The island of Gili Trawangan in Lombok, Indonesia is a major stop on the well-beaten trail for backpackers in Southeast Asia.
Just as Vang Vieng in Laos and Ko Pha-Ngan in Thailand, Gili Trawangan has gained a reputation in Southeast Asia as a place to swap stories and sweat partying with other travelers from all over the world.
Although the island is "progressing" with nicer bungalows and cosmopolitan lounges that appeal to more sophisticated tourists, there are better Gili islands for a peaceful retreat in paradise.
There are no police on Gili Trawangan. Instead, the island is run by a village head which has the final say in all matters. Pool tables, gambling, and dogs - much to the relief of the many resident cats - have been banned on the island by the village head!
Every night on Gili Trawangan is special. Glorious island sunsets are the signal to eat good food and prepare for a dance party that may not stop until the sun rises!
Around Gili Trawangan
Most life on Gili Trawangan is centered on the east side of the island along one main road. Roads and footpaths spider toward the less-developed interior of the island where you will find cheaper accommodation.
A broken road circles the island which can be navigated on foot or by hiring a cidomo (horse-drawn cart). There are no cars or sputtering motorcycles to ruin the idyllic island vibe.
The best beach is found on the northeast corner of the island a short walk north of where the daily boats arrive.
The winding, unpaved roads of the island interior get very dark at night - bring a flashlight with you when walking home at night.
Gili Trawangan Food and Hotels
Most hotels and bungalows exist along the main road on the east side of the island. There are no high-rise developments on Gili Trawangan, however many luxury places offer swimming pools and fine dining in lavish garden settings.
Alternatively, there are more budget options for sleeping and eating located along the dirt roads of the island interior. Many bungalows include breakfast in the mornings, be sure to ask. If a place appears a little "too budget," learn how to avoid bedbugs by knowing what the signs are.
Popular, foreign-owned places such as Rudy's Pub and Tir na Nog offer air-con and renovated rooms with private terraces right in the heart of the action. These places have great food in a nice setting, but get noisy once a week when they host dance parties.
- For accommodations on the island, read our list of Gili Trawangan Resorts, Villas and Homestays.
Nightlife on Gili Trawangan
There are three large parties on the island weekly: Monday, Wednesday, and Friday night. The party isn't hard to find, just follow the thumping music and mass of bodies.
A myriad of bars, upscale lounges, and clubs pretty much guarantees that you will find music, televised soccer matches, and social action any night of the week.
Blue Marlin, Rudy's Pub, Sama Sama, and Tir na Nog - known as the "Irish" bar - are popular hot spots on the island.
Drugs, despite being illegal, are ubiquitous in Gili Trawangan. Restaurant menus and signs on the main road literally advertise magic mushrooms. Any food or drink that is described as "special" or "magic" will contain hallucinogenics.
- Read more about drugs in Southeast Asia.
Arak is locally-brewed and is the cheapest alcohol found on the island. Be aware that arak is unregulated and a poisonous batch is believed to be responsible for the 2009 deaths of more than 25 travelers in the Gilis and Bali.
Money on Gili Trawangan
Gili Trawangan claims the only ATM machine in the Gili Islands. Be warned, the machine is frequently out of money or broken so bring enough cash to last your stay. There are no banks for exchanging money on the island.
If you need emergency cash, Tir na Nog and some of the larger resorts will provide a cash advance on credit card for a fee.
Diving on Gili Trawangan
A generous number of dive shops offer cheap diving around the Gili Islands and make this a popular place to become scuba certified. Many dive shops have pools and well-trained instructors that have migrated here to escape the monsoon season in Thailand.
Competition between companies is fierce on the island so be sure to shop around.
Sharks, mantas, and turtles frequent the warm water between the islands. Sea turtles can be spotted while snorkeling just out from the main beach.
Sunsets on Gili Trawangan
A steep hill in the center of the island provides some nice views of the coast at sunset. Give yourself plenty of time to walk up the rocky trail and carry a torch and mosquito repellent with you. Read more about how to avoid mosquitoes.
Alternatively, you can walk the main road south to a nice concrete lookout on the west side of the island; sometimes a bonfire and impromptu party begins here at dark as travelers gather.
There is a resident doctor and tiny clinic on Gili Trawangan for non-emergency medical problems. The clinic is located in a strip of businesses on the southeast tip of the island.
The daily adhan (call to prayer) should be a constant reminder that Gili Trawangan is Muslim - topless sunbathing is very frowned upon. Even though others may not, cover up before leaving the beach to walk around the village.
Getting to Gili Trawangan
From Bali: Daily boats leave from Padangbai (90 minutes from Kuta) to the Gili Islands. Optionally, "fast boats" leave from Benoa Harbor in south Bali and make the journey in less than three hours.
From Lombok: You can charter a boat directly from Senggigi or take a cheap ferry from Bangsal, about an hour from Senggigi. Be wary of touts and scams around Bangsal Harbor.
From Gili Air and Gili Meno: Speedboats make daily runs between Gili Trawangan and the other Gili Islands. These boats pull up to the beach so expect to wade ashore in knee-deep water.
When to Go
Peak season in the Gili Islands is July, August, and around the Christmas holiday. Accommodation books up quickly and becomes much more expensive during this time.
The monsoon season is from November to April, but Gili Trawangan does not receive as much rain as Bali or other parts of Indonesia.