Depending on our budget and time, we can certainly do Bromo and Ijen on our own, without relying on a tour and have the luxury to manage and personalise our travel experience, besides saving a whole lot of money too! In my case, it was a short, tiring but sweet adventure! And yes, it’s safe for solo and women travellers too. Saying that does not mean we should lower down our guard though for we must at all times, be alert and cautious, wherever we are.
Most Bromo & Ijen packages offered by tour operators out there cost more than Rp. 3,000,000 per person, inclusive or exclusive of accommodation, with or without food. I know because I did my fair amount of research before embarking on my 4D/3N backpacking Bromo & Ijen trip.
I must say, all that research and planning for my Bromo & Ijen without a tour itinerary consumes a lot of my time and gave me headaches! It is far easier and convenient to skip the entire process and hassle and just book a tour, but the thought and incentive of being able to travel on our own, in our own way, at our own pace is highly rewarding! I believe I can do the same, but at a much cheaper price! I always find ways to stretch my little piggy bank as flat as it can go, but at the same time, have a good time during my travels too – which I did, many times now.
My Bromo and Ijen without a tour journey starts and ends in Surabaya, travelling via public transport, for a duration of 3 days and 2 nights. And, instead of travelling first to Bromo, my sister and I went to Ijen and after, Bromo. The reason is because there is no train ride from Probolinggo to Banyuwangi within the stipulated time frame of mine. Given more time, I’m sure you and I could do Bromo, followed by Ijen, and even head off to the island of Bali after. The key word here is to research and plan ahead, and with minor adjustments, we’re good to go! 😉
Upon our arrival at Juanda International Airport at 09:00 hours, we had a quick brunch at the cafeteria. I also bought a local 3G internet prepaid SIM pack @ simPATI for Rp. 30,000, and topped up Rp.20,000 for 1G worth of data/internet package. The SIM pack was overpriced! Read the full story here. From the airport, my sister and I took a Prima Taxi to Surabaya Gubeng Train Station @ approximately Rp. 125,000 per way. Read how to book a Prima Taxi and avoid getting scammed here.
At the train station, we bought a Sri Tanjung/174 train ticket @ 13:40 hours, travelling from Surabaya (SUB) to Karangasem (KNE) @ Banyuwangi, bypassing Probolinggo station along the way. The train ticket costs Rp. 140,000 per person @ Economy Class – decent and clean. The 7-hour long train ride was our first long distance train ride in our lives! Needless to say, my sister and I enjoyed the scenic train ride through the East Java countryside – chugging through timeless villages, endless paddy fields and lush green forests, over rivers, unexpected ravines and steep cliffs, and more! Read a detailed version of our train ride experience with more photos here.
The 10-feet High Electric Blue Sulphur Flames, Sulphuric Acid Lake & Sulphur Miners at Ijen Crater
Our arrival at the train station was welcomed by Ganda, the proud owner of Kg. Osing Inn. It was raining heavily that night, but it didn’t dampen our spirits and our determination to hike up and down Ijen Crater to catch a glimpse of the incredible electric blue sulphur flames and sulphuric acid lake! After a quick cold shower, we went to bed early in preparation for the hike at half past midnight.
Ganda arranged an experienced and friendly guide with 5 other travellers staying at the inn for our hiking group – that helped to cut down the cost drastically. In total, my sister and I spent about Rp.450,000 for the room, guide, tipping, etc. Read my review of our basic double room at Kampung Osing Inn here.
The 1-hour jeep ride brought us to Paltuding Base which was teeming with travellers alike and sulphur miners. The entrance ticket was Rp.100,000 each. There was no camera fee, whatsoever. Wasting no time, we began our 2.5 hours hike up and down Ijen Crater to reach the foot of the acid lake where the fiery action took place. There, we spent about 2 hours at the crater, observing the sulphur miners at work while admiring the beauty of the sulphur flames from a distance.
With the right conditions, the electric blue sulphur flames soared 10-feet high up the sky to our amazement! 😀 It was truly a sight to behold! Some even went too close for comfort for the sake of a perfect shot, which is not advisable due to safety reasons.
After watching the sun rise over the lake, we swiftly made our way back to the parking lot, stopping by mid station for some light refreshments, followed by an hour’s drive back to the inn. Read a detailed version of our Ijen Crater experience with more photos (Part 1) here, (Part 2) here and (Part 3) here.
