Bargain with Dili's yellow taxi drivers before you start your journey. If you don't like bargaining, catch a metered blue taxi instead. There is a malae (foreigner) price for goods at roadside stalls – bargain for the local price.
Dangers & Annoyances
• Foreigners have been imprisoned for carrying small amounts of drugs or being in vehicles with others carrying drugs, so be aware of what is legal in Timor-Leste as well as who you're travelling with, what they're carrying or may be involved with. Laws can change quickly; recently Codeine was banned and pharmacists supplying or storing the drug were jailed.
• There are frequent reports of foreign women being sexually assaulted in Dili - this often happens during the day and in public areas so travel with others if possible.
• You can be jailed for up to 72 hours for not wearing a helmet on motorbike. Carry registration papers and your license with you while driving.
• Dengue fever is rife – avoid being bitten by mosquitoes by covering up as much as possible.
• Crocodiles occasionally swim in the ocean near river mouths.
Plug types E,G and I are common.
Embassies & Consulates
Emergency & Important Numbers
|Timor-Leste's country code||670|
|International access code||00|
|Police||112; 331 2383|
Entry & Exit Formalities
You can bring the following into Timor-Leste:
Alcohol 2.5L of any type
Money Declare amounts between US$5,000 and US$10,000. Higher amounts require authorisation from the Central Bank of Timor-Leste (info@bancocentral). For restrictions on taking cash out of the country, contact the Central Bank.
Australians, Irish and British visitors must pay for a visa on arrival at Dili's airport or seaport; US$30 for 30 days. Most other EU nationals are free. Most nationalities need a visa in advance for land border arrivals. Always ask for a 30-day visa, even if you don’t plan on staying that long – extending can be difficult. Tourist visas can be extended for 30 days (US$35) or 60 days (US$75). If needing a multiple-entry visa or to stay between 30 and 90 days, you can apply for Visa Application Authorisation online before arrival.
Land-Border Arrivals From Indonesia
All nationalities (other than Indonesian and Portuguese nationals) must apply for a Visa Application Authorisation prior to their arrival at the border – apply in person at a consulate (there's one in Kupang, though it's not always open) or via the Immigration Service’s website (http://migracao.gov.tl) and they'll email you a printable authorisation letter in about ten working days. You need to present this and the US$30 fee at the border.
• Many Timorese had family or friends killed during Indonesian occupation, so broach these topics carefully. Having said that, many are willing to share their stories.
• Paying a local to guide you up a mountain, to a waterfall or rock art spreads the tourist dollar and stops you inadvertently crossing onto sacred land.
• Timorese women are usually modestly dressed; it's respectful if travellers cover up too.
• Pay the mikrolet driver after you exit the vehicle.
• It's polite to lower your right arm and duck if you are walking in front/between people.
The LGBT community held its first Gay Pride Day rally in Dili in 2017, with public support from then Prime Minister Rui Maria de Araújo. Fundasaun Codiva is a local NGO with a focus on diversity and action. Public displays of affection between couples of any orientation are not usual in Timor-Leste.
Travel insurance is vital in Timor-Leste. Medical facilities outside Dili are limited and any serious cases generally get evacuated to Darwin or Singapore. Accordingly, travellers need to ensure that they have full evacuation coverage.
Checking insurance quotes…
Many hotels in Dili have slow wi-fi access, but the best bet is bringing an unlocked phone and using a local SIM for internet – it costs around US$1 a day. A Telemor dongle offers unlimited data for US$1 a day.
If you are the victim of a serious crime, go to the nearest police station and notify your embassy. If arrested, you have the right to a phone call and legal representation, which your embassy can help locate. The National Police Headquarters is in Dili.
There are few ATMs outside Dili. Expensive hotels sometimes accept credit cards.
Only tip if you genuinely feel the service deserves it. If you are asked to tip excessively post (an expensive) tour, suggest the guide asks his/her employer to increase their wages.
Budget and midrange restaurants and cafes morning until late
High-end restaurants noon to 2pm and 6 to 10pm
Small shops 9am to 6pm Monday to Friday
Supermarkets 8am to 8pm
Banks 9am to 4pm Monday to Friday
Timor-Leste has a long list of public holidays.
