Bali and Lombok

If you fly into Denpasar, you will arrive at the Ngurah Rai International Airport. The taxi mafia is horrible there, so please download GrabTaxi beforehand and register your phone number with the app. Then you can arrive at the airport and use the free wifi to book transportation. You will save about 50%. I flew into Bali late at night in January and booked a shared room across the street from the airport at a hostel called Te Quiero Bali. I wanted to walk to it and avoid the taxi touts. There were about 100 touts I had to avoid when leaving the airport. All the dishonest, scamming, scum of the earth, con artists, lying cheats of the world seem to work in the taxi game at Bali. “No meter!” is their motto. Blue Bird taxi group does use the meter, but the taxi mafia tries to block them out of the competition. There is a bus company at the airport, Trans Sarbagita (see my note at the bottom of the page), but until they make their route user friendly, not many people will use it. The route to Kuta is pretty frequent but I heard one guy had to wait for 3 hours until a bus left for central Denpasar. It’s super cheap though. 3,500 Rupiah.

When I arrived, I walked along the airport fence until I got to the tollbooth/ticket area for cars, exited the airport grounds, did a U-turn, and checked into the hostel. I wasn’t too impressed with Bali. We stayed in South Kuta and people recommended Uluwatu and the Single Fin Bar. We took a GrabTaxi down there and it was just loud club music, a few armed guards, and a lot of buff surfer bros and chicks. Not my scene. We made it up to Ubud and did the volcano sunrise hike tour. If you have a motorcycle or car, you can just show up to the hike by yourself. There were 300 people on our hike. If you want to take a tour, check with a few tourist promotion booths in Ubud. You will get a much better price if you book it with them versus online. I think we paid around 200,000-230,000 Rupiah. The other couple in our van paid 400,000 and the driver asked that we not discuss the price with them. It just seems like these tourist ticket promoters are trying to rip people off. Why not have a standard fare for everyone? They also offered van and ferry tickets to Lombok for around 250,000 R. Our group didn’t plan well and wanted to rush things and we ended up paying 300,000 R for a taxi ride from Ubud to the Padang Bai pier [they finally got us because GrabTaxi didn’t have any vehicles going that way : ( ], and 250,000 R for the ferry.

We headed east and arrived at the Teluk Kode pier on the north side of Lombok and were greeted with the worst and rudest people I have ever experienced in Indonesia. There were 2 police officers there (I’m assuming they are checking tourists for motorcycles and correct licenses) and a lot of taxi drivers. People are trying to “help” you get your bag off the boat and take you to a taxi. I packed light and just had my bag with me. As I’m walking down the pier towards the parking lot, I really don’t know where I’m going or if there are hotels here or if there is a restaurant. Also, I don’t have a data connection on my cell phone. I just know that I need to find some wifi and get away from the taxi touts. A man asks me where I’m going and I wave him off. Another man asks me the same thing and I just keep walking and said “No thank you”. He starts walking next to me and says he has a taxi ready and he’s just quoting us the basic price to cover time and fuel. I said “No thank you” again. He’s still walking next to me as we get into the parking lot. There are about 10 drivers just standing around. Not too many people got off the boat with us. As I’m approaching the exit of the parking lot, his two buddies are trailing us. He then says “Where are you going?” again. I just ignore him because he clearly has not been listening to me. He then shouts “Why are you being so unfriendly?! If you don’t like it here, YOU CAN GO BACK TO YOUR COUNTRY!” I turn around and snap back at him “Why are you harassing me!” He stops and I keep walking down the street. I see a little cafe and hostel on my left, about 100 meters from the pier’s parking lot that has free wifi. I order some food and try to figure out where we are going. About 30 minutes later, the same taxi driver comes to the cafe and he has another tourist with him. I tell the tourist not to go with the man because he will rip her off. She sits at our table. He comes back and quotes us 700,000 Rupiah to go to the south of the island. I stand up and he has a little brochure in his hand and he shows it to me, like it’s proof of a fair price. I told him “Earlier, I felt very unwelcome here so I’m hesitant to use your services”. He didn’t say anything and I walk back to my table. I end up using the Blue Bird taxi app to book a metered taxi. It ends up only costing us 358,000 Rupiah. It turns out, the Blue Bird taxis wait 20 meters away from the cafe and they won’t go near the pier. Probably because of the mean taxi drivers. I was thinking about the first guy’s rudeness and thought “See what you get for being a jerk? You get nothing. Your greed has left you empty handed” But I’m sure when the next boat comes, he’ll trick another tourist. Shame on you, taxi tout.

