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Timor Leste Country Guide

Timor-Leste waged a long and tough struggle for independence, and so most references in the international media about this beautiful place have been about strife and tension. The wealth of natural scenic beauty of Timor-Leste thus got sidelined. Undisturbed by commercial tourist traffic, the waters along Timor Leste's coast boast of a rich marine ecosystem. The coral reefs here are home to a host of sea creatures. The Portuguese ruled over Timor-Leste for a period of four hundred years. The imprint of Portuguese influence can be seen in the country's architecture, cuisine and religion.

For all visa information please go to Visa information Page.

There aren't any resorts or golf courses in Timor-Leste and it is possibly the last country untouched by commercial tourism in Asia.

Our Timor-leste country travel guide below will give you all the important travel information you need to plan your holiday to Timor-Leste. There are also many interesting things to see and do in Timor-Leste, including some interesting local Timor-Leste tours and activities.

We recommend you read about travel in East Timor on GoNOMAD.

Check out the latest Timor-Leste Travel features on YouTube.

Timor-Leste Country Guide

Useful information on this page includes:


Climate/WeatherTop

Check out our six-day Timor-Leste weather forecast on our Timor-Leste weather page. The page also provides climate details and information on the best time to visit.

CommunicationTop

Telephone 
As part of its ongoing development plans Timor-Leste is making changes in its telephone infrastructure. The country code for Timor-Leste is 670. 

Dili and a few other urban areas have mobile connectivity, which is provided by Timor Telecom International. You may not be able to use the roaming facility on your mobile, as international roaming facilities are not yet readily available inside Timor-Leste. In some places you will find that satellite telephones are the only option available. 

Internet  

A few Internet cafes can be found in Dili, and as these are a recent feature, their charges are high. 

Post

Postal services do function inside Timor-Leste but in a very limited manner. 

Media

The national public radio and state-sponsored TV services were beamed to the public after Timor-Leste gained independence in May 2002. Before that, there was an interim service being broadcast under the aegis of the UN. The public radio services, which reach out to 90% of the populace have been instrumental in forming public opinion regarding national reconstruction. Television does not reach so many people. Several international agencies fund these radio and television stations, train the staff and provide the necessary equipment at times. 

Press
You will be able to get your daily quota of news from the two dailies circulated in Timor-Leste – the Timor Post and the Suara Timor Lorosae. For more reading there are a few weeklies available, one of them being the Jornal Nacional Semanario.

Currency/MoneyTop

The US dollar is the current currency in Timor-Leste. Credit cards are not accepted at all places so make sure you carry cash. Of course a few major establishments in Dili are equipped to process credit card payments. Traveller’s cheques are also an option for tourists, but these can be cashed only in Dili.

Keep a look out for Australian ANZ and Portuguese Banco Nacional Ultramarine (BNU) outlets for encashing your traveller’s cheques. Timor-Leste has just one ATM machine, which can be found at the ANZ outlet. The functioning of the ATM relies on the availability of power. And power does play hooky from time to time. It is more practical to carry sufficient cash and leave it in the hotel’s safe deposit box. A Western Union outlet in Dili can also be used for accessing cash.

Public HolidaysTop

If you are planning to visit Timor-Leste it will be a good idea to get acquainted with all the holidays in the current year. 

Follow the link to view a current list of public holidays in Timor-Leste.

Embassy LocationsTop

To view a list of Timor embassies around the world, as well as foreign embassies within Timor, click on this link to EmbassyWorld.com.

ElectricityTop

Visitors from developed countries might find it strange when confronted with the erratic nature of power supply in Timor-Leste. Power is supplied at 220V, 50 Hz and conditions will improve with overall development. Three-pin power plugs are standard for electrical appliances.

General InformationTop

Full name: Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste
Population: just under 998,000 people
Total Area: 15,007 square kilometres
Time Zone: GMT/UTC +9 hours
Capital City: Dili

To view the current time in Timor-Leste, click on this link to TimeAndDate.com.

LanguagesTop

Timor-Leste has about 30 main languages in use. Portuguese and Tetum are the official languages. Many people also speak Indonesian and English. Out of 37 native languages, only a few of them like Mambae, Kemak, Tetum and Galole are prevalent. 

Tetum and Bahasa Indonesia are the languages mostly in use. Portuguese, though spoken, is not so common because the language has not been taught formally.

