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Recently a Facebook friend of mine was lamenting the difficulties of life in New York, and wishing that she could afford to live elsewhere. My reaction was something along the lines of: “GIRL! If you can live in New York City you can afford to live pretty much anywhere on this planet!” It did get me thinking though, about how my cost of living has changed from the days when I used to pay about a grand a month for my share of a four bedroom, one bathroom apartment in Not-Even-That-Trendy-Part, Brooklyn.

I often found myself complaining, too, about the cost of living in Gili Trawangan, which is shockingly pricey by local standards. But compared to what I was shelling out a few years ago, I really am getting a bargain for a life five minutes from the ocean. Ever dream about getting away from it all for a month or two on a tiny blip of sand in Southeast Asia? This should give you an idea of how much to save up for. For this post, 10,000 rupiah is equal to one dollar.

Budget
Budget

Accommodation

While monthly rent rates in Gili Trawangan are a poor value compared to other islands in Southeast Asia, they are still a bargain compared to rents in the Western world. Gili Trawangan is a very small island and rooms and homes are build very close together — don’t expect a lot of privacy. Also keep in mind that wifi is NOT the norm and if you need it your selection will be greatly decreased.

For around 1.5 million rupiah, or about $150, you can expect a basic room with a mattress on the floor, a fan, and a cold, brackish water shower. For 1.7 million, or $170, you can get a room in a shared house with a mini kitchen and a real bed off the floor. When you start looking for WiFi, selection is limited and prices increase sharply — air conditioning even more so.

Moving up to 2.5 million, or about $250, you can expect a slightly nicer room, probably still a mattress on the floor, a cold brackish water shower and — here’s the kicker — wifi!  Moving up to 3.5 million rupiah, or $350, you can get a room with a real bed, air conditioning, a warm water shower, and wifi.

My first round on Gili, I lived in a room for $250 at Koi Gili, and I loved it! The wifi was the best on the island, and I loved my little balcony — despite the fact that there was no sink and the shower was broken so I had to bathe using the foot tap. The guys there are a bit sketchy though and wanted to charge a ridiculous rate when I came back for high season. Luckily Anders found us a room at Hook’s for $250 where we had a cute balcony, a fantastic shared garden space, and good wifi. Unfortunately the shower was torturous and the mosquitoes were bad and the power cut out with shocking frequency, but the guys who run the place are really sweet it had a wonderful vibe. We split the cost which made it incredibly affordable.

Estimated cost: $150 — $350

Budget
Budget

Our bungalow at Hook’s

Accommodation on Gili TrawanganMy room at Koi Gili

Accommodation on Gili TrawanganMy balcony at Koi Gili

Food

For breakfast, I alternated between eating the oatmeal I’d brought from home and buying a smoothie from a street vendor ($1.50) and a small piece of banana coconut bread ($0.50).

For lunch, I typically visit a local warung and get a banana leaf filled with chicken curry, fresh vegetables and rice for $2.50. Alternatively, I might grab a fresh baguette BLT from Dolce Vita — the cheapest sandwich spot on the island — for $3.

For dinner, I tended to splurge on Western meals and nice dinners out with friends. This can range from $6-12. Some of my favorites being a margarita pizza from El Pirata for $6, or a Thai curry from Cafe Kecil for $7. Some nights, I’d go cheap and get a pasta from Oceans II for just $2, or head to the night market and get local food — BBQ skewers and vegetables for $3.

To drink I either buy a large 1.5L water bottle for 50 cents or refill for 30 cents. I sometimes splurged on a Diet Coke for $1 (much more expensive at restaurants).

Estimated cost: $200 — $400 per month

Food on Gili Trawangan

Food on Gili Trawangan

Alcohol

Obviously this is a category that will also vary wildly based on how hard a person likes to party. Irish Bar is the drinking establishment I most often found myself at, along with most of the island expats. There, beers are $2 for a small and $3 for a large, cocktails are $2-4, wine is $4 a glass and a Vodka Joss shot (a Gili specialty!) is $2.50. Those represent good prices for the island, though the Gili Hostel has the cheapest Joss shots around at just $1.50 each. One fun splurge is a night on the Gili Party Boat. There’s a $25 entrance fee that includes a light Thai dinner and a boat ride around the islands, and drinks are only $2.50 each.

