How to get to the paradise islands of Java, Bali, Lombok and the Gilis in Indonesia

Travelling between the islands of Indonesia is pretty easy with most of the most visited being close enough to comfortably take the ferry. However there are many options and booking them can be confusing and often the most irritating part of the journey is organising transport once on the island as public transport in Indonesia isn’t easy to navigate!! Here is a guide to travel between Java, Bali to Lombok and the Gili islands, a popular backpackers route.

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Java to Bali 

Java is a huge island and depending on where you find yourself you will probably want to either fly from closer to Jakarta or take a broken up route through the islands towards the eastern end.

We flew into Jakarta from Manila via KL and from there took a 15 hour but to Yogyakarta. From here is was another 12 hour bus to Probelingo for Mt Bromo before a 5 hour train over to Banyuwangi/ Ketapang. 

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From here it should be simple but as it is a common route for backpackers there are many scams and price gouging tricks to look out for. Firstly the terry terminal is a good few KM from the town and you will likely be overcharged to get there, you can also make your way to the bus station and take a bus headed for Dempasar which will include the ferry fee but again the bus station is a little out of the town.

The ferry itself is very quick and cheap costing only 7,500 Rupiah (£0.42 / $0.55) and taking around 30 mins to get to Gilimanuk, they run every 15 mins all day. 

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The ferry is the easy part, both getting to the bus station/ ferry port on the Java side is a pain but you will usually not be too badly done by on price. However once you get to Gilimanuk you are quite a distance away from the main areas of Bali and this journey can be fraught with issues. We have had friends tell us of how their “cheap” bus stopped and demanded they paid extra (quite a lot extra) to continue or they would be kicked out at the side of the road! The journey to Dempasar from Gilimanuk is around 5 hours!

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It is entirely possible to get a non air conditioned bus for as little as around 30,000 Rp and then there are companies charging much much more for a large coaches usually for tourists. We ended up somewhere in the middle with the guy at the homestay selling us a ticket all the way, including the ferry, for 90,000 Rp (£5.00 / $6.63) each. We most definitely got overcharged but we also didn’t have any issues and were able to just stay on the same bus.

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Most buses will only take you to Dempasar or Mengwi and so you will have to take a further bus or Grab/ Uber up to places like Ubud, Kuta etc.

Our advice would be to get a bus that takes you all the way through as these seem to be the most trust worthy compared to the buses from Gilimanuk itself. Expect to pay between 30-100,000 Rp (£1.67 – £5.56 / $2.20 – $7.36) depending on your negotiation skills, the standard of bus and how accommodating they are feeling to foreigners! 

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Getting from Bali to Lombok

Lombok is a great place to visit from Bali offering a different culture and less saturated with tourists. Getting from Bali to Lombok is pretty simple though of course the main issue is getting transport from say Kuta or Ubud over to the ferry ports and the same once you are on Lombok. There are various options to consider when making the trip from Bali to Lombok!

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There is a public ferry that leaves from Padang Bai and takes 4-5 hours from Bali to Lombok. This is by far the cheapest option however getting to the ferry station can be a pain with the public transport on Bali not being the best. A good option is to book the ticket in an office which includes a shuttle bus, some even provide one at the other end too. Expect to pay around Rp250,000 per person from Bali to Lombok for this option though we did manage to negotiate it for around 200,000 Rp each with a shuttle bus at both ends. 

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How to explore the Gili Islands from Lombok

From Lombok it is really easy to get over to the Gili Islands, there are three, Gili Air, Gili Meno and Gili Trawangan which go in that order away from Lombok. Each has its own characteristics and atmosphere from the tiny Gili Meno which is hardly developed at all to the larger party atmosphere of Gili T, all are well worth spending at least a day on and so the best route is to go from Lombok to Gili Air then Gili Meno, Gili T and finally to Bali from there!

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From Lombok you will want to get down to Senggigi where it is easy to book a boat, you can also do it from the ferry terminal however it is best to book the day before and transport is an issue on Lombok. Most bookings from here include a pick up and drop off at the harbour. Once you are on the Gili islands everything is within walking distance!

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Gili Air is very close by to Lombok and there are two boats that go over, the fast and the slow boat. The slow boat itself only takes around 20 mins and is a little traditional craft usually full of locals which in itself is a cool experience. You will have to wait for the boat to fill and usually these will do a loop stopping at each island, so to Gili T the journey might be over an hour.  The prices are: 8,000 (Gili Air), 9,000 (Gili Meno) and 10,000 (Gili Trawangan).

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Travelling between each island on the slow public ferries is also very easy, with services running several times a day, crossing times of around 20 mins and low prices! With these boats is is usually ok to just turn up in the morning and buy a ticket, though getting from Gili Meno to Gili T is more than you might expect at around 35,000 each.

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Returning from the Gili Islands to Bali 

From the biggest island of Gili Trawangan it is easy to get back to Bali and the most convenient. As always there are many different options available with the main choice being whether you go with the slow or the fast boat!

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There are many different companies that run each and the easiest way is to just book from one of the vendors in the shacks along the front. If you book something else like a tour etc. from the same place then you will be able to negotiate a small discount, but generally all the prices on the island are very similar.

The slow boat takes around 4-5 hours and they run around the clock. However be prepared to set off at hour after you should as they are not the best organised service!! They are a little more roomy than the fast boat but still pretty basic and can get quite stuffy in the heat. Expect to pay around 125,000 including shuttle bus once in Bali

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The fast boats take around 2.5 hours and can be quite bumpy and some companies have bad safety records. Prices vary more depending on the company you go with. Expect to pay around 250,000 which should include a shuttle back to Kuta and Ubud, other areas on Bali might cost a little more. 

It is also quite easy to take these ferries in the opposite direction from Bali over to Gili Trawangan including shuttle bus.

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BEWARE!

When you arrive at the port in Bali you will be greeted with chaos, shouting, touts and scammers. You should have your shuttle bus pre booked if you can because otherwise its going to be a nightmare. Sure, this will cost you a little more but transport on Bali itself isn’t great and can be over priced. Be sure to ignore all the people on the port telling you buses are full or that they work for the company and instead take you to a taxi. Make your way over to the car park at the end of the pier and find someone who actually works for your ferry company and/ or their mini bus. I saw lots of naive backpackers being told it was another 4 hours to Kuta or that the buses were full and they would take them instead!

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Nicola Hilditch-Short

Nic is one half of the Roaming Renegades, a passionate traveller, climber, adventurer, photographer and artist who has a B.A in Fine Art and M.A in Design & Art Direction.