It took 2.5 hours to get to South Kuta. We followed the west side of the island and passed through some of the bigger towns like Senggigi. Our new taxi driver was pretty cool, didn’t speak much English, but was telling us about robberies on the island. He said he’s been stopped before in the jungle, the thieves stole money from his passenger, and then they let them continue to their destination. As we are driving through the jungle at 8 PM, he starts accelerating and says “Sorry, this is the bad part of town”. Thankfully we didn’t have any incidents. I booked online at http://www.booking.com (or you can use http://www.agoda.com) at Krisna Homestay 2. Krisna Homestay is on the main road, the Krisna 2 is down a little tiny, unpaved road basically across the street from Krishna 1. I was used to staying in hostels with a shared bathroom for 100,000 Rupiah per night, but Krisna was offering your own room with AC and a bathroom for the same price. What a deal! They also rented motorcycles for 50,000 R per day and didn’t scam you. I ended up staying there for 4 nights. The owner used to work on cruise ships (Holland America?) for 7 years and has probably been to more countries than his guests. Breakfast was included and was either eggs or a pancake with coffee or tea. There is also a really good and inexpensive Indonesia restaurant at the main intersection in Kuta. It’s called Rumah Makan (or Doa Ibu).  Also, the IndoMaret (Indonesia’s version of 7-11) sells 1.5 L bottles of water for 4,500 Rupiah. We visited the Novotel (just rode the motorcycle up to the gate), and the first time, there was another couple waiting so they let us both through, and during the second time, he asked me something like “Do you want to stay here?” or maybe it was “Are you staying here?” and I just nodded and he let me through. But if you use their chairs by the beach, you need to pay. They kinda kicked us out the first time. We had been swimming in the ocean for 3o minutes and using their chairs and then they came over and asked if we were staying there. There’s nothing published about that, so we didn’t know. But you can rent the chairs and use the pool if you pay 100,000 Rupiah. We walked over to the Seger Beach viewpoint and had our first of many encounters with the children selling bracelets. If you drive to Seger Beach, they have a “checkpoint” where you have to buy a “ticket” for 10,000 Rupiah. They’ll let Indonesian people go in for free, but if you’re a tourist, you have to pay. It’s just a photocopy of some ticket and two guys control the tollbooth arm. Racism at it’s finest. We also rode to Mawi beach which is about 35 minutes west of Kuta. I had read that a lot of attacks have happened to tourists and people were robbed and that you shouldn’t go to certain areas of the island, etc. On the way over there, I was always checking for roadblocks or other motorcycles coming up close to us and I was observing the tourists going the opposite direction. I figured if there were tourists driving from Mawi to Kuta, it was safe to go from Kuta to Mawi. I had also read about motorcycle scams and came across an article that said a new local police force was available to mediate any issues and it said they patrolled certain roads during the day. “Pasar Seni” Police in Kuta. Contact Rizal. 081 9074 93367 It was deserted when we got to the beach, but eventually, some other people showed up. We had to pay an entrance fee and there was a lot of trash and the roads were horrible, so I’m sure they’re just pocketing the money. When it was time to leave, an airplane ticket is about the same as a ferry ticket. So I went to a few airport transfer tourist booths and reserved a ride for 50,000 Rupiah. It picked me up the next day right on time, and the adventure continues! : )

 

*Trans Sarbagita Public Bus on Bali

There is not much information about this service and the information that is online is outdated. I’ve seen a few people create a map for the routes, but it’s still lacking. I found a map online from 2012 and it’s pretty accurate.

