Help you decide Gili islands or Lombok to go

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7 min read
by Marlin
January 8, 2023

Lombok is an island the size of Bali and obviously it has a lot more places to visit than the little Gili islands. There are two famous tourist destinations in Lombok which are Senggigi and Mandalika, I will assume what you mean by Lombok is either one of these to compare with the Gilis.

Both Gili islands and Lombok are known for their beautiful beaches, but the Gili islands are more favorable to visit because of the white sand and crystal clear water that surround all the three islands.

These are the things to consider that can hopefully help you make a decision whether to visit Gili islands or Lombok in this upcoming vacation.

Gili islands

  • Beaches as the main attractions

  • Best for honeymoon

  • Family friendly

  • Touristy

  • Many unique activities to do

  • 90 minutes drive + 100 minutes sail from Bali airport


  • Beaches as the main attractions

  • Good for honeymoon

  • Family friendly

  • Non-touristy

  • Many unique places to visit

  • 40 minutes flight + 30 to 90 minutes drive from Bali airport

Gili islands or Lombok

Let’s dig it down even deeper for a more detailed comparison between Gili islands and Lombok!


Gili islands and Lombok may not be that much of a difference in terms of scenery, but still, they have their own uniqueness and it’s quite easy to choose between these two based on your taste.

Gili islands scenery

It's difficult to capture the essence of the Gili islands, but one way to describe them is as a budget-friendly alternative to the Maldives.

The islands are surrounded by stunning white sand beaches and crystal clear waters that rival those of their more expensive counterpart.

Gili islands scenery
Gili islands scenery

Despite their similarities, each of the three Gili islands has its own distinct character and level of development.

However, once you venture beyond the pristine beaches, you may find that the interior of the islands is mostly covered in dusty forests.

Lombok scenery

If you don’t have any clue where exactly in Lombok you want to spend your vacation, here are the Senggigi and Mandalika areas to choose. I also include the secret Gili Nanggu & sisters.

Gili islands, gili nanggu, senggigi and mandalika locations in lombok
Popular destinations


Senggigi used to be the magnet of tourism in Lombok until the Mandalika area started growing. The beaches in Senggigi are decent compared to the beaches on the Gili islands or the Mandalika area.

Kerandangan beach
Kerandangan beach in Senggigi


Mandalika is a tourism area on the south of Lombok, this area has a lot of beautiful beaches and unique landscapes to visit. If you have heard about Kuta beach in Lombok before, this is where it’s located.

Kuta beach Lombok
Kuta beach in Mandalika © Malik Aslam

Gili Nanggu

Let me introduce you to what’s called The secret Gili islands, which look similar to the real Gilis but way smaller. They’re located on the southwest of Lombok and I’ll talk about this later on.

Gili Nanggu
Gili Nanggu © Agnes Worek

Vacation type

You and I know the destination that you want to visit should be strongly influenced by the type of vacation you want. In this case, being picky is actually a good thing.

If you’re planning this upcoming vacation out for a honeymoon or family trip, there should be things to consider about a particular place to get the best experience out of it.

Let’s dive in and see if either one of these destinations fits your needs!


What does a couple need in their honeymoon? You’re right! A private and calm place with romantic vibes!

Gili islands for honeymoon

  • Gili Meno is super calm

  • Plenty of hotels with private beaches

  • Beautiful & romantic sunset vibes

  • Less places to visit

Lombok for honeymoon

  • Non-touristy

  • Hotels with sea & nature view

  • Beautiful & romantic sunset vibes

  • Many places to visit other than just the beach

Gili islands or Lombok for honeymoon?

To be more specific, Gili Meno and Gili Air are better suited than Lombok for a honeymoon. Their environment and romantic vibes are perfect for couples.

Family vacation

When planning a family trip out, there are some questions in every parents’ head about a particular destination such as:

Is it family friendly?

Are there many things to do?

Are there many places to visit?

Let’s see which one of these is better for a family trip with children.

