Tourist Information Center (Centro De Informação Turística) is located on Rua Avenida de Portugal, Farol, Dili, Timor-Leste. It is open 8:00am-5:00pm and should be the first place you stop to orient yourself and get an idea what’s going on in Timor-Leste. You can get maps of other places and recommendation on how to get there. Dili maps available on arrival at the airport. Lonely Planet’s Timor-Leste guidebook useful; Travel agencies are available in Dili to for international flight arrangements. For tourism information and holiday bookings directly contact Timor-Leste tour, accommodation, transport, and activity operators. Locals are very helpful, maybe even providing you with a place to stay. Tourism website: /

Ministry of Tourism
Address: Rua Avenida de Portugal, Farol, Dili, Timor-Leste
Official working hours are 08:00am - 05:30pm. (time zone -GMT +09:00)
Telephone : (+670) 331 0369

Immigration Office
Office of Ministry of Interior (formerly the Secretary State of Security Building)
Ground Floor
Vila Verde (Opposite Obrigado Barracks)
Official working hours are 08:00am - 05:30pm. (time zone - GMT +09:00)
Telephone : (+670) 7730 4059
E-mail :
Immigration Service Website:

U.S. Embassy in Dili
Av. de Portugal
Praia dos Coqueiros
Dili, Timor-Leste
APO/FPO: American Embassy-Jakarta, Unit 8129, Box D, APO AP 96520
Tel: +(670) 332-4684
Emergency After-Hours Tel: +(670) 7723-1328
Fax: +(670) 331-3206

Embassy of the Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste in the United States
4201 Connecticut Ave. NW, Suite 504
Washington, DC 20008
Tel: (202) 966-3202
Fax: (202) 966-3205
For more information, consult the government’s website: or embassy website ;


You need a passport valid for a minimum of six months from arrival into Timor-Leste with at least two blank pages for entry stamp. Tthe visa on arrival stamp takes up one whole page. It is usually not a problem at immigration, as long as you have one whole blank page; however, airlines have been known to reject people with fewer than two blank pages. No vaccinations are required. There are no currency restrictions for entry or exiting the country. Make sure your travel documents are up-to-date and available in case you need to leave at short notice. Keep a photocopy of the relevant pages of your passport to avoid any complications.

Citizens of most countries can obtain a visa on arrival at airport for US$30. After arriving at the airport you fill out a simple form and pay US$30 in cash. The visa is a Tourist & Business Visa valid for 30 days. Note that there may be no ATM or money change facilities at the border post and credit cards are not accepted so make sure you have US$30 in cash on you. A Transit Visa On Arrival may be available at the airport for US$20.

Many travelers arriving overland from Timor need to obtain a visa or a visa-like document in advance. If entering Timor-Leste by land, you will need to apply in advance for a “Visa Application Authorization.” When you arrive at the border, the “Visa Application Authorization” must be presented to an immigration official and you pay US$30 to receive the visa. If applying in advance you may be granted a visa valid for up to 90 days, which can be valid for single or multiple entries. Transit visas may be granted on arrival at the Border Post by presenting the “Visa Authorization Application”. The transit visa is not extendable and the fee is US$20. Visas on arrival at the land border with Indonesia are no longer available.

British Citizens intending to enter the country via the Indonesia (West Timor) land border crossing at Atambua/Batugade need to apply in Kupang for a tourism visa in advance. This visa will generally be valid for a single entry and a duration of up to 30 days. If you plan to travel overland (rather than by the ferry) to the exclave of Oecussi you’ll need to apply for an additional visa. You must present your round trip ticket and complete the required forms at your nearest Timor-Leste embassy or consulate, or in Dili, prior to travel. For information on other types of visa see the Immigration Department of Timor-Leste.

In May 2015, Timor-Leste signed an agreement with the EU that allows passport holders of Schengen countries (Austria, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland) to enter Timor-Leste without a visa at any entry point, including land borders.

According to the article 15 law 9/2003, entry into the national territory shall be denied to foreigners who do not have the means to support themselves for the length of their stay, who do not have a return ticket to a country that guarantees their re-entry or whose status does not allow them to legally provide for themselves. In order to enter and remain in the national territory, foreigners must have the means to pay per capita an amount equivalent to: $100 (One hundred US dollars) for each entry into the national territory; $50 (Fifty US dollars) for each day expected to remain in the national territory. The U.S. Department of State is unaware of any HIV/AIDS entry restrictions for visitors to or foreign residents of Timor-Leste.

