This charming, lazy little seaside city suddenly found itself taking the role of national capital when East Timor became an independent country in May 2002.
The city lies on the northern coast of East Timor, squeezed along the narrow plains between the central mountains which run the length of the Timor and the Ombai Strait.
Dili is also capital of a district with the same name. The district includes the surrounding areas as well as Atauro Island.
Dili was the classic backwater during colonial times, being the main city of a remote colony in a remote part of the world. However, this heritage left Dili with a distinct Portuguese flavour and together with Macau, is probably the furthest east where you can savour genuine Portuguese food and architecture.
The city suffered badly during the post-1999-referendum violence, when many buildings were burnt and much infrastructure destroyed. However, Dili has since recovered remarkably, although one can still see many gutted buildings.
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. If you are on the road directly in front of the East Timor Government Building, Palacio Do Governo, face away from the airport (towards the Jesus Statue) you will see a large white building and the Post Office is at the end of that building. Stamps for letters/postcards to Australia are US$1. As many of the streets are unnamed (making mail delivery impossible) you may want to get a post box. It’s fine to share them with others. Next to the post office is one of 2 Timor Telecom offices which sell sim cards for $20.00 this includes $10.00 worth of calls.
Presidente Nicolau Lobato International Airport (formerly Comoro Airport) (DIL) is located 6km west of Dili. Bali (Denpasar) is the most popular entry point, and as of 2016 three carriers operate this route, meaning 3 flights daily. Nam Air, "Sriwijaya Air"  and Citilink / Air Timor. Nam Air and Sriwijaya are the same company and you can book through the same website. Return flights are around $200 and up. Australian regional carrier Air North  operates at least one flight a day from Darwin, Australia with an Embraer 170 jet. There are also direct flights between Singapore on Air Timor  using Silkair aircraft scheduled only on Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday. As there is hardly any competition, fares are high. It is usually cheaper to fly via Bali to both Singapore and Darwin, rather than fly direct, typically using AirAsia on the second leg.
There are limited domestic flights, prinipally to Oecusse, and MAF charter flights to Atauro and elsewhere are available.Yellow
Getting there/away: Yellow taxi drivers ask for at least US$5 for the trip into Dili ($10 without haggling). You could try bargaining. You can also walk out to the main road - which is the main road linking Dili with Batugade on the Indonesian border - to catch a mikrolet. Alternatively, you can pre-book online through companies such as Green Path Transfers , although this is usually more expensive.
Dili is well linked by road from the Indonesian border at Mota'ain, near Batugade, which lies about 115km west.
A reasonably good road also links Dili with Baucau, East Timor's second largest city 123km west. The road continues east to Los Palos and Tutuala.
Southwards, a road climbs up the mountains which run the length of the island of Timor, passing the hill town of Maubisse, on the way to the southern coast.
Cars can be hired from Rentlo but not Thrifty, as that company left in early 2006, shortly before the troubles began.
Buses fan out from Dili to various parts of the country. Most leave very early in the morning, and would do the "keliling" (going around town to scout for more passengers) before actually leaving Dili.
Buses leave for Batugade and the Indonesian border at Mota'ain. US$3. The journey is about 3 hours.
Buses also go to Maliana and Ermera.
Several buses leave for Baucau early in the morning from Rua Quinze de Outubro just south of the stadium near the Mercado Municipal roundabout. US$2, 3 hours. These buses can also be caught at Becora, the suburb to the east of Dili.
Dili is no longer a port of call for Indonesia's Pelni ships. There are also no regular boats to Australia. Boat to Kupang and overland is possible.
On foot - Dili has a clear city centre focused on the Government Palace and surrounds, which is easy to navigate on foot, however for the visitor two other areas of interest are Timor Plaza, 3km west, and the restaurants of Maitiat to the east - and it is a long walk to either.
