Dili, a small port city on the northern coast, is the capital and main city of Timor-Leste . Located directly on the sea, it is a pleasant and laid-back city with scenic beaches, colorful art markets, a decent range of accommodation and attractions, Portuguese architecture, and expat-frequented restaurants and bars. Attractions include swimming in the clear waters of Cape Fatucama, which lies just behind the large Rio-like Jesus statue. It is possible to organize a fishing trip out to the reefs offshore with the locals in a dugout canoe. It is also a good place chill, lounging in a comfortable beachside guesthouse ro hanging out in a café, enjoying a jolt of espresso made from locally-grown coffee. Dili serves as a base for diving trips along the northeastern coast and Atauro Island and adventures all over Timor-Leste. [Source: southeastasiawanders.com]
Seth Mydans wrote in the New York Times: “A storm of fine, white sand blew across the half-deserted beach as a group of teenagers kicked a soccer ball by the surf; nearby, other youngsters whooped as they raced bicycles along a beachfront road. It was the end of a lazy afternoon one recent Sunday on the outskirts of Dili...The two-story town becomes an oven in the midday sun, with mostly jobless men and women strolling slowly past near-empty shops. [Source: Seth Mydans, New York Times, June 5, 2005]
“Though the weather was perfect and the water crystal clear, this prime beachfront lined with palm trees had an off-season feel to it. Only the low-key Caz Bar and one or two other sunset-watching hangouts seemed alive, with clusters of beer drinkers and a mixture of Western rock and pop music drifting through the air...as a handful of foreigners mixed with the local beachgoers.” But all n’ all its expensive and you don’t get much for your money. “The expense mostly involves high-priced airline tickets and poor-quality hotel rooms whose rates are a strain for a low-budget traveler. The top hotel in Dili is the Timor, a functional, but charmless hotel, which may rate a couple of stars but charges US$90 a night and serves extraordinarily bad food.
But who travels for good hotels and food, right? Dili is surrounded by hills that are lush and green in the rainy season, and turn brown in the dry season. The city faces the ocean and is fronted by a beachfront road and the waterfront with government buildings, Motael Church, a lighthouse and embassies. There is a pedestrian walkway along the central harbour, statues and small municipal gardens in which to relax shaded by large banyan trees. Vendors sell local crafts, tropical fruits, fresh seafood and refreshing green coconut juice. On the weekends people gather in the late afternoon to watch and play informal games of football or beach volley ball.
Dili municipality includes the nation’s capital city, beaches to the east and west and the island of Atauro lying across Wetar Strait to the north. The capital also known as Dili is undergoing a rapid transformation with the development of new buildings and services following past destruction.
History of Dili
Dili was the classic backwater during Portuguese colonial era, being the main city of a remote colony in a remote part of the world. However, this heritage left Dili with a distinct Portuguese flavor. Together with Macau, is probably the furthest east where you can experience genuine Portuguese food and architecture.
In the rampage after the independence referendum in 1999, 80 percent of the buildings in Dili were destroyed or damaged. The governor's mansion was looted and documents were scattered all over the place. Several banks, two radio stations, the Voice of Timor-Leste newspaper, the Mahkota Hotel, other hotels, the Catholic diocese office and most of the shops and restaurants on in the Central business district of Dili were all looted and burned. One of the cities two hospitals was destroyed. The other managed to stay open.
Dili has since recovered remarkably, although one can still see many gutted buildings. It population of Dili dropped from 175,000 to 70,000 after the violence and has risen to around 225,000. Most of those who remained after the violence lived in tents on the beach and parks for some time. By 2002, the charred areas had been rebuilt and the streets were filled with traffic and restaurants were busy. Stores sold pirated DVDs and software. Some burned out buildings remained. For a long time hotel were fully booked with NGO workers and UN Peacekeepers. The money they brought in helped the city recover relatively quickly. Now, finally, this lazy little seaside city has woken up to the fact it is national capital of a newly independent country.
Orientation, Embassies and Banks in Timor-Leste
Dili lies on the northern coast of East Timor, squeezed and drawn out along some narrow plains between the central mountains which run the length of the Timor and the Ombai Strait. The 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.
Dili is also capital of a district (munincipality) with the same name. The district includes the surrounding areas as well as Atauro Island. Dili has sort of a colonial core, with its waterfront and a square bordered on the south side by the impressive Government Buildings. The commercial areas of Lecidere lies to the east, Colmera is to the west and the former Mercado Municipal (Central Market) is to the south. [Source: Wikivoyage]
Due to its compactness, Dili is relatively easy to get around on foot and by taxi.Many of the main restaurants and bars are located along the beachfront road (Avenida de Portugal) and out towards Areia Branca (white sands). The most popular of the city’s beaches, Areia Branca has a number of beachside eateries and bars perfect for watching the sun set behind the island of Alor. Further on from Areia Branca is the statue of Cristo Rei perched on Cape Fatucama – Dili’s most famous landmark. Excellent views towards the city and over to Back Beach reward those climbing to the top.
