This inspiring South-East Asian island nation tinged with Portuguese flavours may not receive the tourist crowds of its neighbours but that's all its part of the charm. Possessing beautiful beaches without the crowds, communities with big hearts, and peaceful, mountain retreats seemingly hidden from the modern world, Timor-Leste (East Timor) is an emerging destination full of promise.

Timor-Leste Tours & Travel

Articles on Timor-Leste

Overcrowded and ugly: how the world’s least attractive sights can teach us more than the highlights

Posted on Wed, 21 Jan 2015

People don’t have a lot of time for 'ugly' travel. But why not? It's time to celebrate the world for what it is, not what it should be.

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The ultimate guide to Australian slang

Posted on Tue, 20 Jan 2015

For those wanting to master this distinctive lingo, Intrepid is here to help with our very own ( and very unofficial) guide to speaking Australian.

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Why more young travellers are heading to Antarctica than ever before (and why you should too)

Posted on Mon, 19 Jan 2015

An entire generation of travellers is exploring more of the world than their parents and grandparents combined. And that generation should visit Antarctica next.

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An earth worth watching: inside our new Earthwatch Rainforest Expedition

Posted on Fri, 16 Jan 2015

It’s got the biggest natural diversity of any place in Australia, and it’s where you can go in 2015 with a team of leading environmental scientists to help study the effects of climate change.

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About Timor-Leste

At a glance

Capital city: Dili
Population: 1.1 million
Language: Portuguese, Tetum
Currency: USD
Time zone: (GMT+09:00) Yakutsk
Electricity: Type C (European 2-pin) Type E (French 2-pin, female earth) Type F (German 2-pin, side clip earth) Type I (Australian/New Zealand & Chinese/Argentine 2/3-pin)
Dialing code: +670

Best time to visit Timor-Leste

Like many other South-East Asian countries, Timor-Leste has a tropical monsoon climate, with year-round temperatures of around 30 degrees Celsius. Heavy rains are present from December through to March. Monsoons can sometimes make travel difficult in Timor-Leste, with road closures and floods causing delays. Dry, hot weather prevails from June/July to November, although cooler temperatures can be found in the mountainous highland areas, particularly at night. Travelling during this period offers optimal conditions for hiking in the forests and visiting the beaches and coastal areas.

timor-leste weather map chart

Geography and environment

Located within the Indonesian archipelago, tiny Timor-Leste lies off the northwest coast of Australia and occupies about half of the island of Timor. Timor-Leste's environment is a beautiful mix of rugged mountains, serene waterfalls, dense rainforest and secluded beaches. Less than 5% of the country's land is dedicated to permanent crops like coffee, citrus and rubber, grown in plantations where arable soil exists. Crops like maize and rice are also grown in fertile areas, usually at a small-scale by subsistence farmers.

Top Picks

Top 5 Souvenir Picks of Timor-Leste

1. Coffee

Introduced by the Portuguese, all coffee is grown organically in Timor-Leste, so it's a great place to stock up on quality beans at a relatively low cost. Look for small, cooperatives that support local farmers and communities.

2. Traditional Jewellery

Locally made, silver jewellery can be found at markets and shops throughout Timor-Leste. Bold, heavy pieces featuring distinct designs are among the standout picks.

3. Tais

This handwoven fabric with a range of region-specific designs can be bought from markets and street stalls. Colourful and distinct, Tais can be worn like sarongs and are a great choice for those looking for a unique, authentic gift to give to friends and family back home.

4. Contemporary Art

Offering a window into the lives, thoughts and dreams of local people, art is a form of expression that gives people a voice. Although Timor-Leste doesn't have many galleries, there are a few (as well as stalls at markets, on the streets and within cooperatives). Look out for paintings and sculpture created by locals, which represent unique souvenirs that support and empower the local community.

5. Wood Carvings

There are many skilled craftspeople in Timor-Leste, with wood carvers being among the best. Choose from carved statues or decorative pieces for the home among the handicraft treasures found at markets.

FAQs on Timor-Leste

Australia: Yes - on arrival
Belgium: Yes - on arrival
Canada: Yes - on arrival
Germany Yes - on arrival
Ireland: Yes - on arrival
Netherlands: Yes - on arrival
New Zealand: Yes - on arrival
South Africa: Yes - on arrival
Switzerland: Yes - on arrival
United Kingdom: Yes - on arrival
USA: Yes - on arrival

An entry visa (of up to 30 days duration) will be issued to valid passport holders on arrival, based on the purpose and period of stay stated by the applicant at the time of entry, and provided entry into Timor-Leste is regarded by local authorities as being for a legitimate purpose. There is a charge of US$30 on arrival at Nicolau Lobato International Airport for an entry visa.

