WARNINGS AND TRAVEL TIPS FOR TIMOR-LESTE
Warnings and Tips: 1) Take care if you go outside after dark. Avoid travelling alone or to isolated areas. Be particularly vigilant in border areas. 2) 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. 4) Register with your consulate when you arrive and memorize their phone number. 5) Ask for permission before photographing people and some objects, especially with minorities and their village shrines. 3) Treat things related to religion with respect.
6) Wearing modest dress is appreciated especially in the districts (the countryside). 7) Don't photograph anything that can be construed as a military target. 8) Police advise individuals against hiking alone in the forest, including at well-known recreation areas. It’s easy to get lost. Use recognised and well-known guides, and stay on the footpaths. 9) Be careful about buying anything that might be construed as an antique or a treasure. Removal of antiquities from the country is serious crime. Tourists have landed in jail for this. Keep receipts of anything for anything questionable so you can offer them as proof that items are souvenirs not treasures. 10) Bring sunblock, condoms, tampons, razor blades, extra glasses or contact lenses, sanitary napkins, prescription drugs and a flashlight for your own use.
Outside of a small number of PADI-certified dive shops, no formal tourism industry infrastructure is in place. Tourists are considered to be participating in activities at their own risk. Emergency response and subsequent appropriate medical treatment is not available in-country. See Health. Travel.state.gov, U.S. Department of State — Bureau of Consular Affairs, December 2018]
Measurements and Dates: like most countries in the world, uses the metric system to measure distances and quantities and the centigrade system to measure temperature. Singaporean clothing and shoe sizes are different from American sizes. But often Singapore often uses the 24 hour clock (i.e 20:00 instead of 8:00pm) instead of theam andpm. system. They also write their dates different, with the year preceding the month and day. April 23, 1999 is 23/4/99 not 99/4/23 as Americans write it.
Emergency contact numbers
Police: 7723 0635
Fire: 3312210, 3324019 or 7230686
Ambulance: 7723 6662, 33110441 or 77233212
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: www.travel.state.gov/pasport-services.html . Should you lose your passport please make a police report immediately and approach your embassy to apply for a replacement travel document.
Travel Advisories and Advise: U.S. State Department Advisories: Tel: Emergencies Abroad: From the U.S. & Canada - 1-888-407-4747; From Overseas -Tel: +1 202-501-4444; Report a Lost or Stolen Passport: From the U.S. & Canada 1-888-407-4747; From OverseasTel: +1 202-501-4444. website travel.state.gov ;
British travel warnings: gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice ; Canadian travel warnings and advise: travel.gc.ca/travelling/advisories ; . Australian travel warnings: dfat.gov.au/travel ; Lonely Planet Thorn Tree Travel Forum lonelyplanet.com/thorntree ; CNN Travel: edition.cnn.com/travel International SOS internationalsos.com ) Robert Young Pelton’s Dangerous Places comebackalive.com ;
Also See Health, Money Hotels, Air Travel, Driving, Alcohol.
Natural Hazards and Environmental Concerns in Timor-Leste
Timor-Leste’s infrastructure was not built to withstand natural disasters. Earthquakes can occur at any time. There have been no significant earthquakes since 2005. Tropical cyclones, the hurricane-like storms that hit Australia also hit Timor-Leste.
Flash flooding is a concern during the rainy season, especially in districts outside Dili where the mountainous terrain creates the potential for landslides. Landslides and washed out roads are common throughout the country during the rainy season and frequently disrupt major driving routes. The rainy season in Timor-Leste normally runs from November to April. [Source: Timor-Leste 2019 Crime & Safety Report, OSAC, Overseas Security Advisory Council, Bureau of Diplomatic Security, March 2019]
With the exception of Atauro, Timor-Leste does have estuarine crocodiles (big saltwater crocodiles) around its coast and on the rare cases attacks happen, they are often fatal. Prior to going near the water, it is a sensible precaution to check with the locals whether the area is safe for swimming and if crocodiles have been recently sighted. Crocodiles are frequently seen on the south coast and have even been seen at beaches near Dili.