http://mademangkupastika.blogspot.com/2012_10_01_archive.html

I tried to go from central Denpasar to Sanur Beach and on the map, it shows a route going east, as of 2012. (It also claims there is a route to Ubud, which actually does not exist) When I arrived at the bus stand, a taxi tout tells me there isn’t a straight route and wants me to pay 50,000 Rupiah to go to the beach. I ignore him. The bus ticket is only 3,500 Rupiah. Another knock off Blue Bird taxi shows up and wants me to go with him. I declare loudly “I’m taking the BUS!” He leaves. Some taxi drivers have a logo and a blue bird logo very similar to Blue Bird. But they are fake. Finally the big blue bus shows up and the attendant says there isn’t a bus that goes straight to the beach. Oh well. I pay for my ticket and I’m watching my GPS as we go north. I’m expecting us to go south. We stop at some northern bus station and the staff gets off for lunch. I am the only passenger now and I remain on the bus and I see the attendant talking to another attendant and pointing at the bus. After 20 minutes, a new driver and the other attendant get on and then he wants me to pay another 3,500. I told him I already paid and showed him my ticket, but he just says “No good”. I don’t think he was trying to be mean but that’s all he was repeating to me. I think that they have distance limits on their tickets. I pay for a second ticket and we head south. I told him where I’m going and he shows me the bus stop. I walk across the street and wait for the second bus. The first bus was small and could hold 20 people but this new bus is big and can hold 40 people. I get on the new bus and we start heading northeast and the lady shows me where to get off for the beach. I swim and return to the bus stop, I get on the bus and head southwest and get off at the correct stop. I cross the street again and am waiting to go back to central Denpasar (north) and I get on the first bus that arrives. After I pay for my ticket, I realize we’re going back the same way (northeast)! Noooooooo! I got on the big bus again, not the small bus. I get off again at the beach and realize I don’t have enough money to get home. So I find a convenience store near a McDonald’s and call a GrabTaxi and pay him when we arrive back at the hostel. So the public bus system can improve, but it is there to provide you wheels if you can figure it out.

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Hike Kawah Ijen volcano crater without a tour in East Java and onward travel to Gilimanuk and Bali