Australia, Rua Mártires da Pátria, Tel: (+670) 332 2111, Fax: (+670) 332 2247, e-mail: email@example.com
China, Rua Governador Serpa Rosa, Farol, Tel: (+670) 332-5168, Fax: (+670) 332-5166, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Indonesia, Rua Governador Serpa Rosa, Tel: (+670) 331-7107,e-mail: email@example.com. (updated Apr 2017
Portugal, Edifício ACAIT, Av. Presidente Nicolau Lobato, Díli, Tel: (+670) 331-2532, Fax: (+670) 331-2526, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org (The embassy has a functioning, open clinic)
United States, Avenida de Portugal, Praia dos Coqueiros, Tel: (+670) 332-4684, Fax: (+670) 331-3206
According to Wikivoyage as of December 2018: “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 (no ATMs is working with Master Card) Bank Mandiri, one of the major banks in Indonesia, has a branch in Dili. The bank is close to the Government Building in Dili. They also have several ATMs across town, for example at Timor Plaza or Tiger Fuel. It has not been proven that it can serve the Indonesian Mandiri account, but even if your overseas cards work with Mandiri ATMs in Indonesia, it will not work with Mandiri ATMs in Timor Leste. Caixa Geral de Depositos, a Portuguese bank trading as BNU, also has a branch in Dili, and branches at several other locations within East Timor. The claimed branch at Dili airport consists of an empty desk & window, it is never staffed.”
Sights in Dili
Cristo Rei (about three kilometers east of Dili) is a 27 meter-high high statue of Christ standing on a world globe a top Cap Fatucama. Dili’s most a striking landmark, it stands on a headland to the east of Dili and is reached by steep walkway lined with 14 ‘Stations of the Cross’. Rumour has it that, when the mainly Muslim Indonesians built the statue as a gift to the mainly Christian East Timorese, they designed it so that Jesus would be facing towards Jakarta. From the top you can enjoy wonderful views of Dili, Atauro Island and beautiful Back Beach. Anneli Knight wrote in The Guardian: Cristo Rei “was presented as a gift in 1996 from Indonesia’s President Suharto to celebrate 20 years of East Timor’s “integration” with Indonesia. From afar, it looks strikingly similar to Rio de Janeiro’s Christ the Redeemer. After climbing the 588 steps to the top we enjoyed breakfast by the bay surrounded by tables of expats.” [Source: Anneli Knight, The Guardian, August 5, 2015]
Areia Branca ("white sand") is a beach under the Cristo Rei. It is easy to get there on foot. From Dili, follow the main road east out of town. Taxi drivers will take you there for US$5 but you will need to pay extra to make sure they wait while you have a look. Then you have US$5 to get back. At the western entrance to Dili on a headland near the Tasi Tolu Lakes is another large bronze statue celebrating Pope Paul II.
Cape Fatucama and Backside Beach (behind Cristo Rei) it's a scenic, inverted C-shaped coastline with clear waters. It is a much nicer beach than Areia Branca, the beach in Dili. If driving, head east towards Baucau on the road that crosses the ridge near Ramos-Horta's house and look for the turnoff on the left. Otherwise, you walk up the steps towards Cristo Rei and then, halfway up, go down other steps to the beach.
Timorese Resistance Archive and Museum (Rua Universidade (next to the university) is definitely worth a visit. It provides an overview of the resistance struggle of the Timorese people during the Indonesian occupation. It has interesting audio-visual exhibitions evoking key moments and figures. Opening hours 9.30am-4.30pm Tuesday to Saturday, Tel: (+670) 7713 1901/7713 1902. Admission: US$1.
Xanana Gusmao Museum is a small museum art gallery and reading room housed in an old Portuguese building displays art, photos and information about Xanana Gusmao, the former resistance leader and president of Timor-Leste. Opening hours are Monday to Friday,9:00am-5:00pm and Saturday, 9:00am-3pm. The complex also includes a small library. Location: Rua Belamino Lobo, Dili, Tel: (+670) 332 2831/7726 6517
Chega Exhibition is set in an old Portuguese-era prison, providing a glimpse of the harsh realities when hundreds of Timorese resistance individuals were incarcerated by the Indonesian military during the occupation. Hours:Monday to Friday: 10:00am–12:00noon, 2:00pm–5:00pm. Closed Saturday and Sunday. Location: Estrada de Balide, Dili
Dare Memorial Museum and Café (10 kilometers inland along the road that goes from Palacio de Governo into the mountains above Dili) overlooks the city. It commemorates the Australian soldiers of Sparrow Force and the Timorese kriados who fought against the Japanese during World War II. There are views across the city and out to Atauro Island. Open from 8:30 am to 18:00 pm on Saturdays and Sundays.
