A Tropical Indonesian Hideaway
By Irina Kariachkina
Gili Trawangan is a small tropical island North-East of Bali. Together with two other islands, Gili Air and Gili Meno, it forms a small archipelago commonly referred to as “Gilis.” Gili Trawangan is the biggest of these islands, but at only four-and-a-half miles in diameter, you can easily watch sunset and sunrise on the same day, without having to move around much.
The climate in the Gilis is milder than in Bali. There is much less rain during the rainy season. And the heat feels more comfortable because you are surrounded by the ocean. This is why the islands attract tourists all year-round.
It is a perfect place for cat lovers, too. Cats roam freely and are very friendly. Dogs are not allowed on the island, even if they come with the owner.
Gili Trawangan is divided into two parts. The east is a major party hub. There are numerous clubs and the party goes on until dawn. (No wonder there are mostly young people in this part of the island.) However, the west of the island is more peaceful and suitable for family vacations. Everything is just some two miles away, so you can always go to the other side of the island and come back effortlessly.
There are no cars or motorbikes allowed on the island—so the air is fresh and the pace of life is slow. People move around by bicycles and horse carriages. You can also see some electro bikes, that cause no pollution to the environment.
This however doesn’t mean that the island is underdeveloped. You will easily find accommodation with air conditioning and decent internet, ATMs, pharmacies, restaurants, and even open-air movies. All the infrastructure you need for a happy life on a tropical island.
Retiring in Gili Trawangan
There are many expats from the U.S., Europe, Australia, and New Zealand that have relocated to this tiny tropical paradise. Some rely fully on their pension, which is easy. Prices here are much lower than in the Western hemisphere. Others decided to open a small tourism business on the island. Since the tourist season here seldom stops it is a good place to make additional income with a dive shop, a restaurant, or a hotel.
Things to Do in Gili Trawangan
Despite being so small Gili Trawangan has a lot of things to do. Here are few activities you can enjoy on the island.
Spending Your Days on a Perfect Beach. The beach is probably the biggest advantage of Gili Trawangan. Unlike Bali beaches, which may be very rocky and wavy, here you will find the perfect bounty beaches just like from a travel magazine. The water is calm, so swimming here is safe and easy. The flour-soft sand and beautiful views make it a perfect spot for enjoying the island life.
Diving. There are plenty of dive shops that teach you diving from a beginner. An introductory pool session makes your diving experience safe and enjoyable. Discover the beautiful underwater world with corals, beautiful fish, and turtles. Diving is a very gentle sport easily accessible for people from 12 to 65 years-old.
Snorkeling. A safe, fun, and very affordable activity. No need to book a boat. Turtles and other marine species come close to the shore.
Surfing is a very challenging sport. But once you master it, it is extremely exciting.
Yoga. Join a class on the beach at sunrise or sunset to reconnect with nature and your own self. To make it more challenging, try SUP yoga—an advanced practice on a board in the sea.
Horse-back Riding is especially beautiful during sunset. The horse owner will walk along with you and make sure you are safe.
Open-air Movies and Live Concerts. Multiple restaurants on the beach have a large screen and good sound system, so you can enjoy new movies under the stars. You can also listen to live music, both local reggae and popular international hits.
How to Get to Gili Trawangan
There are a few options to get to Gili Trawangan from Bali. The fastest and the most convenient is a “speed boat” operated by Eka Jaya and Ostina. You can buy the tickets online or at any tourist shop in Bali. Contrary to a popular belief, buying in a tourist shop may be cheaper. You may also get a good deal on the transfer to the harbor. The speed boat has comfortable seats and an air-conditioner. It will take you approximately two-and-a-half hours to get from Bali to Gili T. The prices differ depending on the company and the season. The average price for a one-way trip is approximately $35 per person.
You can also go by public ferry. This is cheaper but not as fast or convenient. The public ferry departs almost every hour from Padang Bai, Bali. It takes about four hours to reach Lembar harbor, Lombok. Then you need to go 35 miles across the island to Bangsal harbor. From Bangsal you can take a public boat to Gili Trawangan. The price for the public ferry is only $4, and the public boat Bangsal-Gili T will cost you about $2. A taxi between the two harbors starts from about $15 for a scooter and $30 for a car.