In Dili, tourism visas can be extended to a total of 90 days, for a fee: US$35 for each extension of 30 days, or US$70 for extension of 60 days. Extension of a tourist visa beyond 30 days requires a sponsor, East Timorese citizen or work-permit holder, to complete a Termo de Responsabilidade, guaranteeing your conduct and compliance with East Timorese laws for the duration of your stay.. Please see the website of the Timor-Leste Immigration Department for the most current information on visas and extensions.

Apart from Tourist & Business and Transit Visas, other visas that are available include the, Work Visa, Study Visa, Cultural, Scientific, Sport & Media Visa and Residence Visa. These generally need to be obtained in advance at a Timor-Leste embassy or consulate. There are embassies in Jakarta, Washington D.C. and many European countries. There are consulates in Kupang, West Timor and Denpasar in Bali (where most of the Timor-Leste flights originate).

Those who apply in advance for a tourist visa at an Embassy or Consulate, or who apply by email direct to the Immigration Department for a "visa application authorisation" may request a visa allowing up to 90 days stay, with single or multiple entry. The visa applicant must: 1) Demonstrate intention of a genuine visit (as tourist or business trip). 2) Demonstrate sufficient funds for period of proposed stay (access to US$100 on entry and US$50 for each day). 3) Demonstrate accommodation arrangements. 4) Hold a return ticket, or show ability to fund own departure. 5) Applicants must also be assessed as being of good character and health before they will be granted the visa and/or permitted to enter East Timor.

Lost Passport: Make sure to make photocopies of your passport and the page with you entry stamp. If your passport is lost or stolen you generally have to report the theft to police before you can get a new one. Embassies or consulates can give you advise on what you have to do. Website: U.S. Department of State Passport Services and Information: . Should you lose your passport please make a police report immediately and approach your embassy to apply for a replacement travel document. Travel to Australia: If you intend to travel to Australia from Timor-Leste, you should be aware that Australian immigration requires an Electronic Travel Authorization (ETA) in advance of arrival. For more information, please consult the Australian Department of Immigration and Border Protection (DIBP) website.

Money Issues in Timor-Leste

Timor-Leste is very in inexpensive. Relatively few tourists visit Timor-Leste. There are cheap local restaurants and cheap guest houses. Even the nicer hotels are pretty cheap. Local transportation and taxis are not so expensive. According to Lonely Planet backpackers should budget around US$50 a day for a trip to Timor-Leste and expect the following costs: A) Dorm bed US$14–20; B) Local restaurant meal US$3; C) Short taxi trip US$2; D) Bus trip to the districts US$6; E) Snorkel trip off Ataùro US$10; F) mid range hotel: US$50-150; G) Double room in budget hotel US$30–45; H) Tourist restaurant meal US$12; I) Single dive US$45–60; J) mid-range four wheel drive and driver US$130 per day; K) Top-end Hotel: more than US$150; L) Double room in hotel US$85; M) top-end four wheel drive and driver with guide skills US$245 per day. [Source: Lonely Planet]

The currency of Timor-Leste is the U.S. dollar (US$). Denominations: There are coins of 1, 5, 10, 25, and 50 U.S. cents and banknotes of 1, 5, 10, 20, 50, and 100 dollars. East Timor has issued its own coins denominated in centavos, which are equal to U.S. cents. U.S. coins are now rarely accepted. Inflation Rate : 2.3 percent Per Capita Income: US$6,300. The per capita income of the United States is US$60,200. Currency Restrictions: There are no currency restrictions, entering or exiting the country.

Where to Change Money: Bring US dollars in cash or travellers’ cheques. There are no money changing facilities at airport. Banks will change some foreign currencies such Indonesian Rupiahs (Rp), Japanese yen, Euros, UK pounds and Australian dollars, but don’t counts it. According to the UK government travel advise: “The limited banking system in Timor-Leste will not exchange Pounds Sterling cash or Sterling travellers’ cheques. The same often applies to Euros. Credit cards are of little use outside of major hotels. In Dili, ATMs are limited. Mastercard is not accepted anywhere. ATMs, banks or credit cards facilities are very limited outside Dili. Bring small notes when travelling in districts as large denominations are hard to change. Notes older than 2009 are usually rejected.”

Some top end hotels may be able change money. The worst rates are usually offered at hotels. Sometimes the paperwork necessary to change money at a bank is laborious and time consuming.. Beware of places with good rates, they often charge a high commission, and watch out for places with a low commissions, they usually have bad rates.

