East Timor

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Eco-friendly travel guide to East Timor advises how to be a responsible tourist. Learn how to travel in a sustainable way and how to respect the local people and culture. Make your trip green by supporting locally owned hotels, organic restaurants and other businesses. Read more on how to protect the environment by making conscientious choices and how to travel green in East Timor, Asia.

Maubisse, East Timor

  • Air quality: 3 / 5
  • Bus connections: 3 / 5
  • Train connections: 3 / 5
  • Hitchhiking: 2 / 5
  • National parks: 2 / 5
  • Outdoor activities: 3 / 5
  • Locals' English level: 4 / 5
  • Safety: 3 / 5
  • Accommodation: US$10 - $30
  • Budget per day: US$30 - $120

Responsible Travel

East Timor covers an area of around 15,000 km2, and the population living in this country is 1299412 calculated as on the year 2020. It is present in Southeast Asia. Around 99.5 % of people living in this country are Christian which means that Christianity is dominating religion in this country. This country has around 15 national languages, but the official languages are Tetum and Portuguese. The currency which is widely accepted here is United States Dollar. This country got its first independence from Portugal in 1975. This country was further attacked by Indonesia, from which this country restored its independence in 2002.

Air Quality and Pollution

According to the standards set by the World Health Organization of the maximum concentration of pollution which is 2.5pm, this country has exceeded the limit; therefore, this country's atmosphere is not good and considered unsafe. There are different reasons for the bad quality of air. The three main causes of air pollution are power generation, the mining industry, and vehicle emissions. Mining not only affects air but also affects land as well as water. Mining impacts air quality as Mining removes the topsoil, which is also the most fertile layer, creating no vegetation. As this land has no vegetation; therefore, the land becomes very dusty, creating a lot of dust. Mining damages the land by removing the most fertile layer of soil. Mining also causes water pollution as it includes metal contamination and sediments that pollute it when mixed with water. As the water gets polluted, it also affects this country's domestic water supply, fisheries, swimming, and irrigation. It can also damage marine life. There are two main reasons for water being polluted in this city which includes Mining and waste disposal, which is most common in this country.

Respect the Culture

This country's culture has a lot of impact from Portuguese, Roman Catholic, and Indonesians. There is a myth in this culture that is related to the shape and formation of this island. It is believed by the people of this country that there was a crocodile that turned into this island where East Timor is situated presently. It is the reason why this island is shaped like a crocodile. As per the culture depicted in their literature, poetry is well-known literature in this country. Talking about the architectural style, you can see houses built in Portuguese style. Some of the houses can be seen built in an old and traditional style called UMA Lulik, which means sacred houses. There are many Timorese audiovisuals placed in NFSA Australia as a masterpiece. There are cultural festivals which are celebrated in this country with a lot of joy and excitement. These festivals are celebrated through some traditional rituals and also with different types of folk music and festivals. Each festival has its meaning and motive due to which it is celebrated.