Gembel Cooperative is a community arts initiative. Local artist members display and sell their artwork including paintings, screen prints and curvy decorated mango roots at their workshop on the Dili waterfront. It is also a popular weekend afternoon location for musician jam sessions.
Santa Cruz Cemetery is an important commemoration site for the Timorese due to the massacre in 1991 that happened there during the Indonesian occupation. The atrocities were caught on camera and aired to the world bringing international attention to the Timorese struggle for independence. Just down and across the road from the Leader supermarket is a Church that has an English language mass on Sunday morning at 10:30 (and Tetum Masses at other times).
Beaches According to Wikivoyage: “There are good beaches near Dili. The ones near the centre of town are popular with kids but are polluted. The most accessible beaches are at Areia Branca near Christo Rei and they also have several bars and restaurants. The best close beach is Jesus Backside beach, which can be accessed either from a walking track that starts halfway up the stairs to Christo Rei, or by car by taking the road from Metiaut over the mountains and looking for a turn-off on the left (this is the remains of the road that used to go around the point).”
Shopping in Dili
You can generally get everything you need in Dili, with only a couple of exceptions, although some items are more expensive. You can buy VCDs, DVDs & Audio CDs very cheaply. If you are taking a laptop its well worth having (illegal) software installed. Rua Audian (east of the Mercado Lama roundabout) is an area good for small supermarkets and hardware/household stores. You may to a number places to find what you want. In Colmera, near the corner of Rua Nicolau dos Reis Lobato and Estrada de Balidae (aka Colmera Road) has several electronic and general stores.
Small supermarkets and convenience stores are all over the city (with a particular concentration of small supermarkets in Audian) but will have a limited range and be oriented towards Asian tastes. Larger supermarkets that are good for foreigners will still have a limited range and you may need to visit several to get what you want (if you can actually get it - months-long shortages are common). Supermarkets only have small amounts of fruit and vegetables and will charge more than the markets. [Source: Wikivoyage]
1) Timor Plaza, Rua Presidente Nicolau Lobato (between airport and Dili centre). The shopping mall in Dili. Good place for ATMs, SIM cards, souvenirs, ice cream, cinema, and Friday after work happy hour. 1.5 kilometers east of the airport.
2) Empreza Di'ak NGO Shop, Rua Lautem 1, Farol (next to DaTerra Hostel), e-mail: email@example.com. M-F 09:00-17:00. A Timorese organisation that works on economical empowerment to build better futures. Here you can find beautiful handicrafts and traditional products from Timor-Leste.
3) Arte Moris, Rua Presidente Nicolau Lobato (between Timor Plaza and the airport). Art centre that sells Timorese paintings, often painted directly on Tais. Recurring themes are local symbols and the life and death during the Indonesian occupation.
4) Tais Market, Colmera (by the the Hotel Timor) vendors sell high quality tais and other woven items, wooden carvings, silver jewellery, rosary beads, old coins, woodwork, pottery and other curios and souvenir items. There is a gift shop with a very good range of quality crafts from all over Timor-Leste.. Beware the imitation Tais, which are sometimes from Indonesia. There are a lot of stores with mostly identical offerings, so look around and choose a seller at random, or based on who wants to tell you about the regional differences. US$40-60 for a large tais (depending on how fancy it is), US$30 for a medium tais. Intensive haggling is not normal, so it's difficult to get 10 percent-20 percent off the first price, although discounts for multiple purchases are common. There are two laneways lead to it, one from near Harvey World Travel and one from the large T-junction Tel: (+670) 7704 7157
Alola Esperansa (Rua Bispo de Medeiros, Dili, a bit south of the Mercado Lama roundabout), has a good selection of high quality tais and other woven items for sale. The shop of Alola Foundation, East Timor's non-governmental organisation for women and children. You can find at Mercado Lama (Mascarenhas) a lot of quality handicrafts produced by weavers from all around East Timor. Bags, wallet, shoes, clothings and other various local handicrafts (all materials made from Tais) and Timorese coffee. A nice souvenir or gift for people at home and you can are supporting women and children throughout East Timor. The shop is open Monday to Friday from 9:00am to 5:30pm. There is a second shop in Dili's shopping mall Timor Plaza in Comoro. You can be sure of getting genuine quality tais sold for a good cause, however, the prices are 5 times higher than at the tais market. Tel: (+670) 332 3855, (+670) 7723 6363.
The main supermarkets of interest are: 1) Leader, Av. Presidente Nicolau Lobato (next to Timor Plaza). 09:30-21:30. Probably the best supermarket for expats, including a lot of household goods. 2) Kmanek, Timor Plaza, level 1. Good value but a limited range. 3) W Four, Timor Plaza (other side of the car park). Asian-orientated place but a good range and good prices. 4) Landmark, Av. Presidente Nicolau Lobato. Large supermarket but lacking many items. 5) Pateo, R. D Fernando. Portuguese supermarket. Nicely air conditioningditioned, unlike most supermarkets here. Good for Portuguese goods, e.g. canned fish, cheese, chorizo, wine, beer. However, it's quite expensive. 6) Lita, Av. dos Direitos Humanos (Lecidere beachfront). The best downtown supermarket. A fruit market is directly opposite. 7) Dilimart, Av. dos Direitos Humanos (next to Lita Store). Big new supermarket downtown. 8) Kmanek, Rua Belarmino Lobo (near the Burger King corner). Good cheap downtown supermarket but a limited range. Usually has fruit and veg sellers outside.