Currency Warnings and Advise

Bring US dollars in cash or travellers’ cheques. The U.S. dollar is the legal tender currency in East Timor and all transactions are in dollars. U.S. banknotes issued before 2006 are not accepted. Notes older than 2009 are usually rejected. US$5, US$10 and US$20 notes are the most common and useful. They do not need to be in great condition but may be difficult to use if torn. Don't bring US$2 notes.East Timor has issued its own coins denominated in centavos, which are equal to U.S. cents. U.S. coins are now rarely accepted.

1) Bring lots of crisp new $1, $5, $10 an $20 bills for small denomination exchanges and payment with cash. Banks and exchange houses may reject dollar banknotes that are ripped. The exception is US$1 notes, which get torn and filthy within a few months of arriving in Dili and can be easily spent in that condition (small notes, or coins, are particularly useful for taxis, warungs and street sellers). 2) Travelers checks and credit cards are difficult to use off the beaten track in Timor-Leste; American dollars in cash are more readily accepted. 3) Try to change big banknotes into small banknotes whenever you get a chance. Shop owners sometimes have difficulty changing large bills. 4) Always keep some small change in your pockets to pay the restroom attendants. Don't accept torn bills. 6) Remember it can be difficult to change money in rural areas. So if you need to do it, do it Dili. 7) There have been several cases of low-tech counterfeiting, and authorities have caught individuals with counterfeit notes brought in from other countries.

Travelers Checks are not widely used anymore but in Timor-Leste they may converted into US dollars cash. It is best to exchange travelers checks at major international banks in Dili because often they are the only places that accept them. Some major hotels will also change them.It is a good idea to bring some small denomination travelers checks in case you need a small amount of money in a squeeze. American Express travelers checks are the most widely accepted ones. You generally can not use travelers checks to buy stuff.

Credit cards Only some larger hotels, tour and dive companies accept credit cards. Otherwise credit cards are not widely used. Mastercard will not work anywhere. Only Visa is accepted. In Dili ATMs are available but only accept VISA. There are limited EFPOS (Electronic Funds Transfer at Point Of Sale) facilities. Outside Dili, ATMs, banks or credit cards/EFPOS facilities are limited. Establishments that accept credit cards usually charge a substantial additional fee.

ATMs: ) There are few ATMs outside Dili. In Dili ATMs are available but only accept VISA. Dili has several ATMs that accept U.S.-issued bankcards; these are frequently inoperative and can charge high fees. Be prepared to settle all bills in cash. According to Wikiyoyage: “Several banks and ATMs (all dispensing US banknotes) can be found in Dili, for example in the Timor Plaza shopping mall. Overseas withdrawal fee would be US$7 per withdrawal, and maximum amount withdrawn per transaction should be US$300. ANZ used to have the most reliable ATMs for international visitors, but it is no longer operating. The next only option is BNU-Loos24 ATMs, which accept Visa and Plus. In some cases, the ATMs are not compatible with Asian banks It is good idea to bring some travelers checks and cash as a back up. International credit cards and ATM cards will work as long as they have a four-digit PIN number encoded. You may want to check with you bank for details on using foreign ATMs before leaving home.

Tipping is not expected, but appreciated 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. More up-market hotels and restaurants may add a 10 percent service charge to their bills. Small tips may be given to restroom attendants. Airport Tax: There's a US$10 departure tax at the airport. SalesTax: Sales Tax is 2.5% of the customs value of the goods imported into Timor-Leste. Hotel and Restaurant Service Fees: A 10 percent service charge is often added to the bill at top-end restaurants and hotels. Bank Hours: Banks are generally open from 9:00am to 3:00 or 4:00pm on weekdays.

Phones, Post Offices and Internet in Timor-Leste

Timor Telecom has a monopoly on landline and mobile phone services in East Timor, and charges accordingly; expect to pay up to US$3/minute for international calls into East Timor. Calls out of the country are far cheaper with on average 40cents/minute to Australia, Indonesia, Portugal and USA.

Good mobile phone coverage is available in the main towns. To get set up bring an unlocked handset and buy a SIM card and credit on arrival. Easy-to-obtain Timor Telecom, Telkomsel and Telemor SIM cards can be used in unlocked phones. Coverage is good, though occasionally drops out. It is recommended that you buy a local pre-paid phone for US$10 (which includes phone, charger, sim card and US$3 credit) on arrival from any Timor-Telecom store (there is one in Landmark Plaza on way into town from the airport). Local prepaid SIM cards can be picked up for around US$3. Please remember that whilst international phones work in East Timor, the global roaming fees are very hefty, hence the recommendation to purchase a cheap phone package, even for a short visit.

