There are many options on how to get to the Gili Islands by fastboat from Bali. The Gili Islands comprise of three different islands Gili Trawangan, Gili Meno, and Gili Air. Each island has a different personality. Gili Trawangan is the largest, most popular, and most party-friendly. Gili Air is the second-largest, chilled out but with some nightlife options. While Gili Meno is the smallest of the islands and probably the best option for newlyweds looking to escape the crowds.
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For this guide, I will focus on how I got there using a fastboat company called Bluewater Express. Although there are many options and fastboat services that will get you to the Gili Islands, and some maybe even cheaper than the option I present you, I found a lot of the options online where a bit confusing and the information I found was not as straight forward as I would have liked.
I’m not affiliated with Bluewater Express and I have not traveled to the Gili Islands on any other fast boat carrier, so I do not have any comparisons. This guide is strictly based on my personal experience with the service they provided and the research I did to find them online. After reading many reviews on Bluewater Express I decided to give them a try.
Bluewater Express Fastboat Service Breakdown
Bluewater Express currently has two options going from Bali to the Gili Islands. They service Padang Bai and Serangan boat ports in Bali. They generally have a morning boat to the Gili Islands from both Padang Bai and Serangan as well as an afternoon boat. But please refer to their website for correct times.
At the time of this writing, Bluewater Express includes a shuttle from your hotel/Airbnb/homestay in the quoted price as long as you are staying in one of the popular areas the shuttle services. I was picked up from Ubud by shuttle to take the Pandang Bai fast boat to Gili Air.
Fastboat Route to Gili Islands from Bali
The route from both Padang to Gili and Serangan to Gili will stop at Gili Trawangan first then Gili Air and Gili Meno.
What to expect when boarding the boat and the boat ride conditions
Be prepared to get a little wet when boarding the fast boats as in most cases you will have to board by shore without a boat dock. This means there will be personnel that holds the luggage above water over their heads to bring your luggage to the boat. So if you have valuable electronics you want to bring I suggest buying some waterproof bags to put them in before putting them in your luggage. Note that you will also have to walk through waist-deep water to get to the boat in most cases.
The boat ride can be quite choppy based on water conditions, I have a feeling you might experience this no matter what boat service you choose since they can’t really control the weather conditions. On the boat ride to Gili from Padang Bai, it was quite choppy and I witnessed some people get seasick. They did not sell any motion sickness pills on board from what I could tell, so it is best you buy those beforehand if you get seasick easily. Also to note the air conditioner was not working on the boat I rode to Gili Island, but it was working on the boat I rode on the return to Bali from Gili Air. The return boat from Gili Air to Bali was also more comfortable, and that may have also been due to the weather conditions being nicer.
I paid 1,392,000 IDR ($98 USD) for a roundtrip boat ticket with a shuttle from homestay in Ubud to Padang Bai and on the return trip a shuttle from Padang Bai back to a different homestay in Seminyak. I’m sure you can find cheaper prices either online or going straight to either Padang Bai or Serangan to price compare with the many fast boat vendors. You could even take the regular ferry which is considerably less expensive but that requires around a 5-hour boat ride with a transfer. In my case, I was looking for the easiest less painful option and I was willing to pay a little more for convenience. However please check the Bluewater Express website for current rates as they may have changed.
From Padang Bai to Gili Islands
Padang Bai is a boat port around 1hr and 15minutes East of Ubud and the boat ride from Padang Bai takes around 1hr to 1.5 hours approximately. If you are staying in Ubud or North of Denpasar choosing this route may make the most sense. Also to note the boat from Padang Bai to Gili is shorter by 1 hour than taking the boat from Serangan to Gili.
From Serangan to Gili Islands
Serangan is about 30 minutes away from both Kuta and Denpasar. If you are staying in Denpasar or anywhere South of Denpasar, then Serangan may be your best route. Keep in mind that the Serangan to Gili route is around 2-2.5 hours boat trip, so it is 1 hour longer than the Padang to Gili boat route. So keep that in mind if you are prone to seasickness.
Extra tips Spend the money to buy a local sim card if you have a compatible unlocked cell phone, and download WhatsApp and Gojek. These apps are widely used in Indonesia and in my opinion a big lifesaver.
What to expect when arriving at the Gili Islands
Once you arrive at the Gili Islands you will have two options on getting to your accommodations. You can walk or take a horse carriage. You will see a lot of these horse carriages near the dock. I ended up just walking as my accommodation was not too far from the boat dock. There are of coarse other ethical reasons why you may not want to take a horse carriage, and this post is not to encourage using them, this post is just to inform you what to expect when getting to the Gili Islands. The Gili islands are comprised mostly of small dirt roads, and no cars are allowed on the islands. The islands are small and you can rent a bicycle to explore the islands within an hour or two.
In the main part of Gili Trawagan, M Box has a social vibe with a pool to chill at. Expect lots of social activities.
This unique hostel on Gili Meno has a bohemian and playful vibe. Private rooms and dorms available.
Located on Gili Air, Captain Coconut is a sustainable design hostel sanctuary. Equipped with a pool and wellness cafe in a peaceful setting.