Top 5 Tourist Scams in Bromo & Ijen @ East Java that You Should Know

When travelling to East Java especially to Mt. Bromo and Ijen Crater which are popular tourist destinations, there are numerous scams that travellers should be aware of. Throughout my short but enlightening experience backpacking in East Java to Mt. Bromo and Ijen Crater from Surabaya, my sister and I have encountered countless ways the locals tried to cheat us off our money! 🙁

This short but informative blog post of mine aims to inform travellers out there of the various types of scams and deceiving ways commonly used by the locals to trick unwary travellers. Here is the list of scams experienced by yours truly that you should know of:


1. Local Prepaid SIM Card/Pack Scam

The simplest and most common scam in East Java has to be this! Basically, the price of a local prepaid SIM card/pack is hiked up ten times fold or more for sale to unsuspecting buyers, especially foreigners and travellers.


Be a smart traveller:
Get your local prepaid SIM card/pack directly from telecommunication shops, kiosks or convenience stores. Do not buy it directly from a random individual you meet even if it is at the airport, administration buildings, etc. These so called “official” or “authorised” person selling the prepaid SIM card/pack to you might not be as honest as he/she seems to be. Read my experience here.


2. Airport Taxi Booking/Hire Scam

Upon your arrival at Juanda International Airport, there are two ways you can travel via public transport from the airport to your destination – either by a Damri bus (in blue) or a Prima taxi (also in blue). Do take note that many other taxi operators and agents will approach and try to direct/take you to their counter to hire a taxi and charge you exorbitantly for it.


Be a smart traveller:

Just ignore these taxi operators and agents and head directly to one of the automated Prima taxi booking teller machines located on the left side of the airport’s main entrance, in front of the information counter.

Touch the screen, select your destination, book your taxi and pay the amount stated on the screen. The machine will then print your booking ticket/receipt. Next, proceed to the foyer of the building and show your booking ticket/receipt to any of the taxi drivers out there. You will be directed to your taxi and the taxi driver will then drive you to your destination. Read my experience here.


3. Parking Ticket/Entrance Fee

This is not a scam, but something we need to know. Almost every taxi driver will charge you a compulsory parking ticket/entrance fee if he drops you off at the airport, train station, bus station or anywhere that charges a parking ticket/entrance fee. It does not matter whether you already paid the fare in advance or not, he will proceed to charge you for the parking/entrance fee when you get off the taxi. On a positive note, you may see it as tipping the taxi driver.


Be a smart traveller:
Once you get on board your taxi, for safety reasons especially if you are travelling alone or are female travellers, it is wise to take a photo of the taxi driver’s details displayed prominently on the left hand side of the dashboard or sometimes, hanging from the front mirror. This is a precaution measure in case anything bad were to happen, you are able to identify the taxi driver with ease. Remember, your safety is your Number 1 priority.


4. Public Transportation Scams

Wherever you go, many locals will aggressively approach and persistently offer to take you to a “public bus” or “public transport station”. Most often, it turns out to be a tour agency that is cleverly disguised as an official “tourist information centre” or public bus station. Once you are there, they will not hesitate to “persistently convince” or in other words, harass you to take up their services or tours. 🙁

The locals brazenly do it because they will earn a certain amount of commission from the sales they get from you, and the “local authorities” do nothing to curb such illicit activities for several reasons which I will reveal in another separate blog post. And of all the places in East Java, Probolinggo happens to be a notorious hub for such scams, so you have been warned!!


Be a smart traveller:
As convincing as they sound or seem to be, do not listen to them. I repeat, Do not listen to them!! Instead, go to the nearest petrol station or local stalls and ask the locals there for directions. From my experience, these people are more trustworthy than the ones who purposely approach you to offer some help or helpful information. Bear in mind that not all locals will try to cheat you off your money. Some are genuinely kind and helpful. We met some angels in scam-my Probolinggo, lucky us! 😀 You can read our experience with the scammers here.


