If you are planning your trip to Indonesia, you’ve probably stumbled upon one of the countless Mount Bromo tours already and you are wondering if you can climb Mount Bromo for free on your own.
One of the biggest highlights of Indonesia, Mount Bromo is part of the Tengger-Semeru National Park situated in the east of the Java island and is famous for being one of the few volcanos you can hike without being a pro-climber. And let me tell you something – this place is absolutely stunning!
The Sea of Sand (and ashes) surrounding the volcano is as unique as it gets and staring inside the crater of Bromo is also an experience you would cherish till the end of your days. Let’s not forget the sunrise sight from one of the many many viewpoints around. Catching the first sunlight there can easily become the highlight of your Indonesian trip, and everyone who’s been to Indonesia knows how bold of a statement this is.
However, being such a fantastic place combined with being immensely popular, brings some negatives to Bromo, and if you don’t plan your visit carefully, they may ruin the whole experience. What am I talking about? The prices and the crowds.
The easiest way to visit Mount Bromo is by booking a tour from Surabaya, Yogyakarta, or Bali. Doing so will get you hundreds of dollars behind, and you would spend most of the time just sitting in a car getting bored to death.
The worst of all – once you arrive at the volcano you would have to battle your way through crowds of thousands of other tourists. No, I’m not exaggerating – literally hundreds of cars and thousands of people visit Bromo every single night (even more on the weekends).
See Also: The Ultimate Indonesia Travel Itinerary
Oh, I almost forgot, you also have to pay two extra taxes – a small one to enter the village of Cemoro Lawang (10,000 IDR / 0.7 USD) and not so small one to enter the volcano area – ( 220,000 IDR / 16 USD during weekdays and 320,000 IDR / 23 USD on weekends).
Are you starting to reconsider your trip already? Don’t! There is actually a way to climb Mount Bromo for free and skip the annoying crowds.
*When I say for free, I don’t mean you won’t spend absolutely anything. You still have to spend some rupiah on transport and accommodation, but as you’ll see in the end, the total amount of expenses won’t be anywhere near the price of the tours.
How to get to Mount Bromo?
How to get from Surabaya to Probolinggo
The closest airport is in the city of Surabaya. From there you need to make your way to the small town of Probolinggo. You have three options:
the Purabaya bus station (also known as the Bungurasih terminal) is close to the airport, but the taxi to it would still cost you around 100,000 IDR / 7 USD. You can also take the shuttle bus from outside the arrivals gate for 25,000 IDR / 1.50 USD
Once at the bus station, find the one to Probolinggo (the destinations are over the buses) and get inside.
The only place to buy a legit ticket is inside the bus, and it costs around 35,000 IDR / 2.50 USD. Do not buy anything from people who offer you at the station. The journey should be 2-3 hours.
Have in mind that there is a chance to get an AC bus or one with just some fans in the back. Also, the bus may stop quite sometimes to get additional passengers on the way.
To catch the train to Probolinggo you need to make your way to Surabaya Gubeng Station. It’s 20km from the airport so I believe the taxi would be much more expensive than the one to the bus station; also there is no airport shuttle going there.
The train to Probolinggo costs between 30,000 IDR / 2 USD and 60,000 IDR / 4 USD and you can book it online here
The train option costs you more than the bus one but is also more comfortable.
If you are in Yogyakarta, you can take a direct train to Probolinggo. Prices vary between 75,000 IDR / 5 USD and 300,000 IDR / 21 USD. The journey will take approximately 9 hours
The most comfortable but also the most expensive way. The price here depends entirely on your haggling skills. I got an offer of 500,000 IDR / 35 USD from the Purabaya bus station to Mount Bromo, so maybe if you are a group of people and you like to haggle with taxi drivers, it’s worth it to explore the option.
How to get from Probolinggo to Cemoro Lawang
Once in Probolinggo, you need to make your way to the village right next to the crater of Mount Bromo – Cemoro Lawang.
You have only one option here, and it’s the colorful public vans called Bemos. Once you are out of the bus/train station, you can find someone to take you to one. The bad thing about bemos is that they don’t really have a schedule, they go when they are full, and this may take hours.
You can also offer to pay more and go faster. Ticket should be around 5 USD.
How to get from Cemoro Lawang to Probolinggo
On the way back, It’s the same route you came – you get the bemo from the center of the village. If you are in a hurry, your hotel should be able to find you a taxi, but it won’t come cheap.
How to hike Mount Bromo for free – the secret passage map!
Once in Cemoro Lawang, you can get easily to Mount Bromo without a tour. I suggest to explore the Sea of Sand and the crater during the day and go to the viewpoints at sunrise.
Since all tours go to the crater of Mount Bromo before (or right after) sunrise, during the day, there will be close to no people around it, and you can thoroughly enjoy this masterpiece of nature.
To get there without paying the hefty entrance fee, you need to find the secret passage next to the hotel Cemara Indah. You get inside the parking lot and go right, down to the pathway that leads you to the Sea of Sand. Not only free but also a shortcut.
Is the whole fuss really worth it?
Don’t know about you but I rate my travels by the “wow-moments” I experience on them. A wow-moment is something so amazing I can’t help but say WOW out loud (it’s kinda tricky when diving).