Taxi - these come in two varieties:
- Yellow taxis can be flagged down all over Dili during daylight hours, but as evening approaches, the price will go up. These are unmetered and haggling is required before prices start around US$1.50 - 3 (although locals pay less). Downtown to Timor Plaza should be around $2.50. If there are plenty of taxis around do haggle. Try to get a taxi to yourself, if a passenger is already in the cab they get preference for first drop-off, and you get charged the same. Further journeys, such as to Areia Branca beach and Cape Fatucama will cost more. As evening approaches, the price will go up (around $5 for a medium trip). After dark, the taxis disappear. Often there will be one waiting outside expat bars, which will ask at least $10. You can also call a night service such as Ayrton (7777 0001 or 7311 1117; until 10pm). You can also try getting your hotel to arrange a taxi for a night out or ask taxi drivers that you meet whether they work at night and, if so, get their number. Either way, it will probably cost at least $10 for any trip after dark. Try to have exact change for taxis.
- Corotrans blue taxis tel 77427777 or 3311110 are a new (2016) metered telephone cab company - and have made getting around after dark much easier. Prices are higher than yellow taxis, but the cars are new and the a/c works.
Mikrolets (vans converted to take passengers) also run from near the Mercado Municipal to Comoro, Becora and other suburbs of Dili and even further. They cost 25 cents per ride. Mikrolets are numbered and run (generally) fixed routes. See 
Areia Branca Bay, on the way to the Jesus Statue
- Visit the Statue of Jesus (Local Name: Cristo Rei) that stands on a headland to the east of Dili. 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. The statue is about 27 metres tall and stands on a globe of earth. The route from Dili along the beach and up the steps to the Jesus statue is popular with exercising internationals and local fishermen, and passes several niches representing the stations of the cross. The view from the statue across the bay to Dili is spectacular. 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 stick around while you have a look.
- Cape Fatucama. The beach directly behind the Jesus statue, it's a scenic, inverted c-shaped coastline with near-transparent waters much better than the one at Areia Branca. edit
- The large foreigner and expat community in Dili means some healthy Facebook activity, Things to do in Timor is a good starting point. Dili Expats is a secret group also worth trying to get on.
- 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).
- Just down and across the road from the Leader supermarket is a Church that has an English mass on Sunday morning at 10.30am (and Tetum Masses at other times).
- You can buy VCDs, DVDs & Audio CDs very cheaply. If you are taking a laptop its well worth having software installed.
- Visit Ramalau (Local Language: Foho Tatamailau) - the highest mountain in East Timor. You can stay at a place just before the top, and climb up for the dawn (a couple of hours climb). It is a fairly popular thing to do so ask around or ask at the Hotel Dili – they can arrange a great 4WD tour. NB: It is freezing at night!
- Dive around Dili and Atauro Island. Compass Adventures, Dive Timor Lorosae and Aquatica Dive Resort are popular dive operators. There are a number of dive sites around Dili. Further out east, K41 and Bob's Rock are popular sites near Manatuto. Dive operators can arrange longer trips to Jaco Island. Don't pass up the chance to see the last untouched reef in the world.
- Resistance Museum, Rua Universidade, Dili (Just next to the capitals main university.). 9am-5pm. Learn about the struggle for East Timor's Independence and what the people went through in the massive 25 year long struggle. edit
- Dare war memorial, (10km along the main south road into the mountains). A memorial to Sparrow Force, an Australian unit that fought the Japanese in Timor for several years, plus an exhibition on the unit and on the Timorese experience of the war. Good views over Dili and a café open on weekends. Free. edit
- Xanana Reading Room, Lecidare. Has an exhibition room and library (popular with kids using the free internet). The library has an excelent collection of books on Timor Leste's (resistance) history.
If you are on the road directly in front of the East Timor Government Building, Palacio Do Governo, face away from the airport (towards the Jesus Statue).