If travellers can demonstrate that they have a valid reason for extending their stay beyond 30 days in East Timor, an application to extend a visa may be submitted to the Immigration Department of Timor-Leste located at Vila Verde.A visa fee of US$30 is payable on arrival at Dili Airport, and gives a maximum of 30 days entry.
Generally, sit down restaurants don't include service charges within the bill, so feel free to round up the bill or add a small amount as a tip for good service. While tipping isn't mandatory in Timor-Leste, it's important to remember that many service workers receive low wages, and a modest tip will go a long way to show your appreciation.
Internet availability isn't widespread in Timor-Leste. You may be able to find internet access in Dili but expect unreliable connections and slower speeds than you're used to.
Mobile coverage is available in some parts of Timor-Leste. Dili generally has better mobile receptivity than other parts of the country, with remote places like islands and mountain villages having less coverage. Ensure you have global roaming activated before leaving home if you wish to use your mobile.
You'll have to adjust to different standards of hygiene and sanitation whilst in Timor-Leste. The standard toilet is of the squat variety and this may take some getting used to although western-style toilets can be found in some hotels and restaurants.
Cup of coffee = US$1-3
Can of beer = US$2.50-5
Street food snack = US$1-3
Dinner in a traditional restaurant = US$5-10
Drinking tap water isn't recommended in Timor-Leste. For environmental reasons, try to avoid buying bottled water. Fill a reusable water bottle or canteen with filtered water. Ask your leader where filtered water can be found, some hotels we stay in may have drinking water available. It's also advisable to avoid ice in drinks and peel fruit and vegetables before eating.
Credit cards are generally only accepted by large hotels and western-style restaurants. Everywhere else will only accept US dollars as a form of payment.
ATM access is very limited in Timor-Leste, with a single ATM in Dili representing the entire network. Due to an unreliable power supply, it's best not to rely on this ATM for cash. Bring fresh, unmarked US dollars or travellers cheques that can be cashed at some banks in Dili.
Absolutely. All passengers travelling with Intrepid are required to purchase travel insurance before the start of your trip. Your travel insurance details will be recorded by your leader on the first day of the trip. Due to the varying nature, availability and cost of health care around the world, travel insurance is very much an essential and necessary part of every journey.

For more information on insurance, please go to: [site:intrepid_insurance_link]
Jan 1 New Year's Day
Mar 29 Good Friday
May 20 Independence Day
Aug 15 Assumption
Aug 30 Consultation Day
Sep 20 Liberation Day
Nov 1 All Saints' Day
Nov 12 Santa Cruz Day
Dec 8 Immaculate Conception
Dec 25 Christmas Day

Please note these dates are for 2013. For a current list of public holidays go to: http://www.worldtravelguide.net/east-timor/public-holidays

Health and Safety

Intrepid takes the health and safety of its travellers seriously, and takes every measure to ensure that trips are safe, fun and enjoyable for everyone. We recommend that all travellers check with their government or national travel advisory organisation for the latest information before departure:

From Australia?

Go to: http://www.smartraveller.gov.au/

From New Zealand?

Go to: http://www.safetravel.govt.nz/

From Canada?

Go to: http://www.voyage.gc.ca/

From US?

Go to: http://travel.state.gov/

From UK?

Go to: http://www.fco.gov.uk/en/

The World Health Organisation

also provides useful health information:
Go to: http://www.who.int/en/

Responsible Travel

Timor-Leste Travel Tips

Intrepid is committed to travelling in a way that is respectful of local people, their culture, local economies and the environment. It's important to remember that what may be acceptable behaviour, dress and language in your own country, may not be appropriate in another. Please keep this in mind while travelling.

Top responsible travel tips for Timor-Leste

1. Be considerate of Timor-Leste’s customs, traditions, religion and culture.

2. Dress modestly and respectfully. Shoulders to knees should be covered, especially when entering places of worship.

3. For environmental reasons, try to avoid buying bottled water. Fill a reusable water bottle or canteen with filtered water.

4. Always dispose of litter thoughtfully, including cigarette butts.

5. When bargaining at markets, stay calm, be reasonable and keep a smile on your face. It's meant to be fun!

6. Learn some local language and don't be afraid to use it - simple greetings will help break the ice.

7. Shop for locally made products. Supporting local artisans helps keep traditional crafts alive.

8. Refrain from supporting businesses that exploit or abuse endangered animals.

9. Please ask and receive permission before taking photos of people, including children.

10. When on community visits or homestays, refrain from giving gifts or money to locals.

The Intrepid Foundation

The Intrepid Foundation provides travellers with an opportunity to give something back to the many wonderful communities we travel to. By donating to The Intrepid Foundation you can make a difference in local communities - in health care, education, human rights, child welfare and the protection of wildlife and the environment.

In Timor-Leste, the Intrepid Foundation proudly supports:

The Alola Foundation

With a mission to improve women's health, education, leadership and earning capacity, the Alola Foundation offers community development projects in 13 districts of Timor-Leste.

Image supplied by Jane Crouch.

To learn more or donate, go to: www.theintrepidfoundation.org

Further reading

Recommended reading

Title Author
East Timor: A Nation's Bitter DawnIrena Cristalis
If You Leave Us Here, We Will DieGeoffrey Robinson
East Timor's Unfinished StruggleConstancio Pinto and Matthew Jardine
Crossing: A Story of East TimorLuis Cardoso
Independent Women: The Story of Women's Activism in East TimorCatherine Scott, Irena Cristalis, Isabel Casimiro and Ximena Andrade