Mount Bromo on a Budget: Free Entrance and No Crowds!

Mount Batok as seen from Mount Bromo's crater
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Mount Bromo is one of the most recognizable natural landmarks of Java. Wait, I’ll double down. Gunung Bromo is the most recognizable natural landmark in all of Indonesia!

IMPORTANT NOTICE: Mount Bromo National Park has reopened on 19 September 2023!

It was previously closed on 7 September due to wildfires.

More information.

That’s right, practically any tourism leaflet, any tour operator, and any guidebook feature a picture of the volcano and its caldera prominently on the front. That’s why there are so many organized tours!

But going to Bromo independently is simple, straightforward, and cheap. Let me show you how to visit Mount Bromo on a budget!

Mount Bromo is part of my extensive 14-day Java Itinerary.

Mount Bromo at a Glance

Mount Bromo or Gunung Bromo is the most famous active volcano in Indonesia, located in the province of East Java, about 50 km southwest of Probolinggo city. Mount Bromo is 2329 meters high and is named after Brahma the Creator of the Hindu mythology.

Mount Bromo erupts every now and then. It has erupted more than 50 times in the past 2 centuries, or an average of once every 4 years. The most severe eruption in recent history happened in 2011 when the volcanic ash it spewed caused many flights to Surabaya and Bali to be canceled.

Kind of makes it all the more fascinating that when you visit, you can look directly inside its crater!

Why visit Bromo independently without a tour?

While an organized tour does everything for you and you don’t have to worry about anything, going to Bromo alone has its perks too. Here are the reasons why you should say no to the tours:

  • Save money. A one-day tour to Bromo starts from 500.000 IDR / 33.6$, excluding accommodation. A 2d/1n tour would go up to at least 1 million (67.2$). I’ll show you how to do it for less!
  • Be free. The tours are rushed! You get 30 minutes at the viewing points and even less than that at the volcano’s crater. It’s a lot of go, go, go, which plainly sucks.
  • Avoid crowds. All tours go to the same places at the same time, creating huge crowds. I’ll tell you how to go to Bromo’s Crater when it’s just you!
  • Don’t pay the entrance fee. Bromo has discriminatory pricing. Locals pay a little whereas foreigners pay a fortune to enter. I think that’s unfair and a borderline scam. I’ll show you how to enter for free.

How to get to Mount Bromo without an Organized Tour

There are three steps to getting to Mount Bromo – Get to Probolinggo, get to Cemoro Lawang, and finally get to Mount Bromo.

How to get to Probolinggo

My advice is to travel to Probolinggo by train. Here are the most popular routes from Malang, Surabaya, Yogyakarta, and Banyuwangi:

  • Kota Malang to Probolinggo: A daily cheap train departs at 16:30 (arr. 19:12, 58000 IDR/3.9$);
  • Surabaya Gubeng to Probolinggo: The cheap trains leave daily at 05:35 (arr. 07:49, 27000 IDR/1.8$) and 13:47 (arr. 15:56, 88000 IDR/5.9$)
    There are also trains at 7:10 (arr. 9:02), 14:27 (arr. 16:31), 16:54 (arr. 18:47), 22:45 (arr. 00:34), and 23:50 (arr. 01:47) but tickets cost between 200.000 and 340.000 IDR (13.4 to 22.8 USD).
  • Yogyakarta to Probolinggo: There are many daily trains, but the one I recommend is from Lempuyangan Station at 07:20 (arr. 15:56, 88000 IDR / 5.9$).
  • Banyuwangi to Probolinggo: The cheap trains leave daily at 05:45 (arr. 10:08, 58.000 IDR / 3.9$) and 07:16 (arr. 11:18, costs 88.000 IDR / 5.9$). There are other trains at 11:15, 16:16, and 19:54.

Check and book all train tickets through KAI Access.

The alternative is to get to Probolinggo by bus.

Public bus travel on Java is a bit tricky. Most buses don’t really have a timetable – everything is fluid and flexible. That also means you can just turn up at the bus station and get on the next bus.

From Surabaya, the bus station is called Terminal Purabaya. Buses to Probolinggo leave about once every hour.

From Malang, the bus station is called Terminal Arjosari. Buses to Probolinggo leave about once every hour.

From Yogyakarta: I just wouldn’t recommend it. It’s way too long of a journey and you’re better off taking a train.

