Frequently Asked Questions

So what is this trip, anyway?

The Indonesian Home School Adventure is a family getaway with an educational bent. in 2012 a bunch of families met up on Gili Air - a small island off the coast of Bali for several weeks. We had loads of fun, met up for group activities regularly and enjoyed island life and immersion in another culture.

When is this happening?

Since it's organised to be very flexible, the best time to go is any time from mid-April to mid-June - being that the tail end of the rainy season is finishing up in late April, and around early June is the beginning of the "high season" when all the prices go up and the place gets more crowded. The main time to go will be in the month of May. Come for as long as you like, in the dates that suit you. The main Adventure will be for the month of May, and that's the ideal time for most people to come.

Where is Gili Air? Tell me more about the island...

Gili Air is a small island - small enough that you can walk around the full circumference of it in just over an hour. It's one of a small archipelago just off the coast of Lombok, which is about an hour and a half speedboat from Bali. 
Since Gili Air is so small, and very safe - the are no cars or motor bikes on the island, only bicycles (you can rent your own bike for around $1.50-$4/day, depending on the quality of the bike and how well you bargain), so children can explore and run around without too much to worry about. 
There is a wide range of options for accommodation and facilities to suit everyone's individual needs, and each family can choose what suits them best.

What activities are available?

The Gili Islands, which include neighbouring Gili Meno and Gili Trawangan, offer a wide range of activities. All the usual beach activities including swimming and sandcastle-building, and seemingly endless tropical reefs abound for snorkelling. It's advised to bring your own snorkels and fins if you plan to do a lot of snorkelling, but there are dozens of places that you can rent snorkel, mask and fins from on Gili Air for $1-$2/day. Gili Air also has an "inflatable waterpark" with large jumping castles and waterslides moored in the sea (it's shallow water, without waves). Bike-riding, tree-climbing, collecting and learning about shells and corals, group games, etc.
There is an incredible opportunity for learning the local language Bahasa Indonesia, and learning about the culture, food and customs. 
Boats can be hired and boat trips organised, including glass-bottomed boats to go out over the reefs. On gili Meno there is a Turtle Sanctuary where we can go to see the baby turtles, egg hatchery, and learn about the work the Gili Turtles project is doing to save Sea Turtles in the area. There is also a bird park on Gili Meno, as well as hiking opportunities. 
There are several SCUBA diving schools on Gili Air that have accredited instructors and equipment, and training pools. They accept children as young as 10 years old, provided they meet the height requirement and can demonstrate that they can handle the equipment (as initial training is done in a swimming pool, a first trial is a good indicator if a child is ready).

How do we get there?

The nearest international airport is Denpasar Airport in Bali. There is also a small airport on Lombok, so if you're coming via Jakarta (the capital of Indonesia), it's possible to fly into Lombok as well.
From Bali, the fastest and easiest way is by speedboat direct to Gili Air - there are several companies offering speedboats that include transfers from your hotel to the dock. It's about a 90-minute mini-bus ride to the harbour, and another 90-minutes on the boat. Prices vary considerably, and depends largely on how well you can bargain (every price will be quoted as significantly more than you can bargain them down to), but ranging between $30-$50 per person for the shuttle bus and speed boat package). 
There are other options for getting to Gili Air, including taking a public transport boat from Bali to Lombok, and then bus to the north of Lombok and a small boat from Lombok to Gili - this is much cheaper, but will take up a whole day (I think someone did this last time and it took about 15 hours).

But How do we get to Bali in the first place? 

That is mainly a matter of what flights you can find from wherever you're coming from! (Unless you have a yacht to sail on or are already living in South East Asia and can travel overland and by Ferry).
I can't speak to flights from all the world, but from Australia, there are regular deals happening, it's mostly a trick to watch the main airline sites, JetStar, AirAsia, Tiger, and Virgin all have good deals that become available and flit away again. Sometimes you can find an amazing deal that goes via Kuala Lumpur (in Malaysia) or via Perth, but these connections are often long (doubling flight and transfer times) for the sake of saving some money. Getting a cheap flight also depends on how flexible with dates you are. For some people, it will be worth it to take a long-haul connection over Malaysia to get a $300 return ticket (which is possible), and for others it's more important to have the comfort and convenience of booking a direct QANTAS flight for a lot more. In any case, it will be up to everyone who wants to come to organise their own travel, I can recommend webjet.com.au as being a good source to compare all the various airlines.

What about accommodation? Where is everyone staying? What is available?

There are loads of accommodation options on Gili Air, ranging from very basic rooms with shared bathroom for $5-$10/ night, right up to high-end resort-style places with Air Conditioning, Cable TV, Swimming Pool and Wifi (with prices to match), and everything in between. Most places have comfortable, simple rooms that are clean, with fan and ensuite bathroom, breakfast included for $15-$25/night. 
There are also houses that are available to rent that would suit a family, or could even be shared by a couple of families, with all facilities, garden, kitchen, etc.
The beauty of Gili Air is that everyone who comes for the adventure can stay in the place that suits their needs and budget best, and it's small enough that we're all still very close by to meet up and hang out regularly.
There are some places that you can pre-book, but last year we found that it wasn't really necessary; the speed boats from Bali generally arrive around 11am, and it's no problem to find a place to stay right off the boat. Also, since it's rare for tourists to stay more than 2 or 3 days on Gili, there are always options, and if you're staying for an extended period of time (2 weeks or more), then it's easy to bargain for a good deal on the perfect place.

