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Backpacking Java itinerary for 14 days on a budget (from $18 per day).

If you are looking for an adventure that is out of the ordinary, how about traveling overland through the Indonesian island of Java? Indonesia is one of the cheapest places to backpack in South East Asia but so many westerners go to Bali and don’t venture outside their comfort zone.

My boyfriend and I traveled for 2 weeks in Java on an average of USD $18.50 per person, per day. This included taking an overnight guided tour of the “blue fire” crater, eating incredible Indonesian food daily, visiting one of the most famous temples in South East Asia, and even splurging on a nice hotel and facial (okay, that one was just me).

This post will help you plan your backpacking Indonesia itinerary and estimate how much money you will need.

Backpacking Java tips include:

  • How to get to Java, Indonesia (and where it is)
  • Java island points of interest
  • Backpacking Java itinerary and how to get around
  • My two weeks in Indonesia budget for Java.

Where is Java, Indonesia?

Java is located between the Indonesian islands of Bali (to the east), Sumatra (to the west), and Kalimantan (to the north). The Indonesia archipelago has over 18,000 islands, depending on how you count them. Indonesia’s closest neighboring countries are Australia, Singapore, Malaysia, and Papua New Guinea.

The cheapest flights to Indonesia will be from neighboring countries. If you are flying from further away it might be more cost-effective to fly to a major capital in South East Asia then take another flight with a budget airline.

Planning a trip to Indonesia? See my 6-day budget itinerary for Bali.
Map of Java, Indonesia - CC BY-SA 3.0 Wiki Commons

Map of Java, Indonesia (East Java is highlighted in green). Photo credit CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=484037

Java island points of interest

So why visit Java? The Indonesian island has many attractions which can not be found anywhere else in the world. Here are some to add to your Indonesia itinerary.

Ijen Crater

The Kawah Ijen in East Java has the world’s largest acidic lake with water the color of turquoise. The volcano expels sulfurous gases which ignite in the atmosphere and appear as blue flames at night. This is one of the only places in the world that you can see these unusual occurrences. Ijen Crater tours make pickups from hotels in Banyuwangi.

Mount Bromo

Although it is not the tallest mountain in Indonesia, Mount Bromo is the most-visited and most-hiked. Tourists go for its sunrise views and to peak inside the crater. Tours depart from Surabaya or Probolinggo but it is possible (and cheaper) to do it yourself. Our Ijen tour guide recommended Kingkong Hill as the best lookout to watch the sunrise over Bromo.

Prambanan and Borobudur

In the Special Region of Yogyakarta, there are two spectacular temples to visit. Prambanan is a Hindu temple complex with over 22 temples in total. Borobudur Temple Compounds is a Buddhist monument. Both temples can be reached by tours or visited on your own from Yogyakarta.

Borobodur, Yogyakarta, Indonesia - backpacking java itinerary

Backpacking Java itinerary

We arrived by ferry in Ketapang, Java from Gilimanuk, Bali (7,500 IDR each) then traveled from east to west with stops in Bayuwangi, Surabaya, Yogyakarta, Bandung, and Jakarta. If you want to travel from west to east, you could fly to Jakarta or arrive by ferry from Singapore or Sumatra.

Once you are on the island, it is extremely easy to travel around by train. Java has a large train system that connects all the major cities. To get from the train station to your accommodation, or for shorter trips, I would recommend using the “ride-hailing” app, Grab to order a car or motorbike. You will need to buy a local sim (we paid 40,000 IDR for a sim card with 4.5GB of data) but it will save you a lot of money and hassle.

Day 1: Banyuwangi

Where to stay in Banyuwangi: Umah Isun BSD (125,000 IDR per night).

Where to eat in Banyuwangi: Street food vendors selling Mie Goreng (8,000 IDR).

Almost all tourists who come to Banyuwangi are there to see Ijen. As the tours run at night (usually with a pick up at around midnight), you will have at least one full day in town. I would recommend eating as much street food as possible. We had Mie Goreng (fried noodles) for just 8000 IDR. If you are looking for a bit of excitement in Banyuwangi, the bad news is that there are no bars or places to buy alcohol. Your hike up Ijen is going to be very strenuous, so I would suggest taking it easy anyway. As an alternative to beer, CVB is a cafe, vape store, and hookah lounge with friendly staff and a relaxed vibe.

The Ijen tours should include transport to and from Ijen, a guide, water, and gas masks. Make sure you are clear with what is and isn’t included when negotiating. In total, we paid 270,000 IDR each with the price of the entrance fee. Our tour guide tried to overcharge us. The agreed fee was based on the number of people in the tour, splitting the cost of the driver and tour guide. So the more people, the smaller the fee. After making a prepayment for a tour of three people, we arrived to find five people on our tour. The tour guide was unsurprisingly not helpful so I called the owner directly to get our refund.