Top 10 Places to Visit

  • Aileu District: This place's total area is 737 square kilometers with a population of 48554, which creates a density of 66 people per square kilometer. This place lies in the northwestern part of this country. The capital of this municipality is Aileu which has an area of 251.48 km², and the total population of this town is 2788 people, which was estimated in 2015.
  • Ainaro District: It is a municipality Present in East Timor. According to 2015, this municipality had a population of 63136 with a total area of 804 square kilometers. This place lies in the farthest part of this country. You can see many farms in this municipality cause the terrains present here are very fertile and irrigation facility here is abundant. Other than the country's official language, Portuguese and Tatum, many locals speak Malayo – Polynesian Language. There are the majority of Catholics and Protestants living in this area. The capital of this area is Ainaro. It is a place with a total area of 235.94 square kilometers, and the population is 15558, which were last counted in 2010. You must visit this place if you love to taste coffee because there is an abundant supply of delicious organic coffee. This town also acts as a supplier of organic coffee in the whole country.
  • Baucau District: This municipality area is 1506 square kilometers with a total population of 123203 people, thus creating a density of 82 people per square kilometer. The borders of this place have not been changed since this country was colonized. This place is best known for its beaches and the rich agriculture present in this municipality. This place grows rice and corn and produces other food products such as beans, peanuts, sweet potatoes and candlenut. You can also find many goats, cows, and buffaloes raised in this place. However, the problem with this municipality is that there is a shortage of transportations and also this place offers a lot of power cuts. Therefore, energy is unpredictable. These are the two main reasons why there are not many industries. This place also has an airport which is the country's most extended runway airport. In 1975 when the Indonesian army invaded this country, it was used as a military airport by the Indonesian army.
  • Bobonaro District: It is a municipality which is present in the eastern half of this country. This municipality covers around 1376 square kilometers with a total population of 92045 as per the census of 2010. On the North of this area, there is a River known as the Savu Sea. This municipality lies near the border of East Timor and Indonesia. The road between Dili and Indonesia crosses from this municipality. There are natural hot springs and mountains present in this municipality, making it a favorable destination for the tourists who visit east Timor. This place suffered and faced a lot of violence during the war of independence. There was a lot of damage created by the Indonesian army, and in this, around 5 Australian journalists were also killed. This municipality's capital is Malian, which covers 239.65 square kilometers and a total population being 12220. The majority of this country's rice is produced in this area; therefore, it is a major agricultural center. Even the locals of this town support farming and made it their livelihood. Other than rice, many of the farmers also grow maize in this area. There are four rivers which flow in this area supporting the agriculture land.
  • Cova Lima District : It is a municipality present in the South Western portion of this country. This district's total area is 1230 square kilometers, with a population of 59455 living in this district. The sudden end of this district is connected with the Timor River. The capital of this District is Suau. This town covers an area of 302.6 square kilometers with an elevation of 13 meters. This town is not far away from the Timor Sea. There are memorials and statues present to pay tribute to the brave soldiers and people who have participated in the war of independence.
  • Dili District: This district's area is 368.12 square kilometers, and the total population calculated in 2015 was 277279, thus creating a total density of 760 people per square kilometers. If seen according to the area, it is the smallest municipality, but this municipality has the highest population, creating it a highly populated place. The capital of this municipality is Dili which is also the capital of East Timor. It is a densely populated city with a density of 4600 people per square kilometer. There is a beautiful Roman Catholic Church that played an essential role in getting independence. This city has a tropical savanna climate with an average high temperature of 30.9 degrees Celsius and the lowest being 11.8 degrees Celsius. The average rainfall experienced by this city is 908 millimeters.
  • Ermera District: This district is present in the Western-central part of this country. This district covers over 746 square kilometers with a total population of 11706 people. It is the second most populated city with a high density of 160 people per square kilometers. As this city is present near the national capital of this country, this city's climate is also similar to that capital city due to Savanna's tropical climate. The average temperature of this city lies between 26.6 to 19.4-degree Celsius.
  • Lautém District: The area of this district is 1813 square kilometers, and the total population of this district is 65240; therefore, it is the least populated municipality of this place. The two sides of this district are covered with water. To the North, this district is connected with Banda sea, and to the South, this district is connected to the Timor sea. Other than the national language, there are a lot of people who speak the Papuan Language Fatuluku.
  • Liquiçá District: This district's area is 549 square kilometers, and the total population is 71927, which makes it the eighth-most populated municipality. While the Portuguese army colonized the whole country, this district was still under the Mayubara Kingdom, which the Netherlands later took over in 1667. The rest of the territories were still under Portuguese Rule. Even the beach has evidence of that old-time, including old cannon, which they used to protect the Bay. However, Portugal later discussed with the Netherlands to release this District to Portugal's army, and a deal was done in exchange for Flores Island, given to the Netherlands in exchange. This district is rich in mineral sources, including gold and coffee plantations in this district.
  • Manatuto District: This district is present in the central part of this country with 46619, and the total area is 1782 square kilometers. The capital of this District is Manatuto, where around 3692 people are living. More to this, the density of this place is 14 people per square kilometer.
A beach in Dili, East Timor


There is so much to explore in East Timor. There are museums which will help you in getting detailed knowledge about the country. There are city parks and national parks which can help you know about the diverse flora and fauna of this region. There are jungles where you can explore a lot of wild plants and animals present in this country.

City Parks

Every municipality in the cities of East Timor has a city park. Therefore, there are a different number of parks. You can meet many people while visiting these parks as many people come for a morning or evening walk. Some of these parks are built to pay tribute to the national leaders who played a vital role in getting independence. There are amusement parks which are also present where you can enjoy the amusement rides.

  • Liu Bere Liu Mata
  • Sao Paulo II
  • National Heroes Memorial
  • Evergreen force memorial park
  • Jardim Infantil
Jardim Infantil

National Parks

This island has a lot of vegetation spread all over the country. There are mountains, jungles, parks covered with trees. There is a national park present in the capital of East Timor. You can discover many species of animals and plants in this national park. This park is also one of the main tourist attractions of the capital of this city.