From Banyuwangi: I can’t recommend a bus from Banyuwangi to Probolinggo either – way too lengthy and exhausting. Take the train.

Alun-Alun Probolinggo
Probolinggo has a very nice city square (Alun-Alun)

Probolinggo to Cemoro Lawang

There are three ways to get to Cemoro Lawang from Probolinggo – the local public minibus, by renting a scooter, or by hitchhiking.

Hitchhiking to Cemoro Lawang

There are plenty of cars going in that direction. Hitchhiking in Indonesia is easy, locals are friendly and you should have no problems securing a ride up the mountain.

Renting a scooter

This is the option I recommend. This gives you total freedom and makes it easy to combine a visit to Mount Bromo with a detour to Madakaripura for the afternoon.

If you have a lot of luggage, you can leave your big backpack at the motorcycle rental place in Terminal Bayuangga in Probolinggo or ask nicely to leave it at your hostel in the city. I can recommend Colorbox Hostel and they can sort out a motorcycle rental for you as well.

A scooter rental costs around 150.000 IDR / 10$ for 24 hours. You’ll need 2-3 liters of fuel to go up the mountain and back. One liter of Pertalite (the cheap fuel for motorcycles) costs 12.000 IDR / 0.8$ (only 10.000 IDR at busy petrol stations).

In total, you’d pay around 180.000 IDR / 12.1$ to go by motorcycle which can carry up to two people.

Just before you enter Cemoro Lawang there’s a toll booth. There you’ll pay a conservation fee for the village itself (15.000 IDR per person). This is NOT the entrance to the National Park!

There’s a way to avoid it if you’re coming by scooter. Just before the entrance to Cemoro Lawang, there’s a sign splitting traffic into two one-way streets. THAT’S NOT TRUE!

The sign is put there so people are diverted toward the gate. The street on the right is two-way and if you disregard the sign you’ll get into the village without paying the entrance fee.

Public minibus to Cemoro Lawang

This option is tricky and isn’t even cheaper than a motorcycle rental if you’re two people.

At Terminal Bayuangga, you have to go outside the station, next to the main street. This is the exact location where the bemo to Cemoro Lawang waits.

There is no timetable. The driver is there from early morning waiting for passengers. Once there are 14 people he goes. Usually, it takes hours to gather 14 people!

The price per person is 50.000 IDR / 3.4$ given that you are 14 people. If you’re fewer, you can negotiate with the driver to go anyway, if you pay more. I’ve heard of people paying 75.000, 100.000, and even 150.000 IDR per person to go earlier.

The price per bus is 700.000 IDR, so you can do the math depending on the number of people.

And then you have to do the whole waiting game again on the way back. I hope now you see why renting a scooter is the better option.

I’ve been to Bromo twice – once I took the public minibus and once I rented a scooter. The scooter gives you unprecedented freedom, lets you stop to explore on the way, saves you time, allows you to easily go to Madakaripura Waterfall, and is all in all the better option.

Mount Batok right next to Mount Bromo

Cemoro Lawang to Bromo – Get in for free through the secret entrance

The village of Cemoro Lawang is right on the verge of the Caldera – the circle of ash and dust surrounding Mount Bromo. The Caldera is also called the Sea of Sand. It’s walking distance from the crater – to be precise, it’s 2.9 km. or around 40 minutes on foot.

The toll booth entrance to the National Park is located just after Cafe Lava, right here. Locals pay 29.000 IDR on weekdays and 34.000 IDR on weekends, whereas foreigners pay almost ten times more: 220.000 IDR / 14.8$ on weekdays and 320.000 IDR / 21.5$ on weekends.

This discriminatory pricing is the reason I don’t feel bad about NOT PAYING for a ticket and getting in through the SECRET ENTRANCE.

The secret entrance is not so secret these days. It’s located to the right of the Cemara Indah Hotel, right of the big horse statue. On the left of the entrance are the viewing platform and a security booth that’s almost never manned (and even if it is, just go, they won’t stop you. I know, I’ve done it twice).

As you start the trail there’s an “Entrance Forbidden” sign – once again, disregard it and just go.

It’s the trail that local villagers use to go down quickly with their horses.

The Secret Entrance is marked on Maps.me. Search for “Secret free entrance to Bromo” to find it.

Two places to watch the sunrise

There are two places where people watch the sunrise: the viewing platforms and the Bromo crater itself. Most tours bring people to the viewing platforms for sunrise, which means they are packed (but you see the Sun rising behind Mount Bromo)!

