare this to low tide in the ‘sweet spot’ between Mango Dive & Bungalow and the Turtle Beach Bar:

The broken coral is said to be the result of past poor fishing practices … where dynamite was used by local fishermen … they got lots of fish, but also blew up lots of coral reef.


WHERE TO STAY:

You can pretty much stay anywhere … all you need is a bicycle … let’s have a look around the island. We start with a tour of the back streets:

The back streets are where you tend to find the cheaper accommodation.


ACCOMMODATION OPTIONS:

PLEASE NOTE: I advise you to book into something reasonable for 2-3 nights in advance. Then, once here, walk around and negotiate direct monthly deals with the hotel(s) that you like. This can save you as much as 50% on the published rate. Most sites display prices INCLUSIVE of TAXES.

Please read the ‘Accommodation Options’ section in my previous post:

  1. For ‘Short Term’ accommodation, I suggest that you start with BOOKING.COM;
  2. For ‘Long Term’ accommodation, I suggest that you start on Facebook and join one of the Gili Trawangan Groups.

ACCOMMODATION SEARCH:

For ‘Short Term’ accommodation, have a look yourself:

An easy way to book your accommodation online


EAT & DRINK:

If you eat on the waterfront (especially around town centre), you will pay a ‘premium’.

Back Street Cheap Eats

For ‘cheap eats’, hit the back streets where you find many Warungs selling local food. If they have a display cabinet keeping the food warm, there could be a selection of 15 different dishes. Choose what main meat dish you want and they will top up your plate with whatever else you want such as veg and tofu. The whole meal should cost you about IDR20k / US$1.35.

Strangely, it is hard to find a Warung that serves whole fish but I did find one opposite the Lighthouse Bar that does a Fried Fish meal for IDR35k / US$2.35.

You don’t have to eat in a Warung to get a ‘cheap eat’. There are many restobars and hotels that will serve you something like a Nasi Goreng or Mi Goreng for IDR35k. Here are some example menus:

At 7pm a night market opens next to the boat dock. This targets the backpacker ‘cheap eats’ market. Prices can vary, so haggle (especially if you are buying whole fish to be cooked). Quality can vary too.

Please note: to get a reasonable Breakfast with tea / coffee for IDR25k you will, probably, be eating in a local Warung.

Waterfront

For IDR70k-80k you will find lots of options on the waterfront ranging from pizza to (very small … I’m talking 3x2x0.5 inch) fillets of snapper. Here are some examples:

Inland you get better value for money at that price.

Drinks

Indonesia is an Islamic country and alcohol is subject to a ‘sin tax’. This makes alcohol expensive compared to other S. E. Asian countries.

The usual cost of a Bintang Beer is IDR30k (small 330ml) and IDR50k (large 620ml).

However, you can get large Bintangs for as little as IDR40k off-the-beaten-path and in some ‘earthern’ tiki bars. Cocktails average IDR100k (IDR50k in Happy Hour).

In the back streets, if you are lucky, you may find 3 Cocktails for IDR100k.

Conclusion

You can get a local ‘cheap eat’ almost anywhere for IDR20k to IDR35k.

You can get a good meal in a nice atmosphere for IDR35k to IDR60k.

Pay more if you want to spoil yourself with a special atmosphere, special location, and / or eat in a waterfront beach restobar.


TRANSPORT:

Motorised vehicles (except for electric scooters) are not allowed on the island.

HORSE TAXI (CIDOMO):

You can go from one end of the island to the other in a Cidomo for under IDR100k; this is for the whole taxi (not per person).

Make sure that you negotiate the price BEFORE you start your journey. Expect to pay no more than IDR25k for short distances (especially if you have not just landed with luggage at the dock).

BICYCLE / SCOOTER RENTAL:

Accommodations in the centre of the island know that they are disadvantaged by their location. If they do not already offer Free Bicycles, ask. It shouldn’t be hard for you to get a Free Bicycle included before you agree to secure your booking.

Elsewhere, you will easily find people (including your hotel) renting bicycles for IDR35k / US$2.25 per day. Target half of this price if you are agreeing a monthly rate.

I advise you to get a bicycle with a basket for your own convenience. Make sure that you get a padlock too … if it gets stolen you will be paying (up to IDR4m) to replace it. Not all bicycles have lights, so I suggest that you each bring a torch.

