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Timor-Leste

TIMOR-LESTE TRAVEL GUIDE

Timor-Leste, or East Timor, a Southeast Asian nation occupying half the island of Timor, is ringed by coral reefs teeming with marine life. Landmarks in the capital, Dili, speak to the country's struggles for independence from Portugal in 1975 and then Indonesia in 2002. The iconic 27m-tall Cristo Rei de Dili statue sits on a hilltop high over the city, with sweeping views of the surrounding bay.

 

Timor-Leste has some of the best scuba diving in the world, and this is a major draw for tourists with East Timor shore diving becoming known worldwide amongst the diving community. Pristine beaches and coral reefs stand in stark contrast to one of the poorest populations on Earth.

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  • Capital: Dili

  • Currency: US dollar (USD) East Timor Centavo coins(U.S. coins are not used)

  • Area: 15,007 km2

  • Population: 1,268 million (2018)

  • Language: Tetum (official), Portuguese (official), Indonesian, English, 37 indigenous languages

  • Religion: Roman Catholic 90%, Muslim 4%, Protestant 3%, Hindu 0.5%, Buddhist, Animist (1992 est.)

  • Electricity: 220V/50Hz (Shuko Euro plug)

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SEASONS AT A GLANCE

Most destinations have different times of the year when they’re more or less popular with tourists. 

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Timor-Leste

BEST TIME FOR

SNOW SPORT IN TIMOR-LESTE

HIKING & CYCLING IN TIMOR-LESTE

The best time to enjoy outdoor activities in Timor-Leste is during the dry season from April to November.

BEACH OPTIONS IN TIMOR-LESTE

The best time for relaxing on the beaches of Timor-Leste is during the dry season from April to November. However, during the rainy season the temperatures slightly higher, and the waters warm for diving and snorkelling.

SURFING IN TIMOR-LESTE

If you are looking for surf in Timor-Leste, you will need to go at the peak of the swell season during the months of June, July and August.

KITESURF IN TIMOR-LESTE

Timor-Leste has suitable conditions for kitesurfing from May to September, but it remains a rather adventurous destination for the brave traveller.

BEST TIME FOR

BEST TIME TO VISIT TIMOR-LESTE

Timor-Leste has two main seasons: the dry season and the rainy season.

 

  • The dry season runs from April to November, and is characterized by clear skies, low humidity, and little to no rainfall. This is the best time to visit the country, as it is more pleasant to explore the country's natural beauty and cultural sites.
  • The rainy season starts in December and lasts until March, and is characterized by heavy rainfall and high humidity. The weather is more unpredictable during this time and it can be more difficult to travel, especially in rural areas where roads may be flooded or blocked. The heavy rain may also limit the availability of certain activities and sights.

There are also two transitional seasons, the cool season and the hot season, these are between the dry season and rainy season. The cool season is between November and December, the weather is pleasant and the temperature is around 30 °C. The hot season is between March and April, the weather is hot and humid, temperatures can reach up to 35 °C.

 

The best time to visit Timor-Leste is between April and November, during the dry season. The weather is more pleasant and it is less likely to rain, making it easier to explore the country's natural beauty and cultural sites. However, it can be quite hot during the day, so it is important to wear lightweight clothing and stay hydrated. The rainy season runs from December to March, with heavy rainfall and high humidity, which can make it more difficult to travel.

TIMOR-LESTE WEATHER SYNOPSIS

The climate of Timor-Leste is characterised by extreme conditions. The country has a monsoon climate, which is typical for the Asian tropics. In the north of the country, there is little or no rain for almost eight months of the year. From December to March, northwest to southwest winds prevail, bringing the principal wet season for the year to most parts of the country. From May to October, southeast to northeast winds prevail, bringing mostly dry conditions, except on the south coast and the southern slopes where the wet season persists until July. There is little temperature variation on either a diurnal or a seasonal basis. Temperature variations mainly occur with altitude. Average annual temperatures decrease from 27°C at sea level to 24°C at 500 m; 21°C at 1000 m; 18°C at 1500 m and 14°C at 2000 m. Relative humidity varies between 70 and 80%, which makes the climate humid. Timor-Leste is influenced by El Nino and La Nina rainfalls. The average annual rainfall is around 1500 mm, varying from 565 mm at Manatuto along the northern coast to 2837 mm at Lolotai in the central-western mountains. Extremely heavy rainfall occasionally occurs in Timor-Leste during relatively short time intervals.