In Indonesia, I had five wow moments and two of them were around Mount Bromo. The first one – when I looked down at the crater of the volcano. It is such a humbling experience, getting that close to something that powerful you won’t have a choice but to say wow.
The second one was the night when I was hiking to the viewpoints. The road was empty, there were gazillion stars in the sky and a scent of fresh jasmine in the air. One of my most perfect and relaxing moments ever.
Once in the Bromo area, you’re going to get a lot of offers for a horse ride up to the volcano. I plead you to deny them.
Poor horses are severely mistreated, and it’s obvious their size is not suitable for riding up slopes with people on their backs. They have a hard time going up, slipping from time to time which gets them a whip as a reward…
Please don’t support animal abuse. The path up is doable even for people with average fitness levels.
How to get to the viewpoints of Mount Bromo?
There are probably a dozen viewpoints located on the mount across Bromo – Penanjakan Hill. To get there, you don’t go to the Cemara Indah hotel, but you continue down the road. It will slowly become a climb, and you will see a parking lot (which is also an excellent viewpoint).
Continue going up, and you would find a lot of places to experience the magical Bromo sunrise. The top viewpoint is where all the tours go so I suggest to avoid it. There is one slightly below – King Kong viewpoint, where you can get the same sight with fewer tourists.
If you are not interested so much in the photo but more in the experience, I suggest you stop at any of the viewpoints along the path to King Kong. In most cases, you won’t have to share the sunrise there.
My Bromo sunrise was at 5:30 AM but I left the homestay at 2:30 AM. I made quite a few photo-stops along the way so that slowed me down. Most people leave at 3:30 AM and reach the top viewpoints without rushing.
Mount Bromo Weather
Unlike the rest of Indonesia, the temperatures around Mount Bromo get quite low at night. You definitely need to bring some long pants and layers. You can buy winter hats, scarves, and gloves from one of the many hawkers in Cemoro Lawang.
It’s also windy all the time, which is not good when you are next to a place called The Sea of Sand.
Have you wondered why the sunrise is so famous, but there is not a single mention of the sunset? The reason is that in the afternoon the winds often brought clouds that cover the crater and ruin the whole view. Damn you, winds!
See Also: Borneo: The Land of The Orangutans
Mount Bromo hotels
Since you are without a tour, you’ll need a place to stay for at least one night. The Cemoro Lawang area, however, is not very well managed for tourists. Most of the hotels are homestays with just basic conditions. There is hot water in most of them, but don’t be surprised if your breakfast is a cold egg and some rice or there is no window in your room.
If you are ready to splurge a little bit more, you can check the Cemoro Indah Hotel (the same one with the secret passage) that offers a fantastic view, The Lava Hostel or the only resort in the area – The Lava View Lodge. Since you’re reading how to climb Mount Bromo for free, however, I suggest using the homestays.
Mount Bromo places to eat
Finding a place to eat turned out to be a bigger challenge than expected. Not only there are very few restaurants, but they don’t seem to be open most of the time.
On my first try, I walked and sit in one that had an open door and a local guy inside. He was playing a game on his phone and walked past me a few times without any signs he noticed me 15 minutes later, when I walked to him asking if it’s open, he was genuinely surprised to see me.
The best place I found is the restaurant of the Lava Hostel. They had quite a few options, service was fast and the food was tasty.
Is climbing Mount Bromo safe?
Climbing Mount Bromo is as safe as climbing a volcano can be. However, you are just a moment of bad luck away to ruin not only your climb but your whole Indonesian adventure.
What I do for all my trips is getting travel insurance from World Nomads. Once you have a few journeys under your belt, you can easily appreciate its tremendous value and the freedom it gives you.
While I sincerely wish you never have to use it, life happens (even more when you are traveling) and it’s always good to be prepared.
What do you need to climb Mount Bromo for free?
Like I already mentioned, layer clothes and long pants. Hiking shoes are not needed but don’t go there with flip-flops either. Trainers will do just fine.
If you stay in one of the homestays – make sure you have a towel with you.
Sunglasses and sunscreen are a must. It may be windy but the Indonesian sun is still as strong as it is in Bali, and you are closer to it now.
A scarf or a buff, even two buffs if you have. Wind + ashes = bad combination.
You also need a phone app called Maps.Me It’s an offline map generator so make sure you’ve downloaded the maps you need before you get to the area. Maps.Me has a huge database of small roads and paths you can’t find on google maps including the secret passage to the volcano and a detailed path to all viewpoints.
Mount Bromo Tours
If you don’t have the time to do Mount Bromo for free or you simply don’t want the whole hustle, and you’re ok with spending some money here are some tours that will handle everything for you. ( don’t say I didn’t warn you about the crowds though )
The Lazy One– With this tour, you really don’t have to do anything. You’re gonna get picked from your hotel in Bali and you’ll spend the next 3 days exploring Mount Bromo and the nearby Mount Ijen.
The Cheap One – With this one, you won’t have to spend a fortune. You just make your way to Surabaya or Malang and let everything else is your guide’s hands.
The Waterfall One – This is an interesting one because it’s not just Bromo but includes an amazing waterfall too.
The Camping One – This is something I would try to be honest. I hate tours but having a local to help you find the best place for camping would be invaluable. Most of the homestays in the area are in such poor condition that the tent would be more comfortable.
That’s all from me, I hope you enjoy climbing Mount Bromo for free!
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