Gili islands for family

  • Has 1 total attraction

  • Has 1 unique attraction

  • Attraction is considered less family friendly

  • Less attraction but many things to do

  • Beach is the only attraction with a lot of women in inappropriate dressing

Lombok for family

  • Has plenty of attractions

  • Has many unique attractions

  • Attractions are considered family friendly

  • Many new things for kids to see

  • Rich of culture

Gili islands or Lombok for family?

Lombok is a better choice for a family vacation as it’s rich in culture and has more unique places to visit than Gili islands and it’s also considered family friendly.

Things to do

Here are some activities you can do when you visit Lombok or Gili islands. Note that I don’t cover all activities in Lombok because there are too many of them, only the ones in Senggigi and Mandalika.

Things to do in Gili islands

Honestly, there are some other attractions in Gili islands instead of just the beach, I just think they aren’t worth mentioning.

These are some activities you could do if you visit the Gili islands

Playing at the beach

Be excited, play and jump into the crystal clear water like if you’re a kid!

Gili islands
Gili islands aerial view
Gili islands
Gili islands aerial view
Gili islands
Gili islands aerial view
Gili islands
Gili islands aerial view
Gili islands
Gili islands aerial view
Gili islands
Gili islands aerial view

Chilling at the beach

You will still be able to find some private spots on the Gili islands. But remember, don’t go too far away from the crowd especially if you’re a solo female traveler.

Gili islands beach
Gili islands beach
Gili islands beach
Gili islands beach

Doing water sports

Various water sports activities available on the GIlis, some of them are:

  • Snorkeling

  • Diving

    • See sharks

    • See manta rays

  • Glass-bottom boat tour

  • Surfing

Snorkeling Gili islands
Gili islands underwater
Gili islands underwater
Gili islands underwater

Selfie with underwater statues

Created by British sculptor Jason deCaires Taylor, 48 statues were first created to support coral growth. Lately it has become tourists favorite spot for selfies!

Gili islands underwater statues
Underwater statues

Ride a horse at the beach

Horses on the Gilis are more expensive to rent than scooters in Bali. Expect to pay US$ 15 for a horse per hour.

Horseback riding
Horseback riding

Get on a horse wagon

Did you know? Motorized vehicles aren’t allowed on the Gili islands. Therefore your only options are either renting a bicycle or taking a horse wagon.


Things to do in Lombok

Mandalika and Senggigi are two coastal areas in Lombok so activities in these two places are tightly related to beachlife.

Check out this page if you plan for a long vacation and want to explore more of Lombok than just these two places.

Visit beaches in Senggigi

Going to the west just a few short miles from the city of Mataram and you’ll get to the Senggigi area. Beaches in Senggigi are decent if we compare them to beaches in Mandalika.

Beaches in Senggigi area:

  • Senggigi

  • Kerandangan

  • Malimbu

  • Nipah

Senggigi beach
Senggigi beach

Visit Mandalika beaches

Not just in Bali, they also have this beach called Kuta in Lombok! This is a list of beaches on the south Lombok that you probably like to visit.

  • Kuta Lombok

  • Tanjung Aan

  • Selong Belanak

  • Mawun

  • Mawi

  • Nambung

Kuta beach Lombok
Kuta beach Lombok © Vega Viditama
Kuta beach Lombok
Kuta beach Lombok © Malik Aslam
Kuta beach Lombok
Kuta beach Lombok © Malik Aslam
Tanjung Aan beach
Tanjung Aan © Kyeongjoo Min
Merese hill
Merese hill © Mauro Scabuzzo
Selong Belanak
Selong Belanak
South Lombok beach
South Lombok beach
South Lombok beach
South Lombok beach

Visit Gili Nanggu & friends

Most people only know about the famous Gili Trawangan, Gili Meno and Gili Air, while there are more hidden gems out there similar to the Gilis that only a few people know about.