On the other hand, there is almost nobody at Bromo Crater for sunrise, and the view there is just as incredible!

Sunrise at Bromo Crater
The sea of clouds is so cool!

Sunrise at Bromo is between 4:58 and 5:42 depending on season. Check the exact time here.

Sunrise at Bromo Crater

That’s the one I recommend. Nobody goes to the crater for sunrise and the volcano is practically all yours! The sunrise is just as impressive too! The colors are bright and vivid and the light illuminates the whole caldera which sits in your feet. If you go on a foggy day, the clouds nest below the top of Mount Bromo, creating a unique sight of a sea of clouds.

Sunrise at Mount Bromo
The sunrise at Bromo above the sea of clouds

From the secret entrance to the top of Bromo, it’s about 45 mins on foot. I recommend you leave your lodging 90 minutes before sunrise to catch the beautiful colors just before the Sun peaks over the mountains in the distance.

From the Secret Entrance, walk down the ‘villagers’ trail’ for the first 10 minutes, after which you’ll enter the Sea of Sand. Then it becomes totally flat and trails disappear. You’ll hear jeeps in the distance carrying tourists to the viewing points. Use Maps.me, but don’t rely on the marked trails – just walk in the right direction and you’ll be fine.

It’s pretty dark in the Sea of San before sunrise, so have a flashlight or the light of your smartphone ready.

It’s also cold. It’s not freezing, but you need at least a light jacket.

The Sea of Sand - the Caldera around Mount Bromo
The Sea of Sand

Sunrise at a Viewing Platform

King Kong Hill is the viewing platform where most tours go for sunrise. It’s 4km from Cemoro Lawang and there’s a parking for motorcycles just under it.

Other popular viewing platforms are the Seruni Viewpoint and the Bukit Perahu Viewing Point.

Can I do both the viewing platform and Mount Bromo’s Crater?

If you want to visit both with the limited time you have, my advice is to go inside the Caldera and climb Mount Bromo up to the crater in the afternoon on the day you arrive, then wake up early to go to the sunrise viewpoints the morning after. You won’t be avoiding the morning crowds though.

Visit the Pura Luhur Poten Hindu Temple on the way back

Just before the ascent to Bromo begins, you’ll see the grounds of a Hindu Temple. It’s usually closed early in the morning, but monks come after sunrise to open the doors for visitors. It’s free to enter.

Yadnya Kasada

Every year the local Tenggerese people celebrate the Hindu festival of Yadnya Kasada. There are around 100.000 Tenggerese spread around 60 villages on the slopes of Bromo Tengger Semeru National Park, hence the name. They all gather in huge numbers at Mount Bromo to do the Yadnya Kasada Ritual.

Yadnya Kasada is always on the 14th, 15th, and 16th day of the Kasada Month of the traditional Tenggerese Calendar, which falls in June, July, or August of the Gregorian Calendar. It’s always on a New Moon.

In 2023 the Ritual fell between the 3rd and 5th of June.

In 2024, Yadnya Kasada will be between 20-23 July.

There is a legend as old as the Majapahit Kingdom of Java during the Middle Ages. As the legend goes, a royal couple settled on the slopes on slopes of Mount Bromo after the fall of the Majapahit Empire.

They couldn’t have any kids for many years, so they asked the gods. The gods delivered – they granted them 25 kids but demanded that the last one be sacrificed inside the volcano. He was, the gods were happy, and that’s how the Tengger people came to be.

On the day of the ritual people climb to Bromo’s Crater and throw all sorts of stuff down the volcano. Fruits, vegetables, coins, flowers, all sorts of food, also live chickens!

Men go inside the crater to try to catch the goods with bare hands or with nets on sticks, believing that it will bring them good luck and abundance. In reality, it sometimes brings death and sorrow as many overlook the obvious dangers of slipping and falling on sharp rocks.

I was at Mount Bromo for Yadnya Kasada 2019. It was as bizarre as rituals go. If you have the chance to go during the festival, I recommend it.

How to get back from Bromo

Getting back to Probolinggo from Bromo is pretty much the same but in reverse.

Go back to your lodging the same way you came, pack your bags, and have breakfast in one of the cafes in Cemoro Lawang. Then go to the minibus waiting area to wait for the bemo to fill up to go back to Probolinggo or start your scooter and drive down.

