Any first-time visitor to Gili T or anyone backpacking through southeast Asia who makes stops in Indonesia will undoubtedly add Gili T (or at least one of the Gili islands) to their excursion list.
The cluster of islands sitting just off the coast of popular island destination Bali offers stunning turquoise waters, a vibrant party scene, and an “island escape” unique from the overcrowded resorts. They are also an excellent destination for diving and are known for the offshore coral reefs.
Getting to Gili T
From Bali, you can take a Grab (similar to Uber) to the port at Padang Bai to get on the ferry which departs between 9:00-9:30 daily. We didn’t buy our tickets in advance, just show up and get them the day of. It’s a bit hectic, and traffic to actually get to the port can take a long time, so be sure to leave early to give yourself plenty of time. The ferry ride is about 2 hours and was fairly pleasant considering it’s a pretty old boat stuffed with tourists. My recommendation is to fight for a spot up top in the open air and work on your tan while cruising around. There are also options (if you don’t mind spending the extra cash) for boat charters from Bali to Gili T.
M Box Hostel
This hostel was a fantastic spot for two nights on Gili T. M Box has a pool with lounge chairs to cool off from the unrelenting sunshine, a full breakfast buffet in the mornings, and it’s close to the port and the beaches. Everything is a close walking distance on Gili T, you could probably explore the entire island in a single day. M Box hostel is very affordable, with rates ranging around $15-$30 per night, depending on if you book a dorm or a private room.
Snorkel Boat Trip
Going for a snorkel trip while staying on Gili T is a must! The coral reefs and underground gardens (some created with statues by humans) are amazing to explore, and you can enjoy an entire day’s experience for so cheap. We booked our own boat with a driver and all the snorkel gear, and went out for a full day, cruising the waves and stopping at snorkel stops. We saw some sea turtles as well as lots of fish. For lunch, we stopped at Gili Meno for a beachfront lunch, which was fantastic – it was cool to see an additional island too!
The snorkel spots can get VERY busy with tourists, so the earlier you get there, the better. If you’re not a strong swimmer, wear a lifejacket. It will keep you from getting tired and possibly drowning, as there are lots of people here and it could be easy for you to struggle unnoticed. Keep track of your boat too – many of them look similar and you could waste a lot of energy swimming to the wrong one!
Another swing for a photo op. This swing sits on the west side of the island, so it offers some stunning views of of the sunset over the water. There are bars nearby, so grab a drink and line up for your chance to get a photo on the swing – as with all tourist attractions, you might have to get creative with angles to get people out of your shot!
This is a fun little beachfront bar that greets you right when you get off the ferry coming from Bali. We had some drinks here to unwind after being on the rickety boat for several hours. Drinks are cheap and they made all sorts of different cocktails.
There are lots of different restaurants on Gili T, some were awesome, and some were very touristy and not serving up good food. I’d recommend doing a little bit of research before committing to a spot, just to make sure it has some good reviews. This green curry that I had on the beach was excellent, but I don’t remember which restaurant it was, unfortunately. Just have a look, read over some menus, and check reviews online before committing so you aren’t disappointed with a tourist trap of bad food.
The Gili Islands were amazing, and I’d highly recommend staying a few nights if you’re on a long vacation from Bali. I’d love to go back to Indonesia to explore more, seeing different parts of this country composed of diverse islands. If you’ve been to some Indonesia destinations that aren’t Bali, please let me know your recommendations!