Food and Restaurants in Dili
There are plenty of restaurants in Dili, from local, Italian, Portuguese to Australian. Most popular in the evenings are the seafood BBQ places east of Dili on the beach. Some very nice inner city restaurants in Dili include Nautilaus, Diya, Ocean View Hotel and Gion Japanese Restaurant. In the Meti Aut area is the newly renovated Atlantic Bar and Grill which is arguably amongst the best service and quality in Timor. Another is the Caz Bar where kayaks can be hired late in the night and a barbeque serves fried fish and all the beach side meals such as sizzling garlic prawns, hamburgers and a large range of cold beer. [Source: Wikiyoyage]
High-End Restaurants: 1) Av. de Portugal (western beachfront road). The best Italian food in town, but that's not saying much. Due to the high prices, the popular Sunday night specials ($10 pizzas and pastas) are the best bet. US$10-25. 2) Diya, Rua Presidente Nicolau Lobato (in Discovery Inn). Often regarded as the best restaurant in town, with a mostly Indian menu. US$20. 3) Panorama, Timor Plaza Level 5 (co-located with Sky Bar). Excellent views over Dili but disappointing food for the price. Just drink at the bar and get some satay sticks instead. US$25.
To pick up snacks and get your own food self-cater, start at the East Timor Government Building, Palacio Do Governo. Head east, away from the airport. If you walk up the left hand road, about half way up on your right is Dili Cold Store supermarket. If you head out on the road towards the airport you will find the Comoro market, which is one of the two big markets in Dili. It is a little bit hard to find as it is set back from the road. If you are travelling from the UN building it is about a 20-minute walk – if you reach the Leader supermarket on the right you have gone too far. The markets are amazing. When you first arrive they look grimy and the place is covered in dust in the dry season and very muddy in the wet, but if you go inside you will find fruit, veggies, coffee etc all piled in little piles (this is the measurement for purchases – around 10c for leafy veggies and 50c for everything else). If you live with a Timorese family it is wonderful to go there and bring home little treats such as eggs and condensed milk, bananas and potatoes as they are usually beyond the everyday budget (rice and green vegetables are the staple diet of East Timorese). The Leader supermarket has lots of western treats, including chocolate and toilet paper.
Cheap Eats in Dili
Timorese and Indonesian warungs are roadside stalls , where you pick your food from the window. They are everywhere and cost US$1.50-3.00 for a typical meal. Miaow, Rua Belarmino Lobo (opposite Kmanek Lecidere, the old Kebab place) has freshly-baked French baguettes, pastries with delicious fillings, delicious juices and great coffee. Tel: (+670) 73120605, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Open 10:00am to 6:30pm
1) Restaurant Meloa, Bairo Pite (on the road running west from the cathedral, about 1 kilometers along on the north side of the road; it's a yellowy-green colour). 10:00-14:00. Popular suburban lunch warung. Choose from mildly-spiced egg, shoe-leather rendang, or the best fried chicken in Dili (people drive across town for this), then add a couple of vegetable dishes and a bowl of koto (bean soup). US$1.75.[Source: Wikivoyage]
2) Lili's, Rua Belarmino Lobo. Good Indonesian warung. Prices have increased since they became popular. US$3-5
3) Starco Cafe, Rue Presidente Nicolau Lobato. Good Indonesian warung. US$4-5
4) Bebonuk beach BBQs. This is a string of identical BBQs that sets up every evening on the beach, serving excellent chicken, pork and fish skewers for about US$1 each (they may try to overcharge foreigners) as well as katapas (rice cooked in coconut milk). Gets very messy but it is surely the best value beach dinner in Dili. US$2-4
5) Sunrise Cafe, Rua Belarmino Lobo (Audian end). Pleasant Indonesian restaurant. A la carte menu with things like bakso plus a bain marie that's light on veges but has good beef and chicken. US$2-4
Restaurants in Dili
The legendary R 'n' R café has sadly closed, as did several other longstanding restaurants after the UN mission left; however, growing prosperity and an influx of Europeans have led to a proliferation of restaurants. [Source: Wikivoyage, updated in 2015 and 2016]
1) Castaway, Avenida de Portugal (western beach road). One of the hippest and most reliable western joints. Good food, good staff, good crowd and views over the water. US$6-15
2) Royal Beach Hotel, Avenida de Portugal (western beach road). "Himalayan" restaurant (meaning Indians from an area close to Nepal) housed in a copy of Dili Beach Hotel's terrace, except very rickety, with dangerous stairs, insufficient roof overhangs that don't prevent water getting in and a bathroom that floods. Fairly good food though. US$8-15
