Compared to its neighboring countries, Indonesia isn’t the cheapest of destinations (particularly the Gili Islands and Bali). Nevertheless, there are plenty of affordable things to do in Gili Trawangan for all of you backpackers on a budget. We’ve created a guide for you to explore everything Gili Trawangan has to offer — on the cheap! Read on for our best tips and tricks for saving money while traveling Gili T!
Gili T Transportation: Bali to Gili Trawangan on a Budget
This is likely to be one of your most costly expenditures when venturing to the Gili Islands. Fear not, as there are some easy ways to save yourself a bit of money. There are two main ways to get to Gili T from Bali: the fast boat and the slow boat, both of which leave from Padang Bai port. While the slow boat is a bit cheaper, it also takes quite a bit longer, so we only recommend this option if you’ve got plenty of time. The fast boat can be arranged at your trusted accommodation in Bali and will cost around IDR 350,000 (or $25 USD) one way. This will include shuttle bus pickup from your accommodation. Getting a roundtrip ticket (open-ended) will often save you money (you’ll pay around IDR 600,000). Remember to practice your bargaining skills! They might quote you much more but it’s definitely possible to negotiate.
The actual slow boat ticket costs around IDR 40,000 (~$2.90 USD) but you must also get to Padang Bai. You can get a private driver or use Grab or GoJek (the “Uber” in Indonesia), which will cost you around IDR 200,000+ (~$14 USD) one way from Canggu. The slow boat will take around 4 to 6 hours. One benefit is that this boat leaves every 60 to 90 minutes, as opposed to the fast boats which depart less frequently. More details on both options can be found in our Bali to the Gili Islands Transportation Guide.
Transportation on a budget on Gili Trawangan
Once you’re on Gili T, your transportation options are quite limited. With no motor vehicles allowed (with the exception of electric motorbikes), people generally walk or ride bicycles around the island. Bike rentals cost around IDR 50,000 (~$3.50 USD) for the day and many accommodation options even offer free rentals. There is also the option of getting a horse-drawn carriage, but we don’t recommend this mode of transport as many of the horses aren’t cared for properly. Walking is obviously the cheapest of options, and definitely doable on the island. From the east side to the west side is about a 25 minute walk. The walk through the center of the island isn’t lit in many areas, so be sure to bring a light source when walking or cycling.
Eating on a Budget on Gili Trawangan
As in any country, the best way to save money when dining out is to eat the local food. Luckily, Indonesia has an amazing selection of local eats. Our favorite “warungs” (small, family-owned cafes or restaurants) are Oh Warung and Warung Dewi. These no frills restaurants are often busy with locals and tourists alike. Both have a selection of already-made dishes in a window that you can choose from. Try out grilled fish, fried chicken, various soups and stews, noodles, curries, the famous beef rendang, a plethora of vegetables (curry cassava leaves, water spinach and the like) tempeh, and more all atop steamed rice! Meals here will usually be around IDR 30,000-70,000 (~$2-$5 USD).
For dinner, be sure to check out more local island eats at the Night Market. This waterfront area hosts numerous stalls and BBQs to grill up meat, seafood and vegetable skewers to go alongside other local dishes you can find displayed at the market. Sit at the picnic-style tables, befriend your neighbor, and sip on a Bintang while you wait for your food to cook. A meal here will generally come to less than IDR 100,000 ($7 USD) with a beer included!
Mad Monkey Insider Tip:
Bring a reusable water bottle rather than buying bottled water. There are dozens of places to refill water (many for free!) and it’s obvs good for the environment! Locals and expats alike strive to keep Gili T clean; you can help by producing as little waste as possible!
Things to do on Gili Trawangan on a Budget
Spend the day on the water
You can enjoy the best of Gili T without spending a dime. All you have to do is throw on a swimsuit and jump into the glorious crystal-clear water. If you don’t mind spending a few dollars, you can have an even better day by renting some snorkel gear. Head to the east side up to Turtle Point and you can find snorkel gear for as little as IDR 25,000 (~$1.75 USD). From the shore, you’ll be able to discover heaps of marine life, with a high probability of snorkeling with sea turtles. If you really want to “splurge”, rent a stand up paddle board for around IDR 50,000-75,000 (~$3.50-5.50 USD) and spend the day on the water. Turtle Point also has dozens of bean bag chairs you can lounge on with beach umbrellas to take refuge from the sun; all you have to do is buy a drink and commandeer an ideal looking bean bag and you’re set for the day!