My first stint on Gili found me partying often, though my second trip fell over Ramadan and so things were much tamer. A really blowout night where I was at the bar buying rounds till the mosque calls started rarely cost me more than $30. Often it would just be a cocktail or two at sunset instead.

Estimated cost: $0 — $200 per month

Alcohol on Gili Trawangan

Nightlife on Gili Trawangan

Entertainment

Entertainment is the cost that will vary the most wildly. Some travelers will be happy to do little more than stroll around the island to watch the sunset, swim in the ocean, snorkel on the reefs, and perhaps surf the occasional breaks. Assuming you have all the gear you need, those activities are all free! Or perhaps — ahem — you work online, and your days are filled with freelancing assignments and blog posts. In those cases, your entertainment cost can go all the way down to zero.

A divemaster course is probably one of the most expensive ways to entertain yourself but also one of the best values — after all, you’ll come out with a professional diving certification that could earn you income. It will cost around $1,000 but provide entertainment for two months, so work out to $500 a month — and you’ll have little time to do anything else. There are also beginner dive courses, freediving courses, and fun diving packages available.

Aquatic adventures aside, there are classes for yoga, cooking, and horseback riding. Yoga classes at Gili Yoga are somewhat pricey, though with a ten class card the price goes down to $6.50 per class. Cheaper yoga classes are available at the Gili Hostel. Cooking classes at Gili Cooking are $40 per class.

For those looking for a little relaxation, there are plenty of spas around. Prices are high compared to Thailand or Bali but still cheap compared to the Western world. At Exquisite, one of the nicest spas on the island, massages are $18, while at Abdi, a new favorite, they go for $14. You can find them as cheap as $10 but the atmosphere will not be inviting.

Estimated cost: $0 — $500 per month

Diving in Gili Trawangan

Budget
Budget

Gili Trawangan Beach

Transport

Gili Trawangan is blessedly small, and it’s perfectly possible to use your own two feet to navigate the entire island. Those who don’t want any limitations on their mobility might consider buying a bicycle. I paid 400,000 rupiah (about $40) for mine, and sold it when I left for 200,000 rupiah (about $20). I probably could have gotten more for it had I not lent it to one friend who went on to crash and trash it, and then sold it when I left to a different friend who I didn’t want to overcharge.

Of course, you will have to get to and from the island, which is very expensive. Typical prices are about $100 round trip from Bali, though you may be able to get a 50% off local rate if you know the right people. All factors considered, in terms of transportation costs it’s safe to estimate $20 for a bike after resale, and $50 for the boat at local price. The longer you stay, the lower that cost will be each month.

Estimated cost: $0-70

Transportation on Gili Trawangan

Miscellaneous

Laundry and shampoo aren’t much fun to budget for but when you are living abroad long term they do eventually come out of your funds. Fair laundry prices on Gili Trawangan are $1.50 per kilo (around 2.2lbs).

Eventually, you’ll have to replace some sunscreen or toothpaste or buy something for those hangovers. Toiletries are extremely overpriced on Gili Trawangan — if you know you’ll be staying for a while, bring as much as you can from off the island. A small bottle of aloe aftersun will cost around $9 — the same bottle would be $3 on Bali.

A local phone will be a great investment — buy the phone off island if possible to save cash. Topping it up with credit will cost you, though. Most places charge a 20% fee to add credit though there are some shops that only charge 10%.

Estimated cost: $20-40

Gili Trawangan Rainbow

So if you live in a bare-bones room, eat only local food for every meal and always refill your water bottles, don’t drink alcohol, walk everywhere and only do free activities, you can get by on a mere $400 per month.

If you come to the island for two months to do your Divemaster course, live in a decent room with wifi, drink and eat Western food occasionally, buy a bicycle, and maybe splurge on the occasional massage or yoga class, you are looking at closer to $1,300 per month.

Of course my estimates here are colored by my experience but I consulted friends and did the best I could to be accurate in this post based on my cumulative ten weeks on the island. Prices vary wildly by season. The prices here reflect shoulder season prices. If you’ve had a different experience with the cost of living on Gili Trawangan, let me know!