3) Food-L-Do, Timor Plaza (next to the car park). A contender for the best coffee, pizza, pasta and breakfasts in town, with a large menu of inconsistent other foods. US$5-15
4) Timor Plaza. Has a food court with western and Asian dishes, at higher prices than elsewhere. Makanan, the Indian-Malay place with roti canai, martabak and briyani, may be the best option (Il Gelato is in the same shop, with the best ice cream in Dili). There is a Gloria Jean's with reliable coffee but terrible breakfasts. Elsewhere in Timor Plaza are some cafes, a donut shop and a rooftop restaurant
5) Queen Tundriee, Avenida dos Martires de Patria (almost opposite Tiger Fuel). It can't decide on how to spell tandoori (you'll see tundriee, tundaree, tanduree, tondroori and others), but they know how to do it. Excellent tandoori chicken, samosas and daals, plus many other dishes, including great vegetable dishes. US$4-8
6) Mama's Resto, Avenida dos Martires de Patria (opposite Wasabi). Manado restaurant that is one of the best Indonesian places in town, with a huge offering in the window, including great BBQ beef, pork, chicken and sometimes dog. You pay extra for the quality though. US$4-8
7) Linivon, Bidau (Head 200m east from Rua Belarmino Lobo from the intersection with café La Esquina). Rendang. It's self-service, so you can pick the best pieces. Also has extensive other offerings. US$4-5
8) New 88, Rua Audian. Also has a branch at Landmark and maybe others. Best Chinese food in town according to many Chinese, reliable place to get duck, but relatively expensive for Dili. US$5-10
9) Ponto de Econtro, Metiaut (white wall with blue writing on the inland side of the road). Inconsistent but usually good Portuguese food, from grills to soups. Late-night karaoke. US$7-10
10) Caz Bar, Areia Branca. Great for drinks or food on the beach (just find the plastic tables and chairs on the sand, or ask staff to get some for you; the main bar is across the road and under cover). Big menu of mostly-western items that are good value considering the location and quality. US$5-10
11) Kathy's Cafe, Areia Branca. Part of Beachside Hotel, it's the other western place on the Areia Branca. Excellent breakfasts eaten on the sand. US$8-15
12) Vittoria, Metiaut. The premier fish restaurant in Dili - pick a whole fish of various sizes and wait 30-40 minutes for them to grill it. Sides can be overpriced. US$6-10
13) Early Sun, Metiaut. Reliable Chinese restaurant on the beachfront with a big menu of good-value dishes. US$6-10
14) Little Pattaya, Metiaut. Combination Thai/Lebanese restaurant. Not the greatest food but probably the nicest setting of the beachfront restaurants and great for groups. US$6-12
15) Tiger Fuel, Avenida dos Martires de Patria.. Avenida dos Martires de Patria. Pizza Hut-quality pizzas and sometimes other foods like kebabs. 24hr
16) Spicy Hut, Metiaut. There are never cars parked out the front, but if you try to park there and then go to a different restaurant, they'll chase you off or slash your tyres. The few that have ventured inside report oily food and cranky staff
17) O Beiro, Metiaut. Good beachside Portuguese BBQ joint. US$12.
18) Tito's, Metiaut. Upmarket Portuguese restaurant on the beach. US$15.
19) Gion, Timor Plaza, lower level next to the car park. Best Japanese restaurant in town, but be careful about the sashimi. US$12+.
20) Arriba, Av. de Portugal (co-located with Osteria). A good opportunity to savour some of the worst Mexican food in the world. Very bland, poorly-made and quite expensive. Despite being the only Mexican option in town, still doesn't seem to get much business. US$10.
21) Golden Star, Rua Audian (near the corner of Belarmino Lobo, where the 24hr Kaliber 12 place is). Attractive Chinese restaurant in the suburbs with a few interesting "Timorese" dishes, like the saboco fish dish. US$8+. (updated Aug 2015
Entertainment, Bars and Nightlife in Dili
Friday after work (17:00-20:00) is the infamous happy hour atop Timor Plaza (Sky Bar - level 5), where many expats gather. Castaway is an expat bar on the main drag along the beach in Dili; drinks range from US$4 beer and cocktails to a US$10 giant margarita. They have a shelf of (largely English) books where you can leave and take, typical backpacker style. (Cigarettes are available at the bar but only worth it if you are feeling lazy, at US$2.50 a pack which is more than double the price of street vendors' cigs!). Next to it is Nova bar. [Source: Wikiyoyage]
1 Caz Bar, Areia Branca (Cristo Rei Beach) (next to Beachside Hotel), Tel: (+670) 7723 3961. Nice bar on the beach near Cristo Rei. Great pizza. Frequented by NGO staff.
