The Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste, or East Timor, is an archipelago country located in Maritime Southeast Asia. It is comprised of the eastern half of the island of Timor, the nearby islands of Atauro and Jaco, and Oecusse, an exclave on the north-western side of the island, within Indonesian West Timor. The country's capital is Dili, and the official languages are Tetum and Portuguese.
What to see & do
Dili is still on its catch-up phase after being locked up by various colonisers during the colourful history of the country. It is a city that is undergoing rapid transformation – burned down buildings being replaced with the city's first skyscrapers. And while the capital is just having its first taste of cinemas, shopping malls, and stylish restaurants, it still is a sight to behold. Sans the new cashed-up elite and expat community that drives their luxury Hummers around like a dream, Dili is actually a good place to soak on great international cuisine, buy supplies for the next outdoorsy activity, meet the locals, and learn about the long and gruelling history of East Timor. Catch the Christo Rei here too, and if it's nightlife you're seeking – walk some one or two blocks away from the waterfront to find the Castaway Bar.
A positively deserted place that polarises Dili, the island of Atauro is filled with sandy beaches that are gateways to fringing reefs. It is an undiscovered snorkelling and diving site that is ready for the taking and you might be surprised of what it can bring. Apart from the waters, Atauro also has a savannah going on for trailing – and a few patches of a tropical forest that was once there. Not your thing? Travellers may also ride fishing boats for a tenner or even swim out – to catch some fish for lunch.
How to get around within East Timor
Buses run to most parts of the country and main cities like Dili, Baucau, Maliana, Los Palos, and Suai. Although buses here are of the small variety, their presence brings convenience to travellers who are planning to hop on and hop off to various destinations.
Private vehicles and taxis are one of the best means of transport in Dili and to other major cities. Taxis are relatively cheap and prices are very much negotiable, while private vehicles can be rented on a daily rate.
Motorcycles and scooters are a great way to see the country. Using motorcycles, travellers can afford to travel any time, with only a small responsibility of carrying bungee cords to secure the bikes when in park overnight. There are no more commercial bike rental operators though, but travellers may try renting from an international resident or do some couchsurfing.
The cities of Oekusi and Dili, as well as the Atauro Island, are well-connected by ferry.
How to get there
East Timor is still establishing its air travel systems and only relies on a handful of airports that are currently available. The one serving the capital is the Presidente Nicolau Lobato International Airport, formerly known as Comoro International Airport. The airport was renamed after Nicolau dos Reis Lobato, an East Timorese politician considered as one of the country's national heroes. Until recently, the said airport has been unable to accommodate aircraft larger than 737s or the C-130 Hercules; however, the Portuguese charter airline EuroAtlantic Airways have operated a direct flight from Lisbon using a 757. The airport was also previously placed under the control of the Australian Defence Force during Operation Astute in May 2006, before being returned to the East Timor Civil Aviation Division. Currently, the airport serves international flights to and from Darwin, Singapore, Jakarta, and Denpasar, along with domestic flights to and from Suai. Airlines that travel to the airport include Air North, Air Timor, Garuda, Silk Air, and Sriwijaya Air. The airport previously had flight connections to Lisbon, Porto, Luanda, Melbourne, Perth, and others, to name some. Cargo airlines also operate services from the airport.
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