How much would you pay for a month in paradise?

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89 Comments...
  • tyrhone
    September 5 2013

    I’m hopeless at keeping track of expenses, but Mexico although cheap is not as affordable as most of South East Asia. But you really do get what you pay for and when you start adding in the little western style luxuries that abound in Playa del Carmen it makes sense as to what you are paying for. Still it is hard not to be impressed with living near the beach for $400 a month!
    When you said mosquitos I shuddered with the recollection of their abundance in that part of the world.
    tyrhone recently posted..Swimming with whale sharks in Cancun (the movie)

    • Alex
      September 5 2013

      I am too… I tried to do an actually cost breakdown of my own spending but I never kept up with my Trail Wallet entries when I was there so I just had to estimate! I’m sure someone will show up soon to let me know they did it for $200 a month, and who needs Western food anyway, and why didn’t I think of sleeping huddled under a palm tree every night?

  • Must for Wanderlust
    September 5 2013

    Interesting to see the cost breakdown! Would love to get my diving certification, maybe I will have to plan for next Summer. x
    Must for Wanderlust recently posted..Views from Up Top: Eiffel Tower Edition

    • Alex
      September 5 2013

      My main advice is to take as much time as you can if you are doing your Divemaster! If you spread it out over three months, that makes each month a little cheaper 🙂

  • Amanda
    September 5 2013

    Super helpful post, Alex! Now I’m curious if this is less or more than Koh Tao, or how much it would cost to live on Bali. Personally I would rather live on Bali (more to do, I get bored at the beach really quickly if I can’t do unlimited diving), but for some reason I would guess Bali is more expensive.
    Amanda recently posted..Colorado Bound!

    • Alex
      September 5 2013

      I don’t know anything about living on Bali, but I know loads about living on Koh Tao! In Koh Tao, drinking and entertainment are generally cheaper (at my go-to bar I paid $3 for cocktails and a divemster is about $800 instead of $1,000, yoga and massages are half the price, etc.) Local food is around the same price and Western food is a bit cheaper. Accommodation is more expensive, however a much better value. Typically I paid $300 a month and had ocean views, a yard and some privacy, a fresh water shower, and actual furniture. Overall I think the cost and quality of living on Koh Tao is much better (and that’s where I hope to return to someday!)

      • Amanda
        September 6 2013

        Is there a post similar to this one for living on Koh Tao? If not can you give an estimated breakdown like this post? This is great and would be helpful for other destinations too 🙂

        • Alex
          September 7 2013

          Hey Amanda, I never did a breakdown like this for Koh Tao! You can see the comparison that I made elsewhere in the comments. When I eventually head back that way I will definitely add that to my post roster — it’s a pretty tricky thing to do accurately from memory and abroad, though!

  • Just curious, was the mattress comfortable?
    Andi of My Beautiful Adventures recently posted..Bluffton, South Carolina: Day 2

    • Alex
      September 5 2013

      Actually it really was! Once you get used to sleeping on the floor the only thing you really miss is the storage space underneath! I found beds and pillows in Indonesia to be much more comfortable than the ones in Thailand, which are always like sleeping on wooden planks.

  • Rika | Cubicle Throwdown
    September 5 2013

    Oh man, I love me some budget breakdowns!! This is great! I was wondering about this the other day and was going to ask you, because there are some jobs going there now. The cost is fairly comparable to Roatan which I was really surprised at. I thought it would be cheaper!
    Rika | Cubicle Throwdown recently posted..A Small Disclaimer.

    • Alex
      September 7 2013

      Yeah, I think Gili Trawangan is the most expensive place I have ever stayed long term in Southeast Asia! And I also think it is harder to earn money here than in Thailand. Unless you have a solid job offer, make sure you have some savings.

  • steve mckee
    September 5 2013

    hey, girl, Brooklyn be so trendy now we had to move

    • Alex
      September 7 2013

      Now you brought the trendy upstate!

