Silly Gili

Last updated: November 25, 2012
Gili Trawangan Beach

Travelling between Bali and the Gili Islands is easiest by boat, right? Not necessarily.

Now that the old Lombok Airport near Senggigi has closed and been replaced by the much more distant Lombok International Airport, fastboat operators are taking advantage of the more direct sea route between Bali and the Gili Islands.

So how does sea travel to the Gili Islands compare to air travel?

Below is a comparison in three key areas:

1. Location | 2. Cost | 3. Reliability

1. Location

In Lombok, planes take off and land far from the Gili Islands, while fastboats travel directly to the Gili Islands and dock at Gili Trawangan.

However, in Bali the opposite is true: the airport is close to the main tourist areas of South Bali, while many boats to the Gili Islands depart from a distant location.

View Transport Between Bali and Lombok in a larger map
The Gili Islands are the 3 green markers

The main harbour for boats to Lombok is in Padangbai; in the map above, it is the harbour directly north of Nusa Penida. Padangbai is a two-hour drive from the main tourist areas of Kuta and Ubud. Considering that most ferries from Bali to Lombok only operate once a day and depart at 9am or earlier, this makes for a very early start.

Fortunately, there are some alternatives.

A smaller number of fast boats to Gili Trawangan depart from Serangan (near Sanur) and Tanjung Benoa (near Nusa Dua). On the map above, they are west of Nusa Penida. These boats have further to travel than those from Padangbai so are more expensive, but this can be cancelled out by the shorter distance to travel by road/taxi.

Bloo Lagoon Village, PadangbaiThere are also some nice hotels in Padangbai walking distance from the ferry terminal, including the Lonely Planet “Our Pick” Bloo Lagoon Village (right).

At the Lombok end of the journey, travelling by fastboat to the Gili Islands is most convenient, if you are staying on Gili Trawangan. However, if your final destination is Gili Air or Gili Meno, it is not so suitable. Inter-island ferries only operate twice per day; the timetable is at the Gili Trawangan dock.

If travelling by plane, the choices between Lombok Airport and the Bangsal ferry terminal are:

Lombok Airport and Senggigi
Senggigi and Bangsal
DAMRI Airport Bus
Minibus to Pemenang, then 1km walk

Unlike the old Lombok Airport and most other Indonesian airports, taxis use their meters and not a pre-paid voucher system. The approximate cost of a taxi fare between Lombok Airport and Senggigi is Rp250 000 ($28 €21 £17) and for Lombok Airport to Bangsal Rp330 000 ($36 €27 £22).

Please note that ferries between the Gili Islands and Bangsal stop operating around 4-5pm, and during inclement weather or rough seas. The only schedule is “leave when full”.

If you are travelling from Lombok Airport to Bangsal/Gili Islands in one trip, a morning flight from Bali is recommended.

If you are travelling from Gili Islands/Bangsal to Lombok Airport, an afternoon or evening flight is recommended. A no risk option (particuarly during the wet season) is to return to Lombok the day before, and stay one night in Mataram or Senggigi.

To summarise, travelling by fastboat can be faster, if you choose your harbour / hotel / departure time wisely, and are staying at Gili Trawangan for the first night.

2. Cost

Boats are slower and use less petrol than planes so will be cheaper, right?

You would think so, but actually flying is cheaper. The average cost of a one-way flight ticket is Rp300 000 ($35 € 25 £20). Using this price list as a guide, the average cost of a one-way fastboat ticket is double: Rp600 000 ($70 € 50 £40).

Maybe it is because the planes can carry more passengers than fastboats, or airline companies are larger, fly more routes and have an “economy of scale” advantage over fastboats.

Of course, the boat or flight trip is only part of the story. There are additional expenses.

Mode of Transport Additional Expenses
Gili Cat – Transport between hotel and harbour in Bali*
Wings Air plane – Transport between hotel and airport in Bali
Airport tax
– Transport between airport and Bangsal in Lombok

*Some fastboat operators departing from Serangan and Tanjung Benoa advertise free hotel to harbour transfers.

