After countless buses, tuk-tuks, ferries and boats through the beautiful Indonesian islands, I finally got to Timor.
This island is divided into two parts; the Indonesian province of Timor Barat in the west and the young independent country of Timor Leste in the east.
East Timor suffered from colonialism, foreign invasion, genocide, guerrilla combat, revolution and infighting until it gained its independence in 2002.
The Portuguese, as part of their empire, controlled it from 1512-1975, trading sandalwood, spices and other goods. When the Portuguese left, the Indonesians invaded the country with the support of the United States.
After recent political instability and the presence of UN peacekeepers, everything appears to have calmed down and the country is now moving forward.
Find the Best Things to do in East Timor, a young country without tourism, where every day is a new adventure.
1. TIMOR’S CAPITAL: DILI
The city of Dili is one of the most bizarre places I have ever been in my travels. It appears to be two cities simultaneously. On one hand are the humble locals who live on 80 dollars a month. On the other hand are the luxury palaces, hundreds of expatriates, and NGO and UN staff who have created an extensive network of bars, restaurants and expensive supermarkets.
It’s interesting to watch these UN cars throughout the city, making one feel like a war journalist.
2. ATAURO ISLAND
A great destination to escape the madness of Dili for a few days. The island is an undiscovered gem with stunning mountains, beautiful beaches and good snorkeling. Most villagers rent cabins and rooms.
3. MOUNT RAMELAU
I recommend that you get to the region of Ainaro to hike Mount Ramelau, the highest peak in the country. The climb is easy and the views are beautiful. The whole region is made up of small villages on hills and broad valleys.
In the eastern part of the island lies the small town of Lospalos. The architecture here is among the island’s most peculiar, as many of the houses are built on wooden sticks.
It’s a town of strong traditions and some of its people speak Portuguese.
5. JACO ISLAND
You have to cross the whole country to get to the island of Jaco, as it’s located on the easternmost tip of Timor. However, when you arrive you’ll see that the trip was worth it. It offers the best beach in Southeast Asia—one of the most perfect I’ve seen in my life, almost on the same level as the Tobago Cays in Sant Vincent and the Grenadines. In addition, it’s one of the few beaches in the country where there are no crocodiles. Or so they say.
6. SOE, TIMOR INDONESIA
If you come by land from Indonesia, I recommend stopping at Soe to visit some of the villages in the area. The culture and architecture are similar to those of Timor Leste and the people are just as friendly, maybe more so.
Budget for a trip to Timor Leste: $25/day. Best things to do in East Timor
Despite being more expensive than its neighbor Indonesia, you are able to visit the island for approximately $25 a day by adjusting your budget slightly or even hitchhiking.
PLAN YOUR TRIP
ACCOMMODATION IN HOSTELS
These are some options that I loved:
Dili. Central backpackers. Cool rooms and very friendly staff.
Angelo and Jacinta House, in Lospalos. $10 for a room including breakfast and the company of a pretty cool couple.
Bungalows in the Tetuala cooperative (in front of Jaco), $20 for two people.
ACCOMMODATION IN AIRBNB
A good option for couples and groups, with rooms and apartments at great prices. If you sign up through my link, you will get $35 of Airbnb credit!
I highly recommend that you get a good insurance policy before you visit East Timor. Trusted by thousand of adventurers, World Nomads is one of the best and more reliable options (without breaking your bank).
TRANSPORT – How to get to East Timor
Bus, Kupang-Atambua: $6, 8 hours.
Bemo, Atambua-Indonesian border, $2, 1.5 hours.
Within the country
Bus, Timor border-Dili, $6, 5 hours
Bus, Dili-Lospalos, $9, 8 hours.
Van, Lospalos-Tetuala, $3, 1.5 hours.
Boat, Tetuala-Jaco, $6 per person return trip, 5-minute boat ride
FOOD AND DRINK
The food is similar to that in Indonesia, though maybe not as good. Still, you’ll find some great fried rice, chicken and curry dishes. A dish at a street stall costs about $2.50.
If you’re a coffee drinker, you’ll be pleased to know that Timor’s coffee is quite delicious and is one of the products that the country is best known for. It is even sourced by international companies like Starbucks.
WHEN TO GO
Any season is good to visit, however bear in mind that from November to May is rainy season, potentially causing some complications on the roads.
TRAVEL TIPS. Best things to do in East Timor
You will need a visa to enter the country. Although some sites say you can do it at the border, it is not possible. You will need to do this prior to your travels at a Timor Embassy that is closest to you. In my case, Kupang in Indonesia.
TRAVEL WITH TIME
The poor condition of the roads and the infrequency of buses may incur delays in all your plans. Remember it’s an undeveloped country and each step is an adventure.
FIND A JOB
If you are traveling throughout Southeast Asia and plan to settle down somewhere, Dili offers many opportunities for both qualified and skilled workers.
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Hi, I’m Miguel; Adventure traveler, scuba diver and hiking lover. I have been traveling the world for the last 12 years and I hope my experiences, photos and hiking routes inspire you to travel the world too.