There are 3 main ways to get to the Gili’s from Bali (4 if you’re Monte Monfore). The first is taking a bus, car, motorbike to Padangbai. Catching a ferry to Lember in W.Lombok. Ferries run every 90 minutes 24/7 and the journey takes anywhere from 4-7 hours depending on port congestion and weather. From Lember you drive to the port of Bangsal in NW Lombok. This will take you about 2 hours. At Bangsal you can catch a small local ferry to the Gili’s, journey time, up to 45 minutes for the fiurthest island, Gili Trawangan, less for the other 2.
The second way is to fly from Bali to the airport in Mataram. The flight takes 30 minutes and costs around 400,000rp one way. From there you catch an airport taxi to Bangsal, and take a ferry. Airlines that service Lombok from Bali include, Merpati (6 flights a day), Wings Air, GT Air.
The third way is to take a highspeed charter boat from Benoa harbor. This way is the fastest overall, if you left at the same time as the others, but you have a bumpy ride across the Lombok Strait. This cost 690,000rp one way, to the island of your choice.
Which way would I go? Well I’ve taken the Padangbai ferry and the plane. If I was going to explore Lombok with my motorbike, I’d take it on the ferry and park it at Bangsal, before taking the local ferry for the Gili’s. If I wanted an easy comfortable way to go I’d take the plane. If I wanted the quickest way to go I’d take the boat. Maybe I’ll do that next time. For people who think 2 hours in a bumpy speed boat would be hell, even if you take the plane, you still have to do 45 minutes, in a boat to Gili Trawangan.
For people who take the ferry or plane. You will arrive at Bangsal harbor in NW Lombok, the place were the small local ferries leave for the Gili’s. There are 3 types of ferries, local, scheduled, charter. The local ferry goes when it is full, the schedules ferry goes on time, the charter can go at any time. Boat operators will try to push you to the charter boat, whjich is exhorbitantly priced. Stay cool, sit in the shade and wait for the local boat, which will be full within an hour.