If you walk up the left hand road, about half way up on your right is Dili Cold Store supermarket, then you will find the Xanana reading room – a great place to know. There is a café at the back and inside is a small library (with English books), a video collection and documentaries about ET (with comfy chairs and a video so you can watch them there, and drink tea etc from the café!) and a book exchange. The book exchange is great – an eclectic mix to choose from with the policy “bring a book and $1 and take away a book, or any book for $2”. They also sell lovely postcards and have internet access.
Official working hours are generally 08:30-17:30, with a break for lunch from 12:00-13:30. Because most people go home for lunch, the actual lunch break is often 12:00-14:00. Some organisations work on Saturday mornings, but generally the weekends are free.
East Timor National holidays—Law signed 19/07/05
New Year’s Day—1 Jan
International Labour Day—1 May
Restoration of Independence—20 May
Popular Consultation Day—30 August
All Saints Day—1 November
All Souls day—2 November
National Day of Youth Santa Cruz Massacre—12 November
Independence Proclomation Day—28 November
National Heroes day—7 December
Day of Our Lady of Immaculate Conception—8 December
Christmas Day—25 December
Tolerance Days ( national commemorative days )
International Childrens Day—1 June
Falintil day—20 August
Mothers day—3 November
International Human Rights day—10 November
Ash Wednesday – (46 days before easter)
Holy Thursday – (thursday before easter)
Ascension Day – (40 days after easter)
There are two ANZ Bank branch in Dili, and there are four ANZ automatic teller machines – one at the bank in Bairo Grilos, on in the branch outside Timor Plaza, one at the airport and one in Tiger Fuel. The one in Tiger Fuel doesn’t usually work. You don’t need an account with ANZ (in fact, there doesn’t seem to be any advantage to having one) but you do need a bank card which will allow you to use the ATM (eg Visa). The use of these machines can be expensive however – ANZ charges USD$6 per withdrawal.
In addition you cannot transfer money from an ANZ overseas account to an account with the ANZ in Dili without incurring a USD$25 fee. It is best to contact your bank in your home country and seek advice about the cheapest and most efficient way to transfer money between accounts.
Bank Mandiri, one of the major banks in Indonesia, has a branch in Dili. The bank is located close to the Government Building in Dili.
Caixa Geral de Depositos, a Portuguese bank, 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.
- Arte Moris, between Dili and the airport. Art center that sells Timorese paintings, often painted directly on Tais. Recurring themes are local symbols and the life (and death) during the Indonesian occupation.
- The Tais market, located in Colmera (not far from Harvey World Travel) is a central place to pick up Tais, old coins, pottery and other curios. Beware the imitation Tais, which are sometimes from Indonesia.
Eating out is one of the highlights of Dili. The combination of fresh fish, Portuguese and Asian culinary influence, and lots of expatriate money means that Dili hosts perhaps the best collection of restaurants this side of Bali. There are plenty of restaurants in Dili, from local warungs, to Italian, Korean, Japanese, Thai, Mexican, Portuguese and Australian. Most popular with Timorese locals are the seafood BBQ places west of Dili (Fish on a Stick).
Timorese and Indonesian warungs, where you pick your food from the window, are everywhere and cost $1.50-$3.00 for a typical meal. One of the most popular (called "Malua", but there is no sign) is on the road from the Cathedral to Bairo Pite - look for the blue and white decor and "nasi campur" written in the window. Pick from tasty fried chicken, shoe-leather rendang or egg, then add a couple of vegetable dishes. $1.75 including bean and cabbage soup (koto) and iced tea.
- Lili's, Rua Belarmino Lobo (diagonally opposite the downtown ANZ). Good Indonesian warung. Prices have increases since they became well-known. $3-$5. edit
- Starco Cafe, Rua Presidente Nicolau Lobato (west of downtown ANZ). Great Indonesian restaurant. $4-$5. edit
- Pantai Kelapa BBQs, Avenida de Portugal (on the beach near Esplanada Hotel). A string of identical BBQ joints sets up every evening on the beach, serving excellent chicken, pork and fish skewers for about $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. $2-$4. edit
- Sunrise Restaurant, 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. $2-$4. edit
- Eastern Burger, Corner of Rua Belarmino Lobo and Rua Presidente Nicolau Lobato. Menu includes basic but decent-value burgers and a lot of noodle dishes. Popular with Chinese and Timorese. $2-$5. edit
To buy food to prepare yourself:
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 (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, vegies, coffee etc all piled in little piles (this is the measurement for purchases – around 10c for leafy vegies and 50c for everything else). If you live with a Timorese family it is wonderful to go there and bring home little treats like 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!
