Bali & the Gili Islands Travel Guide

Welcome to Part 2 of my Bali Travel Guide. Part 1 was all about Ubud, which is where Farmboy and I landed from Korea and spent the beginning and end of our trip in July 2014. This part of the Bali travel guide is all about the Gili Islands.  We spent the middle of our trip, a total of 5 nights on these magical islands. 

The Gili Islands are made up of of 3 small islands (Gili Trawangan, Gili Meno & Gili Air) on the East coast of Bali. Gili Trawangan is the biggest of the three and home to the majority of restaurants and resorts. Gili Meno & Gili Air are the two smallest islands, with Air being the most remote. If coming from Bali mainland you will arrive by fast boat (a terrifying 1.5 hour ride...more on that to come later in this blog post) but you will arrive in one piece on Gili T (Trawangan). From there you can charter a private boat to Gili Meno or Air (usually for about $15) or you can take the public boat which only goes across to the smaller islands a few times a day. Prices for the public boat were about $3 pp. All of the Gili Islands are walkable, and there are no motorised vehicles allowed on them and everyone gets around by walking or using either bicycles or horse/donkey drawn carts called Cidomos. 


We loved our stay on the Gili Islands, and would have spent longer there had we known just how beautiful it would be. Here are a few photographs from Gili Meno where we spent most of our time.

**Keep in mind that July/August is peak season for Bali, and things start getting booked up as early as January. If a hotel has accommodation try to secure your booking with a deposit so you don't loose out while deciding where you want to travel to. Another very beautiful place to visit in Bali is Amed, a quiet coastal town in the North. If things are all booked up on the GIli Islands for your dates try looking at places in Amed. It seems to still be very untouched as most people head down South to Kuta, and the Gili Islands are starting to get more popular now too.

Getting to the Gili Islands

The GIli Islands are on the East Coast of Bali, and the easiest way to get there is by fast boat leaving either from Bali or from Lombok. A lot of people make the journey to the gIli Islands from Ubud. Because of this, many boat companies offer packages that will pick you up from your hotel in Ubud and drop you off there again if you book a return ticket. There are a number of online sites which you can book through before hand, but from the numerous scams and horror stories we had read, we decided to organise our boat tickets with our host, Dewa, when we arrived in Ubud. Dewa was able to get us tickets for $75 pp return (which included pick up at our accommodation in Ubud and transport to the port where the fast boat leaves from).

You will probably be picked up in a mini van to make the +-2hour ride from Ubud to Padang Bai where you will board the fast boat to the islands. Once you get to Padang Bai you will then need to queue up to collect your ticket (most people arrive with an email confirmation or tour group) and then you stand on the docks and wait for your boat. It's quite chaotic but definitely an interesting experience waiting for your boat. There are lots and lots of boat companies and boats going at the same time so make sure to keep your eyes peeled so you get on the right boat!

The prices vary with different companies, some also offer discounts for more than 1 ticket booked together. I would suggest booking your tickets for the fast boast as soon as you arrive in Bali rather than before your arrive, as the locals generally are able to secure better deals and will help you get onto a safe boat. Some of the tour companies we had looked at were Perama Tour & Marina Srikandi. It was very overwhelming as there are A LOT of companies that offer transport to the Gili Islands, and there are just as many people online telling stories about how they were scammed or how scary the ride there is. To be honest, the ride itself was pretty terrifying, but our boat was airconditioned and that helped ease the sea sickness a bit. Just be prepared that the trip there and back won't a walk in the park, and you'll be fine. Better to be prepared for a hard trip and then have it be easy that the other way around! It's only an hour and a half though and will just be a memory once you arrive in paradise. 


Where to Stay on Gili Trawangan

There are loads and loads of places to stay on Gili T, the biggest of the three islands. This is also where the majority of restaurants and shops are. The island is still small enough to walk around in an afternoon, especially if you want to get away from the crowds of people who frequent the most popular stretch of beach, 'Good Heart'. 

We spent our last two nights after Gili Meno on Gili T at Scalleywags Resort. It was wonderful. The rooms were clean, comfortable and so luxurious compared to our rustic beach hut on Meno. Scalleywags is definitely on the higher end of the scale in terms of resorts but it was worth every cent.