According to Wikivoyage: “There are very few landlines in East Timor, most being in Dili. It’s a very good idea to bring a mobile phone handset, make sure you have it unlocked in your home country first otherwise it can cost up to US$30 to have it unlocked here, and then buy a new sim-card from Timor Telecom (US$3). Local calls are pretty cheap, and an SMS within East Timor costs US$0.20. Calls to Australia are about 50 cents US per minute, or 40 cents off peak (between 20:00 and 08:00 and all day Sunday). Calls from Australia are quite expensive – about US$3.50 per minute.”

Phone Codes
International access code 0011
International country codeTel: (+670)
Landline numbers 7 digits, starting with a 3
Mobile numbers 8 digits, starting with a 7

Internet is readily available but speed is relatively slow. Internet infrastructure continues to grow, mainly through mobile subscriptions; approximately one-third of the population accesses the internet primarily via cell phones. A strong 4G data network is widely available, except in certain remote areas of the country. 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. The Internet TOLD is .tl (.tp is currently phasing out).

Emergency contact numbers
Emergency: 112
Police: 7723 0635
Fire: 3312210, 3324019 or 7230686
Ambulance: 7723 6662, 33110441 or 77233212
UNPOL Emergency (Police Emergency): 112, Tel: (+670) 7723 0635 (mobile)
SOS Emergency Medivac:Tel: +61 2 93722468
Dili National Hospital:Tel: (+670) 331 1008
Bombeiros Fire Rescue,:Tel: (+670) 331 2210 (ext 203), Tel: (+670) 332 4019, toll-free: 115
Timor Ambulance:Tel: (+670) 7723 6662 (mobile), Tel: (+670) 331 1044
Dili National Ambulance, Emergency:Tel: (+670) 331 0541
UNMIT Telephone Switchboard Nos:Tel: (+670) 330 4100 (From East Timor), Tel: +1 212 963 0099 (From New York)

According to Lonely Planet: “Confusingly, there's no postal service in Timor-Leste, though there is a post office. DHL operates in Dili but there are frequent reports of parcels taking more than three weeks to get to their destination.” According to Wikivoyage: “There is no delivery of mail to street addresses. If you want to receive mail, you need to use a post office box at the central post office. Packages from Australia generally take about 2 weeks. It’s important that people write ‘via Darwin, Australia’ on the address, otherwise letters tend to go via Jakarta, Singapore or even Lisbon. Letters/packages have been known to take up to one and a half years to arrive, and occasionally disappear altogether, although this is the exception rather than the rule.

Electricity, Time and Operating Hours in Timor-Leste

The electric current in Timor-Leste is 220 volts and 50 cycles which is different from the USA and the same as Europe. The sockets and plugs are different from those in the United States as well.Electricity is of limited duration in some outlying areas and outages can occur (so a flashlight is useful). Electricity plugs vary so it’s wise to being an adapter In Timor-Leste the power plugs and sockets are: Type C (the standard "Euro" plug); Type E (French style); Type F ("Schuko" plugs) and Type I (mainly used in Australia, New Zealand, China, the South Pacific and Argentina).

Many urban East Timorese tend follow Western-style hours. Because of the heat, East Timorese in rural areas often wake up early (sometimes around 4:00am), go to bed early (often around 10:00am) and take a long lunch and noontime siesta. Offices are often closed for one or two hours around lunch time.

Government Hours: 8:00am to 5:30pm, with a break for lunch. Business Hours: Official working hours are generally 8:30 am to 5:30pm, with a break for lunch from 12:00noon to 1:30pm. Because most people go home for lunch, the actual lunch break is often 12:00noon to 2:00pm. Some places work on Saturday mornings, but most don’t.

Private offices are generally open from 9:00am to 5:00pm on weekdays and 8:00am to 12 noon on Saturdays. Shortened hours are often the norm during Ramadan. Bank Hours: Banks are generally open from 9:00am to 3:00pm on weekdays and 9:00am to 11:00am on Saturdays. Some banks have started operations within shopping complexes and are open later. Bank Hours: Banks are generally open from 9:00am to 3:00 or 4:00pm on weekdays.

