Gili Trawangan is the largest of Lombok’s Gili Islands and the only one to rise significantly above sea level. Measuring 3 km long and 2 km wide, it has a population of around 700. Of the Gilis, Trawangan has the most tourist facilities; the pub Tîr na Nôg claims that Trawangan is the smallest island in the world with an Irish pub. The most crowded part of Trawangan lies on the eastern side. It was previously administered under Lombok Barat Regency along with Senggigi until 2010 when the Gili islands came under the jurisdiction of the new North Lombok Regency (Kabupaten Lombok Utara).
On Gili Trawangan (as well as the other two Gilis), there are no motorized vehicles. The main means of transportation are bicycles (rented by locals to tourists) and cidomo (a small horsedrawn carriage). For traveling to and from each of the Gilis, locals usually use motorized boats and speedboats.
Some of the first inhabitants of Gili Trawangan were from Sulawesi who are fishermen and farmers. Previously Gili Trawangan was covered in forest and deer lived on the island. (Source: Inhabitants of Gili Trawangan — no printed source available)
The economy of Gili Trawangan centres on tourism, as the island is too small to support any broad scale agriculture, and too remote to allow economically viable industry or commerce.
This is the largest of the three Gili Islands with an estimated permanent population of about 800.
Trawangan was the first of the three islands to attract visitors in any numbers, and it was backpackers who led the way. In the 1990s the island developed a reputation as a wild party destination with cheap accommodation, no police, plentiful weed and mushrooms, and readily available harder drugs. Whilst that is still partially the case, Trawangan has matured into a destination that has a far wider appeal.
The thriving dive industry of the Gili Islands is centred here (although some operators have outposts on the other two islands), and since about 2005, the island has gone through a massive development boom, and a number of upscale sleeping, eating and drinking establishments have opened. Any visitor to Trawangan should be prepared for a real mish-mash of fellow travellers; some will be ensconced in US$400 per night, unashamedly Bali-style villas, while others would be quite happy to kip on the beach after a tough day on the mushies.
Most of the accommodation and other facilities on the island are on the eastern side, sheltered from the winds and rough seas of the Lombok Strait which sometimes batter the opposite side of the island. Boats dock here as well, on the beach just north of the market. The presence of a concrete jetty often confuses first-timers – just ignore it, as a rather unfortunate engineering miscalculation (or no calculation at all) caused the jetty to be built at the wrong level. The tide is virtually never high enough to allow boats to sensibly and safely use the jetty. It is a rather amusing white elephant.
A footpath circumvents the whole island and various tracks criss-cross, nearly always leading back to this coastal path. The area set back behind the east coast beachfront establishments is where most of the locals live (and where there is a lot of budget accommodation), and is known simply as “the village”. There is a low lying hill in the southern centre of the island, which is easily reached from the tracks heading southwest from the back of the village.
The sea is calmest in the morning and all transport stops running in the late-afternoon, well before dark. During periods of southerly winds and in July and August especially, the swell can be a bit hairy and you are very likely to get wet on the crossing. It is advisable to place laptops, cameras and handphones in waterproof bags for the crossing. You will need to wade through shallow sea when disembarking, so wear either appropriate footwear, or none at all.
The daily Perama service will take you directly from Senggigi departing 9AM to Gili Trawangan in under two hours for a flat Rp 100,000, plus optional Rp 10,000 for pickup at your lodging in Senggigi. Other operators can swing similar deals for Rp 75,000, but these often involve going through Bangsal.
Another option is to arrange a speedboat charter or pickup with your hotel, or a dive shop on Trawangan. These speedboat services run in and out of the lovely Teluk Nare bay in Lombok, south of Bangsal and thus avoiding the thoroughly unpleasant experience of combating the touts there. A speedboat charter normally takes up to three passengers, crosses in 20-30 min, and will cost about Rp 500,000.
The drive north from Senggigi follows the coast and the road offers panoramic views and glimpses of roadside village life. It is not a lengthy trip and the road has recently been upgraded throughout almost the entire length to either Teluk Nare and Bangsal a little further to the north. It is a quite scenic trip and glimpses of the Gilis can be seen as the road rises over the headlands whilst travelling up the coastline.
The cheapest way to reach Gili Trawangan is on a Public boat which departs from Bangsal from 8AM-5PM (but rarely later than 4PM). The official price is Rp 10,000. Sometimes these depart only when there are enough people, normally a minimum of 15 is enough. If numbers are insufficient you might be in for a long wait. The official maximum is 20 people but sometimes the boat is overloaded by the time it is ready to depart. The experience of departing from Bangsal is rarely pleasant due to the very persistent touts who infest the place, just try to ignore them and do not listen to their generally fanciful tales that involve you paying them money to solve an imaginary transportation problem. They often provide a chorus of gloomy predictions regarding the alleged unavailability of services, then if successful they just place unknowing passengers upon the normal scheduled service or a private charter at an often seriously inflated prices.
Buy your tickets direct from the official Koperasi Angkutan Laut Karya Bahari office. In Bangsal this is located inside the main building near the door at the eastern corner. The Koperasi operate the Public Boat, the Shuttle boat, the Island Hopping boat and also offer (official) Charter boats.
The Public boat office on Trawangan is right on the beach north of the unused concrete jetty, near where you are dropped off. You may need to wait until 15-20 others show up, so it’s best to be there early in the morning (7AM-8AM) if you want to get moving quickly. The last boat leaves Trawangan around 3PM.
Public boat (ferry)
This is the standard method to reach Gili Trawangan and is used by both local residents and tourists. The maximum number of passengers is fixed at 20 persons but it is often overloaded with goods and or passengers. If it seems clearly unsafe due to either overloading or prevailing weather conditions then it is most likely best not to board it.
Bangsal to Gili Trawangan 1 way is Rp 10,000
Gili Trawangan to Bangsal 1 way is Rp 10,000
This service supplements the Public boat (ferry) service and departs Gili Trawangan to Bangsal (on the main island of Lombok).
Bangsal to Gili Trawangan departs at 5PM, the official price is Rp 28,000.Gili Trawangan to Bangsal departs at 8:15AM, the official price is Rp 28,000.
(This is more expensive than the standard Public boat cost officially fixed at Rp 10,000).
The official charter boat service provided by Koperasi Angkutan laut Karya Bahari is permitted to carry a maximum of 12 persons.
Bangsal to Gili Trawangan 1 way is Rp 185,000, return Rp 350,000
Gili Trawangan to Bangsal 1 way is Rp 185,000, return Rp 350,000
Informal and unofficial charters are also available from private operators to travel from Bangsal to Gili Trawangan. If requiring one try to deal only with the boat operator, ignore the touts and ‘facilitators’ and use your time over a negotiation, any hint of haste or urgency is sure to raise the price.
The situation arising from the activities of pestering touts combined with confusing and inadequate formal services at Bangsal is the source of many disappointments and complaints.