2 Kaliber 12, Rua Belarmino Lobo/Rua Audian. 24 jam! This corner store blasts music 24 hours a day. You can buy a beer at shop prices, sit outside and meet locals
3 Tower, Comoro Rd (Look for the wire tower with an illuminated T at the top). One of the hippest bars in town, it fills up with locals and expats (especially Portuguese) from about 23:00. US$5 cover charge includes a drink. It's partly outdoors but still fills with cigarette smoke Moon Bar. The bar that the UN banned its staff from going to! It must be good then, but can you actually find it? edit
4 Letefoho Specialty Coffee Roasters, Avenida de Portugal (western beach road, underneath Hotel Royal Beach). Promoting local coffee growers in a small hipster cafe. Some of the best coffee in town.
5 Club 88, Rua São Sebastião (above L&D Pizza Bar). late. Seems to have taken over Tower's mantle as the premier late night smoky dance club. (updated Nov 2015
6 Miaow, Rua Belarmino Lobo (in the old Kebab Club building opposite Kmanek). New (first ever in Dili) jazz club showcasing a collection of Timorese and foreign artists. The funkiest place to be late on a Friday or Saturday night. (updated Nov 2015
The Naughty Nomad posted: “You have limited choices during the week. But if you want the REAL Dili…Follow the music into the slums. 20 minutes later you will find a clearing PACKED with Timorese girls and guys. There’s no alcohol, just ballroom dancing. You will be the only white people, and treated like celebrities as a result. Every song the first man who asks a girl to dance gets the privilege. They will dance with you NO problem. These girls are nearly all virgins and rarely speak English but it makes for an unforgettable night and is great fun! [Source: Naughty Nomad, April 29, 2010]
Hotels in Dili
There are plenty of hotels in Dili, ranging from cheap and basic (living in a container, with a window and a fan if you’re lucky, probably about US$5 per night) to less cheap and less basic (air-con and cable TV, probably about US$40 per night). Some cafes around town have ads for accommodation available, but generally the only way to find out where there are places available is to ask around.
There are quite a few foreigners in Dili who live in hotels or guest houses permanently. Other alternatives include: ‘Kos’ style accommodation, where you get your own room and usually a bathroom, living with an East Timorese family; meals are usually shared with the family. The best way to find out about these places is to ask East Timorese friends or work colleagues. Rent is generally about US$150 per month. Advantages include learning Tetum quickly, getting more exposure to East Timorese culture and spending time with an East Timorese family. Disadvantages can include lack of personal space, and no cooking facilities.
Budget Accommodation in Dili
Dili Central Backpackers is a super friendly hostel with dormitory and single room accommodation close to the city centre. Owner is an Australian woman who has lived in East Timor for many years and is very knowledgeable about the place. From US$$10 per night. Cnr Rua Srg. Lobato and Rua Nu Badak, Ai-Kadiruhun, Tel: (+670) 7350 6279.
Seth Mydans wrote in the New York Times: “A legend on the international backpackers's circuit, Dili Backpackers is a hub for travellers, situated in downtown Dili, a short walk from the beach. Friendly staff share a wealth of information and advice on getting around and seeing the sights. Range of simple, reasonably-priced accommodation. Two restaurants and a cool beer garden.” [Source: Seth Mydans, New York Times, June 5, 2005]
Moby’s Hotel has waterfront accommodation with private rooms and backpacker share dormitory accommodation. Free parking and onsite restaurant and gift shop. Bike hire available. Breakfast included (some rooms). Tel: (+670) 7833 9050
DTL Guest House has choice of air-conditioned studio apartments and guest houses available with lounge/kitchen, room(s) and private bathroom. Swimming pool and free wifi. Dive centre and Castaways restaurant/bar on site. Tel: (+670) 7723 7092
Tropical Hotel boasts secure rooms, attention to detail and superb dining ! The rooms are simple and include complimentary laundry and Satalite TV. Great for people on a budget. From US$$30 per night Location: Bidau Lecidere, Dili
Venture Hotel is one of Dili best Budget Hotels offering Single, Twin, Bunk Bed Rooms and also Single Rooms with ensuite. The Hotel offers a good restaurant with refreshing Pool for a quick swim after a hot walk around Dili. Locted in Bidau Lecidere which is a an excellend quiet location to many restaurants, banks, parks and the sea side. So please come and join us for your visit in Dili and meet our informative and helpfull local staff. From US$$30 per night, US$285 per month. Location: Rua Filomena De Camara, Bidau Lecidere (Behind Lita store, on road from Fatima statue in park, across from coffin shop), Tel: (+670) 331 3276.
Beachside Hotel is a relatively new hotel and cafe, with beautiful beach and view (across the street). A short walk to Cristo Rei monument. Closes early (7:00pm), but Caz Bar is nearby for late food and drinks. US$85 room, US$30 dorm. Location: Cristo Rei Beach, Metiaut, Dili (Taxi from Dili centre about US$5, ask driver to go to Caz Bar, then just a few meters further), Tel: (+670) 750 2184, e-mail: email@example.com.