  • Nini Konis Santana National Park


East Timor is known for its beautiful and scenic beaches that offer a calm and serene environment. You can enjoy a day of sunbathing and relaxing or taking part in water sports at these beaches. Some of the ones worth visiting are mentioned below:

  • Areia Branca
  • Jaco Island
  • One Dollar Beach
  • Back Beach
The beautiful Areia Branca beach near Dili is one of the most popular beaches of the country but you will not find it to be overcrowded


There are a lot of different types of landmarks that are present in many of the cities. The majority of the landmarks are related to memorials, statues, and other things that pay a tribute to this country's leaders. More to this, there are other landmarks, such as a cemeteries and cathedrals. These cathedrals can help you learn about the architecture of this country. They also give you an opportunity to learn more about the local customs and the religious values of the locals

  • Christo rei
  • Cemetery of Santa Cruz
  • Immaculate Conception Cathedral
  • Anthony's Cathedral
The Santa Cruz massacre was the shooting of at least 250 East Timorese pro-independence demonstrators in the Santa Cruz cemetery in the capital, Dili


Museums are the best place to learn many things about the history of a country amongst other things. This country has faced many hardships, including various wars which were fought for independence, various invasions, etc. Other museums are also present, that can help you learn about art and literature, especially poetry. Visiting museums can be fun if one is interested in learning new things. Some of the museums even charge entry fees. The most popular museums are:

  • National Museum and Culture Center of East Timor
  • Timorese Resistance Archive and Museum
  • Centro Nacional Chega
  • Xanana Gusmão Reading Room
Xanana Gusmão Reading Room


An East Timorese dish of ikan sabuko with batar daan, rice and budu

Many local and traditional restaurants are present in this country, which can help you taste various cuisines available in East Timor but most importantly you will have the opportunity to try the local cuisine. Batar daan is a local dish made up of corn, pumpkins, and beans. The next dish is Budu which is a sauce made up of tomato, lime, and mint. Another dish is Ikan Sabuko which is a Spanish origin dish made up of basil and capsicum. Tapai is another local delicacy made up of fermented rice, which has a bit of alcohol in it. Caril is a mild chicken curry with roasted capsicum and coconut past.


One of the most famous beverages in this country is coffee. This coffee is organic, and coffee farming remains a very important part of the country's economy. There are other drinks which are also available in this East Timor. These include Cachaca, which is a cocktail. It is a distilled spirit that is made up of sugar juice by fermenting. Grenadilla is another drink available in this country. This drink is prepared from pomegranate juice, sugar, and water; therefore, it is sweeter. It is also used in cocktails. You can even have orange juice, which is good for your health.


Drinking from taps in East Timor is not safe without filtering and boiling it. However, East Timor's water and sanitation infrastructure has lagged over the past years as research shows that 90% of the urban population gets detoxified water supplies. In contrast, nearly 50% of these uses non-piped sources, i.e., boreholes, tube-wells, and protected springs. Hence, the need for regulatory and government reform within the urban water sector is essential, including improving water quality and supply services by implementing transparent testing procedures and installing water management systems. Hence, while traveling, you can drink from packaged bottles for safety precautions.


East Timor comes under the list of pretty fantastic tourist destinations in the country. From hilly areas to wildlife, from important landmarks to adventurous activities, the island offers you a lot to fulfill your desire to explore East Timor. The capital city, Dili, is one of the most bizarre places you will ever visit in your travel book. The city has a unique story to tell about its culture, traditions, and celebrations in addition to luxury palaces, hundreds of expatriates, NGOs with expansive networks of bars, supermarkets, and restaurants. To explore the country, here are some tips you must follow while traveling in and around East Timor:

  • Explore the capital city – Dili
  • Visit Atauro Island that has stunning mountains, beautiful beaches, and a perfect spot for snorkeling.
  • Hiking on Mount Ramelau - the highest peak in the country.
  • Visit the island’s most peculiar part of the country – Lospalos. Tourists mostly come here to see the fantastic architecture of houses built on wooden sticks.


