Travelling to East Timor?

Well it seems as if more and more people are wanting to visit/move to Timor Leste! How awesome! Its a great opportunity to assist in the world....

As we see more visitors we thought we should add some info about the ins and outs of getting/staying here.

First things first:
- you can have a look at this website for some general guidelines The International Assosiation for Medical Assistance for Travellers
We have had some Hep injections, Typhoid, Tetanus and sometimes we use an anti malarial.  During wet season we try to have Samuel taking Doxycycline every day as he tends to find himself in more risky areas. We highly suggest you avoid Larium.  Cynthia and the kids just use mozzie spray first thing in the morning, and reapplied  in the afternoon.  During the dry season we get a bit slack, about using repellent, especially at our home as we have very few mozzies.  But we generally try to avoid any mozzie bites. If your coming over for a short visit you may want to use Doxycycline. Its pretty mild, though some people get sick in the stomach form it, and others become ridiculously sun-sensitive while on it..
For some rarer illnesses, it seems wiser to not receive the injection, (because the injection won't prevent 100% or won't prevent for very long) and rabies is officially NOT in Timor Leste, we have never seen any risk factor for it and have never heard of any case - so please dont worry about it.
Remember that all this is just our practice and not professional advice.  If you're a worry pot and/or like to sue others if you die then perhaps you should use someone else's advice (my version of a disclaimer) ; )

Booking tickets 
Its usually cheaper to book straight through the airline websites.

The only physical plane arriving in Dili from Australia, is an Airnorth Plane. Qantas sometimes sell tickets for this plane too (includes all their perks though).
So have a look here: airnorth.
The average is about $400-$600 return

We usually try to get a cheap/sale flight  up to Darwin (from Brisbane for us ) by keeping an eye on sale tickets.  An average price is $400 return
virgin has a "happy hour" every day, Monday to Friday from 4pm to 6pm AEST.  Its really worth setting your alarm and checking it every day.  We have used this a few times.
jetstar has some cheap flights every Friday.

Airport/transit processes
Make sure you have a couple of pens to fill in airport forms.
We got tricked at least once, by the fact that at the small Darwin airport, you go through the security check, up the stairs/escalator to a lounge/cafe waiting terminal.  We sat around and then realised quite late that we actually had to turn right at the top of the escalator and go through another doorway into a customs check-in process, and through the duty free shop to a second waiting terminal.  So now we quickly turn right, fill in the form at the benches there, and then go through the customs.  Just put your liquids and creams in their specially supplied ziplock bags, (or better yet put everything like that in check in bags - its only a 1hr flight after all.  We only put clothing or books in carry-on, saves a lot of headaches.)  Expect to open, pull out and display all your carry-on stuff.  The staff are not particularly friendly, so don't bother making small chat or friendly jokes! Just smile and wave boys, smile and wave.... :)
dump your bags on the conveyer belt, and honestly answer their questions.  Of course the body checkers have to look busy, so they will always be checking someone, probably you because you look like you wont swear at them.

Visa and arrival details
Timor Leste does not do visa applications prior to arrival.  Bring an extra US$30 just for the visa process when you enter the airport in Dili.  When you collect your tickets at Darwin Airport, you will be given some forms to fill in.  (During the flight to Dili you will be offered more if you didn't get them or lost them) You need to have them filled in before you arrive, so as soon as you lose sight of land start filling them in, so that later as you fly over East Timor you can just enjoy the view!
I cant remember all the little bits on the form, but I think its in Portuguese, with a bit of English so most of it you should be able to guestimate what it means.
You can tick the box tourist or visiting family friends if you prefer.  We're all one big family anyway hey?  Our address and phone number if you want to enter them is
Beto Tasi, Comoro, Dili

Write Savings, in the part where it asks you how you will manage financially.  (Unless of course you have a paid job you're coming over for)  They just want to know if you're able to afford to get home again, or if you are going to try and get work here, in which case later you would need to apply for a work visa  (I think you can only apply for a tourist visa on entering the country at the Dili airport).

