This seems to be a popular traveller’s question. Although many like to take this route as it appears natural to get from Yogyakarta via Bromo and Ijen to Bali, there is no easy way. You can book a tour in Yogyakarta, where you will be directly driven by minibus to Mt. Bromo (11 to 13 hours), optionally continuing to Ijen Kawah and Denpasar on Bali, including pre-booked accommodation.
I cannot talk about this package tour as I haven’t booked it, but there are numerous reports that it is strenuous and there are a lot of scams involved. The tour packages might seem practical if you have little time and do not want to arrange everything on your own, which does not mean you will not have to pay extra charges for things you expected would be included.
However you can do this trip on your own, I cannot promise it’s really cheaper than the complete package tour and I wouldn’t call it too easy. Yet it is doable and there are advantages:
- Travel by train is much more comfortable than being squeezed into a minibus, especially when you are a tall guy.
- You can choose your accommodation by yourself, and sometimes also where you eat.
- You can go without being rushed by schedules and guides. You can take your time.
- You don’t have to listen to all the chatter of the guides and travel mates. For some this might be a disadvantage, however for introverts this might be important.
- You can enjoy the pleasure of having organized the way by yourself in a foreign country instead relying on a tour that arranges everything.
There may be other possibilities, but the route I have taken and can comment on is the following:
Yogyakarta – Surabaya – Probolinggo – Cemoro Lawang – Mt. Bromo – Probolinggo – Banyuwangi – Ijen – Banyuwangi – Gilimanuk – Denpasar
1. Yogyakarta to Surabaya
The first stretch is easy: Take the train from Yogyakarta to Surabaya (5 hours). There is one at 6.45 am and one in the late afternoon where you can prebook business or executive class. There actually is one economy train directly from Yogyakarta to Probolinggo, however it arrives too late to get any further transport to Cemoro Lawang and you would be stuck in Probolinggo.
Staying the night in Surabaya would be the common choice. I found particularly few information about Surabaya, where to stay, what to do and how to get along in this city, especially on foot when you don’t want to rely on taxis and drivers. So I comment on this a bit more. You arrive from Yogyakarta and leave to Probolinggo the next day from Surabaya Gubeng station. From there it is possible to walk to some accommodation choices. One of the bigger challenges in Surabaya is to cross the road, similar to Jakarta.
You can try your luck at Sparking Backpackers, it was full when we went there, maybe it pays to book ahead. Otherwise you can continue your way to Kenongo Hotel (from 310 000 Rs) or Hotel 88 (from 345 000 Rs). Surabaya is not boasting with tourist attractions, but is not too bad either.
In the vicinity you could walk to the Bamboo Monument or visit the Submarine Monument. You can enter the inside of this former Soviet submarine (10 000 Rs) and it gives you an intense claustrophobic feeling. If you’re interested in history or military this can be an interesting way to pass a little of your time in Surabaya. Next to the submarine there is a mall including a Western fast food. And opposite the submarine you find a selection of decent Indonesian food stalls.
3. Surabaya – Probolinggo – Cemoro Lawang
Take the train at 9.00 am to Probolinggo (business or executive, 2 hours). From the station you might already be greeted by demo drivers. You probably want to walk a little away from the station to catch another bemo whose driver doesn’t collaborate with the scam mafia. Bemo Route D takes you to the terminal. Both the honest and the collaborating bemos charge 5 000 Rs to get to the bus terminal.
Be sure to be dropped off at the bus terminal and not at a dubious travel agency (see my experiences here). One of this agencies is opposite to a gas station, so you might recognize it. These guys can get really pushing and nasty. If you get stranded there, try taking another Bemo in the left direction (D, F, G go to the terminal) or just walk about 1 kilometer.
Outside of the real terminal blue-green minibuses are going to Cemoro Lawang. They tell you it is 35 000 Rs to get to Cemoro Lawang, the problem is it only leaves when full and you have a good chance that this takes some hours or never happens at all as these buses are only used by tourists. If there are not enough passengers, the rest has to pay the full rate (525 000 Rs) for the bus to get it starting.
Once you’re inside this minibus, the selling and touting won’t stop. Usually they offer you accommodation. You can have a look, in my case it was just another annoying story and I preferred to stay somewhere else.
4. Mt Bromo
The bus drivers also try to sell their 4WD tours to Mt Bromo in the early morning. As I was there in the week-end, they would charge 350 000 Rs for the tour arguing that the official foreigner entrance fee was already 320 000 Rs (before 2014 it was only 75 000 Rs). On weekdays the official National Park entrance fee is a bit cheaper. Visiting the volcano you have basically three choices concerning fees and charges:
- Go by yourself on foot. Pay the entrance fee at the National Park checkpoint (uphill the street left from the bus stop), walk to Mt Bromo’s crater. The money goes directly to the National Park administration, you stick to the rules and you accept the hefty difference between foreigner and domestic fees.
