The Gili islands are three small little bits of paradise off the cost of Lombok, an island in Indonesia, close to Bali.
There’s Gili Trawangan, known as the party island and more of a backpacker’s place, Gili Meno, the really chilled almost honeymoon, nothing-ever-happens island, and Gili Air, the in between one, chilled but with a few restaurants and bars.
As we were in Bali for our third wedding anniversary, we decided to spend a weekend at Gili Meno.
There are boats from Bali and from Lombok. The closest airport is Lombok, I think.
For the boats from Bali be careful and thoroughly read reviews online before booking. If you’re booking through an agent ask which boat company they’re using and google that company. Also make sure to ask everything that is included – ask for a detailed list. There are a lot of scams going around and, as you’ll find, it’s difficult to find a decent enough company.
Here’s our experience:
For us getting to Gili was an adventure for sure.
We booked through a driver we had met previously. He told us he had a family boat and that he could ‘make a good price’. We did a little bench-marking and negotiated the price.
Mind you he told us he was a private driver and the agreed price was meant to include pick-up and drop-off at the hotel/our house – door to door return.
We got to the pier and it turned out the boat to Gili Meno wasn’t included, as the big boats only go to Trawangan and Air, but they didn’t tell us that before. So we had to pay extra.
The boat was not a family boat, but we kind of suspected that already, still the journey there was horrendous and I honest to God thought we were going to die. There’s not really much regard for health and safety, there were people throwing up, one of the ‘sailors’ (NOT a sailor) closed the downstairs door, the only air entrance, leaving everyone sick… Anyway, we got there alive and that’s what matters. And apparently it’s sort of normal, the sea there is a bit rough. Again, they just don’t tell you that before.
Coming back was another very unpleasant surprise: they say they’ll drop you off at the hotel but they don’t. They shovel you into a van with other people and drop you in ‘Ubud city centre’, which wasn’t even city centre, and for us meant walking 5.5km home with our luggage in the tropical rain.
I tried to complain but it’s impossible. The guy texted me back to say “you think for that price you get private driver? You know it was bus!”, when I had an older text from him saying it was “yes yes private driver all included return”. NOT cool.
So yeah DON’T USE THIS COMPANY: Meranti express – they suck!
Don’t let this dishearten you though – Gili is paradise and you should absolutely GO! Even if the journey there is hell, it will be worth it, I promise.
WHERE TO STAY
Gili Meno is tiny and there’s either the fancy hotels in front of the main pier, which are really lovely but there’s no beach (sand I mean), there are the cheap homestays in the middle of the island (would not recommend, it’s where we stayed and our room was literally a bunker), and then there are a few nicer hotels on the opposite side of the pier. We went to Sunset Beach Bungalows every day as the sunloungers were free as long as you’d drink or eat something. The food was lovely, the staff is super friendly and the bungalows looked amazing. I don’t know prices, but I’d 100% recommend you take a look and consider staying here.
Also, we walked around the whole island and this was defo the best spot!
(Here’s £15 off on Booking.com when you use this link to book your stay)
WHAT TO DO
Chill. Literally there’s not much else to do than to soak up the sun and enjoy the beauty of the island. OR you can book a snorkeling/ diving trip. There are loads of turtles around so you might even spot one!
WHERE TO EAT
There are loads of little restaurants around the island (OK maybe not loads, but quite a few good ones). Our favourites were:
- ‘Sunset beach bungalows’ – (as mentioned) their food is great and the sunsets are unbelievable.
- ‘Ya Ya warung’ – on the other side of the island (on a full moon day it’s absolutely stunning), the food is really cheap and DELICIOUS.
Despite the fact that we were in a bunker, we had an absolutely wonderful time – we spent most of the time at the beach either way (other than to shower and sleep). Oh BTW there’s not much hot water on the island, just so you know. And there are cows walking around, so be careful at night, especially if you’re renting a bicycle!
The island is beautiful but sadly you’ll find some garbage around, particularly in the centre, when you’re crossing from one side to the other. We also saw some bottles and plastic stuff on some of the beaches, more on the main pier side than the other…
STILL it is an absolute paradise, you just have to walk a little bit to the nice beaches, but it will be totally worth it. And most days we had the beach all to ourselves.