- Castaway, Avenida de Portugal (western waterfront road). One of the hippest and most reliable western joints. Good food, good staff, good crowd and views over the water. edit
- Dili Beach Hotel, Avenida de Portugal (western beach road). The undisputed king of sports bars since the demise of One More Bar. 8 TVs, good wifi and water views. Fortunately, the food is no longer the toxic waste zone that it once was, but it's still best to stick to the pizza or eat at the other places nearby before going here for the sports. edit
- Royal Beach Hotel, Avenida de Portugal (western beach road, next to Dili Beach Hotel). Indian/Malay restaurant 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. Food varies from brilliant to tasteless, as does service. Claims to be a sports bar but only has 2 TVs that rarely show sports. $6-$15. edit
- 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. $5-$15. edit
- Timor Plaza, (near the Comoro Bridge). 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. edit
- 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, etc), but they know how to do it. Excellent tandoori chicken, samosas and daals, plus many other dishes, including great vegetable dishes. $4-$8. edit
- Mama's Resto, Avenida dos Martires de Patria (just west of Colmera, opposite Wasabi). One of the best Indonesian places in town, with a huge offering in the window, including great BBQ beef, pork and chicken. You pay extra for the quality though. $4-$8. edit
- Pescador, Rua Presidente Nicolau Lobato (opposite downtown ANZ). Their shtick is fresh tuna and mackerel cooked to perfection and served with Portguese-style veges and rice for a fixed price. Well worth it if you don't need to be by the beach. $10-$12. edit
- City Cafe, Rua Presidente Nicolau Lobato (west of downtown ANZ). Portuguese cafe with mediocre coffee but good omelettes for breakfast (8am-10am) and $7.50 buffets for lunch and dinner. $7.50. edit
- RnR Cafe, Rua Audian (opposite Merkadu Lama (convention centre)). Arguably the best coffee in town, plus focaccias, soups and desserts, all made on site. Nice couches and always a sea of expats. $6-$10. edit
- City Praia, Lecidere (next to Lita supermarket). New Portuguese grill - quality meats served with salad and chips. $7.50. edit
- Linivon, Bidau (Head 200m east from Rua Belarmino Lobo from the intersection with café La Esquina). Award-winning rending. It's self-service, so you can pick the best pieces. Also has extensive other offerings. $4-$5. edit
- New 88, Rua Audian. Also has a branch at Landmark and maybe others. Solid Chinese food, reliable place to get duck, but relatively expensive for Dili. $5-$10. edit
- Wan Ning Yuan, Rua Belarmino Lobo. Trumpets its steamed buns but doesn't always cook them through. Has a variety of good Chinese food but charges a lot for it. $6-$10. edit
- 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. $7-$12. edit
- Caz Bar, Area 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. $5-$10. edit
- 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. $8-$15. edit
- Early Sun, Metiaut. Reliable Chinese restaurant on the beachfront with a big menu of good-value dishes. $6-$10. edit
- Little Pattaya, Metiaut. Combination Thai/Lebanese restaurant. Not the greatest food but probably the nicest setting of the beachfront restaurants and great for groups. $6-$12. edit
- Tiger Fuel, Avenida dos Martires de Patria. Pizza Hut-quality pizzas and sometimes other foods like kebabs. Open 24 hours. $10-$22. edit
- 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. edit
Drinking places are everywhere and many restaurants double as bars. The best option if visiting Dili is to enjoy the beach bars - the ones by the eastern beaches in Metiaut are great for sunsets. The bars/restaurants will usually do good juices and sometimes smoothies, plus will offer coffee but it will usually be poor quality. Good espresso can be found at Food-L-Do, RnR, Beachside Hotel, Cafe Brasil and Kafe Aroma. There is a Gloria Jean's at Timor Plaza along with some other cafes and juice joints.