Greetings & Tetum Phrases

Hello - Elo
Good morning - Bon dia
Good afternoon - Botarde
Good evening/good night - Bonoite
Goodbye - Hau ba lai or Adeus
See you later - Atelogu
See you tomorrow - Ate amanyá
Please - Favór ida
How are you? - Diak ka lai?
Fine, thank you - Diak, obrigadu (m) obrigada (f)
Where are you going? - Ita ba nebee?
What is your name? - Ita nia naran saida?
My name is - Hau nia naran
What is this? - Nee saida?
Where do you live? - Ita hela iha nebee?
How far is it? - Dook ka lae?
Is it on the left/right? - Iha liman karuk /loos ka?
Where is? - iha nebee?
Where is the market? - Merkadu (Basar) iha nebee?
Is the market far/close? - Basar dook/besik ka?
How much does this cost? - Nee folin hira?
That’s too expensive! - Karun los!
I will give you ... dollars - Hau foo dolar...
OK
, here’s the money - Diak, osan maka nee
Where is the hospital? - Klinika iha nebee?
Thank you (very much) - Obrigadu (m),Obrigada (f) (barak.)
Excuse me - Kolisensa
I’m sorry! - Deskulpa!

Days of the Week

Monday - Segunda
Tuesday - Tersa
Wednesday - Kuarta
Thursday - Kinta
Friday - Sesta
Saturday - Sabadu
Sunday - Dumingu

Months of the Year

January - Janeiru
February - Fevreiru
March - Marsu
April - Abril
May - Maiu
June - Junhu
July - Julhu
August - Agostu
September - Septembru
October - Otubru
November - Novembru
December - Dezrembru

Numbers

1 - Ida
2 - Rua
3 - Tolu
4 - Haat
5 - Lima
6 - Neen
7 - Hitu
8 - Walu
9 - Sia
10 - Sanulu
11 - Sanulu-resin-ida
20 - Ruanulu
21 - Ruanulu-resin-ida
30 - Tolunulu
100 - Atus ida
200 - Atus rua
1000 - Rihun ida
5000 - Rihun Lima

ReligionTop

The Portuguese brought the influence of the Catholic Church to Timor-Leste and the influence remains. About 92% of the populace are Catholics with Muslims making up 1.7%, Hindus 0.3% and Buddhists 0.1% of the remainder. Old beliefs regarding connections to spirits of the departed through natural media like stones, wells, animals, and streams still persist.

Visas/passportsTop

There is no need to obtain a visa before arriving in Timor-Leste. Upon arrival, tourists are issued a 30-day travel permit and charged US$30 for it. The stay period can be extended to a maximum of 90 days. Each subsequent extension will cost US$45. Travellers departing from here are required to pay a departing tax of US$10. Do be prepared with the right currency as there are no facilities for money exchange at the airport. 

For latest information please go to http://migracao.gov.tl/?page_id=32

Short stay entry visa is waived for Portuguese passport holders.  

Those who apply for a work visa need to furnish proof of employment. Businesspersons can apply for resident visas by providing proof that validates the registration of their business.

Note: It is recommended that you check the latest visa and passport requirements with your embassy before planning a trip to Timor. These rules are subject to changes very often.

 

LocationTop

The Timor Island lies within the Lesser Sunda cluster 300 miles to the north of Australia. The eastern half of this island is known as Timor-Leste. It occupies the eastern end of the Indonesian Archipelago. Oecussi or Ambeno, which lies in Indonesian-controlled West Timor, and the islands of Atauro and Jaco are also under the jurisdiction of Timor-Leste. 

To view a map of Timor-Leste, click on this link to WorldAtlas.com.

GeographyTop

The eastern half of the island of Timor, an eastern island of Indonesia, is referred to as Timor-Leste. Also included as part of Timor-Leste is the small island of Atauro, which lies 30km north of Dili, and a small portion of the western half of the island around Oecussi. Timor-Leste’s total area is around 15,000 square kilometres. Rugged mountains running majestically along the length of the island give it an added grace. The southern coastal plain has a few river deltas and swamps. Farming is difficult due to the rocky soil and scanty rainfall. As a result the country often faces water and food shortages, especially in the dry season. 

