3d2n Solo Travel Itinerary to Bromo and Ijen without a guide

Decided to do up my 3d2n itinerary for Mount Ijen and Mount Bromo just because when I was planning this solo trip (without a guide / tour), I could not find anything online except for this one girl’s blog so I thought this would be useful for anyone out there who intends to cover both mountains in 3 days on a tight budget. Most people would tell you that you need 4d3n for this if you’re not on a tour, but I managed to cover it in 3d2n with very, very minimal sleep.

Travel period: 16th March  – 19th March (I decided to give myself 4d3n just in case something screws up along the way, but everything went so smoothly)

Air ticket: Tiger Airways (Singapore – Surabaya) and Jetstar back. Cost was SGD$170 (you can definitely find even cheaper flights if you’re willing to wait. I met another traveller there who only spent $80 for a round trip from SG!)

Expenses: ~$150 (includes all accommodations and public transport). My total cost for the trip was only $320.

Itinerary: SG – Surabaya – Banyuwangi – Mount Ijen – Banyuwangi – Probolinggo – Mount Bromo – Surabaya – SG

Day 1: I flew into Surabaya and arrived at 9.10am, which was perfect because it meant I had to whole day to get to Ijen. I took a cab (actually it wasn’t a cab, it was some random dude’s car that I bargained for a lower price) into the city centre (gubeng railway station). The car ride cost me 110k  rupiah (quite pricey cause I was alone and couldn’t split the fare), normally they would quote you 150k, that’s the standard price but I was insistent that I would not pay more than 100k, so I settled for 110k in the end. I wanted to hire an ojek [a.k.a motorbike taxi] which will cost around 60k rupiah but I didn’t find any drivers while I was within the airport, then I realised I should’ve walked out. There was so many outside!!!! But I was kinda glad I sat in a car instead because the sun was blazing and I don’t think I could’ve survived the 40 mins journey lugging my backpack + camera tripod on a motorbike under the heat.

The moment you arrive and walk out into the public space, ALOT of scams will start coming, so be smart and wary. I got my SIM card which was pretty pricey and I doubted the guy quite a bit but he was the only person selling the card so I didn’t really have a choice, think I paid 120k for 2gb data card. Swear the airport was where I spent the bulk of my money, everywhere else was damn cheap if you know how to evade scams.

When I reached gubeng railway station, I had to wait about 2+h before taking the 1+ pm train all the way to banyuwangi (the stop I came out at was karangasem). It was a 7h train ride which passed by probolinggo as well, so by the time I reached karangasem it was already 9pm. I met my friend who also happened to be solo traveling on the train (only planned to meet the night before) and he miraculously managed to get contacts from a local for a homestay at karangasem. BEST home stay in Indonesia ever. I only paid 100k for the night and they provided 2 way transport for the 7 of us at the home stay place to Ijen for 80k per person, which imo is really cheap. They even provided us with super awesome local breakfast the next day (which I still crave for right now!)

Homestay place was called Didu’s Homestay Bed & Breakfast (the link goes to their fb page)

I’m thoroughly impressed with the rustic place and the service the lady (Maya) provided. She was telling me that she only recently started this b&b thing and they’re also on airbnb. They were such AMAZING authentic local hosts that extended their hospitality all the way till we left the place. The next morning after our climb, we were running late for our train so she offered to send my friend and I to the railway station on her ojek, and she even cut queue at the train station to get the counter to sell us the tickets asap before the train left. And, luckily for us, we managed to catch our train if not we’ll have to wait for the next train 12 hours later.

So basically, I reached karangasem at 9pm, Maya (our host) picked us up and drove to her homestay place (5-10 mins away). We had pizza for a late dinner, then went to bed at 11pm, woke up at 12am. We left at 12.30am and had a 1+h journey (?) on a jeep to mount ijen.

MOST people would take the Bondowoso route (i.e. Surabaya – bus to Bondowoso) but I knew I wasn’t gonna make it for the last bus up to sempol (heard the last bus was around noon) and I didn’t wanna risk wasting a day at the boring town so I took a chance on the Banyuwangi route which turned out to be perfect. If you do via the Bondowoso route, you’re definitely gonna need 4d3n for both bromo and ijen because of the limitation of the last bus up to sempol at noon.

