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New solo traveller in Java looking for tips

Posted by Nickipea on 4/9/2015 at 07:09

Hi All,

I'm looking for a little advice... I'm new to solo travelling (previously I've joined tour groups after arrival - this trip will be completely solo) and in the middle of researching a trip to Java towards the end of November and specifically on travelling from Yogyakarta to Bromo area and onwards towards Bali. I've already found quite a lot of advice on routes and transport on this site and elsewhere so that's fine. In doing that however, I've become nervous to the touts and cons that I will inevitably come across round the transport hubs and how not to get conned. I'll probably get a train Yogya to Surabaya, either a bus or train to Probolinggo and bus or motorbike towards Bromo. After a few days I'll head towards Bali, probably on a bus-ferry combo ticket. Can anyone give this newbie (who will no doubt stand out like a sore thumb on arrival anywhere) anything to watch out for, tourist traps, tips, etc. in these areas? Also, it seems like getting from Yogya to Bromo area in one day might be too much to manage, if so, any suggestions of overnight stops on the way would also be appreciated! I don't want to plan too much but at the same time, it's my first solo trip and I'd rather have the info and then use it to plan a day or two ahead while on the road.

All help greatly appreciated!

#1 Nickipea has been a member since 4/9/2015. Posts: 2
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Posted by amnicoll on 9/9/2015 at 05:18


Welcome and a little surprised that you have not had any response.

remember it is not what you are looking out for but what you may no be looking out for that is the problem.

Anyone who takes you to a shop /hotel is probably on commission and you will pay more

I would suggest you read through a lot of the posts here and on Lonely Planet but from what I have heard on the forums the "Bromo" part of your trip is a nightmare as far as the scammers are concerned and I would suggest that at the very least you find a temporary travel companion and hook up with them for a couple of days for this bit

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Posted by JPClancy on 9/9/2015 at 22:20

Hey there,

I wouldn't worry too much about it, any foreigner stands out especially in those places as there aren't that many of us. I just got back from another 6 week stint in Java, Sumatra and Bali. I would not take the bus/ferry combo, it would be a lot easier and cheaper to simply fly to Denpasar and into Bali, it is a pain and the waters that your ferry would take you through can get quite rough and can be a bit of a nightmare.

As for the trip from Yogya to Bromo, it would not be an overstretch to get there in one day as long as you start early enough. However have you thought about heading from Yogya to Banding instead? The train is direct, takes 9 (although sometimes only 7) hours, Bandung is a fantastic city, and from there it is very easy to get to Bromo. It would also remove the hassle of having to change trains and making connections. It would also remove the need to find someone to travel with as the trains are pretty safe.

I wouldn't worry too much about scammers, many people get nervous when they are about to travel solo for the first time, I have spent the majority of my travels alone and I haven't had as much scammers in any other country combined as I had when I was in Paris. If things go wrong and they might, if you get scammed and you might, just take it as an experience, don't dwell on it. However just some tips.

- Don't keep a lot of cash in your wallet in Indonesia, carry them in separate places.
- Keep a photocopy of your passport on you with a photocopy of the visa on entry, because sometimes there are overzealous cops who want to know that you are in the country legally, though they will let you go, they can be a pain and this saves some time if you are in a rush. But you have to be unlucky to get those ones.
- Withdraw a lot of cash at the one time, it saves on the ATM fees.
- Take an extra debit card/credit card or whatever you use and leave it in your luggage for if you lose your card.
- If you take a taxi make sure they have a meter in them, the ones that don't will overcharge you because they know you are foreign. 'Bluebird' is one of the more well known and safer ones.

Hope this helps,


#3 JPClancy has been a member since 9/9/2015. Posts: 2

Posted by mooball on 11/9/2015 at 10:31 TF writer

I think the previous poster has Bandung mixed up with Surabaya . In which case, Surabaya is a decent overnight stop so you're not rushing to Bromo from Yogya in a day. While it is possible to do in a day, there simply is no need if you have days to spare.

Around Probolinggo, there are touts selling transport to Bromo. It's a rort. At most bus stations, people are helpful. But it's always best to double check the info you are given because bus drivers/conductors are sometimes shysters as well.

