|Currency||US dollar (USD)|
|Population||924,642 (2004 Census)|
|Language||Tetum (official), Portuguese (official), Indonesian, English, 37 indigenous languages|
|Religion||Roman Catholic 90%, Muslim 4%, Protestant 3%, Hindu 0.5%, Buddhist, Animist (1992 est.)|
East Timor (Portuguese: Timor Leste) (Tetum: Timor Lorosa'e) (Indonesian: Timor Timur) is a country in Southeast Asia. It lies northwest of Australia in the Lesser Sunda Islands at the eastern end of the Indonesian archipelago. East Timor includes the eastern half of the island of Timor, the Oecussi (Ambeno) region on the northwest portion of the island of Timor, and the small islands of Pulau Atauro and Pulau Jaco.
East Timor consists of 13 administrative districts.
- Bobonaro (Maliana)
- Cova-Lima (Suai)
- Lautem (Los Palos)
- Manufahi (Same)
- Oecussi (Ambeno)
The half island of East Timor is a former Portuguese colony that declared itself independent from Portugal on 28 November 1975. Nine days later, Indonesian forces invaded and occupied the former colony, without incurring the disapproval of the United States or Australia. By July 1976 the colony had been annexed as the province of Timor Timur.
Over the next two decades, Indonesia integrated the colony, with many significant positions of authority being occupied by Indonesians, rather than the Timorese. An estimated 100,000 to 250,000 individuals are believed to have lost their lives during a campaign of pacification during this time.
The United Nations supervised a popular referendum on 30 August 1999, in which the people of East Timor voted for independence from Indonesia. After the results were announced, gangs of independence opponents, supported by the Indonesian military, terrorised the population in a civil war that destroyed much of the country's infrastructure. A United Nations peacekeeping force, led by Australian forces was sent in to re-establish a civil society and reconstruct the nation.
On 20 May 2002, East Timor was internationally recognized as an independent state and the world's newest democracy under the official name of the Democratic Republic of Timor Leste.
A 30 day travel permit is available to foreign nationals for US$30 on arrival. This permit can be extended after arrival allowing a total stay of 90 days.
Portuguese passport holders do not need a visa for short stay entry (max 90 days).
Dili International Airport (DIL) is served by flights from Darwin, Australia on AirNorth  and Bali (Denpasar), Indonesia on Merpati Airlines . Flights are not scheduled every day so check schedules when making travel plans. Flights occasionally fill weeks in advance so plan accordingly.
The main land border crossing with Indonesia is at Mota'ain (or Motain), 115km west of Dili. The nearest East Timorese town is Batugade, 3km to 4km away. The nearest Indonesian town of consequence is the West Timorese town of Atambua.
For those arriving from Indonesia, East Timorese visas are issued on arrival.
However, for those going the other direction, Indonesian visas must be obtained beforehand as they are not issued at the border. Getting a visa at the Indonesian Embassy in Dili is possible; it takes one week to issue a 60 day tourist visa (return flight not needed!) and it costs US$35.
- Cross-border buses
There is a direct bus service daily between Dili and Kupang in West Timor, Indonesia. Operated by Timor Travels and Leste Oeste Travel. Journey takes 12 hours.
- Non-direct buses
From Dili, catch a bus to the border (US$3, three hours). Once you get off the bus, go through East Timorese customs and immigration, walk across the border into Indonesia, go through Indonesian immigration and catch another bus for your onward journey to Atambua or Kupang.
From Atambua, regular mikrolets (vans) or ojeks (motorcycle taxis) run to the border at Mota'ain.
Indonesia's Pelni ships no longer serve Dili. There is a weekly barge service from Darwin for vehicles and goods.
Although there is an airport in Baucau and Suai, there are no domestic flights within East Timor. Oecussi airstrip is restricted to medical evacuation flights only.
Buses, mostly of the small variety found on remote Indonesian islands, run to most parts of the country and main cities like Dili, Baucau, Maliana, Los Palos and Suai are quite well linked. Indonesian-style bemos (vans) and mikrolets (minibuses) - legacies from its 24-year rule - run from these cities to nearby villages.
Most departures take place very early in the morning and drivers have a tendency of doing keliling (Indonesian for "going round") where they spend considerable time combing the streets and scouting for passengers before actually departing.
Fares are about US$2 or US$3 for journeys over 100km. For example, Dili-Baucau (123km) costs US$2 while Dili-Mota'ain (115km) costs US$3.
Tetum and Portuguese are the official languages, but Indonesian and (limited) English are also widely spoken. There are also about 37 indigenous languages, of which Tetum, Galole, Mambae, and Kemak are spoken by significant numbers of people.
US Dollars are the common currency in East Timor and all transactions are in dollars. Banks and a few ATMs can be found in Dili.
What to buy
The main two things to bring home from Timor-Leste are coffee and traditional hand-woven cloths called Tais. The design of the Tais vary distinctively from region to region, and an expert can even tell which family they are from. Much like Scottish kilts, Tais for a given family should only be worn by that family. In Dili, the best place to find Tais is the Tais market, where you also can buy local silver jewelry. Many street sellers also deal in Tais.
There are also some wood carvings in a style similar to what you might see brought from trips to Africa sold here and there, but these are less easy to find. Closer to the eastern tip of Timor-Leste, you might find turtle shell bracelets on sale. While it might be slightly less unethical to buy them in a place where they kill turtles both for food and shell, your more ethically inclined peers and the customs officer may differ.
The coffee of East Timor is dark and excellent and can be found at reasonable prices in any convenience store, or even at some roadside stalls.
Sandal wood used to be one of the most important exports of Timor-Leste, but it might take an expert to buy it now.
Dili has a number of decent hotels, and prices have come down since the heady days of independence and huge crowds of UN workers. Accommodation elsewhere in the country is very limited.
Timor-Leste has significant internal, political issues and related violence may occur. This may not be targeted at foreigners or tourists, but follow the guidelines below:
- Avoid large gatherings.
- Don't go around Dili at night.
- Be careful around the refugee camps.
Hospitals and Doctors
There are hospitals in main centres, and clinics in many sub-districts elsewhere but medical care is not up to dealng with sustained or complex medical emergencies. Medical evacuation is often the only option in the case of complex surgery, trauma, or major illness. Travellers are strongly advised not to enter East Timor without some form of medical insurance which will cover medivac by air ambulance, be this travellers insurance from your travel agent or an employer if you are entering for professional reasons.
Dili - Dili National Hospital, located in Bidau Santana.
Pante Makassar, Oecussi - located in town near the port
- Immigration Department of Timor Leste
- Turismo de Timor-Leste website
- Timor-Leste Ministry of Foreign Affairs & Cooperation Includes details of Timor-Leste Embassies abroad
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