Once these additional expenses are included, the difference in price is much reduced.

Other important considerations in this area:

– Different fare structures
Flight ticket prices vary, fastboat fares are fixed. Last minute purchasing of flight tickets will be more expensive than usual, while advnaced purchasing will be cheaper.

– How many passengers?
Transport costs between hotel and harbour/airport can be split between multiple passengers if travelling in a group. However, airport tax is a flat fee per passenger.

– Baggage allowance
Most flights between Bali and Lombok have a loosely-enforced 15kg baggage allowance. Garuda Indonesia is the only exception, with a 20kg baggage allowance, but its only flight departs in the evening. Within reasonable limitations, there is no limit on baggage for fastboats.

– Excess baggage fees
Sports equipment such as diving gear and surfboards incur excess baggage fees on flights, except on Garuda Indonesia. They do not on fastboats.

– Payment method
Paying for multiple boat tickets by cash may require more than one withdrawal at an ATM. The maximum withdrawal for an ATM issuing Rp50 000 banknotes is Rp1 250 000 (enough for two tickets), for an ATM issuing Rp100 000 banknotes Rp2 500 000 (enough for four tickets). You should prepare this amount of money in advance. On the Gili Islands, only Gili Trawangan has an ATM. For more information about acquiring local currency safely and easily, please see here.

To summarise, travelling by plane will be cheaper overall, unless your ticket is expensive, and you are travelling solo by taxi or bringing watersports equipment.

3. Reliability

On-Time Peformance of Indonesian AirlinesOf the airlines, Garuda Indonesia and Wings Air currently have the two best scores for on-time performance (> 80%), while Merpati Airlines is trailing the pack (66%). The on-time performance of smaller airlines that also fly between Bali and Lombok (TransNusa, Sky Aviation) is not measured.

Boat reliability is not independently assessed, so here is some general guidance:

– Each fastboat company only has 1-2 boats
A mechanical issue or scheduled maintenance for one boat would seriously affect the schedule.

– Fastboats are more affected by inclement weather and rough seas than planes
Seas are calmer in the early morning, so this is one reason why most boats depart then. Also, during the wet season (November to April) tropical storms tend to occur during the afternoon. Then again, ferries between Bangsal and the Gili Islands are smaller than fastboats, so are also susceptible to weather and ocean conditions.

– Fastboat tickets cannot be pre-booked
As explained here, e-commerce is still widely mistrusted by local residents, so currently Indonesian fastboat operators do not have an online booking system. The only way to guarantee getting a fastboat ticket is to arrive earlier than necessary. This would be especially true at times of high demand: June to August and December to January.

To summarise, flights are recommended when your timetable is not flexible or you have an important onward connection.

If you are interested in booking a flight to Lombok from Bali (or another city), please fill in this enquiry form.

22 Comments on “Silly Gili”

  1. KT says:

    Hi there,

    Firstly thanks so much for your good explanation above. My dilemma is as follows:

    My wife and I are travelling to Gilli Trawangan for a short holiday in December (20 december to 23 december 2014).

    On our return, we have a flight departing Bali at 5pm (23 December), landing in KL and then on to our onward flight to India. Due to our already short time on Gilli T, we do not want to leave on the day before our flight.

    I am wondering, is it safe for us to take the boat from Gilli Trawangan to Bali on Tuesday 23 December at 830am?

    I understand the boats will arrive in Bali at 1030am (leaving us ample time to get to the airport by 5pm) but is there a possibility of the boats getting cancelled during this time of the year due to bad weather and thus leaving us stuck in Gilli?

    Are we better off taking a flight from Lombok to Bali?

    Taking the boat is definitely my preferred option, but we do not want to miss our flight that evening.

    What do you think?


  2. Chris says:

    Hi Kamal,

    There is a small possibility that the boat could get cancelled, but it is less likely in the early morning (when seas are calm) than later in the day (when there may be a thunderstorm).

    Even if you flew from Lombok to Bali, you still need to get a ferry from Gili Trawangan to Lombok; if seas were really rough, no boats would sail and you would still be stuck.

