Travelogue: Hiking Mount Bromo on a budget (without a tour!)

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Traveled to East Java, Indonesia for the first time ever and hiked up Mount Bromo crater and Mount Penanjakan viewpoint for a magnificent sunrise view. All these, done on a budget without a tour for just slightly over SGD$50 per pax (excluding flight) (: A very memorable trip for myself and something I would recommend (:

Hello!!! Oh wow it's been quite a while since I returned from all my overseas trip (& the food poisoning lol) and I'm finally down to posting this which I've been wanting to share since I got back!!! To kickstart the entire series of travelogues, I shall share a little more on the hike up to Mount Bromo. NOTE: This trip is self funded and not sponsored!! For the week spent in Indonesia, we spent 3D2N in East Java hiking Mount Bromo Kawah Ijen (Read the travelogue HERE) before spending 4 days in Bali to relax. The Mount Bromo > Kawah Ijen > Bali route is actually pretty popular and we met many backpackers on the way as well! For this post I'll mainly be sharing on hiking up Mount Bromo, and Kawah Ijen in a subsequent post:)

We did our trip on our own, without booking a tour and it is completely manageable, even if you're a girl. Cost wise, it is about half of what you'd pay than if you'd book a tour! Before I begin, currency exchange rate is assumed to be 10,000IDR = SGD$1 in this entry :)

Mount Bromo is actually a really touristy location and it is an active volcano! The nearest airport would be in Surabaya, which is about an hour + flight away from Singapore. Upon arrival at Surabaya airport, we had to make 3 different bus trips which totaled up to about 5 hours of traveling before reaching our accommodation place near Mount Bromo.

If you tl;dr, can just scroll and see the photos and there's a cost breakdown nearing the end of the post!

From the airport, we took the DAMRI airport bus headed towards Bungurasih Bus Terminal. The journey took about an hour, costs 25,000 IDR and is air conditioned.

After reaching the bus terminal, walk to the main bus terminal area (it looks better furnished than the surrounding setting and pretty easy to distinguish, or you can always ask the information counter where is the bus to take to get to Probolinggo!) Here, you get 2 options on how to get to Probolinggo -- to either take the express or economy bus. We opted for the economy bus which costs 20,000IDR per person and the journey takes about 3 hours, with air condition. I don't think the express bus costs a lot more expensive, but it might just be more comfortable and maybe the seats are cleaner? If you are not fussy, the economy bus works good enough although we found it a little stuffy towards the end of the bus trip. But as long as the bus takes me to my destination safely I have no complains HAHA. The bus makes frequent stops for "buskers" and snack sellers to board where you can buy some keropok from if your mouth is feeling itchy haha. For us, we bought some chips and drinks at the bus terminal before we set off.

The economy bus (20,000IDR per pax) from Bungarasih Bus Terminal to Probolinggo bus terminal. 

After arriving at Probolinggo bus terminal, you'd have to walk out of the bus terminal and you'd see many mini buses (called bison) across the main road. Those are the buses you'd be taking to get to Cemoro Lawang, where accommodation options are. Tell any of the bison operators that you wanna go to Bromo, and they'll direct you to the waiting area further down the road. One thing about taking the bison is that it seats 13 pax and won't drive off until all seats are filled up or if we pay for the "empty seats". The bus is non air conditioned but the ride up is very windy and cooling so it is no problem either. (In fact the ride was freaking chilly I had to wear my jacket) The normal rate for the 1 hour ride up to Cemoro Lawang is 35,000IDR but in the end, after half an hour of waiting there, we only gathered 9 pax so we paid 60,000IDR per person.

Total cost of transport from touch down to accoms at Bromo: 25,000 + 20,000 + 60,000 = 105,000 (SGD $10.50)It will be under $10 if you manage to get 13 pax to sit the bison w you together LOL.

Upon reaching Cemoro Lawang, the driver will make some stops at some homestay areas and ask if you'd put up there for a night, for which they probably can draw some commission from haha. Everyone in the bison were coincidentally headed for Cafe Lava Hostel so we just got the driver to send us there straight.

If you're lucky you might be able to make reservation for a room in advance via email but we didn't get any reply on our side and had to get a room on the spot. The receptionist told us there were no more economy or standard double rooms so we had to settle for the superior one, which costs a whooping 550,000IDR ($55!!) We half doubted if there were really no more cheaper rooms available but well, we're tourists so just gotta suck it up.

Please be sure to bring a thicker jacket along because it's really cold at night and I was tucked under the blanket most of the time to keep warm. It doesnt help that the water heater while warm, isn't hot enough to keep us warm at all LOL. I'm really not kidding about how cold it can get :O

Oh yeah, this is how the superior room looks like. Huge bed (but we were not there to really sleep cos we were doing a night hike), private toilet, kettle, tv, free breakfast and a balcony area outside the room. 
View from our room at Cafe Lava

We had our dinner at the Warung located just next to Cafe Lava and then headed back to rest till around 3am, when we got up and got ready for our hike!