Some popular sites for diving, snorkelling and swimming can experience very strong currents and care needs to be taken when in the water as conditions can change quickly. Please do not litter, light fires, purchase souvenirs made from endangered species e.g. turtles and touch or take other marine species e.g. coral and shells
Infrastructure Issues in Timor-Leste
Electricity is of limited duration in some outlying areas and outages can occur (so a flashlight is useful). Electricity, telephone and telecommunications, roads and lodging were unreliable for a long time, particularly outside of the capital, and only recently significant improvements have been made..
The loss of services (e.g. food, sanitation, utilities) in the event of a large-scale natural disaster could lead to a rapid deterioration of law and order. Any disaster that closed or significantly reduced the operations of the port or fuel terminal would lead to immediate shortages of basic foodstuffs and fuel. [Source: Timor-Leste 2019 Crime & Safety Report, OSAC, Overseas Security Advisory Council, Bureau of Diplomatic Security, March 2019]
The government has made major investments in upgrading its infrastructure. A planned port in Tibar Bay (10 kilometers west of Dili), will increase cargo capacity and ease congestion in the country’s only operational port, stimulating economic activity by easing the movement of goods. The construction of the port was expected to take three years to complete, but has been delayed.
The government is improving its road system. The road improvements are part of the Asian Development Bank (ADB)-assisted Road Network Upgrading Sector Project, which aims to accelerate economic opportunities, promote private sector growth, increase agricultural productivity, and reduce poverty.
Crime in Timor-Leste
Crime continues to be a problem in Timor-Leste. including gang-related violence (not directed towards foreigners), robbery and assault. Pick-pocketing, purse snatching, residential and automobile break-ins, robbery (sometimes armed), and theft occur, especially in Dili. These crimes often happen in recreational areas and facilities frequented by foreigners. Victims of crime who resist may face physical violence by perpetrators. [Source: Travel.state.gov, U.S. Department of State — Bureau of Consular Affairs, December 2018]
There is considerable risk from crime in Dili. Due to extreme poverty and high unemployment, crimes of opportunity occur frequently. Reported data shows most violent crime involves Timorese perpetrators and victims. Despite significant socio-economic disparity within the country, violence targeting expatriates is relatively infrequent. Most crimes take place at night; exercise increased vigilance after dark.
Women walking or exercising alone in Dili have reported harassment, indecent exposure, and groping. Incidents have occurred during both day and night, in rural areas and in busy urban centers. Authorities and communities appear to have done little to discourage this type of harassment and assault. Women should avoid traveling or taking taxis alone, especially at night.
Street gangs affiliated with Martial Arts Groups (MAGs) are present, but the government has banned most of their activities. Gang violence, which flares up occasionally, primarily occurs between rival MAGs and rarely targets expatriates or businesses. The government and NGO community continue to monitor the activities these groups closely.
There have been several cases of low-tech counterfeiting, and authorities have caught individuals with counterfeit notes brought in from other countries. Although cybercrime is relatively uncommon, the increasing use of mobile technology will likely lead to more cybercrime. Timorese law enforcement has very limited capability regarding cybercrime investigations.
There are occasional incidents of fighting between groups in various districts around Timor-Leste, often but not always related to martial arts groups. These incidents often involve stone throwing and occasionally machetes and knives. Most happen at night. Foreigners haven’t been targeted, but leave the area immediately if you’re aware of fighting
According to Wikivoyage: It is “generally considered unsafe for a ‘malae’ (foreigner) woman (and probably a malae man, too) to walk around alone after dark. There have been a few reported incidents of people riding in taxis after dark being robbed. There have been a few malae houses broken into overnight. Generally, though, it feels very safe to walk around Dili during the day – there are always lots of people around. Foreign men and women or 'Malae', should take care when catching a taxi or walking outside at night. Travellers should be careful with 'over-the-shoulder' satchels as it has been reported that people have been pulled off mopeds by thieves grabbing bags.
“The only other security precaution in Dili is to avoid gang activity, which normally occurs at night, particularly in the Bairo Pite district of Dili. These gangs are based on martial arts groups within Dili, which after Timor Leste's history of violence and upheaval - is a social network for many unemployed males. Setesete, PSHT and Korak are the main gangs and their graffiti can be seen throughout Dili. It is highly recommended that travellers keep their distance from these martial arts venues and leave an area immediately if gang related violence seems to be a possibility.” . Precautions Against Crime
Be vigilant at all times and avoid displaying expensive items of jewelry or carrying large sums of money. Remove any visible valuables from your car if leaving it unattended. Use extreme caution when venturing out at night. In Dili, if heading out after dark, do have a plan to get back to your accommodation as there is poor street lighting and no taxis (unless prearranged). For security reasons it is advised in Timor-Leste you travel with a companion (or guide) and don’t visit isolated areas or travel at night. Travel outside the Dili district warrants extra caution due to poor roads and sparse law enforcement or medical facilities.