What economy trains in Indo look like, it’s really not too bad.

Day 2: So we left our home stay on a jeep to Mount Ijen at 12.30am. We reached at around 1.45am before starting the hike. Please bring your N95 mask if you intend to do the crater hike down to see the blue sulfur flames. If not you can opt to rent a gas mask at 100k (or was it 10k? I rly can’t remember) over at the entrance, but seriously, don’t bother wasting money and just bring your own mask. It IS needed if you go all the way down to see the flames unclose, even with my N95 mask I thought I was gonna get poisoned by those fumes. It was THAT strong, not kidding. See pictures below to see how upclose I got to the flames.

The group of us (my friend that I met, and another 2 french travellers with us on the jeep) hiked up pretty quickly. Just a heads up, it’s pretty steep but definitely do-able even if you’re not that fit. I think we got to the top at around 3+ am (it’s relatively faster than the usual), but going down the crater took awhile. It was steep, dark and the smell of sulfur fumes got a lot stronger. We also spent a lot of time down below taking pictures till we got enough of the flames, and we also took sometime to watch how the miners got their sulfur blocks. The part to go down to the crater to see the blue flames is where you see the sign “DANGER” ironically hahaha. I heard some of the travellers telling me that the blue flames will disappear by 5.30am, so try to reach down as early as you can. Some of the other travellers that were in the jeep with us, didn’t manage to head down to see the blue flames because they took too long on the climb up.

Tip: There will be ALOT of locals trying to get you to hire them as a guide along the way by pulling your arms. You have to be VERY FIRM and say NO that you don’t need a guide and don’t let the cling onto you. They will insist that you need a guide to down to the crater, but NO you don’t have to. If anything, just say you already have one waiting for you. The route is VERY obvious and clear, you definitely don’t need a guide to do this. The only thing you should pay for at Mount Ijen is the entrance fee of 100k, that’s it. Don’t get scammed by some of the locals trying to be your guides.

After we got up from the sulfur flames area, it was about 5.30am and we waited for the sun to rise at 6am thereabouts. There’s this really nice place where people usually take their pictures from to see the full view of the crater, it’s on top of the marked route (I don’t even know how to describe it), but ask some of the locals, they will tell you where it is). So basically it’s above where you see the danger sign, but you head up from about 50m to your right.

This is the nice place where a lot of people take their pictures from to get a full view of the crater

The blue sulfur flames right in front of us. I stood beside to take a picture as well, but you only have 10seconds to snap a picture before the fumes engulf you and you have to hold your breath. Not the mention it stings your eyes too so this is definitely not for the faint hearted. I wore a N95 mask.

We were done with the hike and got back to the carpark area at around 6.45am. Our jeep sent us back to the homestay place and we reached at around 8am. Showered, took a quick breakfast and I had to rush for my train to Probolinggo. It was a 9.15am train, I reached the station via my host’s motorbike at 9.10am. I was frantic and was praying I would catch the train. Managed to jump the queue because my host seems to know EVERYONE in that little town so she helped us get our tickets within 2 mins, and I managed to hop onto the train when it arrived.

Breakfast with the other travellers at the homestay area.

Quickly snapped a picture at karangasem station before hopping on the train because I wanted to remember that moment of panic.

Day 2 was really long. So I got onto the train and headed towards probolinggo, reached at about 1pm? When I got out of the train station, I had to look for this yellow small van right outside the railway station that would take me to the public bus terminal. It was 5k for the bus ticket. Basically when you get out of the train just ask around “Kuning Bimo, lima thousand, to bus terminal” which means yellow bus that costs 5k, to the bus terminal. Chances are, you probably will already see the yellow van outside waiting for customers. When it is filled (~5 people), it will leave for the bus terminal about 10-15 minutes away. I saw a few travellers coming out the station so I shouted for them to get on the bus with me so I could fill the bus quickly and get to my destination. So I brought along two germans and one sri lakan, and off we went.