As for bus/ferry combo ticket, I'm not sure what that is. If there is one, it's for tourists to be scammed. Basically bus and ferry tickets are separate. Some buses do go on the ferry in which case you don't need to pay for a ferry ticket. I have heard of touts arranging bits of transport in advance for people, but it's usually just local transport where the tout calls his bus driver mate in Bali and tells them there is a sucker tourist coming through who has already prepaid about 10x the going rate... so yeah. In my view, you either do this part of the trip on a tour or you do it completely independently. These touts/fixers are always bad news.

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Posted by sambalgoreng on 12/9/2015 at 19:49

IMHO Malang is more interesting than Surabaya if you are tourist to break journey. It is not difficult to go to Malang from Jogja and then from Malang to Probolinggo by public transport.
In Malang you can join group tour to Bromo by MTC (Malang Tourist Center) which is not scam.
The train journey from Malang to Banyuwangi is also more scenic than road journey from Probolinggo by northern route to Banyuwangi even in economy class.

I think JPClancy mean Malang not Bandung.

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Posted by Alfan on 16/9/2015 at 08:09

According your planning trip, Yogyakarta -Bromo-Bali, maybe you can doing like this.
- At Yogyakarta take 3days is enough, visiting temples and explore about culture.
- From Yogyakarta to Surabaya better using train. You can stay overnight at Surabaya. If you not interest for stay overnight, maybe you can try hired private transport from Surabaya to Bromo.

If you using private transport from Surabaya, you can make your trip like this.
- Use train name "Sancaka Pagi" etd 6.45am eta 12pm, drive to Bromo for stay overnight.
- On the early morning about 3am you will going for sunrise. End your trip at Bromo you can continue to Ijen, and stay overnight.
- If you wanna see blue fire at Ijen, you should start hiking on 2am. End your trip at Ijen, the car will drop you at Bali.

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Posted by Jakartass on 21/9/2015 at 00:16

For information about nearly all Indonesian volcanoes, I recommend the website Gunung Bagging.

The two intrepid expat hikers who set up the site have now left the country, but the extensive information about getting guides, condition of tracks (including GPS), best times of year to visit etc. etc. is added to by contributors.

This is the page for Bromo.

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Posted by Nickipea on 21/9/2015 at 07:17

Thanks all for the advice! I'd like to think I have a reasonable amount of common sense about these things (especially having looked after tourists and generally in the travel industry for the last 12 or so years) but at the same time I don't want to be unnecessarily suspicious - that's not my idea of a good trip at all!

In terms of getting to Bromo, I hadn't considered Malang yet so will have a look. Via Surabaya, the timings of the trains mean if I get a train to Probolinggo same day I arrive around 16.30 and it seems the minibuses finish up around 16.00. I don't have an issue at all with getting a motorbike there, maybe would prefer it after a day of trains, but can also stay and carry on the next day if it's a bit of a trial.

I think the main question I now have is this: Do I need to book trains in advance or can I just go with the flow and see how I feel? Do the trains get booked up in advance for these routes? I don't want to restrict myself to an itinerary or I may as well just book a group tour. Having said that I want to make the most of my time as I do have a set amount of days to explore so will do if it will help. Ideally I want to inform myself as much as possible before I go and then decide when I'm there what I do, when.

As for the combo ticket to Bali, I read about it on Seat61, offered directly by Indonesian Railways. I know it will be aimed at tourists but I can book Banyuwangi to Denpasar for 90,000 rupiah or from Probolinggo for 170,000 which I don't find unreasonable. I had heard reports that finding a bus at the port on the Bali side was sometimes difficult which was partly what set me looking at this in the first place.

Thanks again for the advice so far, really appreciate it


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Posted by mooball on 21/9/2015 at 09:05 TF writer

I don't know anything about that ticket from banyuwangi to Denpasar via indo railways, but it sounds odd. The train doesn't go to Bali and 90k for that trip is too much. Someone somewhere is marking up the price. It's easy to get a bus along that route. There are hundreds per day. Either go to the terminal or flag one down somewhere along the route. Just depends on where you end up in banyuwangi.