New Year’s Day 1 January
Veterans Day 3 March
Good Friday March/April (date varies)
World Labour Day 1 May
Restoration of Independence Day 20 May (the day in 2002 when sovereignty was transferred from the UN)
Corpus Christi Day May/June (date varies)
Idul Fitri End of Ramadan (date varies)
Popular Consultation Day 30 August (marks the start of independence in 1999)
Idul Adha Muslim day of sacrifice (date varies, usually September)
All Saints’ Day 1 November
All Souls’ Day 2 November
National Youth Day 12 November (commemorates the Santa Cruz Cemetery massacre)
Proclamation of Independence Day 28 November
Memorial Day 7 December
Day of Our Lady of Immaculate Conception and Timor-Leste Patroness 8 December
Christmas Day 25 December
National Heroes Day 31 December
- Smoking Common throughout the country and in buses, taxis, hotels and restaurants.
Taxes & Refunds
Taxes are included in the prices of goods and services. There is no tax refund system for tourists.
International access code 0011
International country code 670
Landline numbers 7 digits, starting with a 3
Mobile numbers 8 digits, starting with a 7
Easy-to-obtain Timor Telecom, Telkomsel and Telemor SIM cards can be used in unlocked phones. Coverage is good, though occasionally drops out.
Time is GMT +9 hours.
Hotels and restaurants have toilet facilities ranging from modern Western flush toilets to mandi-style (a hole in the ground with a bucket of water to flush). There are public facilities (often broken) at food stops in the districts. You may need to hunt down a key. Your best bet for regional travel is 'going bush' or asking at restaurants.
Timor-Leste doesn’t have a central tourist office, but Dili's expat community is especially generous with information. Language barriers aside, locals are often happy to help.
Travel with Children
Travelling with children is a big adventure in Timor-Leste (as if it's not adventurous enough!). Dili's roads are fine for pushchairs, but roads in regional areas are rougher. Supplies (nappies, formula etc) are good in Dili but you'll need to take your own supplies if you're travelling with children to the districts. Despite there being loads of kids in Timor-Leste, yours will no doubt be a focus of attention for locals wherever you go.
Kids are welcomed with play equipment at Beloi Beach Hotel on Ataúro, and Lauhata Beach Escape in Liquiçá. In Dili, stay where there are swimming pools: Dive Timor Lorosae and Esplanada are two good choices (and both have onsite restaurants), though there are no pool fences.
In Dili, Chega! and the Resistance Museum are probably too full-on for kids, but they'll love a trip in a mikrolet (small minibus), and a before-dark walk up the steps to the Jesus statue at Cristo Rei (with a fresh coconut water at Caz Bar afterwards).
Younger kids might enjoy shell hunting and playing in the sand at Adara, on Ataúro. The boat ride to get there is long, but pretty.
Souvenir-wise, kids seem to love the carved wooden crocodiles from Empreza Di'ak at Ataúro. (They might be able to spot the real thing on the road from Dili to Baucau/Lautem – but if they don't, the traffic-blocking buffalo crossing the road make a cool enough sight.)
Download Lonely Planet's free Accessible Travel guide from http://lptravel.to/AccessibleTravel.
Timor-Leste's footpaths pose problems for people with disabilities; local wheelchair users tend to use the road.
The tour companies operating in Dili should be able to take visitors' needs on board and suggest itineraries and places that are more accessible than others.
Many NGOs and local organisations take on volunteers to assist in a wide variety of roles.
Blue Ventures (www.blueventures.org) runs regular six-week Marine Conservation Expeditions at Ataúro, which is a pay-for 'volunteer' diving course.
It is essential to do your homework about the organisations and their work. Lonely Planet does not endorse any organisations that we do not work with directly.
Weights & Measures
- Weights & Measures The metric system is used
Sanitary products are available in Dili, but can be scarce in the districts.
There are still employment opportunities for foreigners in Timor-Leste; check www.jobs.creativebridgedili.com for opportunities. In order to work in Timor-Leste, you'll need to apply for the appropriate Work Permit or Residence Visa, which can be downloaded from www.migracao.gov.tl and lodged with the Ministry of Interior at the Immigration Service of Timor-Leste.