Time Difference: Tel: +14 hours from New York and 17 hours ahead of Los Angeles Times (U.S. Pacific Standard Time). When it is 7:00am in New York City it is 9:00pm in Dili.Tel: +9 hours from London (Greenwich Mean Time). When it is 7:00am in London it is 4:00pm in Dili. Daylight Savings Time is not observed in Timor-Leste, which means there is aTel: +13 hour difference with New York andTel: +8 hour with London from the end of April to the end of October.

Food in Timor-Leste

Tony Wheeler, the founder of the Lonely Planet guidebooks, wrote in his guide to Timor-Leste in the late 2000s, "Restaurants may be nonexistent in the back blocks, so it's wise to carry food with you, as you can get very hungry before the next market day."

An Australian aid worker wrote in “The cuisine in East Timor consists or rice, vegetables and occasionally meat. East Timorese love their rice. Makes sense, it’s cheap and it’s filling. They eat it for breakfast, lunch and dinner. A meal is not complete without rice. A friend from work was telling me about a trip she did to Australia for a conference: “At lunchtime, I had to search the streets of Melbourne looking for rice because they only gave me a sandwich for lunch. Just a sandwich, no rice! I was starving. So I looked and looked and finally I found a Chinese restaurant. I just ordered rice.” [Source:, April 7, 2012]

“After about twelve months of living in East Timor and eating my fair share of white rice, I felt the exact opposite: Enough with this rice! Someone please give me a sandwich. But good sandwiches are hard to come by in East Timor, especially if you want to make one yourself. Cheese and deli meats are expensive items and don’t even think about using the supermarket bread because it’s sickly sweet!”

“Timorese aren’t massive buyers of sweets which is probably why their bread is so sweet. But there are Indonesian style cake shops which is where you’ll be able to buy some incredible looking birthday cakes. You can even have the cakes decorated with messages while you wait. Kids are satisfied with plenty of cheap and interesting lollies and chocolates, which you should definitely try too. You can find them at any small kiosk located along the roads.

“For snacks they like two minute noodles, nuts, fried banana strips, rice and supermarket bread with butter. They do make their own bread- yummy non-sweet small rolls called ‘paun’- but you have to get up really early to buy it from a kiosk before it sells out. I’m such a BIG fan of Timorese paun that I’m not going to mention anything else about it now, I reckon I’ll dedicate a whole post to in the next few months!

Eating Habits in Timor-Leste

Timor-Leste has a strong culture of hospitality and most socialising involves food. A traditional Timorese lunch or dinner meal includes rice, meat or fish, beans and corn, seasonal vegetables with clever use of local spices, fresh herbs, tropical fruits and sometimes coconut milk accompanied by extremely hot ai-manis (chili paste).

East Timorese Catholics tend to abstain from eating meat on Fridays (especially on Good Friday) and on Ash Wednesday. Some elders also keep meat abstinence during Lent. The strictness about avoiding meat, however, varies greatly and is often superseded by the traditional feasts that accompany marriages and death rituals. [Source: Worldmark Encyclopedia of Religious Practices, Thomson Gale, 2006]

Hunger has been a persistent theme is East Timorese history. East Timor agriculture depends on rainy season rains that often don’t materialize. This leads to a period of poor food security coined the “Hungry Season” from November to February due to the unpredictable climate. Many households depend on their own production of food because of the erratic climate conditions, such as droughts. Some families subsist on akar, which is a widely available food source for the poor. It is dried palm tree bark, beaten into a powder, mixed with water to form a jelly and then cooked over fire. It is not very nutritious and is linked with Timor-Leste high child malnutrition rates.

Timor-Leste Cuisine

The food in East Timor is divided into two categories: vegetarian and non vegetarian, with pigs, goats, fish, and the occasional dog, being primary sources of meat. The staple food in East Timor is rice. Many dishes are made with budu (a sauce made with tomato, mint, lime, and Spanish onion). East Timorese cuisine has influences from Southeast Asian foods and from Portuguese dishes

Commonly grown food crops include taro, cassava, sweet potatoes and maize. Beans, cabbage, cowpeas, onions and spinach are well-liked vegetables. People also rear poultry, goats and pigs. Fish forms an important part of the diet and acts as a supplement to any meal. Most traditional East Timorese recipes use a generous dose of spices such as basil, tamarind and lime juice. Mangoes, watermelons, papayas, bananas and coconuts are the most commonly cultivated fruits here. Carbohydrates like sago or other grains form the main dish for many an East Timorese meal. [Source: Wikivoyage]

Fried fish is a very popular dish, with prawns being considered a delicacy. Curries are a standard dish, with chicken curry topping the list as a favourite. The East Timorese palate includes a taste for several international cuisines in addition to the traditional East Timorese cuisine. Portuguese, Indonesian, Chinese, Italian, Western, Japanese and Thai cuisine have made their presence felt in East Timor.

