The three Gili Islands of Gili Trawangan, Gili Air, and Gili Meno, are located close to the island of Lombok, Indonesia, and a boat ride away from Bali. Although a very common add-on to a trip to Bali, it is not entirely intuitive how to travel to the Gili Islands. This post walks through my tips on how to travel from Ubud to Gili Islands, including how to take the fast boat to Gili. It will also cover the fast boat companies that pick up from other Bali towns, providing an overview of how to travel from Bali to the Gili Islands.
Fast Boat To Gili Travel Guide
Book a Fast Boat to Gili Before Heading Out to Bali
(Hotel pickup from Ubud, Kuta, Seminyak, Jimbaran, Legian, Canggu, Denpasar, and Sanur)
There are two primary ways to get from Bali to the Gili Islands. There are both a public ferry and a fast boat. The traditional, more public style ferry from Bali to Gili, is slow, makes tons of stops, and can take up to five hours or more. It’s cheap, costing only around $5, but it is definitely the local way to go. The fast boat to Gili is a better option and I will provide tips and advice on how to take the fast boat below. There are two main companies that provide fast boat services: Eka Jaya and Marina Srikandi. We booked with Eka Jaya but managed to travel on both services.
You can also fly from Denpasar to Lombok, and then transfer to Gili. This is more expensive and can be a pain. You still need to book a transfer to the Denpasar Airport, wait for a flight, and then fly to Lombok. Once in Lombok, you will need to book a ferry to the Gili Islands anyway. It is sort of a pain and doesn’t really save much time.
*This post contains compensated links. Find more info in my DISCLAIMER.
How To Travel From Bali to Gili Islands
Fast boats to Gili are advertised at every tourist town in Bali, with tour operators selling tickets for different companies, each of which promises the “fastest boat” from “Bali to Gili.” It is hard to weigh your options on how to get from Ubud to Gili unless you know someone who recently traveled there and can share either a great or a bad story. These fast boat companies provide pick up from hotels across the island, including Ubud, Sanur, Seminyak, etc.
When purchasing tickets from a travel company in Bali, prices can range from $50-$100 or more round trip for one person. Each travel company adds on their own commission cost on top of what is charged by the fast boat company. It’s definitely okay to negotiate your fare. For me, I would rather book my fast boat to Gili online, before I leave home to know you are getting a good price and have secured your spot. The confirmation email will tell you what time you will be picked up from your hotel, but they probably will not be able to confirm when you will arrive at the Gili Island of your choice.
How To Travel From Ubud To The Gili Islands
Traveling from Ubud is a little more complicated because of the distance it takes to get from Ubud to the port where the ferries leave from. I will explain how we got to the Gilia Islands from Ubud, and explain our experience so you know what to expect. After, I will share some tips to make the journey a little smoother.
We booked our ticket in Ubud, through our friend Komang. She showed us a brochure from her friend’s tourist office, advertising a round trip ferry, including air-conditioned transit from any hotel in Ubud, or the south Bali beach areas, for about $120 a person. We were able to negotiate the price down from there, but it was a bit of a hassle. My first tip: try to negotiate your fares. Better yet, book your fast boat to Gili online, starting at $90 roundtrip per person. Save yourself the hassle during your holiday in Bali.
Book a Fast Boat to Gili – only 90 Minutes
Transfer From Ubud Hotel To The Boat Dock
The boat company we used was Eka Jaya. It seemed to be popular and advertised everywhere on Gili Air island (in our opinion, the best Gili Island). They picked us up at our hotel in a shuttle bus with a mess of other people. Because we were staying a little out of Ubud, we were last on the bus, meaning two things: 1) our pick up time of 7 am was an estimate given to everyone, actual times may vary; and 2) I had the middle seat, next to the driver, and up against the stick shift. Oh well.
arrived in the port at Padang Bai about 90 minutes later. There was mass chaos, as women touts tried to sell snacks for the boat ride. We grabbed our luggage and made it to the Eka Jaya office to get our boarding pass. The company took our bags, gave them a luggage tag for our destination, and whisked them away. Tip #2: the women who sell snacks will negotiate. Just tell them it is too much and they will probably lower the price. Or, purchase some snacks before leaving your hotel to save the hassle.
The chaos continued as we made our way onto the busy pier, with lots of boats lining the dock, more touts, and plenty of passengers. We watched them load the bags, with mine seemingly dropped in some wet cargo hold. We ventured aboard, handing in our boarding card. It’s important to be patient here. Don’t expect a first class, luxury travel experience. Just go with the flow.
What Is The Fast Boat From Bali To Gili Like?
The cabin was not like the picture in the brochure (never is, right?). Half of the interior had full seats, and the back half had lined benches. We scored a seat towards the front, in front of a fan (there was no air con). We braced for the worst having heard a recent horror story of a 5-hour journey through storm swells. It depends on the Gili Islands weather. But, we arrived in Gili Trawangan just short of 90 minutes later. The ride was smooth enough that I was able to fall asleep for a few minutes.