Mid-Range Hotels in Dili
Central Hotel, Av Presidente Nicolo Lobato (150 meters east of Palacio do Governo), Tel: (+670) 332 3888
Katua's Hotel is a reliable mid-range hotel in the downtown area. It has accommodation, restaurant, café and on-site travel agency. Free buffet breakfast, wifi and parking. Air-conditioned rooms with private bathrooms. US$65-75. Rua Jose Maria Marques, Lecidere, Tel: (+670) 7746 9090.
Hotel Lecidere is a well-run Chinese-owned hotel with small and sterile (but clean) rooms, in the middle of downtown. Air-conditioned rooms with private bathrooms. Onsite restaurant. Breakfast included, free parking and wifi. US$50+. Formerly the Tropical Hotel. Rua Jose Maria Marques (near the downtown Burger King corner). Tel: (+670) 332 5083 / 7364 3955
The Pousada de Baucau is a very well established hotel located in Baucau township. Offering excellent rooms and a fantastic restaurant. The hotel is usually quiet and is a great hotel just to relax. From US$$75 per night. Location: Baucau - District
Dili Beach hotel is one of the most popular relaxed hotels in Timor Leste. All rooms are of a larger than most size with stunning views from the Restaurant overlooking the water. Located with in 10 min Drive to all local sites and Goverment Office locations. Great place for a relaxing and cheerful stay. Dili Beach hotel offer Free Airport Transfers and Breakfast. From US$$80 per night Location: Marconi - Dili
Hotel Dili is a great choice if you are looking for outstanding comfort and convenience. Set in a pretty location right on the seafront boulevard, handy for banks, restaurants, shopping, beach and government Offices. This friendly, family-owned hotel has a good range of rooms to suit all budgets. From US$$45 per night. Location: Bairro Grilos - Dili
Ocean View Beach Hotel is a beachside hotel with rooms with private bathrooms, onsite restaurant with huge viewing deck. Tel: (+670) 7723 6041
Sakura Tower Hotel has air-conditioned rooms have private bathrooms. Free parking, free wifi and breakfast included. Tel: (+670) 331 1136 / 7836 2188
Terra Santa Residence has Air-conditioned rooms with private bathrooms. Outdoor swimming pool, fitness centre and BBQ area. Onsite restaurant, breakfast included and free wifi. Tel: (+670) 7780 5928/7732 7171
Timor Lodge has air-conditioned accommodation units. Onsite restaurant/bar, BBQ area, swimming pool and fitness centre. Free wifi, parking and airport shuttle. Breakfast included. Tel: (+670) 332 4227
Timor Top has one-room beachside bungalow with a terrace and views of the sea. Onsite bar. Tel: (+670) 7755 8677
White Sands Residence has air-conditioned self-contained accommodation with a private terrace and garden views. Lounge, laundry, dining area/kitchen, room(s) and bathroom. Free wifi. Close to beach. Tel: (+670) 7700 1666
Caz Bar Seaside Villa has one room air-conditioned bungalows with private bathroom right next to the beach. Balcony has sea views. Onsite restaurant and bar. Breakfast included. Tel: (+670) 7723 3961
D’City Hotel has air-conditioned rooms with private bathrooms. On-site restaurant and small fitness centre. Free wifi and airport shuttle service. Tel: (+670) 332 2653 / 7339 3922
Green Diamond Residence has air-conditioned apartments with rooms, kitchen and bathroom. Swimming pool and fitness centre. Free wifi, parking and airport shuttle service. Bike hire is available. Tel: (+670) 7736 2449
Jonliston Apartments has Air-conditioned accommodation with private bathrooms. Some units include kichenettes. Restaurant, BBQ and fitness centre. Free airport shuttle and wifi (some rooms). Tel: (+670) 7338 7496 / 7751 2772
High-End Hotels in Dili
Discovery Inn is regarded as one of the best hotels in Timor Leste. This small, charming, two-storey hotel was recently-renovated and has comfortable and stylish rooms all with ensuite bathroom and sitting area. The non-smoking restaurant is a favourite with Dili's government and business community. It has a gourmet Western and Indian menu. There is also a bar. Breakfast included. Onsite gift shop. Free airport shuttle service and wifi. From US$$130 per night Location: Bidau Lecidere, Avenida Presidente Nicolau Lobato, Tel: (+670) 331 1111, Fax: (+670) 332 1045, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org/.
Hotel Esplanada is one of the most pleasant hotels in Timor-Leste. The atmosphere is relaxed and comfortable, with rooms in two-story bungalows rooms surrounding a pool set in tropical gardens. Located on the beach, it has a sweeping view of the bay. There is an upper deck restaurant and bar. Air-conditioned rooms with ensuite bathrooms. Free parking and wifi.