  3. Lily says:

    Hi Silly Gili,

    Thank you for you post, it was very informative.
    My friends and I are arriving at Denpasar airport at 1.30pm on a friday, and want to get to the Gili islands that afternoon.
    Do you know of any way of doing this? There are six of us so we would be happy to charter a boat if necessary.
    I would really appreciate your advice.
    Kind regards,


  4. Chris says:

    Hi Lily,

    Sorry, it’s not possible. You will need to stay one night in either Bali or Lombok, then continue your journey the next day.

    If travelling with 6 people, Bali has more choices for hotels with rooms for 3+ guests and hotels near the airport, so I would recommend Bali.

  5. Bernardo pacifici says:

    Hi chris.

    Me and my friends will arrive in Dempassar International airport at 7:30 and i think we will spend like 1 hour to get baggage and do the immigration. So, will we be able to bring the fast boat to gili t. at the same day morning? I see many companies that departure boats are from 09:00 tp 10:00am but im not sure how long is from airport to there.

    Best regards

  6. Chris says:

    Hi Bernardo,

    No, you can’t get an early morning boat to Gili Islands because the port is too far away (most depart from Padangbai, a 2 hour drive from the airport).

    In your situation, it would be easiest to get the 10:50 flight to Lombok. If you would like a quote, please send an enquiry.

  7. Clint says:


    Just wondering if it’s possible to do a day trip to Gili island from bali? I would like to go to take my children snorkelling especially to see the sea turtles. Is it fairly child friendly? We are staying in Benoa this week and moving up to legian next week. Would it be better to do it while in benoa?

  8. Chris says:

    Hi Clint,

    Most boats to Gili Trawangan leave from Padangbai (a long way), a 2 hour drive from Benoa and Legian. Some leave from Sanur also, but not enough for a day trip.

    Most boats depart in the early morning; they do this because seas are calm and (during the wet season) it is less likely to rain.

  9. Ethan says:

    Hi Chris,

    That was an excellent piece of writing, providing us much need advice and info – thank you so much.

    I’m wondering if you can provide me some advice on my travel itinerary in August this year.

    I’ve booked tickets to bali with my girlf on 1-Aug (arriving at 0530) and departing on 9-Aug (2310hrs). since we’ve been to bali a couple years back, we would like to explore the hidden gem of Gili islands now.

    I read that the fastboat departs at 9am, which i suppose my flight arrival timing is excellent for catching it. However, i feel that the price of fastboat at USD70 per way per pax is not worth the money. That would amount to almost USD300 for 2 of us(return), whereas our air tix to Bali only cost us USD200 ! Do i have any other alternatives ?

    I think the option of flying to Lombok, taking a taxi to Bangsal harbour and then taking the ferry over is more time consuming and probably about the same price.

    Pretty much in a catch 22 situation.

    I look forward for your reply!


  10. Chris says:

    Hi Ethan,

    Taking the plane then taxi is cheaper than $US300. (Remember that taxi is per car, not per person). If you would like a quote for the flight tickets, please send an enquiry.

  11. Colm says:

    Hi Chris,

    We’re arriving in Bali on 14th July and will be staying in Nusa Dua for 5 nights. After that we want to head over to the Gili Islands, but would like to charter a sail boat and complete this trip over 3-4 days. I’ve come across a few websites that offer this, but the prices seem very high. Is it possible to do a bare boat charter (no skipper) and if so is this something you’d be able to book for us?

    Thanks for your help


  12. Chris says:

    Hi Colm,

    The short answer is no.

    There aren’t many places in Indonesia that offer self-drive cars for rent, let alone boats.

    The only local operator I know is Indonesia Island Sail. You can contact them directly.

  13. Judo Chop says:

    During late Dec you will find many fast boat cancellations due to rough seas. Often this is the result of a route ban imposed by the authorities. All companies must and do abide.