They also have an amazing seafood and meat buffet every evening where we stuffed our faces silly with delicious food. Scalleywags has a number of locations in Bali and offer lots of great deals. We paid $150 per night for a double room which included breakfast & all taxes. And they have a wonderful pool for guests which you can lounge around while ordering great food and drinks.

**Bear in mind Bali has Tax and Service charges which amount to 21% on top of most hotel accommodation and food and beverage bills (this consist of a 10% service charge and 11% Government Tax). This is terribly annoying and we were often mislead by the prices of things as they were quoted WITHOUT the tax. Just keep this in mind when it comes to paying and always ask before hand if accommodation quotes include this tax or not.


Where to Stay in Gili Meno

We spent 3 wonderful nights at Sunset Gecko in a wooden bungalow on a very quiet stretch of beach on Gili Meno. There is a very fancy hotel that has been built next door which made me feel rather envious once we realised we were staying in the wooden shack next door, but the price of Sunset Gecko was great and within our budget. We ate at the fancy restaurant next door a few times and enjoyed a couple of cocktails there too. Staying at SunsetGheck meant we had the best of both worlds. And the outdoor showers and toilet were much better than I had anticipated.

Sunset Gecko has varying rooms, but at the time of booking we were only able to get space in their Big Beach Hut which is three stories and has private rooms on each level. We stayed on the top floor in a large room with two double beds. They have a few private beach cottages slightly closer to water and a few A-frame bungalows too. It's rustic, but clean and we just what we were after. Don't expect anything fancy, often times they were out of stock of several items on the menu (how do you run out of tea?!) but we loved our stay here and would highly recommend it to anyone looking for an authentic & relaxing beach stay. Just make sure to pack a sleeping bag liner/sheet if you are a little panicky about beds like I am. I had read reviews of bed bugs at Sunset Gecko and so was unable to relax at night. We didn't have any problems with bed bugs  though but because I had read about them I was unable to sleep peacefully in fear of waking up with my skin crawling. Silly me! And the sleeping bag liners I had ordered online for our were out of stock so we just went ahead without them. I was probably over acting but if bed bugs are something you just can't handle then make sure to pack a sheet/sleeping bag liner just in case.

The beach in front of Sunset Gecko was also where we swam with turtles and had the best snorkelling of our entire Bali trip! We spent every day on the beach pagoda's sipping fruit juice and watching the world go by. It was bliss.

The booking process seemed a little odd as you have to pay a deposit through a rather strange payment channel but it was all secure and my booking & payment was handled well. They also responded well to email (i had to change our booking slightly and they were very accommodating).

Here is a video that Farmboy put together of our time in Bali, with lots of footage of the Gili Islands:

Some things I learnt from this trip:

  • Even when compiling an extensive budget, have an international credit card on hand for emergencies. We forgot to include various elements in our budget (lunch & the smaller transport costs) and had to use my credit card a few times. 
  • Budget for souvenirs. Before a trip I always tell myself that I won't buy anything cliche (like floaty yoga pants and rugs) and without fail I have found something special on our travels in each country that I have wanted to buy. In Bali we bought a beautiful handwoven rug in soft pastel shades that has prize position on our living room. It was worth ever cent!
  • Read travel reviews with a pinch of salt. I really had heard terrible things about Sunset Gecko and was prepared for an absolute nightmare. It ended up being the highlight of our stay (and no, there were no bed bugs).
  • Try to pay for things before you arrive instead of having to have cash on hand (especially for accommodation).
  • Always pack a rash vest (swimming top) if you plan on snorkelling anywhere. Farmboy and I each have a lycra swimming top we bought online (through Gmarket for +-$18) two years ago and they have saved our skin too many times to count. It's just not worth getting sun burnt on your first day in the water.

Useful Travel Info:

  • Bali has a visa on arrival for most countries (including South Africa, UK, USA, New Zealand, Australia) which costs $35 and is valid for 30 days. You get this at the airport when you arrive in Bali.
  • Be aware of the departure tax which needs to be paid in cash when you leave the airport (I have read that as of Feb 2015 this departure tax is now included in your flight price but I'm not 100% so make sure to research thoroughly before hand).
  • Remember Bali imposes a 21% tax & service charge on most goods/services/facilities and this is not included in your bill.