From US$$110 per night. Location: Motael - Dili Avenida de Portugal ((also known as Beach Road), Tel: (+670) 3313 088, Fax: (+670) 3313 087, e-mail: email@example.com, Website: www.hotelesplanada.com
Hotel Timor Hotel has 88 relatively spacious rooms with modern facilities. There is a restaurant, café/bar, swimming pool and arts and crafts shop. Air-conditioned suites and rooms with private bathrooms. Free wifi and airport shuttle. In the centre of Dili at Rua Mártines da Pátria, Apartado 470. Tel: (+670) 332 4502
Timor Plaza Hotel & Apartments is Timor Leste's newest and only truly four-star hotel. It opened in August 2012 with has a range of air-conditioned rooms, ensuite rooms and self-contained apartments (Deluxe, Suite and 1,2 and 3 Room Apartments). There are meeting room facilities, a restaurant, café, bar, and large viewing deck. Buffet breakfast included, free wifi, airport transfers and parking. Tour desk and luggage storage. From US$$150 per night. Location: Comoro - Dili, Rua Presidente Nicolau Lobato, Comoro (200 meters on the left after the Comoro Bridge, 1.6 kilometers from Nicalo Lobarto International Airport), Tel: (+670) 7764 5477, 331 3288
Hotel The Ramelau is a well-appointed Korean-run hotel but has an inconvenient location, best if you have a car. It has tennis courts, fitness centre and a swimming pool, restaurant, café and lobby lounge and bar. Breakfast included. Air-conditioned rooms with private bathrooms. US$130.Location: Just off Comoro Road, it’s a big white building). Tel: (+670) 331 0300/331 1100.
Excelsior Resort has nice guestrooms and conference facilities for groups of up to 60 guests. It has air-conditioned suites and rooms with ensuite bathrooms. Restaurant and swimming pool. Free buffet breakfast and wifi. Conference facilities also available. Free airport shuttle. From US$$65 per night. Location: central Dili, not far from the sea. Tel: (+670) 332 1118 / 7760 8333
Novo Turismo Resort & Spa is a modern air-conditioned hotel on waterfront with swimming pool, spa pool, fitness centre and spa/wellness centre. Rooms/suites have private bathrooms. Restaurant, café/bar and conference facilities. Free wifi and airport shuttle. Tel: (+670) 331 0005
Arbiru Beach Resort is one most luxurious hotels in Dili if that is possible. Located on a beachfront location with a large swimming pool, it has a bar and restaurant with stunning panoramic views, international menu, two well-equipped conference rooms. Air-conditioned apartments feature kitchenettes, open plan living, rooms (1-2) and bathrooms. Breakfast included. Free wifi and airport transfers. From US$$130 per night Location: Comoro, Dili. Tel: (+670) 332 2936 / 7726 3642
Beach Garden Hotel Opened in December 2010. It has a swimming pool and fitness centre. Air-conditioned rooms have private bathrooms. Two-room apartments also available. Onsite restaurant, tour desk and self-service laundry. Free wifi, parking and buffet breakfast. Free airport shuttle service (longer stays only). From US$$90 per night. Location: Bebonuk, on Panti Kalapa (Ocean Road). Tel: (+670) 331 5888 / 332 5999 / 7743 6999 / 7333 8508
Beachside Hotel is only real hotel located on the beach. It has six upstairs rooms with the best view of the Harbour and Atruo Island. There are also 10 Rooms located in the rear of the building. The rooms have ensuite bathrooms and some have kitchenettes. Breakfast included and wifi. Onsite café and gift shop. Swimming and beach walks. Sensational sunsets. Free parking. From US$$80 per night Located in Rua Area Branca Meti - Aut, Dili (Best Beach Area in Dili), Tel: (+670) 7754 9681 / 7750 2184
Tibar Beach Retreat is a relatively new boutique hotel with six bungalow rooms. Located on the costal Mountians at Tibar with magnificent views Atauro Island, Tibar Bay and Blue Ocean. Dine at the “Ximangane Restaurant” from the carefully chosen menu of premium fresh food of the day. Executive Bungalows are tastefully decorated with a blend of Timorese, Bali and Australian furniture. From US$$80 per night
JL Villa includes a garden setting, swimming pool and fitness centre. Free wifi and parking. All air-conditioned units have a kitchen/living room, room(s) and private bathroom. Tel: (+670) 331 0096 / 331 0499
Timor Resort has air-conditioned apartments with room(s) and bathroom. Swimming pool and children’s play area. Free wifi, parking and airport shuttle service. Tel: (+670) 7723 5930
Malinamoc Paradise has air-conditioned accommodation with private bathrooms. Outdoor swimming pool and gardens. Onsite restaurant, breakfast included and free wifi, airport shuttle service and parking. Tel: (+670) 7723 0900 / 7775 1028
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