Trains are a bit of a pain compared to what they used to be. You used to be able to just roll up and get on board even though it was fully booked. Those days are over now, so fully booked does mean fully booked (although some agents can get around this). The best thing to do is book the ticket online as soon as you're sure of your dates. Trains are not usually full, but there are times when they are so it's almost a lottery as to whether you'll get a ticket at the last minute or not. If you can't get the train, there are plenty of other options anyway.

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Posted by Jakartass on 24/9/2015 at 22:54

I have to disagree with Mooball when he says: "Trains are a bit of a pain compared to what they used to be."

I've written about train travel, primarily in Jakarta, for the past dozen years, most recently here, and there has been a massive improvement for the benefit of passengers in the past five years.

Pre-booking of Exekutif, Bisnis and some Ekonomi seats on long distance trains has removed the touts, and once aboard, security and 'Customer Service' officers, whose cell phone number is displayed in each carriage, ensure that there is no overcrowding, with passengers lying in the passageways.

You don't pre-book commuter trains, but they are air-conditioned, doors remain shut between stations, and you won't see roof riders anymore. I'm not just referring to Jakarta's expanding commuter lines, but also, for example, the Yogya-Solo line which I've used a few times in the past two months.

BTW. For those over 60, there is a 20% discount on long-distance trains, but for that it seems you have to pre-book your ticket at a station.

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Posted by Alfan on 24/9/2015 at 23:15

You can hire private transport from train station to drop at Bromo, so you don't need to stay overnight. Or till drop at Banyuwangi.

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Posted by SendiriNekad on 25/9/2015 at 06:18

riding a train nowadays in Indonesia may be not as exotic as a couple of years ago (I for one I would have loved to ride one in those times [img]smileys/bigsmile.gif[/img]) but is perfectly safe and if you don't mind being cramped on a three persons bench, Economy class is perfectly decent. you can check times and ticket prices here (in Indonesian but with a little patience you'll manage). You can book your ticket at local super market named Alfamart or Indomaret (you cand find them in Jakarta airport also but you will need someone to point you the way). You pay and receive a booking code (best to give them exact info, station name, train name and boarding time) and you will need to print the ticket at the train station.
I cannot stretch enough how helpful is (as Jakartass mentioned) for almost any mountain hiking you want to do in Indonesia. Did 9 of them with no guides. but be careful to check first if Bromo is open for climbing because end of November is already beginning of rain season. I would suggest to check with local Couchsurfing hosts in Surabaya or Malang... If Bromo is a no go, I would recommend Merapi, next to Jogjakarta. if the skies are clear it is an amazing sunrise.
About taxi: best option to look for Blue Bird (they are blue with a bird logo [img]smileys/bigsmile.gif[/img])
Getting to denpasar: cheapest option would be train, ekonomy class, to Banyuwangi. the train station is walking distance to the docks. I took ferry from bali side and I had no problems navigating my way. you can either hitchhike (word for this: numpang; and no money: gratis) or just hop on a bus and pay the ticket. you can do both on the ferry. it's a 3 hours ride to denpasar... the bus will leave you though a couple of kilometers outside the city and you will need to get public transport. this part can be a little painful.
enjoy Indonesia, but don't try to squeeze a lot of things into a small time frame. In Indonesia taking time is most important to enjoy your travels. and patience.

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Posted by Jakartass on 25/9/2015 at 06:47

If there were a 'Like' button, I'd give one to 'Gutsy Loner' (Sendiri Nekad).

Regarding taxis in Jakarta, and in a few other cities: Express (white) and Kosti (royal blue) are also trustworthy, i.e. are always metered.

As for cheap ekonomi train travel, with my frame I reserve that for short journeys. For long journeys, such as Jakarta-Yogyakarta which is c. eight hours, spending about $25 with meals (c.Rp,40,000) brought to your reclining airplane style seat is a bargain, and without the hassle of getting to and from the airports.

The ticket price is variable depending on the demand (e.g. festivals, long weekends) and the reason I suggest pre-booking is so that you can get a window seat and enjoy the marvellous scenery.

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