What about food? Can we self-cater? Are there restaurants? What if I don't like Indonesian curries? What if I'm vegetarian?

As with accommodation, there are many options. 
Small local Warungs (eateries) serve traditional Indonesian food; rice, curries, noodles, soups; generally very tasty and of good quality - cheap local places have meals for around $1-$2.50. There are also many Warungs aimed more at serving foreigners, the food is similar, but usually with a broader menu and prices around $2-$5.
There are a plethora of restaurants that can cater to all manner of tastes, many places with wood-fired pizzas (which go for $5-$10), pasta, seafood, salads, hamburgers, chips/fries, baked potatoes, and whatever one might want. There's even one Organic Restaurant that has a large menu, an organic salad bar, fresh barbecued fish and barista coffee. Most of the bars and restaurants are along the beach with shorefront seating, and rather a lot of them have free WiFi.
You can't walk more than a couple of minutes without finding a place to sit and eat and sip cocktails. There are also loads of little kiosks selling cold drinks and snacks, and often fruit vendors wandering on the beach.
It's also possible to self-cater - some accommodation will include a kitchen (if you rent a vacation house, or stay in a homestay with a local family, the often let you use the kitchen). There is a general store on Gili Air that stocks a wide range of most things (and an odd assortment of random everything), and a daytrip to Lombok can be done to go to a big market if anyone wants to stock up to do their own cooking.
There are vegetarian options, though (as just about everywhere), more limited.

What about safety and health concerns?

While it is a third world country, and standard common-sense health precautions should be taken, there isn't much to worry about. No one got sick last year, though you must be aware to drink only bottled water (it's really cheap and easy to get everywhere, if staying a while, can even buy those 15L canisters of spring water and refill small bottles), and take reasonable precautions, there's very little risk of sickness. In an emergency, there are lots and lots of boats going over to Lombok, which is only 10 minutes by speedboat, and people who would take you if you pay them (and if there's a dangerously sick kid, then who wouldn't shell out $20 or whatever for a boat taxi!) The general store has a small pharmacy of sorts where basic medicines are sold, and a doctor who comes out to a clinic on the island weekly (though I only heard about that from locals, I never went there to check it out).

The island is very safe - the small community of locals have an island-wide policy of no crimes against tourists: they all agree that their pristine reputation as a safe place for foreigners to come and spend money is worth far more than whatever petty thefts might make. Apparently, if anyone is caught stealing from tourists, they will be roughed up and banished from the island! We were totally safe, left our wallets, phones, even laptops lying about (well, discreetly), without any worries.

How will we communicate when we're on a remote tropical island?

Rest assured, it may be a seemingly remote tropical paradise, but it's not cut off from the world. There are many, many places with free WiFi internet (though it is slow), and there are a couple of internet cafes with computers. I found that the WiFi was enough most of the time for basic emails and some social networking and blogging, but it struggled for things like Skype calls (though possible at some of the better places). You can still leave all the technology at home if you want to get away from it all, but the iPod Touches and Laptops will all work just fine. (remember to get an electrical plug adaptor - in Indonesia the UK-style three-pin plug is most common - type G: http://whatplug.info/from/australia/to/indonesia - these can also be bought on cheaply Bali, but just as easy to get one in a travel shop before you leave.)

There is also mobile phone reception, and there are local SIM cards available cheaply which you can buy from convenience stores in Bali, or at the general store on the island (a SIM card usually costs $5 or less, with included credit). There are several networks to choose from, each have their own pros and cons, but I can't say which one is best. Credit can be bought on Gili Air to recharge phones, and it's very cheap compared with western countries. You can bring your mobile phone from home, but it must be unlocked - if you have a phone locked to your carrier, best to get them to unlock it for you, or alternatively, there are many places around Bali that will do it for you, for a small fee (again, something you have to bargain for to get a good deal). There are also basic, unlocked mobile phones for sale on the streets and in convenience stores in Bali for around $30. We found it very handy last year that we all had local mobiles so we could easily communicate - call and text - to organise meet-ups for the group. It's also an added safety-net for older children who might be occasionally adventuring around the island.

What's the weather going to be like?

It's a tropical island, so the weather is generally hot - it's only 8 degrees south of the equator!
 The daytime temperature averages between 27ºC (80º F) to 32ºC (90º F) and cooling down a bit at night to 22C (70F) to 27ºC (80º F). It's also fairly humid. The rainy season (monsoon) is finishing up in April and the dry season is starting in late May - so the month of May will be mostly dry with occasional rain and thunderstorms. It's not likely to rain enough to need wet-weather gear.