Castaway is an expat bar on the main drag along the beach in Dili. Drinks range from $4 beer and cocktails to a $10 giant margarita (Cigarettes are available at the bar but only worth it if you are feeling lazy, at $2.50 a pack which is more than double the price of street vendors' cigs!).
- Club 88 (Club 88), Rua Sao Sebastao - Colmera. 6PM - DROP - Monday close. The most secure Night Club in Dili. The best place for enjoy the nightlife in the city. edit
- Tower, Comoro Road (look for the wire-framed 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 11pm. $5 cover charge includes a drink. It's partly outdoors but still fills with cigarette smoke.</sleep> edit
Dili's accommodation options have matured considerably since the post-crisis days of containers and shared bedrooms. There are now plenty of hotels in Dili, ranging from cheap(ish) and basic to $100+ hotels comparable with mod range hotels anywhere. To get anything comparatively mid range (clean, en suite, hot water, air conditioning) you are looking at $60 - $100 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 furniture stores around, but if you can find somewhere that is furnished it will save you a lot of hassle. If you get friendly with someone who works for the government they may be able to help you find some furniture. There is one Real Estate Agent in Dili at Central Hotel near the post office which has a number of accommodation options.
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$250 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.
- Share accommodation with other foreigners – there are plenty of shared houses of NGO people and UN people. Often the East Timorese owners will live next door. It would be usual to employ someone to help with cleaning, laudry and perhaps cooking. Few houses have washing machines. Most do not have air-conditioning either – you might want to invest in a fan. Share houses are sometimes advertised in places like the Dili Dive Centre, but word of mouth is the best way to find out. If you are looking for an empty house to rent, again, it’s probably best to ask East Timorese friends or colleagues. Remember that places might not have furniture/a fridge etc, and purchasing these things can involve significant initial outlay. Rent for this sort of accommodation is generally between US$250 and US$400 per month.
A cleaner visiting twice a week costs about US$50 per month. As well as getting your house and clothes cleaned, this also represents an opportunity for making friends with locals. Also, having someone around the house during the day when you are not there keeps the place a little more secure. If you can live with a Timorese family it would be ideal for learning more about the local language and culture but if not, get to know your neighbours – walking around your area and talking to people can go a long way.
- Central Hotel, Av Presidente Nicolo Lobato (150m east of Palacio do Governo), ☎ +670 332 3888. edit
- Venture Hotel, Rua Filomena De Camara, Bidau Lecidere (Behind Lita store, on road from Fatima statue in park, across from coffin shop), ☎ +670 331 3276. $28/night, $285/month. edit
- Dive Timor Guest House and Appartment, Kumpung Alor, Central location on the beach (Just before the Avenida De Portugal, In front of the road leading to Kumpung Alor Shops), ☎ +670 7723 7092 (email@example.com). $30/night, $1000/month. edit
- Hotel Colmera, Colmera Road, Dili (Right in the heart of the Colmera shopping district in west Dili), ☎ +670 331 1888 (TBA). $40/night, $500/month. edit
- Dili Beach Hotel, Kumpung Alor, Central location on the beach (Just before the Avenida De Portugal, In front of the road leading to Kumpung Alor Shops), ☎ +670 331 0493 (firstname.lastname@example.org). $55/night, $1200/month. edit
- Aru Residencias e Apartamenos, Pantai Kelapa, (Western Suburbs), ☎ +670 331 2880 (email@example.com). $70/night, $750/month. edit
- Tropical Hotel, Bairo dos Grilos, Bidau Lecidere (near ANZ bank downtown), ☎ +670 332 5084, . Clean but sterile rooms and helpful Chinese staff. $45/night. edit
- Rocella Hotel, Bidau Lecidere (near ANZ bank downtown), ☎ +670 332 5084. Pleasant courtyard with restaurant but absent staff and poor maintenance. $45/night. edit
