Gili T – “The Party Island”
Gili Trawangan, or Gili T as it’s most often called, is the largest of the three Gili Islands off the northwest coast of Lombok. It became popular with backpackers in the 1990s and gained a reputation as a party island because of the abundance of drugs and lack of police presence. These days, however, it is quite family friendly with a range of different activities and accommodation. Let’s take a closer look at the island some like to call “Gili Tra-la-la:”
When the island first became popular there were only a few very simple options for sleeping. Now it’s possible to find everything from a basic bungalow with a fan and cold water to 5-star resorts with all the amenities. The mid-range and budget places can be found closer to the center of the island. There are about 800 permanent residents and they are predominantly Muslim. As such there is a mosque with the call to prayer five times a day beginning at dawn. If you’re a light sleeper it’s best to stay somewhere further away from the mosque.
On our visit we stayed at both Woodstock properties. Little Woodstock is more of a backpacker-friendly option, with simple bungalows tucked away in the village. Our stay there was great save for one tiny, very itchy problem – bed bugs. They’re a problem across the Gilis, so be sure to read reviews when booking and avoid places with recent infestations.
When we came back after visiting the other islands, we managed to get a room at Woodstock proper – a chilled out collection of bungalows named after bands that played at the famous music festival. Much to our dismay, Grateful Dead was already booked – we stayed in Blood, Sweat & Tears.
Woodstock has a pool which is great for lounging the day away, especially if you’ve got a coco-rum-onut to sip on. Since they only have nine rooms, it’s best to book in advance to avoid disappointment.
There is far more to Gili T than just sunbathing on the beach. The island is surrounded by world-class dive sites and there are many dive shops to choose from. They all offer the same prices for courses and fun dives, so you can focus on other considerations.
If you’re feeling adventurous, try freediving – seeing how far you can go with just one breath. Because of the close proximity to beautiful coral reefs and vibrant fish, shore snorkeling is very easy to do. If you have your own mask it’s free, but for those who don’t a rental is only about $5. Kayaks are also available to rent and you can paddle your way around the island taking in the scenery from the water. Of course surfing is always an option.
If water activities aren’t your cup of tea, never fear – there are plenty of things to do out of the water. As Gili T has a circumference of only five miles, renting a bicycle and cycling around is a great way to see the sights and also get some exercise. Walking is always an option if you don’t feel like peddling through the sand. It takes about one hour to cycle around the island or two hours on foot.
While you’re out exploring, don’t miss the one hill on the island. It’s a short walk up and you can get beautiful views of Gili Meno and Air to one side and Bali to the other. If you’re lucky, you’ll be able to spot Mt. Agung, Bali’s tallest volcano.
Near the hill, you’ll find the horse stables. Try your hand at being an equestrian by riding a horse around the island or booking their popular sunset ride. If cultural activities are more up your alley, you can try a cooking class or drop-in to one of the yoga studios.
Wine & Dine
There are tons of options for eating on Gili T for all budgets. It’s easier to find cheap eats in the village, where you can get nasi campur (mixed rice) or mie bakso (meatball soup) for just $1-2.
If you find yourself needing some comfort food, there are plenty of options here. It’s easy to find burgers, pizza, and even sushi. We particularly liked the taco joint. Sometimes you’ve just gotta put down the rice and eat some nachos!
For dinner, most backpackers hit the night market. With dozens of stalls selling a wide variety of Indonesian street food classics and seafood, it’s hard to beat. If you want something slightly classier, there’s no shortage of beachside seafood BBQs – they’ll just come with a higher price tag than the night market.
Known as the party island, there are many bars and clubs to choose from when the sun goes down. Although Gili T has gotten a bad rap as a wild place, the bars take it in turn to host the regular late night parties. As such, it’s easy to find where the action is on any given night, and it’s also easy to have a quiet night if you desire. Beware of dodgy alcohol, especially the local spirit arak. It’s homemade and there have been some fatalities from methanol poisoning. Unless you are at one of the Western-owned bars, it’s best to stick to beer. Weed and mushrooms are easily found here, and while there seems to be a very lax attitude towards them here for some reason, just keep in mind that you’re still in Indonesia – a country with one of the harshest drug penalties in the world. For more of Gili T and its nightlife, check our our “Streets, Beats & Eats” episode from the island:
If you’re considering a trip to the Gili Islands but not sure which one(s) to visit, here’s what we’ll say about Gili T – it’s great if you’re a younger traveler looking to socialize or really focused on diving. If you’re a couple on a honeymoon, a family, or someone who prefers peace and quiet, you may want to choose one of the other islands. Check out Gili Meno if you’re looking for a romantic escape, and head to Gili Air for a nice mix of water sports, relaxing, and nightlife.