Tours usually leave around midnight with an hour drive to the park entrance. Then you have a 90-minute walk to the top of the mountain. You need to be in decent shape to do the walk and it’s not fun (especially coming back down) but trust me, the experience is worth it. As you get closer to the crater, the air will become thicker with sulfur and you will have to wear your gas mask. Reaching the crater while it is still dark, is when you will see the “blue flames” after that the groups wait for the sun to rise over the acidic lake (I fell asleep on a rock and missed dawn) before making the grueling trek back.

Ijen Crater - backpacking java itinerary

Technically it is possible to do it without a guide (don’t forget your gas mask!) but I wouldn’t want to have to drive a scooter that far in the middle of the night and then back after a huge hike. Two tour companies we heard good things about were BlueFlame Tours and Ijen Blue Tour.

If you are in Bali and want to Ijen without the hassle of organizing transportation, there is a Mount Ijen Volcanic Crater Overnight Trip with pick up from your hotel in Bali.

Day 2: Train from Banyuwangi to Surabaya

After our overnight hike of Ijen, we were dropped off at Umah Isun BSD to find the lovely owner waiting for us with breakfast.

Our train to was booked for 11 am so it gave us time to take a shower, sleep for a couple of hours, and take a Grab car to the train station. From Banyuwangi to Surabaya, our train took over 6 hours, most of which I was sleeping. A ticket for the executive class cost us 190,000 IDR. If you are planning to go to Mt Bromo, then you can also get off at Probolinggo.

Day 3-4: Surabaya

Where to stay in Surabaya: Krowi inn (230,000 IDR per night).

Where to eat in Surabaya: Depot Mie 168, Jl. Walikota Mustajab 52 (Ondomohen), Surabaya

Mount Bromo is over 3 hours from Surabaya (or 1.5 hours from Probolinggo) with an entrance fee of 217,500 IDR on weekdays and 317,500 IDR without even considering the cost of a guide and/or transport (although there are some people who managed to visit for free).  After visiting Ijen, we deciding to skip Mount Bromo and save the cash. If you don’t mind paying for the experience there is a 2-Day Sunrise Trekking Tour from Surabaya and 3-Day Excursion to Mount Bromo and Ijen Crater from Bali.

One of the most popular things to do in Surabaya is to visit the Sampoerna, cigarette factory and museum. This may seem like an odd thing but it is highly rated and has a free city tour. We ended up skipping the sightseeing in Surabaya and concentrated on eating and drinking.

Our favorite place to eat was Depot Mie Lemper Ayam 168. We had the Pangsit Mie Ayam and Mie Bakwan (30,000 IDR each), as well as two Lemper Ayam Special 168 (10,000 IDR each) which is compacted coconut-flavored rice with tasty chicken inside the parcel. We made friends with one of the owners, Rusmin. He and his wife invited us out to enjoy the nightlife of Surabaya. If you are looking for a place to have a drink, then check out Our Bar, Hops, Coyote Bar, and Surabaya Town Square (the mall near our guesthouse, Krowi inn).

Where to eat in Surabaya - Depot Mie 168

Day 5: Train from Surabaya to Yogyakarta

From Surabaya to Yogyakarta we bought economy seats on a train for 165,000 IDR each. The journey was over 5 hours and we killed time by watching a TV series on our laptop.

Day 6-8: Yogyakarta

Where to stay in Yogyakarta: Yogyakarta BNB (180,000 IDR per night).

Where to eat in Yogyakarta: Roti Van Java, Jl. Parangtritis No.2, Brontokusuman, Mantrijeron, Kota Yogyakarta

Yogyakarta is a cultural delight. The heart of the city is Malioboro which is a long street lined with vendors selling cheap clothes, food, and juices. There is a real energy to Malioboro and it is a place to hang out and people watch.

The two main attractions, Prambanan and Borobudur temples are outside of the city and in opposite directions. The entrance cost is USD $25 each or $40 for a combined ticket. This might not seem like much but when you are traveling on less than USD $20 per day, it is huge.

We decided just to go to Borobudur and rented a scooter (60,000 IDR) to get there. If you prefer to take a tour, there are a few options including Borobudur Sunrise & Prambanan Full Day TourPrambanan Temple Sunset Tour, and Borobudur Temple Half Day Tour.

A cheaper attraction that is also inside the city is the water palace, Taman Sari, which is only 15,000 IDR entrance fee.