We took a map from the reception during check in earlier and got the receptionist to explain to us how to walk to the sunrise viewing point at Mount Penanjakan. If you choose to hike, 330am would be a good time to set out and you'll definitely meet other travelers along the way. You can also choose to set out later but setting out early means no rushing and can chope a good spot to view the sunrise! It is a very well paved road so it shouldn't be much of a problem for most people. Another way to reach the viewing point is by hiring a jeep which many tourists do, but our legs are meant to walk right HAHAHA or you can get an ojek to send you up too :)

We set off at 315am and got ourselves a spot to camp and wait for sunrise at 445am :) (sidenote: I ALSO SAW A SHOOTING STAR!!!!) we went beyond the viewing area and climbed a little further up where some work on your all fours are required, but the result/reward is a quiet and empty spot all to ourselves and a better view than the touristy viewpoint :) a Hong Kong couple we met who climbed all the way up (we climbed halfway up beyond the viewpoint) came back down and told us our spot is the best hahaha and we offered to share our spot w them!

Waited about half an hour before sunrise and it's really cold so make sure you're well covered, or you can always buy hot drinks from the vendors nearby! For us, H "stole" the comforter from our room out HAHAHHAHA I WAS SO SPEECHLESS AND SHOCKED BUT IT WAS A BRILLIANT MOVE REALLY otherwise we would have froze LOL.

What a beautiful sight :')

After watching the sunrise, we started making our way down the viewing point and towards Mount Bromo itself. 

On our way down, an ojek (bike taxi) drove past us and offered to send us over to the base of Mount Bromo for 50,000IDR per pax. Now that is quite a bit to pay to ride the ojek but what to do, we're in the tourist area and there were no other ojeks in sight and were setting off to our next destination at 10am. (It was already 730) We settled for the ojek because we can avoid paying the hefty entrance fee ($22.50!!) by taking the bike since he went by another way that avoided the money payment. It was definitely a win win situation and vrroooooom, we crossed the sea of sand and reached the base of bromo!

Reached the "base" of the Mt Bromo crater, after crossing the sea of sand. From here, you can either choose to ride a horse up till the stairs or choose to walk all the way.

Bromo was super active on the day that we went and it was emitting lots of ash and sand and when we went up close to the crater, we even saw materials being melted away. It was really really cool but it is a heng-suay thing because the volcano behaves differently everyday! If you go on a day when Mount Bromo is as active as the day I went, you'll definitely need a mask as it will be raining sand badly!

Look at all the ash and sand on my sleeves, face and hair!!!

 Thankfully I was aunty enough to bring some masks from Singapore over LOL it was quite an experience to feel it rain ash and sand on us, since usually the volcano will be rather dormant and not emit much. We were practically covered in sand after the walk up to the crater and it took me two days to wash my hair cleanly HAHAHAHA This also kinda explains why my photo of Bromo was so smokey and not the chio clear sky like many other photos you see on Instagram/Google images.

Quoting from this Malaysian tourist that I overheard, "还没看过下雪但是看到下沙" HAHAHA

3/4 way up the flight of stairs up to the crater
With an uncertain looking future lying right ahead of us HAHAHA
Indeed quite a hair-standing experience,
To watch nature at work. (':

By the way, you have the option to take either a horse or walk to the base of the steep flight of stairs up to the crater. We didn't take the horse so I can't advise you how much it is, but we walked and enjoyed the scenery around the sea of sand (I was awed omg). But really, the horses looked really sad and poor thing. They look so overworked!!! Some of them are even injured but still made to work and walk the trip to and fro. I felt so heart pain watching it but felt so helpless at the same time :( the only thing I can do is to not ride the horse but there's only so much one can do right... :(

We made it back to Cafe Lava by 9am and had a hearty breakfast although we looked really dirty, covered in ash LOL. together with the other group of Singaporean travelers that we met, we shared a bison back down to Probolinggo bus terminal at 10am and that marked the end of our Mount Bromo trip as we proceed to our next destination -- Kawah Ijen!

At this point, cost incurred per pax: Transport from Surabaya airport to Cafe Lava Hostel: 105,000IDR 
Superior double room w private toilet at Cafe Lava Hostel: 550,000 IDR for 2 pax (275,000 each)
Taking an Ojek from Penanjakan viewpoint to Mount Bromo: 50,000IDR
Transport back to Probolinggo bus terminal: 60,000IDR
Including dinner at the warung and maybe the purchase of some chocolates and isotonic drinks in preparation for the hike which totaled to around 100,000IDR for 2 ppl, our total cost worked out to be around 540,000 IDR per pax ($54)

Pretty sure you can cut cost and save even more if you manage to gather enough people to share the bison, get the standard or economy room in Cafe lava instead of superior room!

I would recommend Mount Bromo for everyone, even beginners who don't hike because the roads are very well paved. I'm not a super fit person either and I managed to do it HAHAHA it being a very touristy place means its trekking path is really clear. It just feels like a really long walk and only a hike at some parts, although I have to admit night hikes are super tiring for me since I have asthma and the air at night is so cold and thin!

Stay tuned as I'll share more about Kawah Ijen -- watching the blue flames and sunrise at the crater, which imo is even more stunning and beautiful :')

Till then,
Love, Xin Lin

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