Upon our arrival at Probolinggo train station, an old man came out of nowhere and offered to take us to the public bus or public bus station. In case you haven’t heard, Probolinggo is a notoriously scam-my place!! I repeat, NOTORIOUSLY SCAM-MY PLACE!! So beware, be street smart and be a smart traveller. Find out what are the Top 5 Scams in Probolinggo @ East Java that you should know here. Thus, we ignored the old man and proceeded to Information Tourist Centre located in front of the train station for help.
There, I got to know the disturbing truth of the scams in Probolinggo and East Java and why the local authorities do nothing about it. To cut the story short, my sister and I reluctantly boarded the angkot, a yellow minivan version of the local public bus parked in front of the centre.
The Yakuza-looking angkot driver whose arms were covered with tattoo and I agreed with the fare of Rp.5,000 per person (standard fare) to transport us from the train station to Bayuangga Bus Terminal. Along the way, he persistently tried to persuade us to take up the tours he suggested, but I stubbornly refused. We felt much safer when some school children boarded the angkot too and after travelling for about 15-20 minutes, we arrived safely at the bus terminal, in one piece with no missing limbs whatsoever! Read a detailed story with more photos here.
A Guardian Angel & Friendly, Helpful Locals to the Rescue!
Once at the bus station, our next public transport to Cemoro Lawang @ Mt. Bromo was either an ojek (motorcycle) or a bison (green van) ride. As foretold, many locals (mostly of Orang Madura/Madurese ethnicity) mobbed us, trying to sell their tours and services. I’ve been warned beforehand that some of the Orang Madura/Madurese can be quite hostile, intimidating and vulgar.
We ignored them and walked swiftly towards the nearest petrol station (Spbu Triwung) for directions and advice. For that, the vulgar “F*** Y**!” words were hurled at us. No kidding! We remained cool and gave them deaf ears. At the petrol station, we found helpful locals who directed us to the bison/ojek stop located just several metres away from Depot Marinda. Wasting no time, we went straight to our destination and hung out at one of the local food stalls, while waiting for other travellers/passengers to arrive and fill up the bison.
The rent for an entire bison is Rp. 450,000 per vehicle.The amount is divided equally to the number of passengers on board. It costs about Rp. 35,000 per person for a one way, full car trip. Unfortunately, given the time we arrived there, most travellers have boarded the early morning bison up to Cemoro Lawang @ Mt. Bromo. 🙁
Out of the blue and by chance, came a man, our angel in disguise on an ojek and there were three of us now. Wanting to reach Cemoro Lawang @ Mt. Bromo before nightfall, we decided to just pack and go – a move that costs us Rp. 150,000 each for the bison ride. We paid the fare and off we went to Bromo Tengger Semeru National Park @ Tengger Village, a 1-hour journey through green paddy fields, misty alpine forests, vegetable farms, hanging cliffs and more. It was one of the most beautiful rides I have ever taken in my life! The temperature dropped drastically as we ventured higher up into the mountain and needless to say, the stench of reeking rotten eggs signalled that we were close to our destination. Read a detailed story with more photos here.
Bromo Homestay & Delightful Dinner by the Caldera
We didn’t pre-book our stay at Cemoro Lawang @ Mt.Bromo, we simply did the booking on the spot. Our new found friend and an angel in disguise, Mr. Erwin was kind enough to help my sister and I, including himself to secure a room with hot shower for the night at one of the many homestays available at Cemoro Lawang @ Mt. Bromo for Rp.250,000 a night.
We also manage to book a jeep to take us up to Gunung Penanjakan Viewpoint 1 to watch the sunrise over the Sea of Sands, Mt. Bromo and Mt. Sumeru. After that, we went for an evening walk around the village and had dinner at Cemara Indah Hotel & Lodge. Read a detailed review of Yoi Homestay and our dinner here.
We talked more, joked and laughed a lot over some food and drinks. The locally grown and brewed tea served to us was one of the best I have ever tasted in my life! The food however, was average in comparison of the spectacular view we had of the caldera and Mt. Bromo. We then bid good night and retired for the night in our respective rooms.
Spectacular Sunrise, Horse Ride, the Savannah & Teletubbies Hill of Mt. Bromo
At 3.30am in the morning, we were excitingly waiting for our jeep to pick us up. We shared the jeep with another two more travellers, a couple from Russia. The Bromo Tengger Semeru National Parkentrance fee of Rp. 220,000 per person, along with the jeep fare of Rp. 120,000 per person was collected before we boarded the jeep and off we went to Gunung Penanjakan, about an hour’s drive.
