Kawah Ijen — home of the blue fire — is easy to visit on a budget. I went in July 2018 and paid less than 200,000 rupiah for accommodation and transport to and from Kawah Ijen. Want to do the same? Then read on.
Visit Kawah Ijen on a budget
It’s easy to visit Kawah Ijen on a budget and without a tour. But this might not be obvious if you’re reading a certain guidebook. The information vacuum surrounding Kawah Ijen meant that I nearly paid 950,000 rupiah for transport to Kawah Ijen and on to Banyuwangi. This would’ve been a complete waste of money.
Below I’ll describe how to visit Kawah Ijen using public transport and without paying for accommodation. This guide is most useful for people approaching Kawah Ijen from west Java, ideally after visiting Mount Bromo, Malang and Yogyakarta.
Summary of how to visit Kawah Ijen on a budget
I travelled to Kawah Ijen from Bondowoso, after visiting Mount Bromo. If you’re budget minded, this is definitely the cheapest method:
- Bus from Probolinggo (the travel hub for Mount Bromo) to Bondowoso [18,000 rupiah].
- Public minivan from Bondowoso to Sempol [30,000 rupiah].
- From Sempol take an ojek [50,000 rupiah] or the minivan [40,000 rupiah] to Pos Paltuding, the entrance to Kawah Ijen.
- Sleep in the camping ground or a warung at Pos Paltuding [free] before climbing Kawah Ijen.
- From Kawah Ijen take a private vehicle to Banyuwangi [100,000 rupiah] for the train to Surabaya or ferry to Bali.
Below I describe how to visit Kawah Ijen on a budget in more detail.
How I visited Kawah Ijen
Kawah Ijen is accessed from two points: Bondowoso and Banyuwangi. Banyuwangi is for people coming from Bali. Unfortunately, there’s no public transport here so an expensive private vehicle is the only way to reach Kawah Ijen.
Bondowoso is the cheaper option and practical choice for anyone traveling from Yogyakarta, Malang, or Mount Bromo. This was my route and here’s how I did it.
1. Bus from Probolinggo to Bondowoso
After visiting Mount Bromo in the morning, I rode the public minivan down to Probolinggo. From Probolinggo, I took the 12 pm bus to Bondowoso for 18,000 rupiah. Because I arrived in Bondowoso at 4 pm, I had to stay the night. There were no more buses to Sempol, the next destination. You could skip spending the night in Bondowoso and continue on to Kawah Ijen, but you would need to take private transport.
2. Bondowoso to Sempol
I slept in Bondowoso, staying at a homestay beside the bus station for 100,000 rupiah (you’ll see it on maps.me). Not cheap, but options are limited. The next day, I caught the public minivan to Sempol around 7 am. The departure time is vague and the price varies depending on how well you’re dressed. I paid 30,000 rupiah after some tough negotiations.
I arrived in Sempol three hours later. It’s possible to sleep here. I decided not to for two reasons. First, the accommodation is overpriced and shitty (at least 175,000 rupiah for a room). Second, arranging transport to Pos Paltuding (the Kawah Ijen entrance point) in the middle of the night seemed an expensive hassle.
3. Sempol to Pos Paltuding
I chose to leave Sempol and continue on to Pos Paltuding. I was quoted 50,000 rupiah for an ojek from Sempol to Pos Paltuding. However, the minivan driver agreed to take me and two others to Pos Paltuding for 40,000 rupiah each. If you’re really trying to visit Kawah Ijen on a budget, then it’s a 15 km walk uphill. The terrain is beautiful and there’s little traffic, so walking could be a nice option.
4. Sleeping at Pos Paltuding
I arrived in Pos Paltuding around midday. After reading different accounts, I’d expected to find a ghost-town. This was not the case. Pos Patulding has public toilets, multiple warungs, a camping ground and basic rooms to rent. You can chat to the locals hanging around and watch the miners coming down from the volcano.
There was time to kill as the entrance to Kawah Ijen only opens at 1 am! While having a coffee at a warung, the lady running it told me that I could leave my bag and even sleep there — for free. This was perfect. There’s no need to pay for a room for the night when I had to be awake for 1 am anyway.
The warung in question is called Wr Ijen B Im. In return, I rented a gas mask [30,000 rupiah], bought more coffee, and gave her a tip (which she initially refused). Sleeping in the warung was fine. Warm clothes were needed because it was cold even with the fire on. However, it certainly beat paying to stay at the ranger station [120,000 rupiah].
Money savings aside, the advantage of staying at Pos Paltuding is that you can be the first to climb Kawah Ijen when the gates open at 1 am. This is worth the effort alone. It meant that for a glorious hour, I was one of the only people in the volcano. I got to experience the blue fire and the sulfur mining before the tour groups arrived and the crater became a human zoo. Don’t underestimate the value of this.
Some other points to consider. A guide is unnecessary from a safety perspective. The path is obvious, even if you’re the first to arrive like I was. The blue fire is localized and it’s clear where the dangerous areas are. A gas mask is worth paying for as the sulfur smoke is suffocating. Food is poor value at Pos Paltuding. A small bowl of instant noodles costs 10,000 rupiah. Consider bringing your own supplies.
5. Pos Paltulding to Banyuwangi
After watching the blue flames and the sunrise, I returned to Pos Paltudling to find a ride to Banyuwangi. There’s no public transport to Banyuwangi so I expected this to be difficult. However, every driver was willing to take me down the mountain. The rate was 100,000 rupiah. Could I have bargained harder? Perhaps. But consider that the price for an ojek was twice as much. And I was fucking exhausted.
Final thoughts on visiting Kawah Ijen on a budget
Kawah Ijen is easy to visit independently. Any budget-minded backpacker can do it, either solo in or in a group. But best of all, sleeping at Pos Patulding allows you to experience Kawah Ijen before the crowds arrive. If you have any questions about how to visit Kawah Ijen on a budget, let me know in the comments below.