The fast boat from Bali to Gili makes multiple stops. First, the boat travels from Bali to Gili Trawangan, and then it continues onto Gili Air. That was our destination. We waited on board while most of the boat left. More people boarded shortly later and we were off for the short 10-minute ride to Gili Air. The boat most likely continued to Lombok before returning to Bali. About 30 minutes after leaving Gili Trawangan, we arrived in Gili Air. That means the total travel time on board for the boat to Gili is about two hours, but that is always an estimate.
The fast boat dropped us just off the coast, on the Gili Air beach. Tip # 3: wear sandals as your feet might get wet while getting on and off the boat on the Gili side. There are no docks on the small islands. Once you arrive and retrieve your luggage you can walk to your Gili hotel, or take a horse-drawn carriage. We walked as the horses didn’t look all that well taken care of.
How To Travel From Gili To Ubud (And The Rest of Bali)
Our return trip from Gili to Bali was a little less easy. This might not happen to you, but if it does, it’s important to know it’s not that unusual. The trip from Bali to Gili Air certainly wasn’t luxurious, but it ended up being easier than the trip from Gili Air to Bali. Although our return ticket read “check-in time 10 am,” we asked around about departure time and check-in time at a few of the tourist offices on Gili Air. Each time we were told something different. So, we made our way to the pickup point a little early. Our boat should not have left until 11, but we arrived around 9:30. We were promptly told “Eka Jaya boat not running today. You take that one” pointing to the boat that was making its way in. We expected to wait at the dock for about an hour, so this was a pleasant surprise.
Although we had to wait for the official passengers who booked their tickets on Marina Srikandi to board first, we got two seats in a much nicer cabin than Eka Jaya, albeit with painfully cold air conditioning. After picking us up at Gili Air, we ferried to Gili Trawangan where the boat filled, seemingly to the brim. We sailed for about an hour, I believe to Lombok (not entirely sure), before starting the official hour and 10-minute ride back to Bali. Tip #4: advertisements for the fast boats promise an hour ride, but it is in the small print. They usually say “in as little as one hour.” Be prepared to spend longer on the boat.
Transfer From Gili Fast Boat Pier To Bali Hotels
We arrived in Bali, once again, to mass chaos. This time, we were traveling to Sanur, not back to Ubud. They threw the bags overboard and tossed them on the pier. We found our bag among the taxi drivers offering direct taxis. Our purchase included a ride home, back to Ubud, or anywhere else, including Denpasar, Kuta, Sanur, etc. So, we declined the taxis, which would be more expensive.
We found a shuttle bus with the company name on it. I got a much better seat. The bus filled pretty quickly. The driver informed us he would be driving us to the center of Sanur, not to our hotels. I asked, “why?” As I waited patiently for an answer, he told me he needed to come back to the port for the next group of passengers. I was afraid he would realize that I did not even book with his company. I continued to look at him until he asked where we were staying. He then collected hotel information for all the passengers and dropped us off in succession, after the one hour ride to Sanur. Tip #5: If they promised hotel drop off, insist on it.
Verdict: How To Get To The Gili Islands From Bali
My overall verdict? Not too bad of a journey. When it comes to ferry transport I always expect the worst after a boat trip in Malaysia back in 2009. That was miserable Aside from some minor inconveniences, the boat rides were relatively smooth, with just some small rough seas. I also think it helps to hear from someone else’s experiences before the day of travel to know what to expect. For example, you may book your ride on one boat, but end up riding on another. Or, you may be promised hotel drop off and then have a driver who doesn’t want to follow through. Now, you know what to expect.
My Top Tip on Travel to the Gili Islands: Book ahead. By booking ahead with a reputable company, you can avoid the negotiation and hassle. And, by booking with a company like Viator, with a credit card, you have more options for redress if there are any problems during your journey.
Why book your Gili Transfer ahead of time? It’s just so much easier, so much less stress, so much less negotiation, AND if something goes wrong, you can have someone to complain to afterward!
Top Gili Island Travel Experiences:
Check out this 3 Day Sailing to Komodo Island and hang out with the dragons! From $240 per person.
Or, save the hassle of booking a fast boat to Gili, and book a 6-day complete tour of Bali and the Gili Islands, with hotels. From $675 per person.
Gili Islands Hotels: Check out the top hotel recommendations in the Gili Islands.
Gili Islands Things To Do: Once you take the fast boat to Gili, what is there to do? Book a private snorkeling excursion (starting at $90 per person) or just lounge on the beach!
*This post contains compensated links. Find more info in my DISCLAIMER.
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The Fast Boat To Gili – How To Get From Ubud To The Gili Islands
Amber Hoffman, food and travel writer behind With Husband In Tow, is a recovering attorney and professional eater, with a passion for finding new food and drink destinations. She lives with her husband, Eric, in Girona, Catalonia, Spain. Together over the last 20 years, they have traveled to over 70 countries. Amber is the author of the Food Traveler’s Guide to Emilia Romagna.