Among the popular dishes are 1) batar daan (dish of corn, mung beans, and pumpkin); 2) ikan sabuko ( batar daan, rice and budu); 3) Ikan sabuko (Spanish mackerel in tamarind marinade with basil and capsicum); 4) Tapai (a sweet, sour, slightly alcoholic, fermented rice dish); 5) caril (a mild chicken curry with a roasted capsicum and coconut paste); 6) Feijoada (a common Portuguese-influenced dish made with pork, cannellini beans and chorizo).

The Australian aid worker wrote in ““East Timorese usually eat their rice with vegetables (leafy greens, potatoes, beans, carrots etc…). They simply boil or slather them with oil and serve them. You can buy all sorts of fruit and vegetables that are grown locally and are mostly organic from the street markets and at some supermarkets. The local produce tastes pretty good but don’t expect to see the perfectly shaped bananas and avocados you are used to seeing at home. Because of this, some supermarkets import their veggies from Singapore and Australia. [Source:, April 7, 2012]

“Meat is a luxury. The cheaper the meat, the more it is eaten. Frozen chickens aren’t too expensive and are sold in all the supermarkets. Fish is also popular and often cooked on a stick. Local fisherman stand along the man roads swatting flies and trying to offload their latest catches everyday. Red meat like buffalo, pig and goat are mostly eaten at big events like weddings and funerals. To supplement their diet, they get a lot of their protein from tofu and eggs. You'll often see young boys walking around the streets selling trays of boiled eggs with chilli sauce for 25c. Timorese deep fry anything and everything including two minute noodles. East Timorese add chilli to everything, they like their food H-O-T!”

Restaurants in Timor-Leste

Restaurants and local food joints in in Timor-Leste offer the traditional Asian curries with their fragrant spice pastes and fried accompaniments. The East Timorese local restaurants specialise in fresh grilled fish and excellent curries, and also provide a chance to fully experience local cuisine and hospitality. Local food also lends itself to Papuan influences, so you will find yam and sweet potato on the menu when you stop at rural food stalls.

Despite it small size, Dili has a wide range of restaurants reflecting many differing influences. International options include Chinese, Portuguese, Indian, Thai, Turkish, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Indonesian and Brazilian, amongst others. These vary from the up market to the very casual. Many have beautiful views out over the water where you can enjoy the sunset. Daily caught seafood and organically grown fruit and vegetables from local farmers influence their menus. Most restaurants serve beer and wine, and a few pour an excellent cocktail.

Even though there is trouble in obtaining supplies from outside, many restaurants in Dili serve Western cuisine. Significant numbers of foreigners living and working in East Timor ensure a loyal clientele for these restaurants. Seth Mydans wrote in the New York Times: “There are a dozen or so good restaurants that pitch themselves to foreign aid workers. Places like the Tropical Bakery, the City Cafe and the One More Bar serve good Western food and are gathering points for the tight-knit foreign community. Dinner for two in rather spartan settings might cost US$20 or US$25. [Source: Seth Mydans, New York Times, June 5, 2005]

Small bakeries and cafes in Dili are popular meeting places. In the evenings food stalls grill fresh seafood along the beachfront and this can be enjoyed with a cold drink as you take in the views. Out in the districts larger guesthouses usually provide meals in-house and there are other small restaurants – mostly ‘warung’ style. Along the coastal roads grilled fish stalls also are readily available. Bills presented in East Timorese restaurants do not have a service charge added to them. If you feel like tipping, recognise that even a 10 percent tip is a lot of money to a local. In any case, the service is typically so comically bad that you should not be rushing to tip.

Coffee in Timor-Leste

East Timorese like espresso coffee and Timor-Leste is rightly famous for its rich, dark and delicious coffee, grown organically in the hills. As you explore Timor-Leste it is interesting sampling the different coffee.

The Australian aid worker wrote in “Coffee is the drink of choice in Timor-Leste. Even though they grow their own AMAZING coffee in East Timor, a lot of Timorese drink Nescafe especially the 3 in 1 packet, which is a coffee, milk and sugar instant mix. It’s not as bad as it sounds.You can buy lots of different drinks. At the Western bars they have everything, including cider! But when it comes down to it, sometimes all you want, is to brush your teeth in good old tap water. [Source:, April 7, 2012]

National drinks

Coffee is grown organically in East Timor and the level of caffeine in this variety is very high so don’t drink it late night as there is often little to do late at night.. Coffee was introduced in East Timor by the Portuguese. The local way of making coffee is to roast the coffee beans till they turn black and let out a great aroma. Low acidity levels ensure the excellent taste of East Timorese coffee. Be sure to buy your coffee in a traditional market where it is freshly ground rather than Dili's grocery stores, where the product will often be pre-ground and very stale.