If possible keep valuables (money, passport and credit cards) in a hotel safe. Some hotels charge a fee to use their safes. Also make copies of all your documents (passport, Timor-Leste passport stamp or visa, tickets, tour vouchers), credit cards and travelers checks receipts. Keep one set with you in a different place from your originals and another set at home.
It is a good idea to have 1) a money belt or neck pouch, and 2) buttoned pockets and 3) to distribute you money and valuables among them. Visitors are advised not to carry cash in their pockets and never count money in public. It also is a good idea to keep small bills in your pocket so you don't have to pull a big wad of cash, thus displaying your wealth, to make a small purchase.
While in Timor-Leste, you can generally avoid becoming a victim of a crime of opportunity by practicing good security awareness. For example, secure your valuables (remove them from plain view), avoid secluded locations, properly secure your residence and vehicle, and do not travel alone late at night. It also unwise to wear flashy clothes or jewelry. Also, try to blend into the crowd and not look too much like a naive tourist. Don't carry a purse, wear a fanny pack or keep your wallet in your back pocket. Fanny packs and backpacks are vulnerable to razor attacks.
Be particularly careful at night because the streets aren't lit very well. Avoid unlit areas and underground passages. Watch your bags and cameras. It is not a bad idea to have a piece of wire running through the shoulder straps of your bags. If you sit at an outdoor café and have a bag it is a good idea to fasten your bag to chair somehow.
Victims of Crime in Timor-Leste
U.S. citizen victims of sexual assault should first contact the U.S. Embassy. Otherwise report crimes to the local police at 112 and contact the U.S. Embassy atTel: (+670)-7723-1328. Remember that local authorities are responsible for investigating and prosecuting the crime. See our webpage on help for U.S. victims of crime overseas. [Source: Travel.State.Gov, U.S. Department of State, May 2019]
The U.S. Embassy can:
1) help you find appropriate medical care
2) assist you in reporting a crime to the police
3) contact relatives or friends with your written consent
4) explain the local criminal justice process in general terms
5) provide a list of local attorneys
6) provide our information on victim’s compensation programs in the U.S.
7) provide an emergency loan for repatriation to the United States and/or limited medical support in cases of destitution
8) help you find accommodation and arrange flights home
9) replace a stolen or lost passport
10) Domestic Violence: U.S. citizen victims of domestic violence may contact the Embassy for assistance.
Police Response and What to Do if Arrested in Timor-Leste
As one of the youngest countries in the world, Timor-Leste’s security and law enforcement capabilities continue to evolve. International assistance has helped develop security forces and professionalize the military. Ongoing challenges for the security sector include large numbers of unemployed youth, Martial Arts Groups, and the capacity of the local security services.
Law and order remains a top priority of the government, with primary responsibility falling to the police (National Police of East Timor, in Tetum: Polísia Nasionál Timór Lorosa'e, PNTL). The PNTL’s capacity is limited but improving, with assistance from bilateral partners in the international community, including from the U.S. Government. The PNTL has been developing its community policing capacity, and is slowly beginning to build its capabilities in the areas of criminal investigations, personnel/facility protection, and traffic control. [Source: Timor-Leste 2019 Crime & Safety Report, OSAC, Overseas Security Advisory Council, Bureau of Diplomatic Security, March 2019]
Criminal Penalties: You are subject to local laws. If you violate local laws, even unknowingly, you may be expelled, arrested, or imprisoned. If you are suspected of criminal activity, you may be incarcerated for up to one year pending investigation. Furthermore, some laws are also prosecutable in the United States, regardless of local law. [Source: Travel.state.gov, U.S. Department of State — Bureau of Consular Affairs, December 2018]
How to Handle Incidents of Police Detention or Harassment: Timorese security forces occasionally establish official security checkpoints along roads. Authorities may expected you to show your passport at these checkpoints. While police detention and harassment is not a systemic problem, the nascent legal system can lead to prolonged delays with adverse effects on foreigners. In the event of prolonged detention or incarceration, foreigners should request to notify their respective embassy.
