When I told friends and family I was going to East Timor for work, the over-whelming reaction was “is it safe?”
YES, it’s a safe and a beautiful country to visit.
BUT if you value luxury and an uncomplicated holiday/stay with seamless service, then East Timor will not be the place for you and you should stop reading. East Timor is not yet ready and I think that’s actually great. It has still its natural beauty, you can feel the past and the present and you find the hidden treasures (without trashcans and noisy tourist guides) by yourself.
Of course you see old abandoned Portuguese houses on the streets…but these are more and more less to see.
And here is a small guide what I think (as an Asian-European) you should need to know:
Presidente Nicolau Lobato International Airport (DIL) former known as Comoro International Airport located in the capital City Dili.
Visitors from any country can easily obtain a 30 day tourist and business visa on arrival to East Timor at Dili Airport by filling in a simple form and paying US$30 in cash.
Oh and one thing is really important to know: There are no ATM or credit card facilities inside the airport!
Christo Rei Statue
Around 7km east of town on Cape Fatucama is the hard-to-miss Christo Rei, a popular morning and evening exercise spot for locals and expats. From the cape, the views of turquoise bays and green-covered mountains are stunning.
As you climb the well-marked path up to Jesus, look for a little path after the last of 14 grottoes. It leads down to an often-deserted beach, known as Jesus Backside beach . A taxi to the statue from town should cost around US$6, though it can be difficult getting back.
On the way out to Christo Rei you’ll go past the popular Areia Branca , a restaurant-lined beach where you can sink into the sand while sipping beers and watching the sunset.
Speaking of sunset, beach…
If you think you have seen all the beautiful beaches over the world, then the beaches of East Timor are the best!
There are a lot of white-sand-beaches! I heard from a friend that the jewel Jaco Island would be. It’s a six-hour drive from Dili through green hills and coastal roads overlooking to the blue water below. Unfortunately I never made it to Jaco Island but please try to visit it.
Australia, Malaysia, Bali etc are over-dived. Timor Leste is the hidden gem of diving world! The main diving areas are around Dili and Atauro Island. Diving is possible all year round. The visibility is best from April to November, and worst in February. Water temperature is a warm 26-28 oC. How wonderful!
East Timor is a hidden divers paradise. You couldn’t wish for more: sharks, turtles, millions of fish, giant squid, rays, abundance of living coral. You only need to swim out from shore about 5 metres before you hit the drop off round the island – and this slopes gently to about 40 m.
If the driving is too hair-raising, or expensive — car rentals are not cheap, starting at around US$70 per day, partly due to the sketchy state of the roads and often erratic local driving — then it’s time to get on your bike.
Literally, not metaphorically.
You’ll need to be fit, as there are the steep climbs and steeper temperatures (around 30 C most of the year, though it is cooler at night in the mountains).
The upside is that you will have more opportunity to take in the views than you would if driving, when vigilance is needed.
The Timorese roads are sometimes a challenge for even the most robust four-wheel drive, so no surprise, then, that the recently-established Tour de Timor has already acquired the reputation for being one of the world’s most arduous bike races.
The right time for trekking in East Timor is during the dry season which is usually around the beginning of March through to November. Generally speaking, there will be a little rain during this time in the mountains and in the southern areas.
Ok, I am not a trekking person, never been and never will be. BUT I have friends who are into trekking. So at least I can recommend some Websites which you can see pics and blogs:
WHAT TO BUY:
Aromatic coffee beans and colourful hand-woven cloth called Tais are the two items that should be on your must-buy list when shopping in East Timor. All convenience stores and even some roadside stalls sell excellent coffee. Just as Scottish clans have specific patterns for their tartans, families in East Timor have Tais in specific patterns and colours.
Roasted coffee beans will be a great gift item. Note, some countries have strict rules about importing any food item.
All in all:
Yes it’s sometimes a challenge in East Timor but hey, life is always a challenge! If you can, grab the opportunity and go to East Timor! See by yourself its beauty and the friendly Timorese people, their smile, the sunrise, the nature, the beach…I could start all over again. 🙂
I love East Timor and I will never regret my stay there.