Getting to Bromo on the cheap

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When traveling, we all want to visit the most important and beautiful sites, the sites that are so breathtaking they literally make your jaw drop, the historical sites that we read about in our history textbooks, the world’s wonders that we see in a book, the natural sites that make you marvel at how the world can be so beautiful. These are the sites that no one wants to miss. Who wants to go to India and not have seen the Taj Mahal, or to Peru and not have visited Machu Picchu? Unfortunately, they are famous for a reason and thus flocked by the masses, filled with swarms of tourists and tour groups everywhere, each with a giant hundred pound camera and all with loud voices. In addition, they, in turn, are usually quite pricey, especially for budget travelers like ourselves. As for us, we also want to see these sites, but we try to find another less trodden and usually less expensive path.

Viewpoint of Mount Bromo
View of Bromo-Tengger-Semeru National Park
The Bromo-Tengger-Semeru National Park, simply known as Bromo, is one of those sites. Understand, Bromo is one of Indonesia’s most visited tourist attractions. The park is described in Lonely Planet as “ a lunaresque landscape of epic proportions and surreal beauty,“ as the park is huge and encompasses 5,520 hectares with the main attraction being the volcano, Mount Bromo, whose name comes from the Javanese way of pronouncing Brahma, the Hindu creator god. Mount Bromo is one of five volcanoes, of which four are active, jutting into the sky surrounded by a huge sea of sand which in turn is surrounded by an ancient crater, a wonderful chain of barren mountains and on the edge a bright green plateau, these images are almost unreal in their beauty as you stand in the middle of it all.

So of course to get to this magical must-visit place, you can try the well-trodden, desperately boring route like the majority of tourists, following hoards of tour groups to see the site or you can conquer it yourself, fighting rugged terrain and passing villages in the middle of unchartered jungle, kind of Indiana Jones style, as we did, or at least tried.

But first things first, deciding where to begin your journey is the most crucial part and your options are actually quite limited. We could have gone ahead and made our way to Probolinggo where the masses usually flock, organizing a tour and just hanging around with our fellow travelers in a hostel but instead we decided to try another path. We decided to begin our journey in Malang, yes Malang, and no, it’s not in the Lonely Planet guide book and there are no reviews on Trip Advisor (that’s often a good sign unless you like being herded with the cattle of course).

Malang you said ? Where is that ?

Location of Malang
Map of Java
Malang is the second largest city in East Java and accordingly offers a good range of cheap accommodations and food but at the same time there are very few tourists and thus more welcome locals, but less information.

We chose this city as we fumbled into Yogyakarta’s bus station sweat soaked loaded with our backpacks and encouraged smiles and asked the first guy that seemed to be working there, the guy with the uniform laughing and smoking a cigarette, how to get to Bromo and he along with the crowd that began to form around the funny looking foreigners suggested Malang, after doing the usual find-the-cheapest-price search at the bus station, we decided to check out the price for a train. Who doesn’t prefer a train over a bus, especially after our last experience with the bargained-discounted “AC Express Bus with toilet”, our first air conditioned bus yet, which included sweating and breathing in the delicious aroma of the toilet which happened to be right beside us (seriously less than one foot away, most likely thanks to our mad bargaining skills), as we sat straight up in our non-reclining seats for 12 hours under the lovely drops of the supposed air conditioner which slowly blended in with the sweat. Lucky for us, the train happened to be leaving shortly after and for half the price, and even better it was a night train, thus a night in a hotel saved. Score!

Nine hours later we had arrived after a peaceful sleep thanks to the the kind food vendors who came screaming down the alley of our car during each stop. The food vendors in their kindness liked to occasionally shaking us awake or to stand over our sleeping bodies hollering out the food names in english in case we were really hoping to be wakened to buy a plate of nasi goreng (fried rice). We were finally in Malang and ready for the adventure to begin.

We arrive. It’s 7 am and we are walking around the streets of Malang, that are incredibly quiet for such a big city of around 1 million people. We feel lost wandering around looking hopefully for a place to rent a motor bike, which is a serious hit or miss in Indonesia. We finally find a little shop to get a cup of instant coffee and mumbling a few words in indonesian we finally find a rental shop. From experience we have found that, especially for two people, renting a motorbike can often be cheaper than taking a bus and more of an adventure, but not necessarily easier or more comfortable.

A motorbike rental cost approximately 60,000 Rupiah most places in Indonesia, which is around $6.00. That being said you can always bargain to get a better deal and most rental places will agree to lower the price, especially if you rent the bike for more than one day.

Drawn map of Bromo
Sort of like this
Our new 60,000 rp richer friend even provided us with a map of the region which ended up being both a curse and a gift at the same time. You see this map was not the typical print off of Google Maps, or any other “reliable” source, but the typical Indonesian hand drawn map, that a six-year-old could have drawn, possibly even better. All this means is there is no real sense of distance, all squiggly lines do not necessarily mean roads, and certain things are just completely omitted.


Helmets on, gas in the tank, and sunscreen on, we were ready to roll like Don Quixote and Sancho Panza, the awaiting adventures already unfolding in front of us.

Aurelien on Suzuki
Our Suzuki motorbike
You can follow the rest of our adventure in our upcoming post...

Have you been to Bromo? If yes how did you get there?

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