Taman Sari water palace - backpacking java itinerary

Overnight train from Yogyakarta to Bandung

As we had traveled in economy class from Surabaya to Yogyakarta, I thought it would be fine to do the same overnight to Bandung. For whatever reason, the condition of the train we took to Bandung was far worse with more people packed into the carriage. Instead of 2-seaters, there were 3-seaters lined up on either side and not enough space for bags. I suggest upgrading for more comfort and a night of better sleep.

Day 9-11: Bandung

Where to stay in Bandung: Fabu Hotel (234,000 per night).

Where to eat in Bandung: Street food vendors selling Mie Goreng and Nasi Goreng (14,000 each) or Mie Baso (10,000 IDR).

To break up the long journey between Yogyakarta and Jakarta, we stopped in Bandung. We had read online that there were some cool things to see out of the city but once we arrived it was a nightmare to hire a scooter. The few places we did manage to find were quoting us huge fees to hire a bike (in comparison to the 60,000 IDR per day we paid in Canggu and Yogyakarta) and even higher amounts for a tour.

To make up for the lack of adventure, we used the money to splurge on a nice hotel, Fabu Hotel. The great thing about traveling in Java is that you don’t have to spend too much to treat yourself. I took it as a workation, and on breaks, we would eat street food and walk around.

For your coffee fix, try the Instagram-worthy Wiki Koffie or Warung Kopi.

Mie Baso - eating street food in Bandung

Day 12: Train from Bandung to Jakarta

On our last leg of our overland journey from Banyuwangi to Jakarta, we took the 4-hour train from Bandung for 90,000 IDR each in economy class.

Day 13-14: Jakarta

Where to stay in Jakarta: Ahira Backpackers (175,000 IDR per night).

Where to eat in Jakarta: Street food vendors selling noodles in Chinatown (10,000 IDR).

My favorite thing to do in Jakarta was to walk around Chinatown. The little alleys are full of market stalls and all sorts of interesting things for sale. We purchased pistachios and cashews to munch on while taking the bus back to the guesthouse.

Closet to Chinatown is Kotatua, the old town with preserved buildings from European colonization. The area is now used as a historical and cultural hub with museums and galleries. We visited the Jakarta History Museum and Museum of Fine Arts and Ceramics (both 10,000 IDR entrance).

Kota Tua - backpacking java itinerary

I was excited to learn about the cities’ past but the Jakarta History Museum was surprisingly small. It started with an exhibit of indigenous relics without referring to the period of time or providing much information. After that, there were a few more exhibits of specific points in history and then a condensed timeline at the end. If I wasn’t so disappointed about the lack of information, it would have been funny.

The Museum of Fine Arts and Ceramics is pretty interesting and well worth the money.

Museum of Fine Arts and Ceramics, Jakarta - backpacking java itinerary


My travel budget for Java

All costs are quoted for two people and in the local currency (Indonesian Rupees). See below for the average daily spend per person including currency conversion to USD and AUD. I always try to find and negotiate the best prices to share with my readers. If you know of a better deal, tell me about it in the comments below.

Accommodation: My boyfriend and I searched for the best deals for private rooms with free wifi.

Food: Each place that we stayed, except for in Banyuwangi and Bandung, had free water refills and hot water to make instant noodles or coffee. In Banyuwangi, Surabaya, and Yogyakarta we had complimentary breakfast. For other meals, Max and I mostly ate street food and at local restaurants but also splurged on the occasional mid-range cost meal. We also indulged in fast food – you would too after weeks of eating rice and noodles. (128,420 IDR average per day on food and drink).

Activities: Facial for one in Banyuwangi (150,000), Ijen Tour (540,000), entrance to Taman Sari (30,000), entrance to Borobodur (675,000), entrance to Museum of Fine Arts and Ceramics (10,000), entrance to Jakarta History Museum (10,000).

Transport: Ferry from Gilimanuk, Bali to Banyuwangi, Java (13,000), Grab car to guesthouse in Banyuwangi (33,000),  Grab car to train station in Banyuwangi (18,000), train to Surabaya (380,000), Grab car to the guesthouse in Surabaya (30,000), Grab car from the mall back to guesthouse (15,000), Grab car to train station in Surabaya (15,000), train to Yogyakarta (330,000), scooter rental for 1 day in Yogyakarta (60,000), petrol for scooter (18,000), train to Bandung (460,000), train to Jakarta (180,000), bus to Kota Tua (40,000). Museum of Fine Arts and Ceramics (10,000), Jakarta History Museum (10,000).

Other: Clothes washing in Surabaya (40,000), clothes washing in Jakarta (54,000), fees to use toilets (3,000).

Average daily spend: 264,310 IDR each* ($23.62 AUD / $18.50 USD as of 12 February 2018).

*This daily amount could be reduced by only eating street food or at local restaurants.

 

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