After hiking Mt Bromo, I met a traveler who was going to Kawah Ijen. I was planning on going to Bondowoso but she said Banyuwangi was easier to navigate. So we went together. We left Bromo and went to the Probolinggo bus station. We arrived around 11:00 AM, too late to take the morning train to Banyuwangi. We could wait around for 5.5 hours to take the next train, but we checked in with Toto Travel and he said there was a big express bus that left at 12:30 PM that only took 5 hours, versus the normal bus which took 7 hours. It was 100,000 R so we paid him and he called the bus driver. The train was about the same price and since we were planning on hiking Ijen that night, I wanted to get into town and get a motorcycle before everything closed. Looking back on it, the train would have been the better choice. The Wisata Jawah Indah bus showed up late and even though it was an express bus, there really is no such thing. Most of the journey just has two lanes and there are transport trucks, regular vehicles, buses, people pushing carts, etc all on the road. So it was a very slow trip. Also, the air conditioning was nice, but the driver was smoking in the bus and all the smoke was in the cabin. There was a big No Smoking sign above his head, but he didn’t care. After 2 hours, we stopped so he could changed a belt inside the engine. It took 20 minutes and I was wondering “how is this considered an express bus?”. We get back inside and start proceeding towards our destination and there’s more cigarette smoke. I’m starting to get a headache, but I assume that we’re halfway there and it should be over soon. We enter a forest area and encounter a problem. Two trucks have collided and nobody but motorcycles can get around them. Traffic is backing up for many kilometers. We wait for over an hour before the trucks get pulled apart and then continue on to Banyuwangi. It took almost 8 hours for the trip and I thought that we would go into the town, but he drops us off at the pier. Banyuwangi is about 10 km south of the pier. We didn’t want to go to the Ketapang pier and on to Bali because we are hiking Ijen. But I wasn’t watching the GPS and we got out when the driver told us to. We do not have wifi and it’s dark and there are no motorcycle rental shops. We wander into a building by the pier after avoiding transport touts and find a man selling tours to hike Ijen that night. He lets us use his hotspot and we researched where our hotel was and how to get to a motorcycle shop. I found this site, http://www.kampungosing.com/2016/06/where-to-find-motorbike-rental-in.html, and after looking up 4 shops and contacting them, one of them replied and said that they are open, but they are at the train station. So this is why the train is a better choice. No traffic, no cigarette smoke, and it drops you off at the motorcycle shop. We go outside and haggle with an old van driver and he wants 25,000 R per person to drive the 14 km to the train station. We see another van driver and trying to pit the two against each other, but the other guy says to go with the van driver we’re talking with. There’s a problem with competition and free trade when you just give up a potential fare. There must be some collusion going on with the taxis in Banyuwangi. We haggle him down to 20, 000 R per person, he agrees, and we start the trip. He sees the other taxi driver, pulls over, and shouts at him what price he charged us, grinning the whole time. He must have been pretty pleased with himself. As we’re going, he picks up other passengers, so I figure it’s just a public van that’s trying to rip tourists off. We make it to Toko Subur around 10 PM and the lady that runs the place is very nice. They’re basically open 24/7 and have a shop, restaurant, hotel, and motorcycle rental inside the train station grounds. She charges around 75,000 per motorcycle for 24 hours. They also rent headlamps and gas masks and she was nice enough to lend me a light windbreaker because I didn’t have a jacket. We paid the money, got some food from her, and started our journey to our homestay. When we booked it at http://www.booking.com, it had a different name than on Google maps, so when we get to the small town of Licin, we can’t find it. We drive around for a few minutes and then ask someone at a bar if they know where the homestay is. Luckily the man spoke English and knew the owner and he said he would drive over there with us and we could follow him. I was nervous about doing that because it was 11 PM and the road was just gravel and there were no lights and he was a complete stranger. But everything turned out ok. We met our host around midnight and the address was Kawah Ijen Homestay Banyuwangi, Licin, Banyuwangi Regency, East Java 68454, Indonesia. It’s off the main road, JL Raya Licin. He gave us some tips about hiking and then we paid 100,000 R per room and tried to get some sleep. At 1 AM, we left the homestay to drive to Ijen. It was so cold and pitch black. We were whistled at about 30 minutes into the drive at a checkpoint and had to pay a parking fee. He gave us a ticket for a receipt. At first I thought it was a scam, but I think it is part of the setup. It took about 1 hour to drive to the parking lot and campground area. We bought our hiking ticket, 100,000 R, and declined an offer from the guides. We had to show our ticket to a checkpoint control before we could begin hiking. So you can’t just skip out on not paying. We started the hike around 2 AM and saw two people that had passed out or were tired, being carried down the mountain. It is very steep during the first 30 minutes. There were a lot of people hiking and I’m glad we rented flashlights, but you could have just used your phone’s light. Plus, you could have just walked behind a group that had flashlights to see the path. Around 4 AM, we make it to the top of the crater and guides/workers are pressuring us to rent a gas mask. We keep declining but they follow us and talk about how the security guards won’t let you down there without one, beware of the toxic gases, it’s unsafe for your health, etc. We keep saying no to them and start the descent. There are no security guards but the gas does smell horrible. We have basic masks we brought with us but they are no match for when the sulfur gas hits your nostrils. We hike down and see the blue flames. It truly was an incredible site. The workers are chipping away at the rocks, hauling them up the mountain, and then coming back for another load. I’m glad I just have to hike this 1 time. I can’t stand the smell any more so I hike back up top and my companion suggests we wait for the sunrise. I agree and so we wait another hour. It was a beautiful morning and around 6:30 AM, I hike back down and return to the homestay. I take a shower, our host cooks us breakfast, and then we return to the train station around 10 AM. My companion wants to go to Bali that morning, but I don’t know my plans yet, so we go our separate ways.