Suitable accommodation is an essential need for any foreigner who is visiting a place for the first time. If you want to have a wholesome experience in the country, your primary concern should be to have budget-friendly accommodation. East Timor offers you a wide range of luxury hotels and apartments in addition to affordable hostels and guesthouses. Most of these accommodations are present in stunning locations from where one can view and enjoy the city life at the closest. From cheaper hotels to high-class luxury places, there are plenty of places to stay in East Timor. Here is a list of some excellent and efficient accommodations that might come in handy:

Green Hotels

Being the top-choice for environment-friendly tourists/travelers, green hotels are the best accommodations irrespective of the cost. The entire concept of eco-friendly hotels ensures that customers do not cause any harm to the environment and that the hotel itself adopts various eco-friendly means to support and promote the safety of the domain. Some hotels with such facilities in East Timor are as follows:

  • Casa do Sandalo
  • Hotel Timor
  • Alor Beach Front Bungalows
  • Timor Plaza Hotel & Apartments
  • Hotel The Ramelau

Hostels and Guest Houses

Another type of accommodation in East Timor is staying in hostels and guesthouses. These accommodations are perfect for those travelers who travel solo or in a group of one or two. It allows them to interact with strangers and learn different things about each other's nationalities and cultures. Hostels and Guesthouses, however, do serve the purpose of shared rooms with attached washrooms and a kitchen with all required necessities. Some of the options in such accommodations are:

  • Green Village Guesthouse Homestay
  • Dili Central Backpackers
  • Talilaran Vila Verde
  • Hospedaria e Restaurante Manukoko Rek
  • Dili Homestay
  • Jf Guest House
  • Fronteira Guest House


Despite the location/place you are visiting, apartments are much expensive than other accommodations. But with this disadvantage, the only good thing in renting apartments is the freedom one gets while staying in apartments. Apartments in East Timor are available in massive numbers. Whether you are staying in for long-term or short-term purposes, apartments are best for those tourists/travelers who want to stay in such a place where they can feel at home as it ensures that you get maximum comfort during their stay in the country. Some available apartments in East Timor are:

  • Timor Resort
  • NERIO’s Place & Apartments
  • Brighton Apartments
  • CBD 8 Timor Plaza Apartment
  • Villa Formosa


The concept of Couchsurfing entails a foreigner staying at a local's residence during their vacation. In East Timor, you can find around 284 such hosts available who allow tourists/travelers to stay in their houses. You can ask any local or enquire in hotels/restaurants if you want a place to stay in this accommodation type. Here in East Timor, since the number of hosts is lesser than most neighboring countries, you might find difficulty crashing at the best ones. For this, you can visit several Couchsurfing sites available on the country's website where interested hosts provide complete information about the visitors they are expecting.


East Timor is a small island with many beautiful and fantastic travel destinations offering incredible natural beauty, rich history, and a unique cultural experience. With so many incredible sights, you can have a fun time camping in this country, especially in Dili and other major cities. Camping is an excellent outdoor experience for adventure-lovers that takes an individual out of their comfort zone. Here are some fantastic locations/campgrounds where you can camp in East Timor:

  • Uma
  • Bartolomeu dos Santos Seran
  • Tn.Jimmy Pareira
  • Ovi parera
  • Bumi Perkemahan Desa Tublopo


East Timor map.png


Getting There and Moving Around

Getting in East Timor is the easiest and safest by air since it is one of the thousands of islands in Southeast Asia; however, you can also reach here by boat. You can also choose to travel via road from neighboring countries; all you need to keep in mind is complete legal paperwork along with passports and license. Public transport lacks in East Timor; however, the only best thing about this territory is some decent roads that connect Dili with other significant regions of the country. You can also explore by foot to most attraction points that are nearby your respective accommodations.


Traveling by air is the fastest yet expensive transportation method; there are few flights to East Timor from 3 different locations – Bali in Indonesia, Darwin in Australia, and Singapore. Flights from these airlines are the cheapest than other neighboring countries. Air Timor (Air Timor S.A.) operates as an airline in Dili that provides services from Dili to various major cities of the country. Many travel agents will suggest you book flights to travel to East Timor as it is the best way to get to the country.

Presidente Nicolau Lobato International Airport


Bus services are present in most parts of the country between the major cities of East Timor. You can head to the Tasi Tolu bus terminal on the country's western side; you can also find the Becora bus terminal (eastern side) and the Taibessi bus terminal (southern side). These bus terminals' fares range from US$3 – US$10, depending on the distance you choose to travel. Busses run through various essential points, from markets to tourist destinations; there are several bus routes in East Timor.

A bus in Dili


East Timor's railway transportation ended due to its poverty, sparse communication networks, and weak transportation infrastructures. East Timor has no railways; however, a 500 km long electrified double-track railway came into existence in 2012, with a central line from various major cities. You will not find the luxury to travel on rails, but you can adopt multiple other transportation systems to move in and around the country.