Gili Nanggu, Gili Kedis, Gili Sudak and Gili Tangkong are the secret Gilis that most of the locals don’t even know they are exist.

Gili Nanggu
Gili Nanggu © Irma Yanti
Gili Kedis
Gili Kedis


The weather of both destinations are sunny for most of the time with the temperature averaging at 90℉ / 32℃ at midday.

During the rainy season the temperature becomes hotter and unpleasant as the humidity increases.

🌧 Rainy season: October - April
🌵 Dry season: May - September


When talking about the crowdedness in these two places, the answer is pretty much it depends. While I can almost guarantee you’ll get a peaceful holiday in Lombok, it’s a different story when it comes to the Gilis.

As you may already know, the Gili islands consists of three islands which are:

  • Gili Trawangan

  • Gili Meno

  • Gili Air

Gili Trawangan is the most visited island of all three, with Gili Air as the runner up and Gili Meno sits on the third podium.

If you wonder how crowded Gili Trawangan is, in the high season it’s pretty much like walking on an avenue in a big city. Yes, it’s kind of crowded for some people.

What about Gili Air? Even though it’s the second most visited island, the number is only ¼ of the total visitors of Gili Trawangan.


In general, both Gili islands and Lombok are considered safe from high level crime but visitors should still be well aware of potential crime like pickpockets and scam.

✨ Tips for travelers

  • Stay in the crowd

  • Don’t go out too far at night

  • Put your stuff in a safe place

  • Ask for help at a hotel, restaurant or cafe

  • Don’t trust anyone that offers help if you don’t really need it


Hotels and resorts are scattered all around the place in Gili islands and Lombok. From a cheap one to the super luxury is available in both destinations.

In terms of location, hotels and resorts in both places are located strategically to the main attractions.

Due to the high level of competition between these hotels, the pricing is set to the very minimum. A 1-star hotel can be as cheap as US$ 14 a night for a room with 2 people.

1-star hotel basic facilities are:

  • Airport shuttle

  • Free Wi-Fi

  • Non-smoking rooms

  • Free breakfast

Resort in Lombok
4-star hotel in Senggigi Lombok
Hotel in Gili islands
3-star hotel on Gili islands


In the old days it was tiring and very time consuming to get to the Gili islands. People first had to go to Lombok and take a public boat to reach the islands which was very challenging.

Today, it’s very easy to reach the Gili islands. Thanks to fast boat companies for making the journey easy and convenient.

To get to Lombok you can take a direct flight to it if it’s available. Or, you can also get there by taking a fast boat or ferry from Padang Bai harbor in Bali.

If your destination is Senggigi, taking a fast boat is recommended. But if your destination is Gili Nanggu or Mandalika, taking a ferry is a good option.

Average cost and commute time from Bali airport:

Item Gili islands Lombok
Cost US$ 50 US$ 50
Commute 3 hours 3 - 6 hours

Getting around

To get around Gili islands you actually don’t have many options over the type of transportation you can use. This table shows transportation availability in both places.

# Transport Lombok Gili islands
1 Taxi
2 Uber
3 Bus
4 Local taxi
5 Local uber
6 Train
7 Subway
8 Car rental
9 Scooter rental
10 Bicycle rental
11 Horse wagon

As you can see on the table above, only horse wagons and bicycles are available on Gili islands to get around. The rule is to only use non motorized vehicles to keep the air stay fresh.


When comparing the food of these two places there’s literally little to no difference on how it tastes, looks and the types of food there on the menu.

There are three kinds of food in both places, they are:

  • Local fast food

  • Street food

  • Restaurant food

Local fast food is the cheapest. The price is between .50 to a dollar. You can find it everywhere but mostly at the traditional market, or along the street only in the morning.

Nasi bungkus
Nasi bungkus (wrapped rice)

Street food is I think only open at night. The price is between US$ 1 to 2. You can find it on almost every street at night.

Indonesian street food
Soto betawi

Food in the restaurant is a mix of western and local taste. You can go all on western food or try the local dish out. A good price of food in a restaurant is US$ 3.