Eventually, I decided to go to Bali that afternoon, but I didn’t have any wifi and I thought that once I cross over to Bali, I can stop at a restaurant or hotel and use their wifi. Big mistake. It started raining and the sulfur smell was overpowering me. I had to leave Banyuwangi. I took the train to the pier and paid 45,000 R. I think a motorcyle taxi would have cost 40,000 R, but I wanted to take the train. I take the ferry to Gilamanuk and paid 6,000 R. There is a little form you fill out and they give you a ticket. The ferry runs every 20 minutes and takes about 40 minutes to cross. Once I departed the ferry, I realize that there is nothing in Gilimanuk. There is a bus station, but most of the shops are closed and there are only 4 buses waiting for various destinations. I was extremely exhausted from only getting 30 minutes of sleep and hiking for four hours. I didn’t want to sit on a bus for another 3-4 hours to Denpasar and then search for a hotel. After walking around for 2o minutes, avoiding the constant barrage of taxi touts, I concluded that it’s a ghost town and there is no wifi anywhere. I had downloaded an offline maps application to my phone before starting the trip, so I search it for hotels. It shows 5 options. I decided to walk there because Gilimanuk is a super small town and dusk is approaching. I get to the first hotel and it’s out of business. The second hotel is also out of business. The third hotel doesn’t have a receptionist on duty but I see a man in his hotel room and so I ask him if the hotel has wifi. He doesn’t speak English, but he knows what wifi is and says no. I keep walking and see a sign for a hotel that is not listed on my map application. I walk there and they also do not have wifi. I walk to the fifth hotel and they do have wifi but the cheapest room is a fan room for 150,000 R. I thank them and keep walking to the 6th hotel. It’s under construction and does not have wifi. So I go back to the hotel with wifi, Sari Hotel, and pay my money and get ready for some sleep. It’s built in traditional Balinese style architecture, but my room is very dirty. As soon as a I lay on my bed, I hear rats in the ceiling above me. And because it’s a bamboo thatch ceiling, dirt/fecal matter/who knows what, falls through the roof as the rats scurry around, and land on my bed and on my face. Gross! And the glass windows are slated glass and don’t close all the way and so mosquitoes enter my room. I keep thinking that this is not happening right now. Just the circumstances of the day went from bad to worse. Who would have thought that a port town was so lacking? Anyways, I slept, woke up, checked some things out on the internet, and the hotel receptionist said that I could just stand on the road and a bus going to Denpasar would show up within a few minutes and I could just flag it down. It worked! I think I paid 30,000 R for the trip. The man in front of my seat was smoking cigarettes in the bus and so was the driver. There was no AC but the windows were down. We made it to the Ubung bus terminal north of Denpasar and I walked to a circle K convenience store to use their wifi. Yes! Civilization! : ) I found a super cheap hostel and used Grab Taxi to get a ride to Morotai Camp Hostel.

Hike Bromo without a tour

If you want to save some money and hike Bromo by yourself, you can do it! I was searching on how to get from Surabaya to Probolinggo, or Surabaya to Bromo, or Probolinggo to Bromo and I read a lot of other blogs. Should I take the bus from Probolinggo to Bromo or should I take the train from somewhere? I finally made a plan and flew into the Surabaya airport during January and it was definitely the low tourist season. I was the only “tourist” on the plane and it landed around 12:45 pm. The teenager next to me was trying to take a selfie with me in it. I told him “No, put that away”. Once you land, walk outside the baggage claim/arrival hall and avoid at least 10 taxi drivers. You will see 1 or 2 big, white Damri buses. There is a man in a uniform outside the bus and he asked me if I was going to Probolinggo. Most people will know why you are there. I said yes and boarded the bus. I knew it was going to the Bungurasih bus terminal . I was the only tourist on the bus. There is a sticker on the windshield that says the ticket price is 25,000 R. A lady in a uniform gave me a ticket and I paid her. The bus was about full and it left for Bungurasih and arrived in 20 minutes.

Once you exit the bus, avoid the 20 taxi touts and follow everyone into the main bus terminal. If you walk towards the main bus terminal, you will see a sign that says “antar-kota”. Walk towards it, turn left, turn right, and then turn left. You’ll see a big red LED sign that says bus terminal. There will be about 15 big coach buses sitting in their stalls with a TV screen showing departure times. I stopped there because I saw between me and the buses, about 15 men shouting directions at people to board different buses. Some buses had numbers on their stalls and city destinations. But I didn’t see Probolinggo, so I tried to read the TV screens. I wanted the AC bus and not the economy bus. I didn’t see the AC bus, so I stayed in the terminal and walked down the aisle trying to read the signs above the buses. One of the many touts asked me where I was going “Bromo?” and I decided to say yes. He pointed me to a bus that had Probolinggo written above it. I asked him if it had AC and he said yes. I thanked him and walked towards it. Another man started walking with me saying “Bromo? I will take you to the bus.” I told him what bus I was going to because I didn’t want the economy bus and he took me to the same bus the first man told me about. It was in the middle, right of the row of buses. I boarded the bus around 1:45 pm, ready for all the scams and nothing crazy happened. It must be low season I thought. I was the only tourist on the bus and the bus was only 30 % full. It took about 2 hours and it cost me 20,000 R. I paid on the bus after it was traveling for 10 minutes. There is a driver and a money collector.