Okay, here comes the tricky part. Probolinggo & Bromo had THE MOST SCAMS.  The yellow bus will try to trick you and drop you off at their own private tour company up to mount bromo. So you once again, need to very firm and say NO, and keep insisting they bring you to the bus terminal. Do not pay them till they get you to your destination. I made a mistake by paying them first, so it was a bit hard to get them to drive us to where we wanted. But I was very very very fierce (not that I want to, but those people got on my nerves when they tried to scam us), so they had no choice but to bring us to the public bus terminal. Please note that to tell where the public bus terminal is, you’ll see a row of dark green buses beside food stalls (don’t eat the food at that row, it sucks)

They’ll only drop you off outside of the bus terminal btw, and that’s correct. You just need to see dark green buses, that’s the bus you’ll take up to cemoro lawang. The bus costs 35k if it’s filled with 15 passengers and it only leaves if it’s filled. I waited for about 30 minutes and we had 11 passengers. We ended up paying 40k each so they bus could leave without needing to wait for more people.

And more scams coming up, what’s new?

When the driver drove us up, there’s this “entrance fee” to where all the hostels are… It costs 10k for a stupid slip of red paper. Essentially, it’s only SGD$1 and I shouldn’t be too bothered by it. But the thing is, the driver can choose to go by another route where we won’t need to pay for the entrance fees. But he chose this route instead.. Obviously wanna scam us. Principles are completely wrong. So all of us ganged up and were unwilling to pay. The driver and the locals there kept insisting we had to pay but we wouldn’t give in. So there was this quarrel going on for about 30mins. Then all of us decided to take our bags and leave the van and walk in ourselves without paying the driver. Then he panicked and decide to drive us through in the end zzz. They even lied that from where we were to the hostels, it was 16km more to make us think it was impossible to walk in. But I checked google maps and it was like 700m? What a joke.

Next, finding a hostel to sleep there for a night was a challenge. We settled for cemara indah hotel, which turned out to be a good choice. The rates stated 350k per room, we bargained and got it at like 200k per room. (two beds in a room) so we essentially only paid 100k per person? My friend who went the day before got it at double the price lol. I think when you’re in Indo you really need to know how to play their game if not you’ll end up getting scammed all the time.

So cemara indah hotel did not have hot water (I didn’t shower that night, but it didn’t really matter). It was WAY too cold to be showering anyway. The location of the hotel (or rather hostel) was great beside it was just beside the entrance to the hike up to the mt penanjakan summit (and also beside the secret entrance down to mount bromo itself – more on this later)

We had a really nice dinner at some cosy shop and we got to bed at 7pm that night (rmb to restock on water when you see in those little shops). Had to wake up at 3am the next morning.

The group of us having our dinner.

Day 3: Woke up at 3am and we started hiking up to Mount Penanjakan at 3.30am. We reached the top a tad too early and had to wait for about an hour before the sun rise. I was so cold that I bought instant noodles at the top to keep myself warm.

So the route up to Mount Penanjakan was relatively easy. You can take your time with it if you’re not that fit. Alternatively you can take a jeep / horse up (which I really don’t recommend). The route up starts from right outside my hotel. A guide is NOT necessary, the route is very very very obvious so don’t bother with a guide. Keep walking up rocks and stairs. You’ll reach the summit quite quickly in 1.5 hours? Note that instead of the usual place where people stop at, you should stop about 2 flights of stairs before the actual viewing point. It gives a MUCH NICER view than the top (See pic below)

This is where the nicer viewpoint is. 2 flights of stairs below the actual viewing point. Also, less people here. The nice viewpoint is just at the end of these steps as you can see, it’s just a small patch of space.

Got back down to my hotel at 6.30am, rested outside a little while waiting for some of the other travellers. Then we headed to Mount Bromo National Park… Again, don’t bother with the entrance fees. We went down via a secret (not so secret anymore) entrance, which is just beside my hotel. It’s through a metal fence then steps and pretty steep dirt path all the way down.

Here comes another epic part. Started at 7am, and when we got down, there was this fake govt official that waited for us and insisted we pay for the entrance fees. But one look and you kinda know that it’s a scam. I requested to see his govt official pass and said that if he didn’t have it, I’m not gonna believe him and I won’t pay for the entrance fees. He couldn’t produce it but he said he will get someone to bring it for him. We told him that we don’t have time to wait for him to bring it back and told him to find us again later when we were leaving.