On the back, tick no for everything.  (I figure you're not likely to be smuggling in anything you shouldn't be, and if you are then of course your going to lie about it anyway right?) ;)

Note - try not to bring over a new item in its packaging especially a large item.  They want to charge importing tax on anything valued over ~$350 (i think).  Officially they can only charge import tax on products for re-sale - any personal items for yourself or gifts are fine.   But sometimes they are not sure what you plan to do with it and the language barrier can make it even more difficult.  So its easier to look inconspicuous, and put new items in amongst your luggage rather than having a large cardboard box just asking to get opened!

Getting out of the airport - if you're staying with us, we'll try to pick you up.
Normally, taxis from the airport are a standard US$10 for anywhere in Dili.
There is also now an on call bus service Flybus that charges $10.

Car Hire
If you're organised, you can hire a vehicle from rentlo or esilva
and they can deliver a car to the airport for you.  They are generally around $85 - $110 per day for a car in reasonably good condition.

Taxis - taxis drive all over Dili and charge $2 - $5 a ride, depending on the distance.  Its a flat fee and you must negotiate this before you get in the car.  Also ensure they have change if you dont have the right money.  Taxis are yellow with a taxi sign on the roof.  Girls should be choosey about who they ride with and get in the back of the car.

Microlets are a great way of getting around if you want to mix with the locals.  They are small vans where you get in the back with the rest of the crowd and get a ride for 25c.  These vans are numbered, and each number goes on a set route.  We are on route no. 10.  Its 'hail-n-ride' and you tap your coin on the metal handrail when you want to get off.  Sam Fritz has produced an informative webpage with a map of all the routes! 
Microlet Map and info page

Buses - Getting out of Dili you can hop on a bus - there are bus terminals around Dili marked by places where a few buses gather.  It can be around $5 - $10 per trip.  Expect an interesting ride and be very sure that the bus is going where you are hoping to go.

Boats - getting to the island of Atauro you can take the big "Nakroma" which is a large standard vessel and costs $2 - $5.  Buy your ticket on Friday, it does a return trip to the Island on Saturday and this year it visits Oecussi on Tuesdays and Thursadys.  You can also take the taxi boat for $35 which is an Aussie operated boat and is fast and reliable, or a new Malaysion style long boat wchich is a similar price.  Also, if your more adventurous, you can go timorese style and get on a smaller dugout for $5 leaving a beach near the Palacao every morning (not Sunday).  Our boat is also available and can be hired for the island or cruising the coast.

Planes- MAF operates a small plane here in Timor and offers medivacs through the Dept health.  MAF has recently worked together with residents and government to open a runway on Atauro Island!  YAY so now MAF can do medivac's from there, and it is also available for charter,  Check it out:


Currency is in US$ and must be post 2006 versions (for some strange reason no-one accepts US$ released before that date.....
As mentioned earlier you definitely need at least US$30 in your wallet before you arrive.  I would recommend having a lot more - say US$200 in small notes.  You generally cant use credit cards here in shops or restaurants. The ATM's can take visa cards, but it costs about $6 to withdraw cash from the more common ANZ, and its limited to $500/day (just in case you would be wanting to withdraw larger amounts). Occasionally  the 5 ATMs wont work, or will be out of cash, and trying to get cash out at the bank takes up to 2hrs. So be safe and bring over a bit extra with you.

Keep US$10 for departure tax to leave the country.

 There are actually a lot of options these days.  You can stay with us if you arrange in advance and we think you're noble enough. We charge 50g chocolate /person/night. ;)

Or you can try some of these options -
Dili Accommodation List
Some people we know like to stay at Dili Beach Hotel, $55pp/n on coast road in the city (across the road from the ocean, but not a nice place to swim) but the hotel does have a simple pool.
For longer term house rentals you need to be in the country looking around.  They start at about $350/month up to the thousands. They tend to stick up signs with "for rent".  And you can ask around.  Its a pretty transient bunch here so always people coming and going.