  • Sky
    September 5 2013

    Oh, I love budget breakdowns! These are some of my favorite posts to read,even when I have no intent to go to the place. It’s amazing, to me at least, that it’s possible to live somewhere like this for so little when it costs over $600 a month for a 1 bedroom apartment in my little middle-of-nowhere PA town…makes me laugh when others tell me living abroad is too expensive!
    Sky recently posted..The Danger of a Single Story

    • Alex
      September 7 2013

      I agree! I love seeing what life is like (and costs) in different places around the world. Living abroad is absolutely a bargain in most cases… it’s the plane ticket and the difficulty finding a source of income that gets ya!

  • Ashley of Ashley Abroad
    September 5 2013

    Thanks for this write-up! Right now I’m traveling Asia for the first time and am looking around for a place to stay for a few months- this was really helpful to help me decide! 🙂
    Ashley of Ashley Abroad recently posted..Falling in Love with Southern California

    • Alex
      September 7 2013

      Sounds like a fun decision to make! Best of luck finding a little piece of paradise, Ashley 🙂

  • TammyOnTheMove
    September 5 2013

    I think this is still incredibly cheap. And if you get to live in paradise by the beach with white sand and clear blue waters, it is definitely worth the extra penny you pay over living in Thailand I think.
    TammyOnTheMove recently posted..Going native – A traditional Khmer photo shoot

    • Alex
      September 7 2013

      Well, you do get those things in Thailand as well 🙂 But yeah, compared to the cost of living in the US or Europe, it’s a fantastic deal!

  • Joshua Smith
    September 6 2013

    I myself am a travel budget tourist, and this totally helps. Planning to go to Asia and this blog is my bible. Totally rocks!

    • Alex
      September 7 2013

      Thank you Joshua! I really appreciate that! Best of luck in your trip planning.

  • Heather
    September 6 2013

    Thanks for the budget breakdown, really you just did all the hard work for me! It’s difficult to make a budget for a place you’ve never been to, this will help a lot when we FINALLY visit the Gili Islands. 🙂
    Heather recently posted..Can You Do It? Using Public Transportation in Lusaka Zambia

    • Alex
      September 7 2013

      A lot of people are surprised by the high price of the Gili compared to the rest of Southeast Asia, so I hope this helps negate the sticker shock 🙂

  • That food looks amazing! And all of your pictures of course. I can’t wait to be in South East Asia: I’m sure I’d love it.

    • Alex
      September 11 2013

      I miss Thai food! Can’t beat the prices anywhere in Southeast Asia though, really!

  • Ben
    September 11 2013

    Hey Alex,

    I’m finding it really hard to find prices for ferries to Gilis from Bali. Do you have any prices from experience?

    Cheers

    • Alex
      September 11 2013

      Hey Ben, it really depends on the season and your bargaining abilities, annoyingly. It seems the base price is $50 each way, though I was able to pay half that by going through my dive shops as an employee. I heard that they were charging double in peak season. Bargain hard, and good luck!

      • Skúli
        September 13 2013

        Alex, you’re talking about the speed boats right? There’s also a public ferry going to Lombok and it’s easy to arrange transport all the way to the Gilis for about 15$
        It takes all day though but it’s a lot cheaper.
        Skúli recently posted..Climbing one of the most active volcano in the world, Mount Merapi

        • Alex
          September 14 2013

          That is very true, I should have mentioned that! I actually never once met someone who had actually done it, as it really is a full day’s journey and most of my friends could get the discounted $25 tickets… and it’s hard to give up a whole day for $10!

  • Camels & Chocolate
    September 11 2013

    Uh, can I move to Indo? That’s even cheaper than rural Tennessee!

    • Alex
      September 12 2013

      Ha… and this is one of the most expensive parts of Indonesia!

  • Federico
    September 13 2013

    From what I’m seeing and reading Gili Trawangan has changed a lot since I was last there, around 9 years ago! Should things go well I will be there in January again… it appears to be a slightly more expensive too, but fully affordable!
    Federico recently posted..A Hammam Experience in Marrakech

    • Alex
      September 13 2013

      I can only imagine how much it will change in another nine years. I’m looking forward to hearing your comparison!