Alcoholic Drinks and Bars in Timor-Leste

There are bars with local Timor-Leste bands. Beer, which is widely available in both pubs and restaurants in East Timor. Numerous beachfront bars and nightclubs provide the nightlife in Dili. Both food and drinks are served and the bars and nightclubs stay open late.

The Australian aid worker wrote in “Palm wine is called tuaka and tua mutin in East Timor. Brandy distilled from palm wine is called tua sabu. Toddies and hot toddies are rich and refreshing drinks made with sweet sap tapped straight from the stems and flowers of a mature toddy palms. The sap can be drunk fresh or it can be boiled down to form a kind of brown sugar called jaggery, a key ingredient in many Southeast and South Asian sweets. The "hot toddy" originally came from Burma.” [Source:, April 7, 2012]

“Toddy liquid left to ferment for a several hours becomes toddy wine, which sells for about 25 cents a bottle and according to some tastes like Milk of Magnesia. It takes two bottles to get a decent buzz. These have to be consumed more or less right after they are purchased, after several hours toddy wine turns to sour toddy mush.

“Palm wine — which in turn can be distilled into a potent spirit widely consumed in West Africa, Sri Lanka, India and Southeast Asia — comes from a palm tree as toddy. Toddy trees are prevented from bearing fruit by binding the open flowers and bending them over. The sap is extracted initially after three weeks and collected every month or so. A good toddy tree can yield 270 liters of sap a ye

“Tuak is a traditional alcoholic beverage made from the essence stem of various trees. If Tuak is made from stems of a coconut tree, it is called Tuak Nyuh ot Tuak Putih. It if is is made from stems of Jaka treeit is called Tuak Jaka/ Tuak Gading. Arak is colorless drink with a high level of alcohol. This liquor is made from the distillation process of Tuak.”

Shopping, Markets and Things to Buy in Timor-Leste

Dili’s shopping options range from Timor Plaza (modern shopping mall) to smaller businesses, markets and roadside kiosks. There is a wide selection of goods available including handicrafts – refer Arts & Crafts. When travelling to the municipalities do take what you need in terms of specialist items e.g. pharmaceutical and electronic. In the more remote locations, the small local shops sell basic everyday items and can usually only handle money in small denominations.

East Timor produces various types of weaved textiles and crafts. The most famous East Timorese handicrafts are tais (traditional hand-woven fabrics). Tais are produced in different colours and designs depending on the community, even the family, that produces them. High end and expensive tais are made from nature-produced colors, while more economical textiles use chemical dyes. Tais are available at markets in Dili, however, to get the best antique varieties you need to go to the districts. Other attractive handicrafts and arts include finely woven baskets and mats, ethnic carvings, batik cloth, embroidered fabrics, paintings, pottery, jewelry, dolls and intricately embroidered bags, musical instruments, metal knives and wood carvings. All convenience stores and even some roadside stalls sell excellent coffee.

A market can be found in every main town on the island. You may not find the huge array of shops in East Timor that you are accustomed to. These markets, however, cater amply to local needs. The marketplaces give the locals a chance to meet and interact with others on a daily basis. A walk through an East Timorese market will help you learn about the local produce of the region. Tourists attract a lot of attention so be prepared to be stared at. Also expect to be overcharged as many tourists before you have paid exorbitant prices willingly.

To gain an insight into Timorese communities and daily life wander around the markets. They are lively, interesting places with local seasonal produce, handicrafts and other goods on display. They are a great place to meet the local people and of course to stock up on fresh fruit and vegetables, snacks and other items. In larger centres, markets are held daily, but in smaller towns they are a weekly highlight with people travelling long distances on foot, horse-back, small boat, truck and motorcycle from surrounding villages. Along the waterfront of Dili, you will find many fruit stalls. These stalls are mostly run by women and are stocked with delicious local fruits. The papayas, mangoes and bananas are really tempting; make it a point to try out any unfamiliar local variety.