I hope you found this travel guide useful! Please leave me a comment below if you have any questions.

You might also like these travel guides:

Ubud, Bali Travel Guide


Farmboy and I headed to Bali for 12 days in July last year. We had a wonderful time, and it was one of our favourite holidays we have been on so far. I seem to say this after every holiday, probably because we are finally starting to actually learn from out mistakes, making each trip that much better. You may be thinking of heading there soon (or sometime in the future) so to help you plan your trip, I have put together a rough budget, as well as some tips from our stay. Please keep in mind that my husband and I may travel very differently to you, and have different likes and preferences for things. I prefer the more luxurious path, while Farmboy would stay in a hammock for the entire trip if it was up to him. So we plan accordingly, and of course, try to stick to the budget.

We didn't find Bali as cheap as some of the other countries we have visited (Vietnam, for example) but that is mainly due to the fact that Bali's whole economy is based on tourism. Bali is the largest tourist destination in the world, and is renowned for its highly developed arts, including traditional and modern dance, sculpture, painting, leather, metalworking, and music. They have been a tourist destination for a very long time, this has it's pros and cons as I will explain later. Bearing this in mind our trip budget was different to Vietnam and Malaysia. Another thing is that my mom was supposed to be joining us on this trip, and so come of our accommodation choices were very different to what we usually book. She had to cancel her trip at the last minute and as most of the accommodation was non refundable, we just decided to enjoy the slightly pricier places we had originally booked. 

We were in Bali for 12 days exploring mainly the Centre of Bali & the East Coast:

6 nights in Ubud (first 4 nights & last 2 nights)

5 nights on the Gili Islands

This post is focused on Ubud, and the second guide I will post soon will be of The Gili Islands.


UBUD - Central Bali

Ubud is the cultural capital of Bali, where you will find anything from yoga studios, to french cuisine, artisan jewellery to unique hand crafted furniture. Here is a list of the things we did during out first 4 and last 2 days in Bali.

Accommodation in Ubud

Upon arrival into Ubud, we were collected at midnight by the owner of our villa (Dewa, the most incredibly humble, open minded and knowledgeable man we have ever met) who is also a driver and tour guide. We didn't know anything about drivers or the fact that we might need one until we met him, and he didn't pressure us to book him for any tours at all. We spent the first 4 days in the home he has built for guests (click here to see more about booking this incredible place). Although the villa is on the same property as his family home, there is complete privacy and we only noticed the presence of people when we would find little offerings places around the bottom of the house. 

*Peaceful Villa just outside Ubud $89 a night (suitable for 4 people). Click here to book. 

If you would like to get in contact with Dewa for a tour or to book his villa directly, click here and scroll down to the button that says 'contact host'. Dewa also helped us book fast boats to get to the Gili Islands and was just so helpful. I can't recommend him enough! 

For our last 2 nights we decided to stay somewhere really special and spent two nights at Villa Awang Awang is the smallest of their villas, Villa Pererepan. It was incredible and one of the highlights of our stay. It was our most expensive accommodation, $150 a night but worth every cent. We had a private pool, breakfast was included and served to us on a private balcony over looking the forest canopy below. The bathroom was half outdoor and was the perfect place to relax after a busy day of sightseeing. Click here to find out more about Villa Awang Awang.


The majority of the people in Bali follow Balinese Hinduism, which is a combination of existing local beliefs and Hindu influences from mainland Southeast Asia and South Asia. Balinese Hinduism has roots in Indian Hinduism and Buddhism, and adopted the animistic traditions of the indigenous people. This influence strengthened the belief that the gods and goddesses are present in all things. Every element of nature, therefore, possesses its own power, which reflects the power of the gods. A rock, tree, dagger, or woven cloth is a potential home for spirits whose energy can be directed for good or evil. Balinese Hinduism is deeply interwoven with art and ritual. As you drive along the narrow roads, you will see many parts of temples and trees covered in cloth. This is a marker to show that spirits reside within. 