What will we need to bring?

Most things are available on Gili Air, really, you don't need to bring all that much; packing light is always good - last year, many families arrived just with carry-on day bags. 
Basic personal supplies like personal hygiene products are all available there, but if you have a specific brand that you like (for example, a natural toothpaste or organic shampoo), then you should bring enough to last you. Mosquito repellent is a good idea too - the ones you can buy locally are all full of DEET.

You will definitely need beach gear - swimsuits, hats (a must!), towels, inflatable swimming aids (if you have small children that aren't strong swimmers) sunscreen (you can buy all these things on Gili Air, but sunscreen is overpriced and there are no natural ones available). Sarongs can be bought cheaply and abundantly, so you might not even need to bring towels, and many of the hotels provide them for guests to use in the room. If you plan to do a lot of snorkelling, then bringing your own mask, snorkel and fins is a good idea, though they do have them for rent on the island for $1-$2/day.
Since it's hot weather, you don't need to get bogged down in loads of clothes, enough for 3-4 days is sufficient. 
Cameras, memory cards, spare batteries. 
There isn't much in the way of street lighting, so it's a good idea to bring a torch (flashlight) for walking after dark.

If you're bringing electronics (laptops, camera chargers, gameboys, mobile phones, iPods, etc), make sure you have the appropriate electrical adaptors. Gili Air is on 220V (standard Australian 240V electronics don't need a currency inverter, but american 110V appliances will (**this is important - if you're bringing electronics from the US, don't try plugging them in without a voltage convertor, or they will blow up!). The electrical outlet plug is a standard UK-3-pin style as pictured to the left.
You can easily buy a simple plug adaptor, either specifically designed for your local plugs or a "Universal" plug adaptor, which you can plug in electronics with any plug (very handy). These are available cheaply in Bali, though again, you need to bargain hard for them. They shouldn't be more than $5 each, and can be gotten for less. (Pictured right).

If you require any special medications or supplements, make sure you have enough of them to last, and it's a good idea to have a letter from your doctor listing everything you have with you, just in case you encounter any authorities (most likely no one will ever question you about anything, but it is recommended). Basic medicines and first-aid are available on Gili Air, but it's a good idea to bring a kit with you.

While it's definitely a barefoot-friendly environment, there is a local custom that it is inappropriate to wear your shoes into people's homes and some shops. It's normal to see piles of shoes (usually flip-flops) at doorways), so it's polite to wear footwear outdoors that you can remove when going inside (especially when going into people's homes). That said, there isn't much call for hiking boots, sandals are fine. We did find that reef shoes were handy for swimming where there's coral, as it can be sharp, though rubber flip-flops work too.

There is an ATM (cash machine) on Gili Air, but it only works with some cards, and there are several more ATMs on neighbouring Gili Trawangan (10 minutes by boat), and there are also money changers on Gili Air, but rates aren't great, so it's a good idea to bring enough cash in Indonesian Rupiah to last your stay (or at least enough to last a week, and plan to use the ATM to get more cash out).

If you have any special dietary needs, or some specific food your kids "have" to have, it might be a good idea to bring that. Last year we bought a packet of Nori sheets - it was easy to get rice and local fish and veggies to make our own sushi nori rolls for lunches. Things like Vegemite and real maple syrup are real treats not available there (though pancakes for breakfast are common).

While most things are available on Gili Air, it is cheaper and a lot more range to buy things like clothes, sarongs, shoes, hats, etc on Bali before you arrive.

Ultimately, bring whatever you feel you need, but packing light is always handy.

What money will I need? Do they have ATM/ Cash Machines?

The local currency is Indonesian Rupiah - it fluctuates constantly, but the exchange rate hovers around 10,000Rp for every $1 (the kids get really good at their 10,000 times tables!). xe.com is a good site to get up-to-date exchange rates for any currency, but keep in mind that these are live bank rates, and the actual exchange rate you get on the ground won't be quite that good - Note: if someone offers you an exchange rate better than the bank rate, be wary - deals too good to be true usually are, and money changing rip-offs abound on Bali.
This link shows you the current live Australian Dollar to Indonesian Rupiah rate, here is the US Dollar rates.

There are ATMs all over Bali that accept foreign cards and give local currency, so you can easily take cash out. Be aware though that there are fees for foreign cash transactions, and this will vary from bank to bank - you should check with your bank to find out the rates (it's usually something like $5-$10 per transaction), and that the ATMs in Indonesia have a maximum amount that you can take out per transaction (it varies from bank-to-bank, but between 1,500,00Rp and 2,500,000Rp - $150-$250), so take that into consideration as well. You can, however, take out the maximum, and then put the card back in the machine and take out the maximum again, as many times as you like, but you will have the foreign transaction fees every time.

There aren't many places that accept credit card payments directly - only high-end hotels and especially fancy resorts.

Well this all sounds FANTASTIC! Where do we sign up?

There is no need to "officially" sign up, but you can email balihomeschooladventure@majikfaerie.com to get more information and to coordinate with everyone else who will be coming.

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