Until 2002, East Timor was a former Portuguese colony that belonged to the Indonesian Archipelago. Now it stands proud as an independent country, albeit one of the poorest and least developed of the new nations.
Few other tourists, amazing coastline, decrepit colonial architecture, off-the-beaten-track adventures, Dili's landmarks, Baucau's caves, diving off Atauro Island, cheap bemos.
Lawlessness and occasional riots, political tensions, frequent power cuts, high crime rates, limited infrastructure, tropical cyclones, refugee camps.
high season: May to November low seasons: December to April
US/Can: on-arrival (30 day)
EU: on-arrival (30 days)
Aus/NZ: on-arrival (30 days)
Electricity: 220V 50Hz
2-pin European and 3-Pin Australian
Money: US dollar (US$)
Phone: ICC (+670) Outgoing: 00
Although its road to independence was traumatic, East Timor now welcomes tourists to explore its many breathtaking beaches, diving spots, natural wonders and remarkable Portuguese colonial architecture. Dili, the capital, offers a laid-back atmosphere while local markets are vibrant with chatty sellers and an array of food as well as impressive handmade souvenirs.
Baucau is East Timor's second city with an equally scenic backdrop as Dili. The city center has a few colonial charms to keep you lingering a day or two but the beach is the main draw. Food in East Timor is cheap and tasty, which is less than can be said about the local liquor.
Travel-wise, East Timor is yet to assert itself on the world tourist map and its tourism infrastructure is basic, with security issues putting many travelers off. But if you don't mind things rough and ready, this is one of Southeast Asia's least trodden destinations, making it an exciting prospect for die-hards.
Most tourists choose to fly to Dili, the capital city of East Timor, from Australia and Indonesia. There are several flights provided by Airnorth and Qantas. By land, you can enter via the main land border crossing at Motain, about 115kms west of Dili. Drivers need a valid driver's license either from their country or issued in East Timor. Daily bus services are available between Dili and Kupong in West Timor, Indonesia, but the journey can be quite boring, with about 12-hour ride. To get around in East Timor, buses connect most parts of the country. Alternatively, you can opt for Indonesian-styled 'bemos' (vans) and 'mikrolets' (minibuses) that run from main cities to nearby villages.