- Hotel Timor, Rua Mártines da Pátria, Apartado 470, . Situated in the centre of Dili, Hotel Timor has a total of 88 rooms, all having modern facilities with cosy and spacious dimensions. edit
- Timor Plaza Hotel, Rua Presidente Nicolau Lobato, Comoro (200m on the left after the Comoro Bridge, 1.6 km from Nicalo Lobarto International Airport), ☎ +670 7764 5477, . US$160. edit
- Excelsior Resort, Pantai Kelapa (Next to Norwegian Embassy), ☎ +670 332 118/7743 6999. US$39. edit
- The Plaza Hotel, Bairro Dos Grilos, ☎ +670 331 2222 / 7723 2438. US$80. edit
- Terra Santa Residence, Golgota - Raikotu ( Near Airport ) City West (Just Three (3) Minutes from the Airport Nicolao Lobato.), ☎ (+670) 7717 7304. US$120. edit
- Palm Beach Apartments, Pantai Kelapa, ☎ (+670) 332 4844 / 7723 107 (firstname.lastname@example.org, fax: (+670) 3312856). US$125. edit
- Hotel The Ramelau, Aimutin, Dili, behind the Police Station Western Esplanade, ☎ +670 7715 5969 (email@example.com). US$130. edit
There are a number of commercial places where you can access the internet such as the business centre at many of the hotels. Globel Net has Internet $4.00 per hour they also have skype so bring your own head sets.
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 $30.00 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 $0.20. Calls to Australia are about 50 cents US per minute, or 40 cents off peak (between 8pm and 8am and all day Sunday). Calls from Australia are quite expensive – about $3.50 per minute. On 31st July 2012 the National Numbering Plan (NNP) was changed and all mobile phone numbers now require an additional '7' be added to the front of the number making a total of eight digits. Land lines remain unchanged.
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.
The biggest risk in Dili is probably that of being involved in a traffic accident. It’s a good idea to bring a quality helmet in case you get a bike, or to use when riding on the back of other peoples’ bikes.
Basic precautions will ensure personal safety in East Timor. It’s generally considered not safe for a ‘malai’ (foreigner) woman (and probably a malai 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 malai houses broken into overnight. Generally, though, it feels very safe to walk around Dili during the day – there are always lots of people around.
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.
You can generally get everything you need in Dili, with only a couple of exceptions, although some items are more expensive. Some of the things you might want to bring are:
- Bring some US cash and Travellers Cheques. You will need US$30 for your initial visa on arrival at the airport (but there are also 2 ATM available if need be). It’s also worth ensuring with your bank that you will be able to access money from your account using your card in Dili.
- If you wear contact lenses definitely bring lens solution. It cannot be bought in East Timor. Also bring a spare pair of glasses and/or leave a copy of your prescription at home in case you need a new pair sent over.
- Laptop – good for work and for watching DVDs at home. You can get most new releases before they come out in Australia for about US$1.50. Make sure you have DVD software installed. You can also walk into most internet cafes and plug your laptop in to surf the net, email, download virus definitions etc. If you want to use your laptop at work, make sure it has a network card in it. It is a good idea also to bring with you a USB Memory stick. Floppy discs die here from the heat and you can’t download or access important information on them. You can buy Memory sticks here also for around US$50.00.
- You can buy clothes in Dili but as most Timorese are a lot smaller than an average Westerner it can be hard to find the right size. You're best off bringing as much as you need with you. Also bed linen and towels etc are quite expensive. It’s a good idea to bring a set of sheets and make sure you bring your bathers!
- If you like coffee, bring a plunger or a stove top espresso making machine – there is great coffee in East Timor!