Crime Victim Assistance: Reach the PNTL’s emergency call center by dialing 112 from any phone in Dili. Police are slow to respond to calls for emergency assistance or initiate investigations into crimes against individuals. Victims of crime are encouraged to file police reports to help document the level of criminal activity. U.S. citizen victims should also contact the U.S. Embassy atTel: (+670)-7723-1328. The U.S. government strongly urge travelers to carry a copy of their passport on their person, as
Terrorism, History and Anti-Western Sentiments in Timor-Leste
There is minimal risk from terrorism in Dili. No indigenous terrorist organizations operate in Timor-Leste, and there are no known transnational terrorist groups operating in the country. In 2015, a grenade was thrown at a U.S. diplomatic residence, but no group claimed responsibility and the perpetrators have not been identified. Local police and security services have increased their vigilance in monitoring the border with Indonesia, and are proactively sharing information with Indonesian police to prevent terrorism from spreading into Timor-Leste. [Source: Timor-Leste 2019 Crime & Safety Report, OSAC, Overseas Security Advisory Council, Bureau of Diplomatic Security, March 2019]
Local citizens have a strong affinity for the United States. U.S. flags are common on apparel, vehicles, and stores. There have not been any recent incidents of anti-U.S. sentiment. U.S. citizens may sometimes be mistaken for Australians, who are occasionally subject to anti-Australian sentiment stemming from a maritime boundary dispute between Timor-Leste and Australia. That dispute was the subject of large protests outside the Australian Embassy in 2016 and 2018. The protests are generally peaceful in nature.
East Timor was devastated by the Indonesian occupation that may have killed up to 200,000 (or 1 in 5 of all people in East Timor) East Timorese. Many East Timorese were forced to abandon their traditional animist beliefs for Roman Catholicism during the Portuguese colonial period. Speaking well of Suharto's Orde Baru or of the idea of East Timor becoming part of Indonesia may not be well received by the East Timorese people. Many East Timorese are sympathetic or even outright nostalgic about the period of Portuguese rule over East Timor, where they were generally left to their own devices by the Portuguese colonial government. As with discussing politics abroad in all places, if you aren't sure a discussion about sensitive topics will go over well, don't bring it up.
Civil Unrest in Timor-Leste
There is moderate risk from civil unrest in Dili. Timor-Leste has experienced several episodes of violence since becoming independent in 2002. There have been no major nationwide civil disturbances since 2008, however, and international peacekeepers departed the country at the end of 2012. At no time has civil unrest specifically targeted official U.S. government interests. However, stone-throwing attacks on vehicles may occur during gang conflicts and periods of civil unrest.
The security situation in Timor-Leste has improved but underlying tensions remain especially during election periods where the security situation could deteriorate with little warning. If you become aware of any nearby military activity you should leave the area immediately. If you are inside and become aware of military operations in your immediate area you should take cover away from windows. Avoid any demonstrations and large crowds, as these have the potential to deteriorate quickly and turn violent. [Source: gov.uk United Kingdom government, Foreign travel advice, 2019]
As Timor-Leste continues to develop and addresses the challenges of constructing a nation, the possibility of civil unrest remains a concern. The nation last experienced serious civil unrest related to fighting between the police (PNTL) and military (F-FDTL) from 2006-2008. Militants who were part of the independence movement but not reconciled to the political situation represent a continuing source of potential conflict. Violence related to political actions by the militarist Maubere Revolutionary Council (KRM) in Baucau district in 2015 did not target or directly affect foreigners, but the possibility of fighting that could indirectly harm foreigners or business interests remains a concern. [Source: Timor-Leste 2019 Crime & Safety Report, OSAC, Overseas Security Advisory Council, Bureau of Diplomatic Security, March 2019]
Excessive use force by the police and military has previously been a trigger for civil unrest. The fatal shooting of three men by off-duty PNTL officers sparked peaceful protests and civil action against the police in 2018. The country held presidential and parliamentary elections in 2017 and 2018 without any major security incidents.
