Getting to the Gili Islands from Bali is not exactly a hop skip and a jump, but three hours to arrive at Paradise? Worth it!!!
Taking the Fast Boat to the Gili’s
Apparently, there are slower boats, but “slow” is not in my repertoire so I only researched taking the fast way to get there. What I do know is “fast” usually means “more expensive.” Which I heard IS the case in using the faster boats to these beautiful islands.
When I researched how to get to the Gili islands I was left wanting more information.
Here it is…
I took two of the top rated fast boats out there and back. Bluewater Express for our trip to Gili Air, and Gili Getaway for our way back to Bali. You can save a few dollars by booking a round trip with one company, but not much, and I wanted to try both.
A one-way ticket will run you about $55 US if you book online in advance. So a roundtrip ticket will cost one person around $110 US total. These prices do fluctuate practically daily so you could be paying as low as $42 and as high as $65 for a one-way per person. We noticed slightly lower prices if you purchased while you were in Bali. But for us, it was worth it to have peace of mind knowing we had tickets in hand because we had a schedule we wanted to stick to.
We also went during shoulder season (the months before the high season) so most days were available to book last minute. FYI…I wouldn’t wait until the last minute to book during high season, just a friendly tip. Gili Getaway was completely booked even on one of the shoulder season days at the beginning of May.
About the Boat
If I could make one recommendation, secure your seat up top on the outside deck as soon as possible. There is limited seating (I use the word seating loosely) upstairs and it is miserably hot downstairs inside the boat. Even with the windows open.
SECURE your sunglasses (my boyfriend lost a pair looking down at the sea), hats, and wear a ton of SUNSCREEN. The breeze is awesome!
They are NOT FANCY. It’s not luxurious. The fast boats reminded me more of my backpacking days of transportation. They do however have a restroom available. Again not fancy, but it does the job. Especially after a few beers (see below) or a bumpy ride.
Bluewater Express Vs. Gili Getaway
Both “Fast Boats” were very similar. They almost looked identical. I preferred the bathroom and upstairs seating on Gili Getaway, my boyfriend preferred Bluewater Express. The differences were very tiny.
The one thing Bluewater offered that Gili Getaway did not, was beer. Which my boyfriend also very much enjoyed.
The BIG difference to us was that the ocean was VERY rough on the way back to Bali, as opposed to the smooth sailing on the way to the Gili’s. So we both enjoyed the actual experience of Bluewater more. The rough seas obviously are no faulting of Gili Getaway (our return vessel). Gili Getaway did, however, have an engine fail about 40 feet from shore after we boarded in Gili Air. Not to worry though, they had a backup and had us cruising out to sea 15 minutes later.
This may be important to you when booking your tickets. See the companies website for exact routes, they are subject to change.
WE TOOK: BLUEWATER EXPRESS FROM SERANGAN HARBOR TO PADANG BAI (1 HOUR 15 MINS) PADANG BAI TO GILI T (1 HOUR 15 MINS)
GILI TRAWANGAN TO TELUK CODE LOMBOK (WAS SKIPPED SO SHAVED 30 MINUTES OFF OF OUR TRAVEL) 15 MINUTES GILI T TO GILI AIR
BACK: GILI GETAWAY FROM GILI AIR TO LOMBOK (PICKED UP FIRST PASSENGERS IN GILI T) LOMBOK TO LEMBONGAN AND LEMBONGAN TO NUSA PENIDA (was awesome to scope out Nusa Penida if only from the Harbor, definetly going there next time) NUSA PENIDA TO SERANGAN
BOTH ways took around 3 hours give or take.
Why do People Say the Fast Boat only takes 1 hour?
Great question. I heard this a lot while I was researching and I never found a fast boat that only takes 1 hour. If you do the math a straight shoot from Padang Bai Bali to Gili Air could very possibly only take a little over an hour. However, I did not find any routes like this in my many hours of checking out the situation.
If someone finds out PLEASE let me know!!!!!
There are so many people in Bali that were asking us if we needed transportation to Gili Air. I had already pre-booked, but there may be a quicker way??
These were the two top companies I came across after reading all that I could find online about SAFE and FAST boats to the Gili’s.
I had heard a few nightmare stories about failed boats crossing over to the Gili Islands so SAFETY was of the utmost importance to me.
Why not leave from Panang Bai?
Bluewater Express gave that option but we were staying in Canguu which is closer to Serangan. On the way back to Bali we were going to stay in Ubud, so Panang Bai looked like a better place to be dropped off. Gili Getaway did not give us that option.
SIDE-NOTE- I also “heard” the road to Panang Bai can also take a lot longer than you anticipate. So you can either spend more time on the boat (if dropped off at Serangan) or in a car (if dropped off at Panang Bai).
I myself have not taken that route so I can’t be exactly sure.
What I am sure of is every drive we took in Bali took longer than google maps anticipated and looked closer on the map then it felt in real life. The complete opposite of how I feel about using google maps in the States.
Use Offered Transportation To and From the Harbor
I personally recommend doing this. Again, you could probably save a few bucks by taking a cab or using a driver. I would prefer not having to look for the companies headquarters at the dock. It can be a little confusing.
Bluewater Express picked us up at our hotel for free. They advertised a location near us for a group pick up but I used “whats app” to call once in Bali and they agreed to pick us up at our villa in Canguu.
Most of these companies will do a free pick up and a free shared location drop off in Bali. No motorized vehicles are used on the Gili Islands, so you are on your own there.
We paid an add-on (around $23 US) for transportation straight from the Harbor to our hotel in Ubud on the way back. We got our own car and driver for that price. Not shared.
The service was very friendly and with the exception of seeing our life flash before our eyes over rough waters, we actually enjoyed our experiences.
Gili Air was one of our favorite destinations and it was absolutely worth the travel from Bali to get here!