In East Timor's most regions, locals are very open-minded concerning hitchhiking. They allow tourists/travelers to hitch for short distances. It is the easiest and convenient mode of travel and is usual in Timor-Leste. Whether it be a truck or 4-wheel-drives, you will surely get a ride to your desired destination. You must know the local language, i.e., Portuguese or English, to manage to communicate efficiently. However, it would be best if you did not forget that hitchhiking is never entirely safe regarding travels; therefore, try not to use hitchhiking as means of travel until necessary.


Other means of transportation in East Timor are microlite (small vans/share taxis), taxis, rental cars, or scooters/motorbike. Mikrolets, however, is the cheapest means to travel in and around the town. They follow specific routes as told and will drop you wherever you want. On the other hand, taxis can be of two types in East Timor, especially in Dili; Yellow taxis without a meter and blue taxis charged by the meter and are thus safer. You can rent a car/4WD for about $85-$120 a day in Dili, keeping in mind the city's bad and tricky road conditions. Last but not least option is by scooter/motorbikes, which tends to be a perfect drive for one or two persons if you are up for adventurous driving within the city limits.

Sustainable Shopping

The capital city of East Timor, Dili, is quite famous for activities and markets in abundance. There are many shopping centers, stores, and antique shops where you can find several items ranging from clothing to antiquities. Sustainable shopping is a noble cause that entails buying things that the people of respective countries locally craft. The economy increases due to an increase in demand for environmental-friendly products as you patronize their businesses in every way possible. Some places in East Timor where you can shop from are:

  • Timor Plaza
  • Tanjung Motor Dili
  • Dato-Rua
  • K_Q 21 ACC (Nopen Asesoris Telefoni)
  • Kios Mari Manleu


Recycling is a severe deal no matter what place you visit or reside in. While on your tour in East Timor, you will find few recycling plants incorporated by various companies that effectively recycle materials. Here, around 70 tonnes of plastic waste is collected each day, mainly collected from beaches and urban areas. The country, however, is set to become the world's first country to recycle all its plastic waste to turn it into new products. Garbage collectors go house to house to collect recyclable materials like plastics, papers, glass, and much more. After having these waste materials, they send them to the company/industry for recycling.


At different points within the city limits, you will see garbage bins installed by the government so that locals throw their trash/waste effectively. Many locals in the neighborhood burn their trash which causes air pollution, which is not a good thing. Still, you will not see any waste items littering on the roads as it would have adverse effects on society that will lead to anyone littering around with high fines. The idea of such an initiation is to ensure that the country stays clean always, as that is what would lure foreigners. Tourism plays a vital role in maintaining cleanliness no matter what country you are visiting.

Work and Study Abroad

To work or study in East Timor, you should know the country's official languages that are Portuguese and Tetum; without knowing how to speak these languages, including English, you can find it difficult to adjust here. There are many job opportunities in East Timor cities, but it won't be easy to find the perfect one matching your job profile. Several sites are available; also, you can contact head-hunters to find you a suitable job. Coming to education facilities, East Timor has a public university – The National University of East Timor (UNTL), the only one of its kind in the country offering tonnes of courses and advanced teaching facilities.

Exchange Student

If you desire to be an exchange student in East Timor, there may be several programs or degrees that ensure this happens. The cost of living here is 1.46 times less expensive than the world average, making East Timor quite a place for opting for educational services. Such programs help students worldwide to experience diverse cultural systems and allow them to participate in numerous activities. Not only in grasping such activities, but they can also enjoy the city's lifestyles and learn about the respective country's traditional customs and beliefs.

Au Pair

Au Pairing is a common thing you will see in East Timor. For job seekers, there are several websites where you need to register yourself to find a suitable job according to your job profile. As you know, employment in au pairing is related to babysitting or being a nanny; therefore, if you are up for a living to pay your monthly bills, au pair is the perfect job. As getting involved in such employment indirectly helps you understand the local culture and improve yourself as an individual.


Volunteer opportunities in East Timor are available in many institutions or organizations. Some of them are:

  • Blue Ventures
  • Project Everest Ventures
  • Volunteer Service Abroad (VSA)

Such organizations work to improve safety and living conditions on the ground for local people. As a volunteer, you play a vital role in helping such people for society's betterment. Several placements are available to join all year round; whether you are a foreigner or a local citizen, every person is allowed to participate in their noble cause to help the needy and poor, making the country a better place.

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