Accommodation in Timor-Leste

There is a variety of places to stay in Dili and areas that attract tourists, including a fair number of cheap guesthouses. New places are popping up all the times as families pull their resources together and try to cash in on the growing tourism market. Accommodation in Timor-Leste comes in all styles and price ranges from the very comfortable to back to nature camping. You’ll find accommodation from modern international hotels and apartments to budget motels and backpackers dorms in laid back capital of Dili.

While Dili has a wide range of hotels at every price level, outside of Dili, there are really only two other bona fide hotels in the country, at Baucau and at Com. However, there are plenty of creative options if you don't insist on luxury, and these range from guesthouses to convents to camping.

In the outlying districts options vary from small hotels in the bigger towns to guesthouses – including historic pousadas, eco-lodges, homestays, camping and even religious compounds. Generally in the districts properties are smaller scale, offering comfortable but simple facilities, often in idyllic surroundings. Many accommodation properties have their own restaurants and they can also advise on others nearby. When travelling independently in the more remote areas, it is advisable, when booking your accommodation, to also discuss meal arrangements.

Accommodation prices are theoretically established by guidelines set by the government so that hotels of similar quality aren't supposed to vary much in price. But that isn't always the case and bargaining is practiced.

Most expensive hotels in Timor-Leste usually have English-speaking staff members, amenities similar to those in Western hotels, a choice of restaurants, coffee shops open around the clock, expensive room service, conference services, business center, a health club, a small swimming pool, beauty salon, shopping/travel counter, baby sitters, safe deposit lockers, currency exchange banks, rooms with attached baths, channel music, cable TV, and telephones with direct dial facilities. Some hotels have interpreter and translator services, secretarial services and access to fax machines and computers. Most deluxe and first-class hotels have direct connections on limousine buses to the airport.

The hotel desk can give you information on expensive hotels. The tourist information desk at the Dili Airport may be able to provide you with a list of guest houses, hostels and cheap hotels, some of them near the hotel. The Lonely Planet Guides are recommended for their descriptions of budget hotels..

Hotel Comments and Tips

1) The service and quality tends to be the same or better that the service in Europe and North America. 2) Special deals are often offered in the low seasons from January to April. Sometimes the discounts are as much as 50 percent off their published rates. 3) You can sometimes bargain a little on your room rate especially in the low season if you plan to stay for a while. 4) Hotel laundry and other services are often very expensive. Ask for the price first. 5) Luggage storage facilities and safes for keeping valuables are often available.

6) At budget hotels ask whether or not the room has a bath, what time hot water is available, whether or not your room is to be shared with other travelers, what is included in the price of a room and what isn't. Some places will charge extra for things you assume are free like showers or breakfast. Check the room and make sure the air conditioning works. 7) Many hotels have room rates that vary with the quality of the room. If you bargain for a cheaper room sometimes will often end up with room that is smaller, gloomier, hotter than the one you would have otherwise gotten.

8) The lighting is often poor in cheap hotel room. You may want to bring a small reading light. 9) ) The rooms may have mosquitos. Make sure the room has mosquito coils. A fan is also useful for blowing away mosquitos. 10 ) Make sure to get a hotel card with name, address and phone number of the hotel. If you get lost you can always show it to a taxi driver to get back to your hotel. 10) Most rooms have jugs with safe drinking water Many have a pot for making hot water for tea and a small refrigerator. .

11) In guesthouse many people take a mandi, a “shower” with cold water, a ladel-like bucket and a basin. When there is a shower the showers may be a little strange and the towels are small and made of relatively thin coarse cloth rather than terry cloth. The showers stalls often don't have a convenient place to put soap and shampoo other than the floor. Some stalls are small and cramped.

12) Book ahead if you are traveling in the high season, or to a popular place. If you haven't booked a hotel in advance start looking for a accommodation early, preferable around 11:00am or 12:00am, when other people are checking out. 13) Don't make telephone calls, especially long distance calls, if you can help it. Some hotels charges up to US$8.00 a minute for calls to the United States. 14) Only the most expensive hotels have room service. Make sure you have some snacks for when you get hungry. 15 ) Try to avoid getting a room with a window facing a busy streets. Sometimes the noise is awful.

Image Sources: Wikimedia Commons

Text Sources: Timor-Leste tourism websites,Timor-Leste government websites, Wikitravel, Wiki Voyage, UNESCO, Wikipedia, Lonely Planet guides, New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, National Geographic, The New Yorker, Bloomberg, Reuters, Associated Press, AFP, Japan News, Yomiuri Shimbun, Compton's Encyclopedia and various books and other publications.

Updated in August 2020

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