If you are going directly to Gili Trawangan, you don’t have to make a stop in Bali. Fly directly to Lombok airport and take a taxi to Bangsal harbor.
Long-Term Renting in Gili Trawangan
The best choice for a family or a group of friends may be a private villa. This gives you a sense of privacy and a feeling of a home abroad. A private villa is usually a small house with two or three bedrooms, a kitchen, a shared area, a garden, and often a private pool. The prices start from $700 per month for a two-bedroom villa. You don’t have to worry about buying bed sheets, towels, or dishes. Villas are fully equipped.
Solo travelers usually prefer a hotel room or a bungalow in a resort. While the daily price for this property may be quite high, there are big discounts for long-term rent. The prices for a hotel room start from $300 per month. Bungalows are slightly more expensive because they offer more privacy. Hotel rooms and bungalows don’t have a kitchen normally, but they often have a kettle and a fridge. In some places, you can use a shared kitchen.
When agreeing on the rent, make sure to clarify what is included in the price. It often includes weekly cleaning and pool maintenance. However, electricity and the internet may be charged extra. Not all places have air conditioning. Some only have a fan.
Food in Gili Trawangan
Gili Trawangan is full of local and international restaurants. You can enjoy fresh seafood and cocktails on the beach or have a budget-friendly meal at a local restaurant (warung). Dinner with a cocktail at an upscale restaurant will cost around $20 per person. The same meal at a nice mid-budget restaurant on the beach will be only $10. Local restaurants usually don’t serve alcohol, except for beer. A local dish consisting of fish or chicken, rice, and vegetables is only $2 to $3. Most restaurants offer free delivery.
Cooking at home is not very popular among locals and expats, because eating at restaurants is easier and cheaper. There are only a few small grocery stores with limited options. You can buy basic products, such as eggs, milk, coffee or snacks. There is also a local market just next to the harbor, where you can buy fresh fruit and vegetables. The prices here are lower than in the U.S. but higher than in Bali or Lombok. Pineapple and papaya will be less than $1. Mangoes and avocados may cost around $3 or $4 per kilo.
Internet in Gili Trawangan
Internet is easily accessible, just like in other Asian touristy spots. It may not be as high-speed as in the U.S., but enough to have video calls and streams. WiFi is generally available in every hotel, whether you are staying in a room or a bungalow. If you get your own villa, better check with the owner if the internet is included.
Mobile data also works quite well. You can get a local sim card at mobile shops around the island. They all offer packages for internet and calls. But the best option is to use the app of your mobile provider. You can top up your balance at a local mobile shop. This is called “pulsa”. Then use the app to choose the plan that suits you best.
ATMs and Banking in Gili Trawangan
You can find multiple ATMs around the island. Most of them are located on the east side, especially near the harbor. You can also find some in the south (near Pearl of Trawangan restaurant) and in the west near Aston hotel. If you need to make a bank transfer, there is a Mandiri bank office near the harbor. It is a small office, but it provides all the necessary services.
Medical Care in Gili Trawangan
Should you need medical help, go to Warna clinic located on the east side. This is the most prominent clinic on the island. There are also a few individual medical practitioners that you can find around the island. Pharmacies are easy to find around the island. The largest grocery shop, Salsabila, also sells medicine. This should be enough to deal with simple issues and emergencies.
If you require a serious medical examination or surgery, you need to go to the neighboring big island, called Lombok. The best hospitals are in Mataram, the capital of Lombok. Here you will also find dentists, ophthalmologists, and other professionals.
Political Structure in Gili Trawangan
Indonesia is divided into provinces just like the U.S. is divided into states. Gili Trawangan does not belong to Bali province. Instead, it is a part of West Nusa Tenggara province together with Lombok. This is still a part of Indonesia, so your visa is valid here. But in post-pandemic travel, a PCR test may be required to cross the province border.
For the long-term visas that require extensions, all the paperwork is processed in the same province where you applied. This means if you got your retirement visa in Bali, you cannot extend it in Lombok. You need to process the paperwork in Bali.
There are very few places in the world, where nature remains so intact. In Gili Trawangan, you find a perfect balance: beautiful beaches with fresh air combined with the good infrastructure you need for everyday life.
Featured Image Copyright: ©iStock.com/ WhitcombeRD