Indonesia restauran food
Restaurant food example


I think we all agree that Gili Trawangan is a party heaven. Partying actually becomes one of the top reasons why people visit the Gili islands.

It may not be as fancy as parties in Canggu or Seminyak in Bali but you can expect an all-night party here on Gili Trawangan.

Meanwhile in Lombok, the Senggigi area is a better choice than Mandalika. The reason is people in Mandalika are religious, which means they’re against it.


Lombok is a better place if you want to go on a shopping spree. Gili islands are good but limited to items like souvenirs.

Whereas in Lombok they have many shopping centers in each place or anywhere nearby.

Popular souvenirs:

  • Gili islands: shell bracelet

  • Lombok: clay handcrafts & traditional handbag


Generally speaking, people in both places are kind to tourists. People in Lombok are known to be religious and that translates into friendly, polite and welcoming locals.

Same thing also happens on the Gili islands. However, there have been a few cases where female tourists were catcalled, and hawkers forcing tourists to buy souvenirs they brought.


Travel costs of the two places are quite similar as they both are located in the same country with only a few miles apart.

Let’s break down the cost of how much you should really spend traveling to Gili islands or Lombok by yourself, with a partner or with family.


  • Cheap means a 1-star hotel, bread as food and bicycle rental for transportation

  • Average means a 3-star hotel with meals in restaurants and scooter rental for transportation

  • Luxury means a 5-star hotel with meals in restaurants and car rental for transportation

Tables are showing estimations of how much you would spend in a single day.

Prices are in USD

Solo traveler
Item Cheap Average Luxury
Hotel $7 $16 $135
Food $1.34 $10 $10
Rental $2.50 $7 $45
TOTAL $10.84 $23 $190
Couple vacation
Item Cheap Average Luxury
Hotel $10 $33.50 $167
Food $2.68 $20 $20
Rental $5 $7 $45
TOTAL $17.68 $60.50 $232
Family of 4 with kids (double room)
Item Cheap Average Luxury
Hotel $20 $134 $668
Food $5.36 $40 $40
Rental $10 $14 $45
TOTAL $35.36 $188 $753

Table below shows the average cost of a round-trip flight to Bali from major cities in the world.

City Solo Couple Family
Los Angeles $1,600 $3,200 $6,400
London $1,800 $3,600 $7,200
Sidney $1,200 $2,400 $4,800

An additional US$ 500 is more than enough to cover the airport shuttle transport, souvenirs and entrance fees.

It takes an average of 3 days to cover all the main spots in each destination.

Best time to visit

When it comes to choosing the best month to visit either one of both places we need to consider these three things.

  • Weather

  • Best view

  • Other travelers


The rainy season is between October and April. To avoid this you’ll need to come during the dry season which is between May and September.

Drawback: Touristy

Best view

The best view of nature in tropical areas is happening in the rainy season until mid dry season.

Drawbacks: Rainy & touristy

Other travelers

This table shows the number of foreign tourists visiting Bali in 2019.

# Month Visitors
1 January 455,570
2 February 437,456
3 March 449,569
4 April 477,069
5 May 486,602
6 June 549,516
7 July 604,323
8 August 606,412
9 September 590,398
10 October 567,967
11 November 497,925
12 December 552,403
13 TOTAL 6,275,210

As you can see the peak season traveling to Bali is in August, and the lowest number is in February.


The best time to visit Gili islands or Lombok is in the month of May when the rainy season is over, the number of tourists is low and when nature is in its best view.

Gili islands vs Lombok

# Vacation Gili islands Lombok
1 Adventure Good Better
2 Family Good Better
3 Honeymoon Best Good

Haven’t decided yet? Visiting them both may be a good plan especially if you have enough time to spend on your vacation.

Gili islands or Lombok first to visit?

Go to Gili islands first for a couple of days, and then spend the last few days in Lombok.

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