Getting there & away
The fast boat industry has exploded in the last 18 months. More companies than ever buzz guests from Bali and mainland Lombok direct to the Gilis. The good part: there are always seats available, even last minute in the high season when some companies offer two and even three crossings per day. Less good: safety standards on some boats are problematic and boats have sunk.
Our advice is to stick with the old standbys that charge a bit more, but know what they’re doing. Gili Cat (h0361-271680; www.gilicat.com; 550,000Rp; 2½hr) leaves from Padangbai at 9am daily. Blue Water Express (h0361-3104558; www.bwsbali.com; 590,000Rp; 2½hr) leaves from Benoa harbour. Scoot (h0361-285522; www.scootcruise.com; 600,000-650,000Rp; 3 hr) is the one stand out newcomer. They leave from Sanur and travel to Gili Trawangan via Bali’s Nusa Lembongan. Book your seats on www.gilibookings.com.
There’s also a cheaper direct service from Bali. Perama buses and its (painfully) slow boat head to the Gilis via Padangbai and Senggigi. Coming from other parts of Lombok you can travel via Senggigi; via the public boats that leave from Bangsal harbour (the cheapest route) or you can charter your own boat from Bangsal (235,000Rp).
Coming by public transport via Mataram, catch a bus or bemo to Pemenang, from where it’s 1km by cidomo (3000Rp) to Bangsal harbour. Boat tickets are sold at the Koperasi harbour office on the beach. Buy a ticket elsewhere and you’re getting played. Public boats run from roughly 8am to 5pm, but don’t leave until full (about 20 people). The one-way fares at the time of research were 8000Rp to Gili Air, 9000Rp to Gili Meno and 10,000Rp to Gili Trawangan. The first boat of the day returning from Gili Trawangan offers a shuttle service to Senggigi (75,000Rp). Boats pull up on the beach when they get to Gili Air and Meno. Prepare to wade ashore.