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TIMOR-LESTE TRAVEL COSTS

The cost of traveling to Timor-Leste can vary depending on a number of factors, such as the time of year, the length of your stay, and your travel style. However, generally speaking, Timor-Leste is a relatively inexpensive destination.

  • Accommodation: You can find budget-friendly accommodation options such as guesthouses and homestays starting from around $10-15 per night, and mid-range options like hotels and resorts starting from around $30-40 per night.
  • Food: Food is relatively cheap in Timor-Leste, with local meals starting at around $2-3, and Western-style meals starting at around $5-10.
  • Transportation: Transportation costs can vary depending on how you choose to get around. Public transport is relatively inexpensive, with bus and minivan rides costing around $1-2. Taxis are also available, but they can be more expensive. Car rental is also available and it can range from $30-60 per day.
  • Activities: Many activities in Timor-Leste are free or low-cost, such as visiting cultural sites, hiking, and visiting the beaches. Some activities may have an entrance fee, such as visiting a national park or taking a boat tour, but these fees are generally low.

Overall, you can expect to spend around $50-70 per day for budget travel, and around $100-150 per day for mid-range travel.

 

Here is a sample budget for a budget-friendly trip to Timor-Leste:

  • Accommodation: $10-15 per night for a budget guesthouse or homestay
  • Food: $2-3 per meal for local food, $5-10 per meal for Western-style food
  • Transportation: $1-2 per bus or minivan ride, $30-60 per day for car rental
  • Activities: Free for most activities such as visiting cultural sites, hiking, and visiting the beaches, $5-10 for an entrance fee for some activities like visiting a national park or taking a boat tour.

Total daily cost: $30-50 per day

 

Please note that this is a rough estimate and actual costs may vary depending on personal preferences, location, and other factors. In addition, it's always a good idea to have a bit of extra money set aside for unexpected expenses.

 

Also, it's worth mentioning that prices for goods and services may vary in different areas of the country, and that it may be more expensive in the capital city Dili compare to other parts of the country.

Cost & Spending
Travel Tips

TRAVEL TIPS FOR TIMOR-LESTE

TIMOR-LESTE TRAVEL TIPS

Here are some travel tips for Timor-Leste:

  • Get a visa in advance: Visitors to Timor-Leste will need to obtain a visa before arriving in the country. This can be done at a Timorese embassy or consulate, or online through the Electronic Visa System.
  • Bring cash: While some places in Dili and a few other larger towns accept credit cards, cash is still the most widely accepted form of payment in Timor-Leste. It is also a good idea to bring some small denomination notes as change can be hard to come by.
  • Be prepared for power cuts: Power outages are common in Timor-Leste, especially in rural areas. Be sure to bring a flashlight or headlamp, and consider bringing a power bank to keep your electronic devices charged.
  • Dress conservatively: Timor-Leste is a predominantly Catholic country, and it is respectful to dress modestly when visiting religious sites or rural areas. Women should avoid wearing revealing clothing, and men should avoid wearing shorts.
  • Learn some basic Tetun: Tetun is the national language of Timor-Leste and it is widely spoken. Even though many people in Dili and a few other towns speak English, it's always appreciated to know some basic phrases in Tetun.
  • Hire a local guide: Timor-Leste is a fascinating country with a rich culture and history, and hiring a local guide can greatly enhance your understanding and appreciation of the country.
  • Be aware of the political situation: Timor-Leste has a history of political instability and while it has been relatively peaceful in recent years, it is always a good idea to stay informed about the current situation and avoid any political rallies or demonstrations.
  • Respect local customs: Timor-Leste has a diverse culture and it is important to respect local customs and traditions while traveling. This includes removing shoes before entering a traditional house, and not taking photographs of people without permission.
Regions & Highlights