  • Juno
    September 15 2013

    I’ve heard so many great things about Gili! I’d love to visit there soon. When I was in Bali briefly, seems like Gili would be the up-and-coming best places to go in Indonesia! And I’ve decided to learn how to dive next time when I’m in a diving beach. 🙂
    Juno recently posted..Runaway Photo: Camel Ride in the Thar Desert of Rajasthan

    • Alex
      September 16 2013

      I can’t wait to read about it Juno! Feel free to message me if you ever need any advice.

  • Erica
    September 16 2013

    I love that you had a price breakdown like this. I have always wondered about places like this and I always forget to write down what I’m normally spending places. 🙂
    Erica recently posted..Instagram: Snapshots of Silicon Valley

    • Alex
      September 19 2013

      I got really out of the routine for a while. Trail Wallet has helped me get on track but when I stay in one place for too long I definitely get lazy!

  • CarlaZ
    September 25 2013

    Very helpful.
    I have no plans to stay that long there but good to know the prices.
    It is very difficult to find how much to spend in a trip as each one does different kinds of things and need different level of luxury, this post shows us really a good idea.

    • Alex
      September 25 2013

      Thanks Carla! I definitely tried to show how prices can vary according to various comfort levels.

  • Pete
    September 25 2013

    Wow, such a great read, thanks for putting this together, I’m going to Gili T for the first time next month so this really helps me out. However, there’s one thing I’m really interested in which you did not cover ( although I understand your decision ): out of the 3 Gilis, this one is particularly notorious for its readily available drugs ( weed mostly ), so I was wondering if this is still the case. Also, I’ve read about the strict policy regarding drugs and a couple of stories about corrupt dealers/cops as well, but I obviously can’t make sense of it all until I actually get there, so I was wondering if you could share your thoughts on this.

    • Alex
      September 27 2013

      Hey Pete, from my experience and understanding mushrooms are available everywhere on Gili Trawangan. You don’t need to be into illicit activities to find them — there are signs all over the streets! I am not a smoker so this is all just hearsay, but I’ve actually heard that mushrooms are legal and weed is not. That seems backwards to me, but the fact that there are mushroom milkshakes advertised at every bar but weed is only whispered about in back alleys kind of proves it.

      • Andrew
        July 16 2018

        I am taking a 3 month hiatus in Bali / Gili after finishing a few projects across the world.

        I’m heading to Gili this friday and feel a little lost lol :). I can’t decided whether Gili Air or Gili T is a better fit for me. perhaps a little bit of both is the answer. In addition, I don’t drink, but do want to do shrooms and smoke weed while there. I would prefer to pay more for peace of mind and security, and also, get better product. For example, if Gili Air or Gili Meno has better stuff, I prefer to go there to avoid any trouble. In your experience, thoughts??

        • Alex
          September 26 2018

          Sorry, I haven’t been to Gili Air or Gili Meno, so I can’t speak to any comparisons there!

  • Andi Armia Pratiwi
    September 30 2013

    Though all total your expenses include alcohol, entertaiment, accomodation, food transport are still expensive . YOu can found much more cheaper per month ! haha That is still bule price (western price)

    • Alex
      September 30 2013

      I agree, there are much cheaper places for a foreigner to stay than in Gili Trawangan. And of course Westerners pay more than locals — as you pointed out in another comment, locals earn much lower wages than Westerners, so I suppose it is only fair.

  • Charles Van Horn
    January 7 2014

    Awesome post! Loved reading in the comments the part about mushrooms…lol. Seals the deal for me, haha. Great blog, cheers!

    • Alex
      January 7 2014

      Enjoy Gili Trawangan, Charles 🙂 Thanks for reading Alex in Wanderland!

  • Nia
    January 31 2014

    Yeah it’s a great place to be. And it’s sure cheaper than living in the west. But bear in mind, some local shops sell at an almost doubled price to foreigners. You should do a lot more bargain or travel with a local to get cheaper prices.

    • Alex
      February 2 2014

      That is very true, however I reason that foreigners also tend to make a much higher salary. I try not to get too riled up about it, though I do try to bargain.

  • Rene Cahane
    February 2 2014

    Alex, do you think it’s a good place to bring young children? Is there a school, is it international?

    • Alex
      February 3 2014

      Hey Rene, I think it would be a lovely place to vacation with young children, but not ideal to live. There is no international school and somewhat limited facilities. Bali would definitely be a more convenient relocation choice!