Every morning, usually before most tourists have even been rustled from sleep, the people of Bali are out sweeping the streets of the previous days offerings. Once swept the streets are once again ready for the daily gifts or offerings laid out to appease the various Gods & Daemons Of Balinese Hinduism. 


Things to do in Ubud

Ubud has a very laid back atmosphere, even though there are a lot of tourists. It has become especially popular since the Eat, Pray Love was filmed there. Many people from allover the world come to practice yoga, and recharge their bodies, minds and souls. There are all kinds of restaurants and things to do in and around Ubud. We visited the Monkey Forest, did a cooking course, toured the surrounding craft villages, did a coffee plantation tour, visited temples, did a market tour and spent time wondering around the town. 

Ubud Monkey Forest

We spent an afternoon wondering around the Monkey Forest,which was a really fun experience. It was quite scary at times as the monkeys can get quite aggressive around their young. 

Ubud Cooking Course

Just like Vietnam, we did a cooking course and just loved it. Doing a cooking course really helps to get a real feel for the food of the country, and we learnt a lot about Balinese culture from our wonderful host. Click here for details on the cooking course we did. 

Ubud Industry Tour

All around Ubud there are pockets of villages that specialise in diffferent crafts. We visited a silver & gold factory, a Batik warehouse, bone crafters, and wood craftsmen. 

Market Tour

We were taken on a market tour during our cooking course with Paon Cooking School. We love doing market tours as often we have no idea what half of the herbs, spices and vegetables are and our guide explained how to eat the local fruit. This was one of the highlights of Ubud for us.

Temple Visits

We visited 4 temples and their surrounding areas around Ubud; Elephant Cave ( Goa Gajah), Pura Tirta Empul (holy waters) and Tegallalang Rice Terraces & Gunung Kawi.

Ubud Coffee Plantations Tour

Our villa host and tour guide, Dewa, took us on a tour of one of the local coffee plantations. We even got to try the infamous Luwak Coffee or Kopi Luwak. Kopi Luwak refers to the seeds of coffee berries once they have been eaten and defecated by the Asian palm civet. Sounds pretty terrible, and to be honest we weren't blown away by the taste. It tasted like regular coffee to us, but is known to be one of the most expensive coffees in the world. The tour also included a tasting of various teas and other coffees available to buy. 

Volcano Tour & Lunch in Rice Paddy Village

We also did a very short drive to see the view of Kintamani Volcano which is still very much active. We didn't do the tour around the base of the volcano, but the views were gorgeous from one of the rest stop. We then had lunch at one of the rice paddy villages which had gorgeous views too.

We really enjoyed our first few days in Udub, but by the 4th day we were ready to head away from the crowds and on to the beach. I will be posting a guide to the Gili Islands soon!

In the mean time, here is a video Farmboy put together of our trip, enjoy!

If you would like to get in contact with Dewa for a tour or to book his villa directly, click here and scroll down to the button that says 'contact host'. Dewa also helped us book fast boats to get to the Gili Islands and was just so helpful. I can't recommend him enough! 

Highlights of Beautiful Bali


Farmboy and I have just got back from our summer holiday in Bali. One of the major perks of living in Korea is the opportunity to travel South East Asia, as places like Indonesia are easily accessible.

We were in Bali for 12 days and tried to see as much as could in the time we had. I will be posting a full travel guide soon, like I did with Vietnam (click here) but for now I'll leave with a visual feast of colour.

I traded in my trusty Nikon D300s a few months ago, for a Nikon D700, which I used to take these photographs. As I now shoot full frame, I have to invest in full frame lenses (and these do not come cheap!) Currently I have only a 50mm prime lens and this is what I used for the entire trip. No fancy zooms (I had to make do with my feet) and no wide angle shots. It can be a stressful process trying to find the 'perfect' lenses to take with you on holiday, and you often feel you need to have ALL the things to take perfect photographs. But, what I soon came to realise is that all you really need is a little patience and practice to train your eye to capture your subjects in new and interesting ways.