After that, we had to walk 15 minutes up the steep steps of the mountain to reach the platform of Viewpoint 1. A sea of people was already there when we arrived, nonetheless my sister and I managed to slip under the railings and secured a good spot to watch the much anticipated sunrise in peace. The sky was littered with millions of twinkling stars for us to enjoy while the illuminated Tengger village below stood silence in time.
An hour or so later, the sun began to rise, and the moment the first ray of light hits the ground, a spectacular sight was unveiled! No words could simply describe the beauty and glory of Mother Nature before us. We were mesmerised and stood in awe and delight! Everyone didn’t waste time to capture and preserve the moment in photographs. We then steadfastly made our way back to the jeep and headed straight for the caldera.
Once there, we opted to hop on the back of a horse to cross the vast and majestic Sea of Sands, bypassing a Hindu temple (Pura Luhur Poten) along the way to reach the steps of stairs at the foot of the crater. Our driver bargained and got us a return journey horse ride for only Rp. 100,000 per person. After climbing up the steep steps of stairs, my sister and I finally stood proudly at the mouth of the crater.
At that moment, we felt on top of the world! Mr. Erwin encouraged us to make a wish, which we did and we took many photos for memories too. 😀 It wasn’t long before white clouds of suffocating gas and vapour overwhelmed our lungs, signalling us to leave the place immediately.
We then hopped on the jeep and travelled to the Savannah and Teletubbies Hill for photographs. 😀 That additional journey costs Rp. 200,000 for three person. Ohh…before I forget, a toilet break costs Rp.2000 per person, per entry. Fret not, the toilets are clean and well maintained. After the tour, we made our way back to our room, packed our bags, bid farewell to Mr. Erwin, exchanged our contact numbers, and hopped on the morning bison ride back to Bayuangga Bus Terminal at 9am. This time, the bison ride fare was only Rp. 35,000 per person. Read a detailed story here.
PATAS Bus Ride Back to Surabaya @ Bungurasih Bus Terminal – Of Buskers, Pengamens & Street Sellers
Again, the moment we stepped foot in Probolinggo, a heap of men, this time neatly dressed in batik aggressively and persistently approached my sister and I, as well as other unsuspecting travellers to go to their service centre located just by the roadside nearby and sell their exorbitantly marked up bus tickets, tours and services to us. We were told by these men that there are no A/C express buses available from Probolinggo to Surabaya, only crowded and smelly public buses. Only they offer such exclusive A/C busses in Probolinggo. That is a lie!!
Knowing better, we ignored these cunning men, crossed the road and made our way back to the food stall we hung out before to get the truth and the information we needed. True enough, a comfortable and reliable A/C express bus is available in Bayuangga Bus Terminal itself, operated by Bus PATAS! The men in batik clothing quoted us a fare of Rp.80,000 per person whereas PATAS bus fare only costs Rp.30,000 per person!! My smart move saved us Rp.50,000 each!! Needless to say, my sister and I thanked the lovely people at the food stall and made our way to the bus terminal. Too bad we didn’t take any photographs of them. 🙁
Anyway, we found PATAS’ Bus information counter and the PATAS Bus at Terminal 1. Do take note that the other bus operators will try their best to fool unsuspecting visitors to board their bus. Be sure to only board the correct / genuine PATAS Bus at Terminal 1. I repeat, Terminal 1!! We boarded the right bus and waited for it to leave at 11.30am. The bus conductor boarded the bus, collected payment and issued the bus ticket accordingly on the bus itself.
In the meantime, before the bus drove off, many street sellers boarded the bus and tried to sell us many items such as packets of snacks, slices of fruits, and bottles of Aqua. A few buskers or beggars boarded the bus and begged for donations while the pengamens or street musicians sang generously and expected to receive some rupiahs from the passengers on the bus. To cut the story short, the A/C express bus ride back to Surabaya @ Bungurasih Bus Terminal was comfortable and enjoyable. Read a detailed version of our PATAS express bus ride experience with more photos here.
To Above & Beyond!
At Bungurasih Bus Terminal, we took a Blue Bird Group taxi to our guesthouse @ Krowi Inn where my sister and I spent a night there, exploring and enjoying our last day and night in the city of Surabaya before flying back to Malaysia the next day. To read my review of Krowi Inn and our Surabaya city sightseeing, click here.
That marked the end of our 3D/2N Bromo & Ijen without a tour journey – a memorable adventure of a lifetime! My sister and I will not hesitate to do it all over again, that’s for sure! Now, if anyone asks is it possible to do Bromo & Ijen without a tour? You and I both know the answer to that question. We did it and you read it here, at our humble travel blog – Erika & EvaToh Travels. 😉
Safe and happy travels, ya all!