IMPORTANT: If you’re descending with a scooter, be careful not to overheat the brakes! Always have the engine running (not on idle!) to use it as an automatic brake and alternate your brakes (left, right, left, right…).

Consider stopping every 10 minutes to allow them to cool down and pour water on them if necessary.

Where to stay in Cemoro Lawang

Cemoro Lawang is a very tourist-oriented place. Practically every house is a guesthouse. There are a few hotels too, the most famous one being the Lava Hotel, but I wouldn’t recommend it – it’s too pricey for what it offers.

Do NOT book online – prices are inflated. Just turn up and negotiate with guesthouse owners directly.

I stayed in one of the guesthouses on the main street (Jalan Raya Bromo). I don’t think it even had a name, isn’t even on Google Maps. Most are like that.

It cost me 150.000 IDR / 10$ after some bargaining. It was a National Holiday weekend too, so a pretty good price. If it’s a weekday, you can negotiate down to 120.000 IDR / 8$.

Sunrise at Mount Bromo
That’s the sunrise from the first time I was at Mount Bromo in 2019

Combine Bromo with Madakaripura Waterfall

Coincidentally, the highest waterfall in Java is located on the slopes of Mount Bromo. Madakaripura is an awesome place! Don’t miss this exhilarating experience.

You don’t need an organized tour to visit Madakaripura Waterfall either. My guide to Madakaripura Waterfall goes hand in hand with this one.

You can easily combine them by going to the waterfall in the early afternoon, spending the night in Cemoro Lawang, witnessing the sunrise at Bromo, and getting back to Probolinggo before noon.

Madakaripura Waterfall
Madakaripura Waterfall

What to bring on your visit to Mount Bromo

You don’t need much, as you’ll only spend 1 night in Cemoro Lawang. The village and Bromo are at a high altitude though, so bring warm clothes.

  • Jacket (you can rent for 30.000 IDR / 2$ there, but it’s better to have yours).
  • Long pants
  • Hiking shoes
  • Hat (warm hat, not a baseball hat!)
  • Lighter set of clothes for after sunrise (it gets warm quickly!)
  • Flashlight (smartphone light will do)
  • Facemask (for the ash, not the Covid. A surgical one is enough, even without one you’ll be fine)

Where to eat on a budget in Cemoro Lawang

I have read the reports of many travelers eating 35.000 IDR / 2.3$ Nasi Goreng at the Lava Cafe and I sigh every time. Just walk down the main street Jalan Raya Bromo and pick a warung, there are many options.

A bowl of Mie Ayam or a portion of Nasi Goreng shouldn’t cost more than 15.000 IDR / 1$.

Costs to visit Mount Bromo without a Tour

Train from Bandung or Surabaya to Probolinggo27.000 to 88.000 IDR (up to 350.000 in an Executif train)
Motorcycle rental + fuel (for 2 people)180.000 IDR
Two-way public minibus ticket (per person)(at least) 100.000 IDR
Conservation entrance fee for Cemoro Lawang15.000 IDR (avoidable if by motorcycle with the trick outlined above)
Accommodation for 1 night 150.000 IDR
Entrance to the National ParkFREE, if you enter via the Secret Entrance
Dinner (per person, incl. a drink)20.000 IDR
Breakfast (per person, incl. coffee)30.000 IDR

The total really depends on what you do, how, and from where you start. It comes out to between 250.000 IDR and 490.000 IDR (16.8 to 33$) per person. Much less than an organized tour! And the experience is better too!

Sunrise at Bromo

Is Bromo Safe?

Given the previous paragraph, you might think that visiting an active volcano is incredibly dangerous and requires special precautions. Well, yes and no.

Most of the time Mount Bromo just rumbles lightly. It receives thousands of visitors daily and the worst that happens is that their clothes smell a bit sulphuric by the end of their visit.

However, once in a while, Bromo gets angry and it’s kind of scary. In such cases, the authorities will issue a warning and an exclusion zone of 1-2 km around the volcano.

Check the official interactive map of the Indonesian Government regarding volcano eruptions and issued warnings.

Where to go next

If you’re coming from Surabaya or Malang and going east, you might want to also visit Kawah Ijen and the almost magical blue flame.

And here’s how to get from Bromo to Ijen

If you’re coming from Bali and Banyuwangi and going west, then your next destination may be Malang, Surabaya, Yogyakarta, Surakarta, or Semarang.