a) Public bus a.k.a Angkot (Yellow Minivan) Scam

An angkot is a minivan version of the local “public bus”. It is most commonly yellow in colour. You can stop and board an angkot from anywhere by the roadside. Do scout around and ask the locals of the average fare from one place to another before you embark on an angkot. Also, be sure to come to an agreement with the driver on the fare you will be paying or else, he will charge you extra. Lastly, do pay him after you arrive at your destination and not before. Read our angkot experience here.
Be a smart traveller:
The angkot driver will offer some “helpful suggestions” and try to convince and persuade if not harass you to take up the tours and services he suggests. He will even try to divert you from your destination and drive you to a tour agency, “tourist information centre” and such if you are not careful, so be alert of your surroundings at all times. Make sure he takes you to your destination and not charge you excessively for it.


b) Public Taxi Scam

There are numerous taxi operators in East Java, but unfortunately most do not use the meter and seeing that you are a foreigner, they will try to charge more.


Be a smart traveller:
Go for the Blue Bird Taxi Group because their taxi drivers always use the meter. The taxi is blue in colour. However, the compulsory parking ticket/entrance fee is applicable here.


c) Bison (Green Van) Ride Fare

To get from Probolinggo to Cemoro Lawang, you can either take an ojek ride (motorcycle) or a bison (green van) ride. Both have its pros and cons. 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.

It seems innocent enough until you find yourself travelling with just a handful of people, that is when the price hikes up. The fewer the passengers, the higher the price you must pay. For example, if there are only three passengers, each passenger needs to pay Rp. 150,000 each. Do the maths. The driver will only leave when the bison has enough passengers or when the full amount is paid. Read our bison ride experience here.


Be a smart traveller:
Manage your time well and try to take a bison ride early in the morning, around 9 a.m. You will find yourself having no trouble during the weekends, but during the weekdays, there are few travellers travelling to and from Cemoro Lawang, so be ready to pay extra for the ride especially if you are rushing for time.


d) Ojek (Motorcycle) Ride Scam

One of the most convenient ways to travel in East Java, Mt. Bromo and Ijen Crater is by hiring an ojek (motorcycle) however, it is also one of the most notorious. I was told to avoid it at all cost especially if we are travelling alone or are female travellers. Even male travellers are not safe or spared!

Their modus operandi is to drop you off at a deserted place and threaten to leave you there unless you pay the amount they demanded. Other horror stories I heard include travellers being taken on a terror ride and robbed off their belongings or sexually assaulted. 🙁


Be a smart traveller:
Can I say avoid ojek rides at all cost? If you do need to use them, take precaution and be extra careful. Also, it is wise to pay them when you arrive at your destination and not before.


5. Mt. Bromo Horse Ride Scam

At Mt. Bromo, you can either choose to walk across the sandy plains and up to the foot/steps of the volcano on foot or ride a horse. Many horse owners will approach you, and although the horse ride is enjoyable, the horse owners are known to leave you behind at the foot of the volcano if you make the payment before the ride. Read about our experience here.


Be a smart traveller:
Do bargain for the price before you ride the horse and pay the owner after you arrive at your destination, especially when you take a return ride. If you are unfit or feeling tired, it is wise to ride a horse instead of making the journey on foot. You will thank me for that later when you do not go huffing and puffing at the foot of the steps leading to the mouth of the volcano. 😉


A good traveller is one who knows how to travel with the mind.” – Michael Bassey Johnson


With that in mind, do not allow these notorious scams or deceiving ways hinder you from enjoying your travels. You only need to be aware of them and be a smart traveller. My sister and I did our homework before going to East Java, therefore we cleverly avoided those scams and generally enjoyed our East Java @ Mt. Bromo and Ijen Crater adventure.

Safe travels and happy travelling! 😀

6 Comment

  1. Zrey says: Reply

    Hi, is it to look for accommodation on your own or did you pre-booked?

    1. Hi Zrey,

      Some accommodation were pre-booked (in Banyuwangi and Surabaya), whereas some were booked on-the-spot (in Bromo). 🙂

  2. Aww…thank you for the compliment and love, I appreciate it much. Happy and safe travels to you! All the best! 🙂

  3. Your tips are just great, Erika! U r a smart traveller.
    Love your travel posts.

  4. You're welcome, Henry! I'm glad it helps. =)

  5. thanks for the tips Erika! =D one day if i happen to travel to java sure will find these to read! hehe

    CNY Platter 2015 from Hard Rock Cafe Penang!

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