Bali – GiliT

I paid IDR600k / US$40 each way for the ‘2.5 hour fast ferry’ between Bali and GiliT. This price included pick up from and drop off to my Bali hotel. It wasn’t that fast. In reality each way took 5 hours.

I suggest that you do it at less than half the price … you get more of an ‘experience’.

These cheaper options go small boat to Bagsal, shuttle bus to Mataram, shuttle connection to the Mataram Ferry Dock, slow ferry to Sanur, shuttle bus to your final destination. The vendors say that it is ‘5 hours’ … yeah right 🙂 Expect 8-10 :-).


INTERNET / WIFI:

FANDOM provide good information about Service Providers in Indonesia. Telkomsel has the widest coverage.

TELKOMSEL:

My Short Term GiliT accommodation advised me to buy Telkomsel.

I purchased a new Telkonsel SIMcard with a 1 month 11GB Data Only package at Bali Airport for IDR$250k. Data in Indonesia is categorised. That 11GB was broken down as follows: 1GB ‘anywhere’ data, 7GB ‘local’ data, and 3GB ‘social media’ data.

It is important that your ‘local’ data covers GiliT. If you buy your new SIMcard in Bali or Lombok, this will / should be true … if you buy elsewhere in Indonesia, this may NOT be true … and, you may find yourself only having 1GB of usable data.

I suggest that you download the Telkomsel App to your smartphone.

After you register on the App, you can go into ‘settings’ and change the language to English. The App gives you access to promotions and you can add money (using your Credit Card) to your account to buy top-ups. If you buy additional packages in a shop, you may pay double what you would pay for the same thing on the App (and you miss out on some excellent promotions).

As an example, a typical promotion is 18GB of (categorised) Data for 30 days for only IDR45k.

Some of these promotions are ‘one time’ only … but, you already bought a 30 day Data Plan when you landed in Bali … and, you are only in Indonesia for a maximum of 60 days … so, this type of additional 30 day promo is perfect.

PLEASE NOTE: Telkomsel only allow topups using Indonesian payment apps and methods. You cannot topup using your foreign Credit/Debit Card nor something like Paypal. No shops on GiliT topup Telkomsel. To topup, you will have to find a local who can ‘gift or transfer’ money from their phone to your phone number. I found someone who could transfer IDR50k to me … they charged me IDR60k.

I got a good signal all over GiliT. Most of the time it was 4G. In bad weather, you may lose your signal for an hour or two.


VOA EXTENSION:

It is possible to extend you VOA whilst on GiliT but you will need to take 2 trips to the Immigration Office in Mataram on Lombok Island.

GETTING TO MATARAM

Before we start, I suggest that you download the GOJEK APP from the app store (free) and set yourself up with an account. Gojek is the Indonesian ‘Grab’. Signing up is quick and easy. You can choose your preferred language at sign up. Gojek is cheaper than Grab in Indonesia.

Attire: You will need to wear long trousers (or skirt) and a long sleeve shirt. If you don’t, you will not be allowed into the Immigration Office.

Get on your (free) bicycle and get down to the GiliT Dock by about 6:50am so that you can catch the first ferry to Bangsal (catch this early ferry because the seas are calmer at this time in the morning). You board from the beach, so be prepared to get your feet wet up to your knees.

The trip direct from GiliT to Bangsal takes about 30 minutes and costs IDR20k each.

When you exit the boat in Bangsal, you have several choices to get to Mataram, but I suggest that you opt for:

  1. Rent a Motorbike: This is for the more ‘adventurous’. Exit Bangsal Dock on the main road to the left and walk about 50-100 metres. You will find several rental places. You should be able to rent a bike for the day for IDR100k (if you haggle). You will have to buy the petrol to cover your return trip to Mataram on top of that. Allow IDR45k.
  2. Gojek GoCar: Get on your Gojek App and order a car. The cost will vary depending on the car option that you choose. You should be able to get from Bangsal to the Mataram Immigration Office for under IDR125k.

The trip to Mataram takes about 30-40 minutes. We stopped along the way at a little roadside foodstall / Warung. We had a massive breakfast (3 people) for only IDR65k!

IMMIGRATION OFFICE

To complete your VOA Extension application you will need a photocopy of:

  1. The Photo Page of your Passport;
  2. Your current VOA as stamped in your Passport;
  3. Your Exit (Flight) Ticket for leaving Indonesia.