  • alice
    June 6 2014

    hey! me and my friend are thinking of going to gili t to stay for 4/5 weeks and can afford to pay like $450/500 each a month… we want either a 2 bed little bungalow or 2 seperate bungalows… do you have any names of places we can find this? thanks! x

    • Alex
      June 8 2014

      Hey Alice, unfortunately I’m not familiar with anywhere other than the two places I outlined here! There are tons of options on the island, I’d book a nice bungalow for a night or two and spend your first few days looking around… you’ll find something super quick, especially with that budget! Good luck and sorry I can’t be of more help!

  • Howard blackburn
    October 4 2014

    Enjoyed reading all that, well done Alex. I’m off tomorrow morning and can’t wait. 🙂

    • Alex
      October 6 2014

      Awesome! Enjoy paradise, Howard 🙂

  • Mattias
    January 15 2015

    Hello!

    I’m about to travel to Bali/Gili with my kids, we are backpacking across Asia for a few months.

    I’ve been looking around to see if the boat prizes to Gili is cheaper in low season ( we will be going there around march), but i haven’t found anything..

    Do you know anything about this Alex?

    Thanks heeps for you help!

    Take care.

    Cheers
    Matt

    • Alex
      January 18 2015

      Hey Mattias, I’m not sure if there are low season boat prices, but there are definitely much cheaper slow boats available. They will take all day and not are not direct — you’ll have to go via Lombok — but if you’re on a budget, it is an option!

  • steven
    March 8 2015

    Hi alex
    Im going to the gili island for about a months. And I wanna live on the basic island where u can interact with the local, im on a budget so I wanna stay in the cheapest places, which island of the 3 would be best and where would be best to stay

    • Alex
      March 8 2015

      Hey Steven, unfortunately I only ever stepped foot on Gili Trawangan so can´t comment first hand on the others. From my understanding they are much less built up than Trawangan but I wouldn´t be able to discern between them. Sorry I can´t be of more help!

    • Andy
      April 18 2015

      Hey Alex,

      Thanks for the wonderful breakdown 🙂
      I’m looking to move to The Gilis for a bit as well and am in a similar situation to Steven. I’m trying to keep things budget oriented AMAP.
      Are you able to give an update on the current state of these prices or are you off the island now?
      Also, I’m assuming this is a negative but it’s worth mentioning… Are you able to extend visas over there or is a boat ride back to Bali to do that necessary?

      Thanks so much again!
      Andy

      • Alex
        April 20 2015

        Hi Andy! Unfortunately I am off island now though I assume things are roughly the same. I was able to extend my visa without leaving the island, though it involved sniffing around with the expats and eventually leaving my passport with a random guy working at restaurant and coming back for it two weeks later, ha 🙂

        • Andy
          April 20 2015

          Thanks Alex. Hope you’re enjoying life as much as ever wherever you are 🙂

  • Rachel Perry
    April 11 2015

    Hi Alex,

    This breakdown is so perfect for me, I’m moving there this June.
    Just wondering how you heard about the places you lived in? or where I could find this info?
    I’m not the best at keeping track of funds, but if I manage too I’ll let you know how I go!

    Cheers, Rachel

    • Alex
      April 11 2015

      Hey Rachel! I just walked/asked around upon arrival. As far as I know there is no online or offline list or database of places to rent. Just hitting the road! Hope that helps 🙂 Enjoy!

  • Julia
    May 12 2015

    Hi Alex!
    Just started reading your blog – and I’m so happy I did. I am currently doing an internship in Jakarta, but it is finishing up in a month. I have one month in between that and other plans, so I was thinking of spending a few weeks somewhere laid back and relaxing but fun at the same time.
    Originally, I was planning on going to Gili Trawangan to do some diving, R&R etc, but realized that it will be during Ramadan.
    Will that make a huge difference in Gili Trawangan? I do love a good party, but what I want most out of this month is to get comfortable travelling alone and to meet new people (as my previous trip I took alone left me somewhat scarred). I guess I am basically asking on your opinion between the two! I’ll be going from mid June to mid July.
    Sorry for the long winded way about asking this!
    Thanks, Julia