  14. Suhani Sharma says:

    Hi Chris,

    My question is about the time duration and cost effectiveness. I’m staying in Kuta until 4th July morning and would need a boat or ferry in the morning for a hotel check in at 1.00 pm. Now on my way back i’m going to be in Meno, so what should i do to get the easiest way in this itinerary. Are ferries reliable, can i book tickets online for ferries or even speed boats. Is it all reliable since the transaction will be online.

  15. Chris says:

    Hi Suhani,

    Kuta is closer to the airport than the harbour for most ferries: Padangbai.

    All the speedboats go to Gili Trawangan, so coming back from Gili Meno could be difficult also.

    Most boats don’t do online booking either.

    I would recommend taking a flight in both directions.

    If you would like a quote, please send an enquiry.

  16. Neel says:

    Dear Sir

    I would like to know one thing regarding the time that these boats take to reach Bali In The morning
    My Wife and i are planning to come to gilli travangen on the 28th of september. and i have flight from Denpsar International Airport at 1.00 in the afternoon on 1st of October 2015. Kindly Please let me know How will i be able to reach the airport in time for my flight back to bombay

    Will we be able to reach the airport in time if i leave early in the morning or i will not be able reach the airport in time

    Kindly Please Help me in this regard

  17. Chris says:

    Hi Neel,

    I checked the schedules for boats from Gili Trawangan to Bali on 1 October.

    Sorry to say, there are no boats that arrive in Bali for you to travel on the morning of 1 October.

    You have two choices:

    1. Take a boat to Bali on 30 September, stay one night at a hotel near Bali Airport.

    2. Take a ferry to Lombok on 30 September, then fly to Bali on the morning of 1 October.

    If you would like a quote (boat or flight), please make an enquiry here.

  18. Neel says:

    Dear Chris

    Thanks a lot for everything.. Your information is helpfull and Thanks a lot


    Have a great day

    Take care

  19. pratik says:


    I would like to know one thing regarding the time that these boats take to reach Bali In The morning
    My Wife and i are planning to come to gilli travangen on the 8th march 2016 and i have flight from Denpsar International Airport at 1.00 in the afternoon on 10th march, 2016. Kindly Please let me know How will i be able to reach the airport in time for my flight back to bombay

    Will we be able to reach the airport in time if i leave early in the morning or i will not be able reach the airport in time. there is a nyepi day on 9th march

    Kindly Please Help me in this regard

  20. Chris says:

    Hi Pratik,

    Sorry, no boats leave Gili Trawangan early enough.

    The earliest is at 9am to Padangbai, which is a two hour drive from Bali airport.

    I would just stay in Bali or fly back from Lombok.

  21. Rea says:


    Please could you advise the best/fastest route to get to Gilli T from Bali Depansar. We arrive into Bali at 11.15am is it still possible to get to Gilli T that day or have we missed the boats? We want to get to Gilli T as fast as possible as we are only stopping over for a few days. We are open to flying to Lombok if it makes the journey faster but will there be speed boats running in the afternoon as we wont arrive until 3.30pm?? What would you suggest?



  22. Chris says:

    Hi Rea,

    Speed boats tend to go in the early morning when seas are calm (and not rough/heavy later in the day).

    The first flight from Denpasar to Lombok is at 3pm with Wings Air, but Wings’ flights have a 10kg baggage allowance. The first flight with a 20kg baggage allowance is Garuda at 3:50pm. Also, by the time you got from the airport to the ferry terminal at Bangsal (60-ish km), boats would have stopped for the day.

    Your choices are:

    1. Take a taxi from the airport to Padangbai (about 2 hours); many of the Bali-Gili T ferries depart here. Stay at a nearby hotel. Take a speedboat to Gili T the next morning.

    2. Fly to Lombok, take a taxi to the resort town near Bangsal of Senggigi. Stay at a hotel in Senggigi, then take a taxi to Bangsal and a ferry to Gili T the next morning.

    3. Like #1, but stay closer to the airport in Sanur and take a ferry from Serangan, near Sanur. There are fewer ferries operating from here and the ferry tickets may be more expensive due to the longer distance the boat travels. I believe the ferries that depart from Serangan are Gili Getaway (09:00) and Blue Water Express (08:00), but you should check that locally on arrival.

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