So we spent about an hour plus walking through the “Dessert” or they call it the sea of sand and climbing up really steep stairs for the crater walk at bromo. The view was amazing, I really loved it. Please don’t miss it! (see pictures below, way too many photography opportunities)

So when we went back, the “govt official” was really there waiting for us. And he showed us his pass but guess what….? His pass expired last year. So obviously, a scam. He knew he lost already when we exposed him, but he was still insistent. So we didn’t care and continue walking, he said he’ll be waiting for us at the top (but we didn’t see him again so I guess…. scam.)

Got back up at 9.30am. Ate our free hotel breakfast then we left.

Steep stairs up to the crater

The top of the crater

So after everything, we left the place. Again, we had to take the same dark green bus down. Same bus, same shit. Price was 35k for 15 passengers, 40k for 12 passengers. There was local that grabbed my arm and stroked my neck over at the buses area, so ladies just beware.

When I reached Probolinggo, it was about 12pm I think. They dropped us opposite the public bus terminal. Headed to the bus terminal to take a public bus back to Surabaya. Please look out for the bus with has the word PATAS or take a bus that is AIR-CONDITIONED and only requires 2h to get back to Surabaya. There are other buses take 4h to get back and they cost just slightly less (if not it’s the same price). Do not get scammed by the non – air conditioned ones!! It should cost around 15k-20k for the air con ones if I’m not wrong. Reached Purabaya bus terminal at around 2+pm. Then, I took a cab to the hostel I was living at (super awesome hostel that was pretty reasonable too My Studio Hotel). Note that government taxis are called blue bird (there’s another blue taxi that is owned by a private company so don’t be confused).

That was when I finally had hot shower after 3 days. Was so thankful to have such a nice hostel to stay in for my last night after the previous few crazy nights with very minimal sleep. I could’ve have gone home that very day, but I gave myself a 1 day buffer hence I decided to make this trip 4d3n instead of 3d2n, but noticed how everything managed to work out so nicely that actually a 3d2n is sufficient for both mountains.

That day, I decided to make full use of my time so I booked an ojek to Kenjaran Park (nothing much, really). It just looks like Sg’s haw par villa hahaha. Btw, in Indonesia they have this app called go-jek which is pretty much like uber, but you get to pay cash, and it’s motorbike taxi instead of a car. I loved the app and kept using it, they give you face mask + hair cap too, plus it’s tracked so it means that it’s legit and safe.

Kenjaran park

Wanted to check out Kenjaran beach too cause it looked pretty nice, but it was dark and I thought that perhaps I should head back.. so I did.

Day 4: Surabaya really doesn’t have anything much to be honest so I ended up searching for cafes to head to. Decided to ride an ojek to this cafe called Kudos Cafe (Really nice!!!!), apparently it’s near some big high end shopping mall too that I didn’t have time to walk through because I needed to check out from my hostel.

Btw I normally find nice cafes from instagram by the tags.

So after checking out, I was really bored and didn’t have anything to do. So I decided to head to their largest shopping mall (Tunjunkan mall, it’s like 5 malls interconnected to each other). Ended up watching a movie to kill time (it’s costs about 4k for a movie) and had a nice meal there. They have pretty hipster and nice food over at the mall!

After that, I uber-ed back to the airport. Signed up for a new account using my Indo hp number and managed to get free credits so my ride to the airport was free 🙂 I was teaching the driver some english and he taught me some bahasa indo throughout the ride, I thought that was pretty nice. It seems like all my uber rides has been about meeting and talking to new people (even in SG).

Flight was 8+pm home, I thought jetstar’s timing was pretty good because I didn’t have to waste a day.

Kudos Cafe! Nice for photography. Look how hipster it is on the inside.

Finally done crafting this post. Not much thought was put into it, but instead I’m really just recounting whatever I did because I know someone out there definitely needs this information. It’s daunting to be there not knowing what to expect, especially when there are a lot of scams where you’ll need to avoid. So hopefully, someone finds this useful. 🙂

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