I think the easiest way to reach GiliT is by fast boat. But let's discuss about your both options:
For first choice, flying into Denpasar then taking the fast boat over, your flight arrival time should not exceed 10am. The earlier the better. Normally fast boat departs from Bali harbor at 09.00am/09.30am/10.00am in low season. Some boat companies now also run a boat at 01.00pm in low season if they have sufficient passengers (normally the passenger amount is always sufficient).
In high season, there are fast boats at 01.00pm and 02.00pm.
Sea cross time is about 1.5 hours via Padangbai harbor, 2 hours via Serangan harbor, and 3 hours from Sanur.
Costs per person for IDR 475.000 via Padangbai, or 550.000 via Serangan or Sanur harbor.
The price includes pickup service by car from your hotel at certain Bali areas (Ubud/Candi Dasa/Sanur/Kuta/Seminyak/Nusa Dua) so you don't have to come to the harbor by yourself. Sometimes they charge you an extra fee if you want to be picked up from Bali airport upon flight arrival, as the car should wait for your flight arrival, and should pay for airport entrance fee.
For second choice, flight to Lombok. The flight arrival time at Lombok airport should not exceed 04.00pm, as many boats are no longer operated at 06.00pm. The easiest way (but not the cheapest) to arrange transport from Lombok airport to GiliT is using private transfer. This is a private car from Lombok airport to Teluk Kodek harbor, then a charter boat from Teluk Kodek harbor to GiliT. Total time is around 2 hours from Lombok airport to GiliT. Total price is IDR 750.000 per transfer (for max 4 person). You can book from a reputable company for this transfer by now.
Unfortunately I can't fly into Denpasar early enough to catch one of the fast boats, and would like to arrive in Gili T the same day as my flight. Based on flying into Lombok, where does it make the most sense to take a taxi to to catch a boat? I see you mentioned Teluk Kodek, but I've also read elsewhere to go to Sengeggi.
if the fast boat from bali isnt an option. then fly into lombok, car and boat to gili t as advised. you can organise also via the hotel you are staying with on gili t.
There are two harbors to depart from Lombok main island to Gili Trawangan: Teluk Kodek harbor where most charter boats depart, and Bangsal harbor to catch the public boat. Both are after Senggigi area.
First, fom the airport you can get a taxi to transfer to Teluk Kodek / Bangsal harbor. The taxi is meterred. I think the cost would be around 200 - 300 thousands. Or you can use airport bus 'Damri' to transfer from airport to Senggigi area. Damri is also a comfortable bus and it costs 25,000 per person. Then from Senggigi, catch a meterred taxi 'Bluebird' to get you into Teluk Kodek harbor or Bangsal harbor. Maybe around 70,000.
From Teluk Kodek harbor you can catch a charter boat for 300 - 400 thousands. Just make a deal with the boatman.
Public boat from Bangsal harbor even cheaper. Only 10 - 15 thousands per person.
But, if this is your first time, I encourage you to get a charter boat from Teluk Kodek. Bangsal harbor is a bit uncomfortable place.
Little bit confusing right? That's why I mentioned the option at my first post as the easiest way. Get a somebody to make all this transfer done.
If you've booked a room in GiliT hotel, probably the hotel would like to make a pickup for you from airport to GiliT with extra charge. Try to contact them.
I have ever heard someone in this forum mentioned a public , and non-air conditioned minibus from airport to the harbor. But I can't recall it.
Other Bali to Lombok flights start around Rp200,000 and up to Rp300,000 unless very heavily booked.
You could take a taxi to Mangsit Beach at the northern end of Senggigi (around Rp130,000-160,000-metered with a Rp17,000 Airport Taxi Service fee), stay the night at Santai http://www.santaibeachinn.com/beach.htm and then either take a taxi (around Rp60,000 to Bangsal and the public ferry (Rp10,000/PAX) the next day, or get the LaMata shuttle (pre-book with Santai) to pick you up and take you there for around Rp75,000/person.
There are several other options, including the public Airport Bus (DAMRI) an airconditioned service in a late model bus to Senggigi (Rp25,000/PAX) then a taxi to Santai at Mangsit beach (Rp12,500-metered).
There are also airport shuttle services and speedboats between the mainland and the nearby islands.
What is your entry point into Indonesia and time of arrival?
Try to arrange your schedule to arrive at Bangsal no later than around 3:30 pm if possible. Even at that time you may end up on a marginally more expensive Island Shuttle (same sort of boat) and people there may start vigorously trying to steer you into a charter for more money.
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