- It is possible to walk to the crater without passing the checkpoints, especially in the afternoon. Take the street right from the bus stop straight up where you can look at the volcano next to the Cemara Indah Hotel. From here there is a steep and dusty footpath down to the sea of sand which you have to cross to get to the crater. When you see a sign warning this way is not for tourists but only for locals then you know it’s the right path.You have to live with the feeling that you as a comparatively rich foreigner have sneaked around the entrance fees and might fear getting caught by some ranger. It is not that I advise this option, I merely say it is possible. You can alternatively visit the viewpoints with a good feeling for free since they are outside the National Park.
- You book the 4WD tour from the agents. You don’t have to walk that much and go with everyone else in the early morning. It might get crowded. Note that the 350 000 Rs don’t go to the National Park and won’t buy you an official ticket, it is just a tolerated common practice that the money flows directly to the local tourist business mafia instead of the park. Corresponding to the raise of entrance fees the 4WD tour fees have drastically been raised as well. Before 2014 it was about 150 000 Rs and you won’t get any more luxury now.
5. Cemoro Lawang – Probolinggo – Banyuwangi
In Cemoro Lawang you will be asked where you want to go next. They are eager to sell you tours to Ijen volcano or VIP buses to Bali here. The perceived lack of trustworthiness in businesses up there might make it a good alternative to just take the minibus back to Probolinggo and buy your ticket at the train station or bus terminal to get to Banyuwangi or Bromowoso and continue from there.
Asking around the bus terminal for a bus to Banyuwangi could get you end up again in a travel agency, as it happened to me. They won’t let foreigners use public transport too easily. However it worked out okay, the so-called VIP bus can take you to Banyuwangi for about 125 000 Rs. The cheaper option is probably waiting outside the bus terminal to flag down a public bus to Banyuwangi hoping the tourist mafia won’t intervene, you might pay around 50 000 Rs.
6. Banyuwangi – Ijen
You will be dropped off at the bus terminal or next to the ferry port a few kilometers north of the center of Banyuwangi. From there you can take a bemo to get south, either downtown to Berlin Barat Hotel or Hotel Baru, where you can book an Ijen tour for about 600 000 Rs per car. Alternatively you can stay 2 km south of the ferry port on the main road at Hotel Permata (Jl. You Sudarso No. 22, Tel. 081234673002, rooms from 70 000 Rs). The guy who runs the business is very helpful and offers tours to turtle beach and national parks, and of course to Ijen.
The transport to Ijen from Hotel Permata is 125 000 Rs per person and starts at 1 am. You will be provided a gas mask and a torch, which are definitely needed. At the national park entrance you pay the foreigner entrance fee of 100 000 Rs, similar to Mt Bromo. The driver will stay at the parking lot. You do not need a guide, there is only one way and there will be lots of other people going the same route, so you won’t miss it.
It might take you about 2 hours to get to the rim of the crater. Being well in shape helps a lot, it is a strenuous hike. This is nothing for kids, elderly or disabled people. From the top you descend 600 meters to the crater lake where you finally see the amazing blue fires. The sulphur fumes can be cruel, burning in your eyes and making it difficult to breathe, even with a mask. And the steep path down can be slippery. You will only see the flames burning in blue color at night, at dawn it is still okay, after sunrise you will not see the blue color anymore. So it pays off to walk fast, if you think you need more breaks, you might ask beforehand to start the tour earlier.
7. Banyuwangi – Gilimanuk – Denpasar
From Banyuwangi you need to get to the ferry port, by bemo for instance. You do not necessarily need to buy a bus ticket there, you can just go inside (Loket – ticket office) and buy a ferry ticket for 7 500 Rs to Gilimanuk. Crossing the sea to Gilimanuk on Bali takes about 45 minutes.
In Gilimanuk you can go inside the bus terminal and take a slow local public bus to Denpasar (5 hours) which probably only starts when it is full and this did not seem to be a popular choice there. Alternatively you can catch a faster bus outside the bus terminal which is coming from the ferry. This bus goes directly to Denpasar non-stop and the price is 50 000 Rs plus an arbitrary foreigner surcharge. After about 3 hours you reach the terminal in Denpasar, which is pretty much outside of the city. You can continue your journey by taxi here. The official prices for a private chartered minibus are listed on a wall inside the bus terminal.