Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Ticket Not Required - Bromo Volcano Heats Up

Travelers beware, Bromo is a hot spot for scammers taking advantage of travelers. Today I headed out to Bromo mountain to first watch the sunrise at the view point and then to the base of Bromo to hike up to the crater. Bromo is an active volcano and one of the most popular on Java island. It erupted recently in 2015 and 2016. Hundreds of bule (foreigners) and locals flock to this place each day.

A couple days ago Constance and I booked an overland tour to Bromo and Ijen in a mini-bus for 760,000 Rupiah. We started from Jogja the day before our tour of Bromo and drove around 11 hours to Probolinggo with an hour stop for lunch. We were very tired when we reached Probolinggo to transfer to another vehicle

When reaching Probolinggo we were shuttled into a tour agency office called Master Holiday. At this point we were told about our itinerary for the day and costs associated with the trip. We knew from reading that Bromo entrance would be 227,000 Rupiah and Ijen would be 150,000 for entrance on holiday/weekend and 150,000 for a guide. The tour operator named Mantok, was very pushy and told us if we did not buy at the office we could not go up in Jeep to the view point and Mount Bromo, despite the fact that we had already paid for the jeep.

He immediately quoted us much higher than we had read online. We ended up negotiating down to 230.000 for park entrance. Constance did not feel it was worth it so she decided not to buy the entrance ticket. The agent said that she would have to stay in the hotel and not get in the jeep. I booked the entrance ticket as it was only 22 US cents (3,000 rupiah) over the online stated price. I did not want to miss Bromo, especially since I had already paid the jeep which was half the cost.

The next morning we woke up at 2:30 AM and left the hotel around 4:00 AM to head up to the viewpoint for sunrise. I enjoyed he sunrise, it was beautiful despite it being very cold. The rays of sunlight streamed out across the sky turning the sky in to a rainbow of colors. Fluffy clouds surrounded the base of Mount Bromo. It was a bit cloudy but it was still gorgeous. No where along the road did they ask us or the tour company to buy a ticket.

Next we took the jeep down the windy roads and across a barren dessert of volcanic sand to the parking lot at the base of Bromo. Again no where along the way did they have a place to buy or receive a park entrance ticket. When we arrived to the parking lot, men with horses rode beside our car and surrounded it when we parked. They asked if we wanted to ride a horse up. We declined multiple times, almost every 5 minutes on our way up. Many of the horses were skinny and sweaty. Most did not have shoes despite the fact that they had to ride back to the town on paved roads. Most of the horse riders rode the horses quickly down the mountain to pick up another bule and make more money. I recommend not taking the horses and instead exercise by hiking up. In addition the horses only take you to the stairs, which I thought was one of the hardest parts of the trek.

In total the hike is only 30 minutes but it all depends on your fitness level. At the top my new friends and I hiked along the rim, across some pretty narrow paths to a secluded view point. At first the sulfur smell was strong as we arrived at the top. A constant spew of steam bellowed from the crater. As time went on the smell diminished. We sat listening to the roar of water boiling at the bottom. The sound was somewhat soothing yet intense, it reminded you of the power and unpredictability of nature.

After an hour at the top we headed back to the jeep. We road the jeep across the black sand back to our hotel. We realized that no where along the way did we receive a ticket. We decided to investigate why. Tripadviser and Wiki travel both warn against paying for tickets in advance. The reason why is that the money paid does not go to the park but instead the travel agency. In addition if stopped in the park, the receipt is not sufficient evidence of paying the entry cost. This means that some travelers might have to pay a second entry fee.

Frustrated by that and the fact that the guide was very rude. Our guide threw all our trash on the ground in the park, which we had to pick up ourselves. In addition he then proceeded to move us to a different jeep that was already full so that we were crammed in with another group who looked frustrated that they paid for their own jeep tour. Our guide was not very helpful and didn't speak any English, he gave us very few directions for where we were suppose to go and what we were to bring.

In the end we decided to confront the tour agency when we reached Probolinggo. At the agency the same man: Mantok, who has sold us the tickets handed us fake tickets (we had read many tourists are given fake tickets that are printed on white paper without serial numbers) and yelled at us that we complained too much. Instead of listening to our complaints he pointed to a couple people in the vicinity and said they were police officers. The people pointed at seemed very hesitant to interfere. At one point he grabbed my arm quite hard, and dragged me out of the shop trying to have me ask a friend about the ticket, saying "I am going to kill you." I told him not to touch me and after he said he would kill me, I decided not to continue. He was very rude, vulgar and he made a huge scene in front of people who were on the sidewalk, to the point that people came to rescue us. The driver said "Lets just go to Ijen" and a couple pedestrians offered to take our bags.

On a positive note our wonder-woman friend in Jogja who runs two amazing hostels (Bunk, Bed and Breakfast and Hoz) called the agency to help us. We sent her a video of the man being very rude to us. She talked to the owner of Master Holiday and he offered us his apologizes. In addition the man Montoz was fired today around 1pm. Only a couple hours after we left Probolinggo. Although we have no guarantee that he is gone my recommendations to all tourist going to Bromo is:

1. Don't book entrance tickets at the agency or before you get to the park.
2.  Insist they take you through the correct gates so that the national park gest the money they deserve.
3. Watch out for a man named Mantok, or Monk or some variation.
4. Have fun and be positive even through hard times.

Safe travels! 


  1. The island look spectacular to look at in terms of the views. I’ve heard that the view from near Bromo Mountain is a sight to see.

  2. wow! This is such an interesting and exciting account of your trip. While reading through I really felt that I have been with you through the journey. It must have been a memorable trip for you. You have done this descriptive essay writing in a captivating and attention grabbing way.