Updated: Mar 15, 2020
Where to go after Ubud, Bali?
We learned about three tiny island off the northwest coast of Lombok, the island east of Bali, Indonesia. The three islands are Gili Menos, Gili Air and Gili Trawangan (Gili T). The largest (still small) of the three, Gili T., became our next destination. After spending much of the time landlocked in Kuta and Ubud, we were definitely intrigued and very ready for some clean, tropical, beach fun, since the Gili's are labeled as fun, tropical paradises.
We were determined to find the best way of getting there and staying within our budget.
There are two ways to the island:
1) Fast boat: higher cost, straight shot, less commuting time, gets you from Padang Bai to Gili T in about 1 hour depending on the condition of the sea. More info on fast boats.
2) Public ferry to taxi to slow boat: commuting time takes almost the entire day but cost effective.
Keep in mind you can also use these routes to get to the other two islands: Gili Air and Gili Menos. The fast boats travel to all three Gili islands, as well as the slow boats.
(map provided by gilibookings.com)
It's easy to book online or locally. Whatever works the best for the current itinerary.
We decided to bite the bullet and take the cheaper, longer route. The hotel on Gili T was booked ahead of time, so staying on schedule was necessary.
We decided to buy shuttle tickets through our guesthouse, because they were cheaper than Perama. Perama is a shuttle bus company in Bali and Lombok.
For two people, our guesthouse offered us Rp 120k (approx. $8.40). There was no company name, just a guy driving a shuttle, picking other travelers up from various guesthouses and hotels.
At Padang Bai there are two areas to catch the boats from: the fastboat area on the northern end, and the public ferry at the south end.
Our guesthouse reassured that we'd be dropped off at the public ferry, which we also confirmed with the driver prior to pick-up.
Lo-and-behold, the shuttle dropped us off at the fast boat area, so we had to walk a good 10 minutes to the local ferry office. We could see the ferry from the fast boat area, so it wasn't difficult to find.
We did request to our shuttle driver that we were catching the public ferry, but he refused to drop us off at the ferry port, so we ended up walking... running. We almost missed the ferry. An adult ferry pass will run about Rp 46k ($3.24) each.
This ferry was THE slowest ferry we have both ever rode! It took us almost five hours to get from Padang Bai, Bali to Dermaga Ferry Lembar, Lombok.
The only two ACs on board were both broken, turning the cabin into a sauna. There were people continuously smoking outside so fresh air was out of the question. And don't get us started on the on-board entertainment... to put it in the kindest way possible, it was unbearable. Why? The laser discs were cool, but when the audio started blaring a retro movie clipping over the loud speakers, and various squeaky music videos, we knew we were in for a long ride.
Bring your own food and drinks if you do decide to catch this ferry, the food on board is overpriced, and the cafe attendants smoke while working. Understandably, this is still a developing country, so you'll get your fair share of second-hand smoke.
"Upon alighting" (term used a lot in Taiwan), people dispersed, leaving us to wonder how are we getting to Bangsal Port up north. There were a few local men asking people where they were going and if they needed a ride. We were the only two that needed a ride up north, and luckily one of those guys' driver agreed to take us for Rp 250k ($17.60). They would not agree to Rp 200k, but inflation, right?
"And when we say crazy, we mean very exciting, one of the most sketchy things we've done. "
The drive to the north was crazy! And when we say crazy, we mean very exciting, and one of the most sketchy things we've done. We were stuck in Mataram's heavy afternoon traffic for more than two hours! We thought we weren't going to make it in time for the last slow boat. The shuttle guy's van was barely being held together and there was no AC. Slowly crawling through Mataram was hot and fumy. The drive through the mountains had a great breeze.
There was roadwork on the mountain, too, but nothing slowed down there. The vans will drift around slow cars and trucks to get ahead, even cement trucks.
The van dropped us off at Bunga Bunga Cafe, which is owned by one of the slow boat captains. The boat captain informed us we had time to eat before the boat left for the Gili's. After eating a quick meal and purchasing our tickets, we walked to the dock to catch the last boat of the day.
We took the last slow boat of the day to Gili T at about 5pm. The slow boat is Rp 19k ($1.34) per person.
The last leg of the journey! It was another crazy experience. Before the boat arrived at Bangsal, two guys came up to us asking if we had fast boat return tickets to Bali or Lombok, and offered us "cheap" open tickets back to Padang Bai (since we weren't going to any other islands). We declined, even though they insisted we wouldn't find the price they are offering on Gili T.
However, we did, same company with same price, so there is no rush to buy anything from anyone. To get back by fast boat it cost us Rp 250k ($17.61) per person with Wahana. More on that in another post.
The slow boat was nuts! There were so many people onboard we thought the boat was going to sink. After thirty minutes we arrived, we had finally made it to our destination!
After EIGHT arduous hours we had finally made it!
In total, we spent Rp 500k ($35.25) for two adults to get from Padang Bai to Gili T., which is about equal to the price for one of the cheapest fast boat adult tickets one way. And, although the fast boat is faster, the one we purchased for our return trip was a vomit-inducing ride.
We recommend taking the budget route only if you really have a tight budget, or want the real travel experience. That was a once in a lifetime experience for us.
Our amazing stay: Uki Village, Lombok.
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