Before visiting Timor-Leste do check out the recent travel advisory posted by your relevant country. In general Timor-Leste is rated similar to many other South-East Asian countries. That said, do avoid situations where there are crowds gathering or protests. . Exercise caution in public places, including, but not limited to, clubs, restaurants, bars, schools, places of worship, outdoor recreational events, hotels, resorts and beaches, and other locations frequented by foreigners. You should review U.S. Embassy security messages and maintain a high level of security awareness while moving around the country. Timorese security forces occasionally establish official security checkpoints along roads. You may be expected to show your passport at these checkpoints.
Alert: U.S. Embassy Dili, Timor-Leste (July 17, September 23, 2019): 1) Location: Road on either side of the new, southernmost bridge in Dili, Banana Road and the major intersection closest to Aznitrade Supermarket east to the intersection closest to the Palm Business Center. Event: 2) Event: There has been martial art gang incidents and subsequent police and military operations along Banana Road. The U.S. Embassy received several reports of after-dark incidents along the road west of the southernmost bridge in Dili. There appears to be an increasing number of youth fights in this area, and increasing reports of people throwing stones at passing vehicles. 3) Actions to Take: A) Avoid the road between the Aznitrade Supermarket, across the new, southernmost bridge in Dili, east to the Palm Business Center after dark (between 19:30 – 05:00). B) If you encounter a street brawl while driving, stop and immediately turn around to take an alternate route. C) If you see a large group of rowdy people by the side of the road after dark, particularly if you are driving a scooter or motorcycle, turn around and take an alternate route.
Sex, Drugs, LGBT and Handicapped Issues in Timor-Leste
Don’t become involved with drugs of any kind. Penalties for breaking the law can be severe. Timor-Leste is a transit point for drugs, but has experienced relatively limited distribution or production.
There is no legal protection based on sexual orientation or gender identity in Timor-Leste. However, since 2009, the penal code specifies that crimes motivated by the victim’s sexual orientation (as well as ethnicity, religion, disability, etc.) may be subject to higher penalties. Although there are some openly gay public personalities, LGBTI individuals generally maintain very low profiles. Several LGBTI organization exists, and there have been no formal reports of discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity, due in part to limited awareness of the issue. Discrimination may be underreported due to the lack of recourse stemming from the absence of formal legal protections. Travel.state.gov, U.S. Department of State — Bureau of Consular Affairs, December 2018]
Same-sex sexual activity is legal in Timor-Leste. Although there are no legal protections based on sexual orientation or gender identity, hate-crime legislation that includes LGBT identity has been in force since 2009. Discrimination and violence against the LGBT community continues, but events such as Pride Parade are well attended and without major controversy.
Handicapped access in not well developed. Wheelchair ramps may not be available on all sidewalks, which often have very deep and wide gutters that may not be covered. Buildings may not always have wheelchair-accessible doorways or elevators. Although the Timorese Constitution guarantees the same rights to disabled citizens as it does to all other citizens, Timor-Leste does not currently have legislation that mandates access to transportation, communication, and public buildings for persons with disabilities. Currently most public places and public transportation are not accessible. Persons with disabilities will face difficulties in Timor-Leste as foot paths, rest rooms, road crossings, and tourist areas are not equipped to accommodate people with disabilities.
Warning to Women
There have been reports of harassment and violence against women. Women walking or exercising alone in Dili have reported harassment, indecent exposure, and groping. Incidents have occurred during both day and night, in rural areas and in busy urban centers. Authorities and communities appear to have done little to discourage this type of harassment and assault. Women should avoid traveling or taking taxis alone, especially at night.
Timor-Leste is socially conservative. Travelers should avoid wearing revealing clothing, particularly in crowded public areas such as markets. Timor-Leste has a very high rate of gender-based violence. Local women dress conservatively in Dili. 'Short shorts', strapless tops and mini skirts are rarely worn by local women and may beckon unwanted attention. Generally, you want to wear 3/4 sleeve tops and long pants or skirts to protect yourself from mosquito borne diseases and to keep consistent with local dress.
Same-sex or overt public displays of affection may attract disapproval or vocal objection, especially from the older population. Dili is more liberal than the districts, where people will expect women to wear clothes which cover their shoulders (ie not sleeveless) and trousers or a skirt below the knee. Generally, it’s better to err on the conservative side.
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