Among the three Gili islands, Gili Air is nearest mainland Lombok. Nevertheless, it has retained an unsophisticated yet endearing atmosphere. The small island offers pristine beaches and azure blue waters, makingit the perfect diving getaway for social backpackers.
How to travel from Bali to Gili Air is no problem at all. Since Gili Air is the farthest island of the three islands comprising Gili atoll, getting there by boat from Bali means a stopover to Gili Trawangan and/or Gili Meno. However, there are boat operators from Lombok that go directly to Gili Air.
By Fast Boat
As Bali Sea is calmest in the morning, boats going to and from Gili Air stop there in the late afternoon. From July to August, southerly winds are dominant that boat trips to Gili Air could be a bit rough. Travelers are advised to place their electronic gadgets in waterproof bags during the crossing and encouraged to go barefoot or wear appropriate footwear as they will have to wade through shallow water when debarking from the boat.
The fast boat option ticket is inclusive of guest pick-up from his hotel in Bali, and transportation to the port at Padang Bai. Ticket prices vary, depending on the hotel or travel agent selling the ticket, and with the season. The usual price range is from IDR 300,000 to IDR 600,000 for one-waytrip, so it is best to shop around to get the lowest ticket price possible. Online booking is also possible with most of the boat companies plying the Bali-Gili Islands route.
It is best to buy boat tickets at least a day before intended departure to Gili Air so staying overnight in Kuta, Ubud or at Padang Bai is a good option. Padang Bai is a better choice for those who prefer a quiet and restful night as there is no nightlife in the area, and there is no need to travel by car for a few hours to get to the dock.
The boat ride from Padang Bai Gili Trawangan is about 1 hour and 30 minutes. Almost all fast boats proceed to Gili Air after debarking passengers at Gili Trawangan. In case they do not, the preferred mode of transportation from Gili Trawangan to Gili Air is by island hopper boats. The boat ride from Trawangan to Air is about 30 minutes, with boats leaving the dock at Trawangan at 9:30 a.m. and 4:00 p.m., stopping at Gili Meno first before proceeding to Gili Air.
Private boats are available for rent at Gili Trawangan to Gili Air, for a maximum of 10 persons at IDR 450,000. Boat tickets are available at the public port office on the eastern side of Trawangan.
By Ferry Boat
The local ferry is a cheaper option to get from Bali to Gili Air. However, this takes a lot longer as there are no direct ferry boat rides to the three Gili Islands. From Padang Bai, the public ferry boat goes straight to South West Lombok’s Lembar Harbor. This trip is about 6-8 hours long. Upon disembarking at Lombok, travelers bound for Gili Air go for a short car or bus ride to Bangsal port for the ferry boat ride to Gili Air.
Ferry boats depart from Bangsal dock from 8:00 in the morning until not later than 4:00 in the afternoon. The trip to Gili Air is about 30 minutes, but waiting time could be a bit of a challenge as the boat will not leave until there are at least 38 passengers. The ride could be a bit uncomfortable too, as seats are not guaranteed, and it is often overloaded with not only passengers but goods as well.
Since Bangsal is a stopover in this route, one can opt for a charter boat to Gili Air at a much lower price.