Please read my Getting There post about how to get this Exit Ticket. Immigration do not seem to care that this ticket will become invalid once you extend your visa. They just want to know that you have one. 

If you do not have these photocopies don’t panic. On the small road beside the Immigration buildings is a group of local shops. Go to the penultimate shop over the last foot bridge. They have a photocopier. They charge IDR1k per page. My Exit Flight was an e-ticket on my smartphone. We photocopied my smartphone screen and this was accepted by Immigration.

Enter the Immigration Office and go upstairs. When I was there, there were no queues and you could walk directly to the service desk.

  1. You will be given a Red Folder and you fill in your name and details on the front of that folder;
  2. You are also given 2 forms to fill in;
  3. Return to the Service Desk and hand in the red folder containing these 2 forms, the 3 photocopies, and your passport.

Wait 5-10 minutes and they will provide you with an invoice for the IDR500k renewal fee. They do not take payments at the Immigration Office … you will need to go to a bank. Exit the building and ask someone for directions to the nearest bank. The nearest ones are about 5 to 10 minutes walk away.

Give your invoice and IDR500k to the bank teller. She will process the payment and give you a receipt.

SUGGESTION: Take out any more cash you need for GiliT from the bank ATM (you will pay half the ATM fee that you pay on GiliT).

Return to Immigration and present your receipt. After another 5-10 minutes you will be called to get your photo taken. They will also take digital scans of your fingertips (all 10). You will be asked to digitally sign that the details you have provided are correct.

After another 5-10 minutes wait, you will be given a notice telling you when you can pick up your passport. Standard processing time is 5 days.

BACK TO GILI TRAWANGAN

Either jump on your motobike rental or call Gojek and return to Bangsal.

Direct boats to GiliT leave about every 30 minutes. Make sure that you buy a ticket at the booth. The ticket back to GiliT costs IDR20k but (foreigners) also have to pay a Port Tax of IDR2.5k.

They will not let you get on a boat if you don’t have a ticket. The colour of your ticket determines which boat you are on.

CONCLUSION

Allow 2 hours at the Immigration Office on your first visit. Allow 30 minutes on your second visit.

A return ticket for 2 people using Gojek costs: 2×20+2×125+2×22.5=IDR335k. You have to do this trip twice. If you add the cost of your VOAs, this totals IDR1,670,000 (about IDR835k each).

On the stated day, take the trip from GiliT to Mataram again to collect your passport.


HEALTH & SAFETY:

There are medical centres on the island.

There is almost no crime on the island. You see few policemen. You, probably, have more to worry about from fellow tourists than you do from the local islanders. The most common problem seems to be tourists ‘losing’ their phones … make sure that yours is always secure. Bicycles also get stolen now and again.

The locals are genuinely friendly… everywhere. It doesn’t matter where you stay or where you eat, you will always be greeted and treated well. And… unlike somewhere like Kuta, they do it because they are actually glad that you are on their island and not because they ‘have an angle’.

Yes, they want you to spend your money in their resort, restaurant, or bar. As you walk down the path they will try to tempt you in but it is far from the type of harassment that you get in places like Kuta. It is short, polite and not an annoyance.

A simple smile and ‘no thank you’ is all that is needed. It works even better if you say it in their language ‘tidak terima kasih’.


WHEN TO GO

The climate in GiliT is best described as a tropical monsoon climate. The island is 8 degrees south of the equator and, therefore, it has no extreme seasonal differences.

GiliT only has a dry and wet season with heavy rainfall from November to March and moderate to little rainfall from April to October.


The Gili Islands have less rainfall compared to Bali. But the rainy season is noticeable. From mid-October there is a change in the weather, November is (on average) the wettest and most uncomfortable month.

In recent years, however, there has been heavy precipitation during the dry season as well as several weeks without serious precipitation during the actual rainy season. The inhabitants therefore like to speak of the ‘weather diva’, who has become somewhat moody.

Despite these irregularities, the classic dry season offers the best conditions for a pleasant trip. It is still possible to have fun in the rain. But, beware, visibility during snorkeling and diving is limited in the rainy season.

May through September is ‘peak’ season because it is the driest with less humidity … but prices rise sharply. April and October are ‘shoulder’ season and GiliT gets cheaper. November through March is ‘low’ season and the cheapest time to come.

