Travelling around Indonesia is not always easy. The archipelago is gigantic, with most of its natural wonders spread evenly, so expensive flights, unsafe boat trips, and a lot of bus journeys are in order to maximise your experience. One such experience you may take (in fact, probably WILL take) in Indonesia is the journey to the ethereal Bromo Tengger Semeru National Park, which is around 3 hours from the city Surabaya.
The closest airport to Mount Bromo is in Surabaya, although there is also a domestic airport in Malang, but you will be hard-pressed to find regular service there on commercial aircraft. As such, arriving in Surabaya’s Juanda International Airport is your most likely choice. I didn’t like Surabaya much; I found it pretty unremarkable and I was not too disappointed to be staying for just one night, as there doesn’t seem to be many tourist attractions there anyway. This part of Java is good for just one thing: as a base to travel to the Mighty Mount Bromo!
Unlike many other bus rides in Indonesia, the journey from Surabaya to Probolinggo is not an arduous one. It will take around 3 hours, depending on traffic and weather, and once clear of Surabaya’s smog, the Javan scenery is actually pretty nice. It shouldn’t cost any more than 50,000 Rupiah per person (each way). Because this bus journey is much shorter than others (for example, Yogyakarta to Surabaya, or Surabaya to Bali), the quality of bus may be lower than what you might expect. Don’t expect toilets or WIFI onboard! Some buses may do, but I found most do not. Not every bus will be a large bus, either. Sometimes you may find smaller minibuses to be more common on this route, and they can be hired for the journey for around 45,000 Rupiah, with almost all of them departing from Purabaya (yes, Purabaya, not Surabaya) Bus Station. It is not uncommon for the driver of these minibuses to wait until it is full before heading off. To save yourself a lot of hassle, I would recommend using Bromo Ijen Transport, who offer some very good itineraries with all transportation included (and maybe accommodation, too), so you can just rest and relax and not have to worry about a thing!
Probolinggo is the nearest main city to Mount Bromo, but a lot of accommodation is situated in the town beside the volcano, Cemoro Lawang. You need to think about where your accommodation is and by how much this will affect the price of your journey (each time, back and forth). When you reach Probolinggo, you will need to jump in a small green minibus to complete your journey to Bromo (Cemoro Lawang), as the major bus companies do not go that far, only to Probolinggo. This ride to Cemoro Lawang will take upwards of 90 minutes, and will cost in the region of 20,000-30,000 Rupiah one way.
Tour packages are an important part of any visit to the Bromo area. You can do everything independently like I did, although I was in a nice hotel nearby called Java Banana Bromo. They allowed me as part of my room rate to use hotel transport to the entrance of the park to begin the hike up the fearsome volcano. Other accommodation may not offer this (in fact, they probably won’t), so you will need to plan ahead and see if you can join an organised tour. Official guides from tour groups are actually quite useful if you want the safest and easiest way to enjoy the Bromo area, although obviously it can still be done enjoyably enough even if you are travelling solo (please note that, regardless of the number of members of your party, you cannot actually climb Mount Bromo unless you have a guide). Again, I really recommend using Bromo Ijen Tours, as I have used them without problem in the past, an they have many great reviews online.
There’s no doubt that the Bromo Tengger Semeru National Park is full of otherworldly wonder, and over recent years it has became something of a backpacking phenomenon. It seems everybody wants to come here nowadays and take a look at the lunar landscape. However, this means that there is more tours and more accommodation to cater for the tastes and budgets of everyone, so we are all winners! As one final word of warning, I found the fumes at Mount Bromo very toxic, so wearing a facemask may be a good idea, especially if you have breathing problems.