The presence of peaks like Mount Ramelau or Foto Tatamailau, reaching 2963m/9630 feet, makes the terrain mountainous. White sand beaches dominate the northern coast while the south coast is mainly rocky and dotted with black sand beaches here and there. While summer dries up riverbeds totally, the rains during winter fill them to the brim. 

Timor-Leste has one of the world’s most abundant marine ecosystems. The untouched coral reefs and undisturbed waters are host to around 1000 species of aquatic life forms. Pilot whales, endangered sea turtles, manta rays, dolphins, manatees, tuna, butterfly fish and several other interesting creatures can be observed here. The Timor Gap, which lies between East Timor and Australia, has rich deposits of oil and gas.

HistoryTop

Recent History
The half island of Timor-Leste threw off Portuguese rule on 28 November 1975. The independence was short lived as just nine days later Timor-Leste was attacked and occupied by Indonesian forces. By July 1976 Timor-Leste was appropriated as the province of Timor Timur.

For almost the next two decades, Indonesian rule prevailed, with several locals losing their lives in struggles against Indonesian occupation. 

A popular referendum, supervised by the United Nations, was held on 30 August 1999. The result was that the people of Timor-Leste voted unanimously for independence from Indonesia. Those in power did not receive the results well and the country saw a lot of rioting, which damaged a lot of its infrastructure. In an effort to help the country recover an Australian-led United Nations peacekeeping force was stationed in Timor-Leste. 

Finally, on 20 May 2002, East Timor attained the status of an independent democratic nation. The world’s newest democracy’s official name was the Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste.

The first presidential elections, in April 2002, brought the popular independence leader Xanana Gusmao to power. After becoming officially independent a month later the new president of Timor-Leste had numerous challenges ahead of him. Among his various responsibilities were negotiations with Australia regarding ownership of oil and gas reserves and continuing judicial proceedings against the rioters of the 1999 violence. The country’s economy is helped a lot by UN aid, Timor Sea royalties and help from other donors like Portugal. With the internal conditions improving the number of UN troops in the country was reduced from 3000 to 700 in May 2004. A few Australian peacekeepers were still stationed in Dili in 2006, to prevent resurgence of violence.

Health/SafetyTop

Diseases like dengue, Japanese encephalitis and malaria are common in Timor-Leste. So take adequate and effective measures to guard against mosquito bites. Carry a sufficient amount of insect repellent. It would also be sensible to take any anti-malarial precautions and medications advised by doctors. A comprehensive health insurance policy and precautionary health measures are a must before a trip to Timor-Leste. 

It would be prudent not to carry too many valuables around. Use minimal jewellery, have a copy of all your documents and keep your important papers safe. 

Due to several unresolved political issues the possibility of violence erupting in Timor-Leste is high. So tourists should stay away from large gatherings, avoid being out on the streets late at night and maintain extreme caution when around refugee camps. 

Hospitals and Doctors
Basic medical aid is available in hospitals and clinics in most places in Timor-Leste. Any major medical complications are generally referred to hospitals in Bali or Darwin. Tourists facing a medical emergency can approach the Dili National Hospital, located in Bidau Santana, Dili or Pante Makassar, Oecussi, which is near the port.

PeopleTop

Timor-Leste has a rich ethnic and cultural heritage due to the assimilation of different social groups, religions and languages. 

Each region in Timor-Leste has a distinct identity with the Malayo-Polynesian background or the Papuan mindset showing up markedly. A small Chinese minority also maintains its own individuality here. The thirteen districts here have a distinct persona in terms of culture and language. Cultural traditions abound in stories, dances and music. Records of these cultural heritages are created in the rich tais, a kind of traditional cloth woven by the women of each region. 

The population is mainly rural, with agriculture being the main occupation of the people. The two major urban areas are the capital city Dili and Baucau. These urban areas are grappling with issues like rebuilding and unemployment in the aftermath of the destruction following the vote for independence. The long-term goals are of overcoming poverty and reaching a sustainable economic growth level. People participation in the development process is evident and soon Timor-Leste will have education, health facilities and well being for all.

Local CustomsTop

Follow local customs when you visit Timor-Leste and have a peaceful holiday. Dress conservatively as revealing clothing is frowned upon. Sedate behaviour will be appreciated during religious days. Last but not least, refrain from public displays of affection.