Bali to Gili’s
For making the laboured journey to the Gili Islands, from Bali, you have a few options. I would recommend either flying or taking the speedboat.
1. Flying: It cost us about 250,000 IDR to fly from Denpasar domestic airport to Lombok (big island to East of Bali) airport. Scyscanner is a great website for booking these flights.
From there it is a cheap public bus ride to get to Bangsal harbour (around 30,000 IDR). As one enters the arrivals part of the airport, the bus counter is on the left side.
Once at Bangsal head to the public/local ticket office next to the beach and buy a ticket to either Gili Aire, Gili Meno or Gili Trawangan (10,000-15,000 IDR).
The public boats only leave when they fill up but that usually happens quite quickly (NOTE: they will tell you that it will be a long waiting time so that you buy a ticket for the faster, more expensive, speedboat). There are many of these boats leaving every day from dawn till dusk. The public boats are quite rickety and overcrowded but the journey is literally 10 minutes.
This is probably the most efficient and glamorous way of making this journey, as well as, coming in slightly cheaper (not much in it), if you are only going one way.
If you are making this journey in the afternoon, flying is the only option since the speedboats mainly leave in the morning. This is what we did and by the time we arrived in Lombok, around 7pm, all the public boats had stopped from Bangsal. Our options were to stay one night in Bangsal or organise a private transfer. We went with the latter and reached Gili T at about 8.45pm. This cost us 700,000 IDR (for two of us) with one of the tour operators in the airport (located just beyond baggage reclaim). Try and find other people in the airport to share this with.
2. Speedboat: For a return journey to/from the Gili’s, the speedboat should total around 500,000 IDR. I think the best place to book these services is through one of the tour advertising agents – these are little stalls, on the side of the road, with lots of posters showing the various activities they offer and you can find them in Ubud, Sanur, Uluwatu, Canggu, Kuta etc. You can also ask your hotel/hostel if they offer the service for a cheaper price.
I would not book online, since it is always more expensive and probably not as reliable. 300,000-400,000 IDR should be the correct amount for a one way journey from Kuta and remember to negotiate as many companies offer the same services so their competition is big.
Gili’s to Bali
1. Speedboat: Generally this is the preferred method of transfer from the Gili’s. You can book it on any of the Gili Islands and it should cost 300,000 IDR for a one way ticket to Kuta/Seminyak/Ubud. I was going to Canggu and that would’ve been an extra 50,000 IDR, so I decided I would grab an uber taxi from Seminyak. They tell you that it takes 1hr30mins. This is incorrect – it is more like 2hr30mins and sometimes the boats can be very delayed. Quite a social crossing with many travellers making the same journey.
2. Public bus/boats method (via Lembar): Another option is to take the very long journey round (8-9hrs, with huge variance), which takes all the public services. This costs around 250,000 IDR if you go with a package but would cost less if you made this journey on your own.
Lombok to Gili’s and vice versa
1. There are two ways of getting to/from Gili’s from/to Lombok, tourist speedboat or public boat. Jump on the public boat as it is cheap (10,000-15,000 IDR), there is no need to book and there are boats leaving all the time from dawn till dusk. The boats leave from Bangsal harbour in Lombok and just ask around for the departure points when in the Gili’s. As mentioned above, locals in and around the ticket kiosk may tell you that the waiting time will be an hour plus – this is a ploy to get you to buy the more expensive speedboat tickets. Reality is that you will probably be waiting maximum 15 minutes.