We loved our time in Bali, spending 4 days in Ubud, 5 days on the Gili Islands (3 days on Gili Meno & 2 days on Gili Trawangan) and then 3 final days in Ubud. We stayed in a variety of accomodation, from fancy villas overlooking rice paddies, to bamboo huts on the beach. What our time so memorable was the people we met throughout our stay. We had a wonderful host and tour guide for our first few days who taught us so much about the people and their way of life in Bali.

But more on that to come in another post.

For now, the photographs.


Backpacking in Bali & What to Pack


On Monday, Farmboy and I are off on our summer holiday to Bali. It's been a long semester of teaching and boy oh boy do we need this holiday. As I've been packing, I thought it would be fun to show you what I pack in terms of toiletries for a backpacking trip. I say backpack, because that is what we travel with, and even though we do treat ourselves along the way with nice hotels, we spend a lot of our time in backpacker type accommodation.

Here is what I pack for each of the trips we've done (you can see more about our last trip to Malaysia by clicking here and Vietnam by clicking here). 

There are one or two items that I haven't packed yet (toothbrush, deodorant and mosquito spray) but this is what I will be taking for our trip to Bali:



I found the handy travel sized bottles at Dischem back in South Africa and top them up with whatever products I am using to the time.

-My shampoo and conditioner were half full with Loreal Elvive from back home in South Africa and I just topped them up with the little I had left of their full sizes.

-A spray bottle with IQ DermaQuench Rose Blossom Toner (also from back home).

-Body wash bottle filled with whatever wash we have in the bathroom here (a fresh citrus smelling wash from Happy Bath here in Korea)

-Face Wash from the youth range of skincare from Dermalogica (also bought back home).

-Hera 50+ Sun Mate Leports waterproof sunscreen

-My favourite sunscreen for face, Oil Cut SPF 40 from The Face Shop Korea.

-Olay Total Effects Eye Transforming Cream

-Travel sized Black Sugar Perfect First Serum Gold from SkinFood

-A sample sized Argan hair treatment oil from Confume (review to come soon, this stuff is amazing!!)

-My favourite Chia Seed Water toner and lotion from The Face Shop in  their cute travel sized containers. And lastly, the most useful skincare product, Green Tea facewipes from Étude House



-Mac StudioFit pressed powder

-Innisfree Pink Beam Mineral Pact highlighter which I use for a blush, highlighter and eye shadow

-Essence Stay All Day Concealer as you always end up getting at least one pimple while being away on holiday. This concealer is light and stays put all day.

-Lipgloss from TheFaceShop


-Eyebrow comb and pencil from The Face Shop. I have only recently delved into eyebrow care and I can't believe just how much of a difference it makes to your face. The pencil can also be used as an eye liner.

-DCT lip balm (the ultimate lip care product!). it is so expensive back home in South Africa, but I have found it on Iherb for just over $'s nearly $9 back home!

-Oh! M' Eye Lash Curling  mascara I just picked up from Etude House. It's not waterproof as I just don't want to deal withe hassle of taking off waterproof mascara on holiday. Most people would advise you packing waterproof mascara especially when going on holiday to a topical island, but the mascara I have that is waterproof takes nearly 4 products to remove, and although my lashes look amazing all day, while taking it off I nearly always loose a few lashes. So I'm trying this one out, and just hoping for the best!

-a selection of hair accessories (hair ties, clips and most importantly, bobby pins)

First Aid Kit


Without fail, one of us ends up getting sick in same way while on holiday. We always pack a little bag  of medicine just in case. We usually use a clear zip lock bag which helps when trying to find it in your backpack, as well as making things easier for yourself when going through check in at the airport:

-Medlemon sachets for colds and flu

-Nurofen for pain and fever

-Disprin for headaches and fever

-Genpain, a generic form of myprodol for really bad headaches or body pain

-Strepsils for sore throats

-Buscopan for stomach cramps

-Valoid for neasuea

-a local pill for diarrhoea (I have been warned about Bali Belly, so best be prepared I think!)

-plasters, mosquito bite cream, mosquito repellant and ear buds

Is there anything else you would suggest travelers pack for their backpacking trip? Or anything you can see I have forgotten, please drop me a comment below! I have today to still rush out and make sure I'm all ready...