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Embrace the culture of the Gili Islands (Gili Islands Etiquette)

The Gili Islands are a manifestation of heaven on Earth and many will agree with us on this. However, the lifestyle and culture can be completely foreign from a Western perspective. Gili Air, for example, has unique cultural dynamics that may be challenging to understand for an outsider.

There is no harm in taking a bit of time and effort to familiarize yourself with the Indonesian culture, which has different customs, habits and values wherever you go on the archipelago. It can be wise to gain some insight into the culture prior to or during your visit.

The local population in The Gilis is a mixture of Sasak people hailing from Lombok and families of the original Bugis settlers. The three islands were once virgin tropical playgrounds before their secret came out some years ago by backpackers. Numbers of tourists skyrocketed throughout 2007, with fast boat services from Bali to Gili correspondingly multiplied. While the strange ways of tourists are generally tolerated, there are actions and behaviors to consider to avoid offending the locals.

gili islands swing

Here are several Gili Islands etiquettes to keep in mind:

  • It is considered rude to point with your fingers – if you really need to direct at a place or thing, use your hands like you are presenting it.
  • Indonesian society believes the left hand is used for ‘toilet duties’ and is therefore considered unclean. In Gili Air, it is rude and offensive to hand someone something with your left hand.
  • You may have to remove your shoes when entering a building or someone’s house and wait to be invited to sit if you are a guest.
  • Try to keep your voice to a minimum. Be considerate of the local residents and avoid being rowdy and starting trouble when you’re out drinking, for example.
  • Indonesians highly appreciate if you try to speak their language, even if you only know a couple of words. Get to know them better this way.
  • The Gili residents are predominantly Muslim, which means the dress codes here are different than it is in the Western world. People are moderately clothed with their hair and body typically covered. Please be respectful and don’t expose too much of your skin. Cover yourself with a sarong when going into a village or a shop and refrain from sunbathing topless.

fast boat gili trawangan

Getting to the Gili Islands from Bali is highly accessible via fast boats. Patagonia Xpress provides fast, safe, comfortable fast boat services from Bali to the Gilis and surrounding islands.