Living island life on Gili Air: what you need to know
Thinking about moving to the Indonesian paradise of Gili Air? Whether it’s because you’ve decided to do your divemaster internship here or just looking for that dreamy island life, you’re on the brink of a great decision! Many people come here for a few days and then can’t quite manage to leave. So, here’s some helpful things you need to know about living on this paradise island.
Before you even get off the boat you should join the Facebook group Gili Air Pinboard. Locals, residents, tourists and travellers post about the latest on the island.
This includes missing and lost items, events and — importantly for you — things they’re looking to buy, sell and rent. You can find things like scuba diving gear, places to live and bicycles.
And that should be your first order of business on the island — getting yourself some wheels!
As there are no cars or scooters this will be your main method of transportation while you’re on land. While the island isn’t big, you’ll be surprised by how much you rely on it and how far away things can seem! In no time you’ll be thinking that a 15 minute ride is too far. Expect to pay around 700,000 IDR, depending on the type and the state of the bike.
Gili Air accommodation situation
On the island there are quite a few different options for long term accommodation. When first getting here it’s a good idea to have a few nights booked in at a hostel or vacation place. From there you can bike or walk around the island keeping an eye out for signs and asking around.
There are also a couple of local, “kind of” estate agents, that can help you out. You let them know your requirements and budget and they’ll help find you your island home.
What to consider when finding a place to call home:
- Shower — Do you want freshwater or will slightly salty water do? Will you make do with cold water or is hot water an essential for you?
- Keeping cool — It sure does get hot here but do you really need air con? Fan rooms are often quite a bit cheaper.
- The location — Most things are located towards the south of the island, including the mosque. You’ll need to consider where you want to be in relation to these.
- Cleaning — Does the accommodation get cleaned? How often? Or will you need to buy some cleaning stuff and do it yourself?
- Kitchen — Eating local food is very inexpensive. However, if you’re on a really tight budget or have some tough eating requirements a kitchen might be a necessity for you.
- The cost — Most places tend to be between 2–3 million IDR depending on what you’re looking for and the season. Keep an eye out for better deals in the low season.
Island life: shopping
On Gili Air there are a few places you can buy stuff. There are shops at the harbour and others dotted around the island where you can buy the basics and some snacks such as Pocari, alcohol, chips and ice cream (basically the essentials to island life). For more variation you’ll need to visit one of the local shops on the island. The biggest is Siti shop which is also on the main road just up from the harbour. Here you’ll find anything from toiletries and fruit and veg to medicines and pots and pans.
There are also a few stalls and shops for clothes and jewellery. These are targeted at tourists, but if you find yourself bored of your suitcase it’s worth a look!
But doesn’t island life get boring?
Gili Air is small, but there is always something to be doing. During your divemaster internship you’ll be living the dream diving these Indonesian waters every day. When you’re not busy with diving and becoming a totally rad diver, there’s plenty of other things to do around Gili Air.
From taking out paddle boards and yoga classes to escape rooms and snorkelling. Or why not just chill the f out on the beach or by the pool.
But if you’re looking for a bit more of an adventure, jump on the public boat to Lombok. Get your fill of mountainscapes and waterfalls — climb mount Rinjani or wander through rice fields. While you’re there you can also head into Mataram for a dose of city life. If there’s any bits and bobs you can’t find on Gili Air, have a look at the mall. You can also stop by the other Gili islands. Party the night away on Gili Trawagan or get some peace on Gili Meno. Both the other Gilis and Lombok are super easy to get to by boat. You can either get the cheap public boat or fast boat.
Island life: where’s the party at?
Gili Air may be quieter than it’s well known neighbour, but don’t be fooled. Here we party hard too.
There’s a few nights a week where the party goes on until late (Wednesdays at Legends and Fridays at Cheeky Monkeys / Lucky’s). But expect sunset drinks to be the regular and make the most of those happy hour deals.
Island life: connection
Being an island you gotta expect that the connection isn’t quite like your usual city. Here we often have mati lampu — power cuts. They’re sometimes planned, sometimes random. While many places now have generators, know what to expect.
Alongside this, internet connection here isn’t the most reliable. Keep your phone data topped up as it will be the most stable form of connection.
Island Life: community and culture
The community here is one of the things that makes this island such a great place to live. Both locals and expats are friendly and welcoming. Be prepared for everyone to know everyone and everything that’s going on. It is a small island afterall.
Learn more about the culture and community of the island, and don’t forget to be respectful. Remember that while this is a rad island paradise, it is also predominantly Muslim. So, being on the beach or at a dive shop in swimwear is totally acceptable, but walking through the village or town with little clothing on is not.
Join the tribe
With this information you should be ready to embark on the island lifestyle of your dreams. Spend your mornings diving the Gilis, afternoons underneath palm trees and your evenings watching the sunset with the tribe.
by Natalie Hewitt