REGIONS & HIGHLIGHTS OF TIMOR-LESTE

SIGHTS & HIGHLIGHTS OF TIMOR-LESTE

Timor-Leste is a small country located on the eastern half of the island of Timor in Southeast Asia. It is divided into 13 administrative districts, which can be grouped into several main regions:

  • Dili: The capital city of Timor-Leste and the main entry point for most visitors. Dili is home to a number of historical and cultural sites, including the Presidential Palace, the Santa Cruz Cemetery, and the Museum of East Timor.
  • Baucau: The second-largest city in Timor-Leste and a popular destination for those interested in history and culture. Baucau is home to the Pousada de Baucau, a restored colonial-era building that now serves as a hotel and cultural center, and the Baucau Fort, a Portuguese fort built in the 17th century.
  • Liquiçá: Known for its beautiful beaches, traditional villages, and historic churches. The city of Liquiçá is home to the impressive Se Cathedral, a colonial-era church that is one of the largest in Southeast Asia, and the nearby village of Metinaro is known for its traditional houses and weaving.
  • Viqueque: The region is known for its traditional villages, beautiful beaches, and historic fortresses. The town of Viqueque is home to the impressive Viqueque Fortress, a Portuguese fort built in the 18th century, and the nearby village of Uatolari is known for its traditional houses and weaving.
  • Ermera: Known for its coffee, tea and rice plantations, and beautiful mountain scenery. The town of Ermera is home to the impressive Cristo Rei statue, a statue of Jesus Christ overlooking the town.
  • Oecusse: The exclave of Timor-Leste, separated from the rest of the country by West Timor. Oecusse is known for its beautiful beaches and traditional villages. The town of Pante Makassar is home to a traditional market and the nearby village of Hatolia is known for its traditional houses and weaving.
  • Lautem: Known for its traditional villages and beautiful beaches. The town of Lospalos is home to the impressive Lospalos Fort, a Portuguese fort built in the 18th century, and the nearby village of Tutuala is known for its traditional houses and beautiful beaches.
  • Bobonaro: Known for its traditional villages and beautiful beaches. The town of Maliana is home to the impressive Maliana Fort, a Portuguese fort built in the 18th century.

Each region has its own unique culture, history, and natural beauty to explore. It is worth to visit different regions of Timor-Leste to get a sense of the diversity of this country.

What To See & Do
Travel Map

Timor-Leste is a country with a rich culture and history, and there are many things to see and do when visiting. Here are some of the best things to see and do in Timor-Leste:

  • Explore Dili: The capital city of Timor-Leste is a great place to start your visit. The city has a number of historical and cultural sites, including the Presidential Palace, the Santa Cruz Cemetery, and the Museum of East Timor.
  • Visit the Pousada de Baucau: This restored colonial-era building is now a hotel and cultural center in Baucau and is a must-see for those interested in history and culture.
  • Take a beach holiday: Timor-Leste has some of the most beautiful beaches in Southeast Asia, and they are perfect for swimming, snorkeling, and sunbathing. Some of the best beaches are located in Liquiçá and Oecusse.
  • Explore traditional villages: Timor-Leste is home to many traditional villages that offer a glimpse into the country's rich culture and history. Some of the best traditional villages to visit include Uatolari and Hatolia.
  • Visit historic fortresses: Timor-Leste has a number of historic fortresses that offer a glimpse into the country's colonial past. Some of the best fortresses to visit include Viqueque Fortress and Lospalos Fort.
  • Try the local cuisine: Timor-Leste has a diverse cuisine that is influenced by its Portuguese and Indonesian heritage. Some of the best dishes to try include seafood dishes like grilled fish or caldeirada, traditional dishes like bakso (meatball soup) and pudim (custard).
  • Go trekking: Timor-Leste has some of the most beautiful and unspoiled natural landscapes in Southeast Asia. There are many trekking routes available in the country, and they offer a great way to explore the country's natural beauty.
  • Visit the Cristo Rei statue: It's a statue of Jesus Christ overlooking the town of Ermera, a must-see for those who are interested in religious sites.
  • Attend traditional dances or ceremonies: Timor-Leste has a rich cultural heritage, and visitors can attend traditional dances or ceremonies to experience the country's unique customs and traditions.
  • Shop for local handicrafts: Timor-Leste is home to many artisans who create beautiful traditional handicrafts. Visitors can purchase these handicrafts as souvenirs of their trip.