Cycle the island
If you’ve already got a bicycle, you can spend the day riding around the island. It’s possible to circumnavigate the island (although there are a few areas, particularly in the north, where you’ll have to push your bike through sand) and stop and please as you’d like at various shops, cafes and viewpoints.
Check out the Gili Trawangan viewpoint
If you’ve done enough beach lazing (although we don’t actually believe in having “too much” beach time) and want to see Gili T from a different perspective, head up to the Gili T Viewpoint. This short 15 minute trek will give you lovely views, particularly at sunset when Gili Trawangan is at its most beautiful.
Get the famous Gili T swing photo
You’ve likely seen those famous swing photos on Instagram and we highly recommend doing the touristy thing and getting a photo yourself. No shame if this is one of the reasons you wanted to come to Gili T; those sunsets look extra amazing when you’re sat on a swing admiring them. The OG swing is at Ombak Sunset but there are plenty more you can take a photo on for free, just make your way along the west coast and take your pick!
Enjoy a bonfire
On either side of Gili T (but more prevalent on the west side) are nightly bonfires. You might also be able to catch some traditional drumming and live music as well. Just order a drink, kick back and enjoy the show!
Watch a film on the beach
If you’re taking a break from the nightlife on Gili T (understandable), there’s no better way to spend an evening than watching a film on the sand. The Aston on the west side has a great setup; a large screen with a projector showing relatively new films, bean bag chairs to get cozy on, and best of all, it’s completely free!
Catch some live music
Once night falls, the bars on either side of the island come alive with music. Go to The Exile on the west side for sunset, live jams and a social atmosphere. On the east side, just walk down the main road and you can find plenty of spots on the sand with live acoustic music. Sama Sama also hosts a reggae band many nights a week; their big night is on Saturdays, where you’ll often find the majority of the island’s population.
Participate in a beach cleanup
If you end up loving this island as much as we do, you might want to help keep it clean! Every Friday, you can join a beach cleanup with Gili Eco Trust. Spend an hour of your day picking up rubbish and meeting new friends. You’ll even be rewarded with a free beer afterwards! Follow them on Facebook for the location and time, as it changes each week!
Join an eco tour with Gili Eco Trust
If you’d like to learn more about sustainable travel and the Gili islands in general, visit Gili Eco Trust and join one of their eco tours! They do an ocean cleanup + stand up paddle boarding tour, a waste management tour where you can visit the dump in the middle of the island and learn how more and more businesses are working to dispose of recyclables and rubbish in a more responsible way, and a snorkel tour of the biorocks on the east side of the island. These biorocks are just one way that Gili Eco Trust is working to preserve the island’s natural beauty by helping the coral reefs thrive.
Explore the other Gilis
Island hopping isn’t generally cheap, but luckily, there’s an affordable way to do it on the Gili islands! You can take the public boats, which leave twice a day from Gili Trawangan. Prices are super affordable at only IDR 35,000 (~$2.50 USD) to Gili Meno and IDR 40,000 (~$2.80 USD) to Gili Air. Gili Meno is known as the “honeymooners island” and Gili Air is the “chill island”. If you want to check out the famous Gili Meno statues, be sure to bring your snorkel and you can swim right from the shore to this incredible underwater installation.
Read more: Top Things to do on Gili Trawangan
Gili Trawangan Accommodation: Where to Stay on a Budget
While Gili T is a bit more expensive than Bali, there are still plenty of accommodation options for budget travelers. Guest houses and homestays are the cheapest of options. If you’re looking for something with a social atmosphere, check out “backpacker hotels” like M Box, Gili Beach Bum or Broken Compass. My Mate’s Place was voted the top hostel in Indonesia and of course, there’s the new Mad Monkey Gili Trawangan opening around August 2019! Not only is the newest Mad Monkey right on the beach, but it has a massive pool, perfect for sundowners! Find out more HERE.
More information about things to do in Gili Trawangan on a budget
Did you find this backpacker guide helpful? Are you looking for more things to do in Gili Trawangan on a budget? Then check out these other articles we’ve rounded up to help you plan your trip to paradise:
- 25 Things You Can do on the Gili Islands by Marcel from Home Is Where Your Bag Is
- 12 Things to do in the Gili Islands That You Can’t Miss by Mike Still from Adventure in You
- What to do in Gili T: 5 Awesome Things You Can’t Miss from Boarding Call
- Top 9 Things to do on Gili Trawangan + 1 Don’t from Wanderers and Warriors
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