- Radio – at the moment East Timor can get Radio National and BBC World Service. There are also local radio stations broadcasting on FM such as Radio Rakembia
- Books - new ones are hard to come by here so if you are fussy bring some with you. You can also order them off the net and have them sent here. If you are not too picky about what you read (content or condition) you'll find book exchanges at Castaway, the Dili Club and One More Bar. Many foreigners are also generous in lending from their own collections.
- If you have a swag with a mosquito net or dome it would be handy for when you want to travel out into the districts.
- Definitely if you intend to ride a motorbike (scooter) bring your own helmet, you can buy them in East Timor but they are quite flimsy.
With regard to dress rules there are no hard and fast rules. 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. The most respectable clothing for young males are jeans with a buttoned through, short-sleeved, collared shirt. There are a number of clothing shops in Dili but they are made for Timorese sizes so it is generally hard to find anything in a size bigger than an Australian 10.
Dili is really hot all year round, but it can get very cold overnight in the central districts – so make sure you bring something warm. It’s a good idea to bring a solid pair of sandals, as well as some thongs and runners.
Dinner can sometimes be a bit dressier and most people in offices come to work dressed smart casual.
- Indonesia, Rua Governador Serpa Rosa, Farol, ☎ +670 331-7107 (fax: +670 332-3684), . edit
- Portugal, Edifício ACAIT, Av. Presidente Nicolau Lobato, Díli, ☎ +670 331-2532 (firstname.lastname@example.org, fax: +670 331-2526), . edit (The embassy has a functioning, open clinic)
- United States, Avenida de Portugal, Praia dos Coqueiros, ☎ +670 332-4684 (fax: +670 331-3206), . edit
Areia Branca ("white sand"), a beach about 3 km east of Dili (under the Christ Statue).
- Jaco Island. Jaco is the Island on the Eastern tip of East Timor. You will need a 4WD (you can hire them) but it is well worth the trip. You drive out to Baucau (a sensational drive – lots of rice paddies etc) and continue on to Tutuala. Ask directions there – you go down a road that is very overgrown after about 1km. The beach is white and the water is clear! Take plenty of food and water because there aren’t any local eateries but you can buy fresh produce very cheaply on the way there (about 10% of what you pay in Dili), but you are just buying them from tables outside people’s houses so it is just a matter of what they have then. Often there are fishermen on the beach and you can purchase fish from them, which they will cook up for you. It is quite expensive, about US$10 per fish and $5 to cook but two fish plus some paw paws feeds 10. The fishermen will paddle you over to Jaco but its again expensive –about US$5 each. Still, it is amazing, a truly unspoilt beach.
- Atauro Island is more easily accessed than the other two destinations, and just beautiful. Atauro has a ferry that goes regularly for about $11.00 return. Chat with someone in a dive company about the best way to get there. You may be able to join a group or get some people together and make up a group and hire a boat (with crew and including lunch and snorkel gear) for a day. It is quite expensive but the water is incredibly clear and you might be able to catch sight of dolphins and whales passing through this channel. Book accommodation in advance to save disappointment.
- Liquica and Maubara are less than an hour west along the coast road (make sure to turn right at the T-junction in Tibar). Just before Liquica is the ruins of a prison where Timorese kings were imprisoned, with placards telling the story. Liquica has some ruined buildings and some beaches. Maubara is further along and has the ruins of a seaside fort, with a café inside, as well as some touristy shops and cafes on the beach itself.
- Gleno is suitable for a day trip, especially if you want to see some mountains while staying on decent roads. Head west from Dili and go straight at the Tibar T-junction. The road passes through pretty valleys, then winds over heavily-forested mountains before reaching the wide valley of Gleno after about 2 hours. There are some shops and restaurants there. Beyond Gleno, the road gets much worse as it heads to Ermera and, eventually, Maliana.
Travelling as 'Malay'
Foreign men and women or 'Malay', should avoid catching a cab 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.
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. Most local women and girls wear skirts above the knee.
Public displays of affection including holding hands is highly offensive and may attract disapproval or vocal objection.
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