Timor-Leste is known as Asia’s newest nation, located in the bio-geographically diverse area of Wallacea, a unique area between South East Asia and Australia. Timor-Leste is a small nation that only has an area of 14,000 sq/Km and a population of 924,000 people; most of whom live and work in rural areas. The Timorese people have been known to offer a warm and friendly welcome to all. Located 2660 km from Singapore it’s within easy reach of some of the best shopping in the world.
Timor actually has a history of human occupation that dates back to 35,000 years ago.
Timor-Leste has some of the most amazing wildlife on Earth including the Tokay Gecko that grow to 30 cm, the very bright Green Tree Pit Viper, Reticulated Pythons that grow to 8 m, over 240 species of bird with some 31 species only seen on Timor and its surrounding islands, an incredible diversity of marine life that is truly world class, this region is actually known to some as “The Amazon of the Seas” even Dolphins and Pilot Whales can be seen on diving trips.
PLACES OF INTEREST
Timor-Leste has so many amazing and spectacular sights, we cannot fit them all in here, but some of the favorites would be; natural sanctuary of Jaco island with its white sandy beaches and offshore coral fringe, swimming or relaxing on the un spoilt beaches of Dollar Beach and Tutula Beach, visiting the 3,500 year old red ochre drawings at the windswept caves of Ile Kere Kere, Scuba Diving the world class dive sites of Com, Dili Rock, K57 and Ata’uro Island, an adventurous trek on the 2986m Mt Ramelau that soars above the valley below and is the biggest mountain in Timor-Leste and finally the brilliant bird watching areas of Conis Santana N.P. and Tasi-tolu wetlands is a must.
As Timor-Leste is located in the tropics it has two main seasons, the dry season from May to October and the wet season from November to May. Timor-Leste has an average temperature of 19.c in the evening to 30.c during the day. At altitudes above 600m once can expect daytime temperatures to sit around 24.c. As Timor-Leste has mountains exceeding 2500m, one can expect cool temperatures down to 5.c so you should allow for this if embarking on an adventurous mountain trek.
It is strongly recommended to consult a specialist travel clinic (TMVC) to get up to date information on the region 3 to 6 months prior to departure to Timor-Leste. The usual travel precautions to mosquitoes apply to Timor-Leste as does drinking clean bottled / boiled water.
The Australian Embassy has a health clinic established for Australian Passport holders only. For other emergencies one should get in contact with the National Hospital Guido Valadares (Ph 112 Emergencies Only) in the capital Dili. Otherwise there are a number of health clinics and pharmacies open throughout Dili.
For Scuba Divers we strongly recommend divers insurance with D.A.N. (Divers Alert Network) as the closest facilities for diving emergencies are in Darwin, Australia or Denpasar, Bali. Others who choose to undertake day hikes and mountain treks should they carry sufficient water for the trip ahead.
Timor-Leste has had in the past a turbulent history but more recently safety and security have improved. All travelers should be aware that their personal property must be secure, motor vehicles locked, personal possessions secured as should hotel rooms. Advice should be sought when travelling to some areas or locations particularly at night and we recommend you obtain as much information prior to travelling and consult with your government and foreign affairs for up to date advice and information.
It is recommended to use Taxi’s to get around the main town area of Dili. Taxis will usually operate 4km route between the Airport and Dili when flights operate. You can organize mini buses for trips to other parts of Timor-Leste.
There are a few car rental companies and one motorcycle Hire Company established in Dili. Driving in the mountainous inner can prove difficult in the wet season so we recommend discussing this with the hire company beforehand. Consult the UN Mission or UN Police in Dili for more information on driving and general travel outside of Dili.
The new 50m Roh Nakroma ferry does trips to the famous diving and snorkeling island of Ata’uro and other Timor-Leste ports. One can also negotiate a charter speed boat to go to other areas if needed. A number of tour operators exist for both land and sea activities; so please ask us for advice at the time of booking.
The official language of Timor-Leste is Portuguese. The local language is Tetum which is a Malayo-Polynesian language. Indonesian and English are also widely spoken. There are various indigenous dialects spoken in Timor-Leste.
IMMIGRATION AND VISA REQUIREMENTS
Welcome to Asia’s newest nation. Visas are required for most international travelers; this can be done on arrival at a charge of US$ 30 for a 30 day visa and if required they can be extended in Dili for US$ 35 for an additional 30 day stay.
Timor-Leste is one of only two countries in Asia with a predominantly Christian population, the other being the Philippines. Roman Catholics make up 91% of the population, with the remainder being Muslim, Protestant, Hindu, Buddhist and traditional local minorities.
MONEY AND BANKING
The local currency is the US Dollar. Local centavo coins are used, but these cannot be used outside of Timor-Leste. Credit Cards are accepted in most mid-range to upper-range restaurants and hotels and some large supermarkets. Both ANZ Bank and Western Union have offices in Dili along with BNU and Bank Mandiri. ATM’s can be found in most banks so those wishing to take funds out via Debit/Credit Cards should ensure these cards have Cirrus/Maestro facilities – often on back of cards. ANZ Bank has a number of ATMs in Dili.
Timor-Leste’s mail is handled by Correios in Dili. DHL, TNT and FEDEX have offices established in Dili to handle freight.
A small number of basic internet cafes exist in Dili with a few offering broadband services, broadband can also be found in the better hotels throughout Dili. Timor Telecom operates the phone services and unlocked mobile phones should be able to accept a Timor Telecom Sim Card with prepaid phone slips. One can also keep in touch with the latest news by listening to Radio Australia on 106.5FM Dili.
Timor-Leste’s country code is 670 and the international access code is 00. The emergency service number is 112.
CLOTHING AND FOOTWEAR
Clothing should be cool and comfortable. Conservative dress is recommended for women and nudity by anyone in public places is considered very offensive. Light weight long pants and long sleeve shirts are useful at night to protect exposed skin from mosquito bites. Mosquitoes are known to dislike bright areas so light colour clothing could also be useful. Smart casual is required for most restaurants especially during evening meal service.
Closed light footwear is best for around Dili and solid trekking sandals also be useful, but for walks through the jungle or bush, sturdy shoes are a must. Reef shoes are advisable for snorkelling and diving.
A fleece top and wet weather gear is highly recommended for those wishing to undertake a mountain trek.
EATING OUT AND NIGHT LIFE
Timor-Leste grows one of the finest coffees in the world; the high altitude Arabica Bean with its original flavor characteristic it’s not to be missed. Dili has a local tradition of finding a spot by the beach to watch the sun go down over Alor islands whilst enjoying your favorite beverage.
Dili and its surround have a wide range of international cuisine that is influenced by Portugal, Indonesia, China, Japan, Australia and its other neighbor countries. Australian quality meat can be found and the local Tofu and Tempeh dishes come highly recommended. As one might expect with a Portuguese influence one can find some delicious sweets at the Timorese bakeries.
Dili has many bars with some offering live music and entertainment. We would recommend you get hold of the free publication Guide Post Magazine for all the local information.
Timor-Leste is widely known for the beautiful local craft of producing Tais (Traditional cloth) – a local product that represents the Timorese identity, Tais is normally woven with fine cotton by hand in many different designs on simple wooden looms.
Dili has a number of supermarkets that stock a wide range of western supplies from Australia and Singapore, local family shops stock the essentials and can be found to be open late into the night.
Head off to the Taibessi Market to find your local products (Tais, wood carvings and other local crafts).