We are here from early October to the end of November … we are taking a ‘chance’ with the rainy season … let’s hope that the ‘weather diva’ is in a good mood 🙂


GENERAL COSTS:

Here is an idea of general costs in a Minimart (keep away from the ones next to the boat dock):

  • 1.5L bottle of water IDR12k;
  • 180gm pack of crisps UDR25k;
  • 620ml bottle of Bintang beer IDR40k.

How about an All Night Party (expect a lot of participants to be on Magic Mushrooms)?

How about a Spa?

How about a 4 hour (public with up to 30 other people) snorkeling trip?

How about a IDR65k Shisha?


GRANDPAcking COSTS:

Read About – GRANDPAcking Costs if you don’t know how to interpret my figures.

SPREADSHEET SUMMARY:

MY COSTS:

I will publish my actual costs in my next post after I’ve been able to review restaurants, bars, and day trips … watch this space:-)

COSTS FOR 2 GRANDPAckers:

GENERAL:

EFFECTIVE EXCHANGE RATE: You should be able to keep your cost of money below 1.65%.

Costs are broken down into Cost Of Existence (COE) and Cost Of Living (COL):

  • COE: The basic costs of just being there;
  • COL: The additional costs that make being there fun.
COST OF EXISTENCE (COE):

ACCOMMODATION:

  • Inbound: 2 nights at IDR225k / US$15 per night (excluding breakfast) in either Sanur or Kuta, Bali: so that you have time to organise your transport to GiliT;
  • Outbound: 2 nights at IDR225k / US$15 per night (excluding breakfast) in either Sanur or Kuta, Bali: so that you have time to safely catch your flight out of Indonesia;
  • Short Term: 2 nights at IDR150k / US$10 per night (including breakfast) for when you first arrive in GiliT: so that you have time to look around;
  • Long Term: IDR125k / US$8.50 per night including free bicycles (but excluding breakfast) for your 1 Month (30 days) plus 3 Week (21 days) Long Term accommodation OR IDR175k / US$12 per night if Breakfasts are included.
    • Please note: if you can get Long Term accommodation that offers a decent Breakfast (other than just eggs ‘any stye’ with a slice of toast and tea / coffee) for an additional IDR25k each per day, I suggest that you seriously consider taking it (see the ‘Food & Beverages’ section, above).

FOOD & BEVERAGES:

An average of IDR290k / US$19 per day for 2 people. This is to eat all of your meals in ‘budget’ Restaurants.

COMMUNICATIONS / VISA / INSURANCE:

  • One new IDR250k SIM Card with an 11GB Data Package (1 month) followed by a IDR35k 9GB Data Package (1 month) for a total of IDR$285k / US$19;
  • IDR500k each for your initial 30 day VOA plus $900k each for your VOA extensions; a total of IDR1.4m / US$93 each;
  • IDR1.4m / US$93 each for Backpacker Level Travel Insurance (calculated as 60 days of your annual rate).

TRANSPORTATION:

  • IDR35k / US$2.50 each for two bicycle rentals for 1 day: so that you can search for your Long Term accommodation in GiliT;
  •  IDR500k each for your return shuttle / ferry tickets from your Bali Hotel to GiliT plus 2x $100k for your return Cidomo from the GiliT dock to your GiliT hotel; a total of ISR600k / US$40 each.

Your COE is about IDR546k / US$37 per day. This is 68% of your daily budget.

COST OF LIVING (COL):

This leaves you about IDR260k / US$17 per day to LIVE on. This doesn’t leave much to spend on activities. If you are ‘big’ alcohol drinkers, this might be a problem … you will pay for your sins 🙂 … but, you can easily make up some of the difference by eating more cheaply.


CONCLUSION:

Come at this time of year if you don’t mind a few rainy days. Another idea is to come early April as the rainy season is coming to an end … you may still be able to negotiate these good accommodation prices whilst hotel owners still want to fill up their rooms as they wait for ‘peak season’.

The interior is not exactly ‘picturesque’ but it is ‘authentic’.

There are many options in GiliT but most revolve around ‘beach life’.

Many GRANDPAckers will enjoy GiliT.


RETIREMENT:

Could you afford to retire here on a GRANDPAcking budget? YES. Would you want to? YES.

TTFN


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