WHAT TO SEE AND DO IN TIMOR-LESTE

Timor-Leste
What To Eat

WHAT TO EAT IN TIMOR-LESTE

WHAT TO EAT IN TIMOR-LESTE

When visiting Timor-Leste, you should definitely try some of the local cuisine, which is influenced by the country's Portuguese and Indonesian heritage. Here are some popular dishes to try:

  • Caldeirada: A traditional seafood stew made with fish, squid, shrimp, and vegetables.
  • Bakso: A meatball soup that is usually made with beef or fish.
  • Pudim: A sweet custard that is similar to flan.
  • Ikan Sabuko: Grilled fish that is often served with rice, vegetables, and a spicy chili sauce.
  • Satay: Skewers of grilled meat (usually chicken or beef) that are marinated in a spicy peanut sauce.
  • Babi Guling: Roasted suckling pig that is a popular dish in Timor-Leste.
  • Feijoada: A traditional stew made with beans, pork, and sausage.
  • Ikan Terra: A dish made with fish, tomatoes, and chili peppers.
  • Bebik: A traditional dish made with fish, coconut milk, and vegetables.
  • Pão de Deus: A traditional sweet bread that is similar to the Portuguese sweet bread.

You will also find plenty of local fruits and vegetables to try, including papaya, mango, and eggplant. Many local foods are typically spicy and flavorful, also seafood is very common. Be sure to also try a Timorese coffee, which is known for its strong, rich taste.

LGBTQ IN TIMOR-LESTE

Timor-Leste

WHERE TO STAY IN TIMOR-LESTE

For your first visit to Timor-Leste, choosing the right base is essential to experiencing the country's natural beauty, cultural heritage, and outdoor adventures. Here's a breakdown of top areas and accommodations:


Where To Stay In Dili:

Dili is the capital city of Timor-Leste, offering a blend of colonial architecture, pristine beaches, and vibrant markets, providing a convenient starting point for exploring the country's attractions and cultural landmarks.

  • Budget Accommodation: Consider staying at the Dili Central Backpackers for affordable dorm beds and a central location near Dili's main attractions and waterfront promenade.

  • Mid-range Accommodation: The Timor Plaza Hotel & Apartments provides comfortable accommodations with modern amenities and easy access to Dili's shopping and dining districts.

  • Luxury Accommodation: Opt for the luxurious ambiance of the Beach Garden Hotel Dili, featuring upscale rooms, a swimming pool, and beachfront dining options.

  • Best Value Tip: Visit Dili during the dry season (May to November) for better accommodation rates and pleasant weather, while still enjoying outdoor activities like snorkeling and hiking.


Where To Stay In Ataúro Island:

Ataúro Island is a remote paradise located off the coast of Dili, known for its pristine beaches, crystal-clear waters, and vibrant marine life, offering a tranquil escape and world-class diving opportunities.

  • Budget Accommodation: Consider staying at Barry's Place for affordable bungalows and a beachfront location near Ataúro's diving sites and fishing villages.

  • Mid-range Accommodation: The Ataúro Dive Resort provides comfortable accommodations with rustic charm and easy access to snorkeling and kayaking adventures.

  • Luxury Accommodation: Opt for the luxurious ambiance of the Barry's Eco Resort, featuring upscale bungalows, a dive center, and guided marine conservation tours.

Best Value Tip: Book accommodations in Ataúro Island's guesthouses or eco-resorts for authentic experiences and sustainable tourism practices, supporting local communities and conservation efforts.


By choosing a base in Dili, Ataúro Island, or Maubara, you'll have access to Timor-Leste's diverse attractions while enjoying a range of accommodation options to suit your budget and preferences. Consider traveling with a knowledgeable guide for cultural insights and outdoor adventures, and always respect local customs and conservation efforts when exploring Timor-Leste's natural beauty.


For hassle-free bookings, use platforms like Booking.com for competitive rates or Holiday Swap for unique homes worldwide. Ensure to book in advance, especially during peak seasons, and align your preferences with nearby activities such as surfing, snorkeling, or cultural exploration.

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