Once you arrive at the Bayuangga Bus Terminal at Probolinggo, make sure it really is the bus terminal. I was watching my GPS on my phone and when we arrived, there will be about 20 other big coach/tour buses. Don’t get off before hand otherwise they will scam you. My driver took everyone to the correct terminal. I read that I needed to find Toto Travel inside the terminal. I arrived around 4:00 pm and walked past and ignored the touts asking me where I was going and saw a big sign that said Toto Travel. Mr. Toto used to drive people up to Cemoro Lawang (pronounced Jemoro Lawang  or Chemoro Lawang), drop them off at a guesthouse and then come back to Probolinggo. But then he opened his own travel business and it just the middle man now. Talk with him. He is honest. He told me not too many tourists were coming through this week. I was the only tourist there. He said you could wait outside the terminal for the little minibuses but a group of 4 people had just left 30 minutes ago. The minibus takes 1 hour to get to Cemoro Lawang and they charge 450,000-500,000 R. If there are 12 people seated comfortably, it’s cheaper, but if there are only 4 people, they want you to pay around 115,000 each. Toto said the motorcycle taxis will take you for 100,000 R. He showed me the driver and I said I would do that. It was almost 5 pm, raining, and I wanted to get up to the mountain. Toto also said he could book me a homestay guesthouse for 150,000 R. I read online that some people were getting 100,000 R a night, but I thought I would get there after dark and didn’t want to search around. He called Yog homestay and booked the room for me. I paid him.

After a quick dinner in the bus terminal at Depot 32 (the menu on both walls said that Nasi Goreng was 8,000 and the guy tried to charge me 10,0000. After reading about all the scams at Probolinggo, I wasn’t going to get ripped off so I put my foot down and he gave me correct change), I got on the motorcycle taxi and 1 hour later, made it to Yog. There was the less expensive rooms and the more expensive rooms. Yog consists of two houses near Cemara Indah Hotel. My house had 5 bedrooms and a shared bathroom. It was cold up there. About 15 degrees C, 59 F. No hot water. No heaters in the rooms. Just two big blankets and a pillow.  I spoke with a German couple who had hiked Bromo that day and went to bed. I woke up at 4 AM because they said the sun rises a little later in the winter months. I walked up the road to the lookout point #1 and the sun rose about 5:30 AM. I had a flashlight app on my phone and didn’t have a jacket, so I took one of the blankets off the bed and wrapped it around me. It was definitely needed. Two Jeeps passed me on the way up the mountain. Part of the road was brand new. There were about 15 people at lookout point #1, and by 8 AM, most of them had left because it was pretty cloudy. I walked back down the mountain at 9 AM and passed a lot of farms.

Since Yog is next to the Cemara Indah Hotel, I decided to walk to the parking lot for a better view of Bromo. It started to rain and I saw a horse path going down towards Bromo with a sign that said “You need to buy a ticket at the ticket office”. The tickets were 217,000 R. There is a little guard shack at Cemara Indah Hotel, but there wasn’t anybody in it. I started walking and saw where all the Jeeps were meeting. I walked near them but then turned towards the Hindu temple. I didn’t see a ticket office but some people were trying to sell you flowers and horse rides. I just kept walking through the rain until I reached the steps that go up to the volcano. I declined several attempts from the other Indonesian tourists to have my picture taken with them (we’re here to see Bromo, not me!: ) ), and looked into the crater, breathed in too much sulfur, and then walked back to Yog. I booked another night with Yog, and left the next morning at 10 AM. There were 11 other tourists that had shown up and we met at the bottom of the hill and paid 40,000 R each to go back to the Probolinggo bus station. The minivan dropped us outside the bus terminal and it was up to us to go to the bus terminal, train station, or stay in town.