Schools - 
As you may have realised we homeschool our two older kids.  We generally find this successful and rewarding, and highly recommend it to anyone... anywhere...
However if you just flip out at the thought, and have oodles of money you may be interested in these options:

Dili International School Timor
 It starts at around US$5000/$7500 (depending if you get assistance from your employer) for preschool age.  Primary and secondary is US$10k-$15k/year.  It uses an Australian curriculum, has limited infrastructure and has recently gone completely electronic with homework being sent by email etc

QSI (Quality School International)
Fees are a bit similar:
3-4 year olds ¬US$4200/yr
5+¬ US$17000/yr
This school uses an American curriculum and also has quite limited facilities. I think it only goes a few grades above primary school.

Or there is a Portuguese school which is ridiculously cheap though the classes are huge, the timetable unusual and it helps if you speak Portuguese.  There are plenty of Timorese schools around.  They also teach in Portuguese, and a bit of Indonesian and Tetun.  The also have large class sizes, half the time a teacher doesn't show up, and they use corporal punishment.
Doesn't homeschooling sound like a great idea?

a poem and a great article on "is homeschooling for you?"

I use Sonlight which provides everything you need for around $$700-1000/year. (but you can re-use the stuff for other kids, and can choose just a few subjects if you want).
For me Sonlight used to be too expensive, (being on an education budget of roughly $200/yr,) so I ferreted around for random books and accepted secondhand donations gladly.  For the past 4 years however I have been able to purchase Sonlight curriculums and have really appreciated it.

 There is an Australian doctor at the Aussie embassy who can see non-Australians as well (I think).  Her office is behind the Aussie embassy, on the coast road.  You may need your passport on your first visit.  The service is not covered by Medicare so fees are full price.

Medical Clinic
Australian Embassy Clinic
Australian Residential Compound
Avenida de Portugal
Telephone: +670 3311 555
Fax: +670 3322 247

The Dili hospital can do blood tests etc and apparently a number of foreign women have now had cesareans there (not sure i would choose to though)
They have Cuban doctors, an aussie specialist or two and some others......

There is now a clinic called Stanfords which is owned by a Singaporean company. Its a very nice clinic and has some nice Drs. However consultations start at around $70.

There is also an Indonesian owned clinic on Cormoro road (Cindranita) where we have had blood tests done and an ultrasound.  The Doctor speaks English and charges minimal rates. can recommend them 77963962

There are quite a few small pharmacy's around.  They sell some basic things, like plastic bandaids, Indonesian brand vitamins, panadol etc.  They also sell antibiotics and doxycycline over the counter.  So if you want to you can save yourself a dr visit in Oz and buy doxy once you get here.  Just dont get bitten by mozzies on your first day.

There is a lovely Dentist who rents office space upstairs of the Cindranita Clinic.  He is gentle,good with kids, speaks English, and prices are reasonable.

The Plaza is becoming a busy place  For those who like coffee it has a Gloria Jeans and apparently its exactly like an Aussie one. (I still haven't tried it as I don't coffee).  A Burger King also recently opened and is thankfully living up to high expectations.
It doesn't have  a coles/bilo or Woolworths, but it does have Kmanek, which is reasonable and stocks local veggies including unusual ones like corriander, iceburg lettuce, broccoli and zucchini.

Otherwise there are three main supermarkets that foreigners use.
Lita - most popular for foreigners on eastern end of dili. Coast road, good range and prices
Landmark - much less range but generally good quality. Small range of homewares as well as groceries. On Comoro Road
Leader - Also on Cormoro road at the western end of town, the largest one with a good range of stuff, has its own butcher.  Checkouts can be tedious at busy times.
There are a few other smaller places that you may come across on your drives through Dili.
Fresh fruit and veges can be bought from many small street stalls  but the best place for fruit is in front of Lita.

I would like to have an exhaustive list here, but as yet I don't.
The following churches offer an English service:
Igresia Ai Mutin (Catholic)
Victory (lively)
Phillipino Independant Baptist
The Potters House

Other churches are:
Pentecostal Church
Jehovah Witnesses

There is currently a small English home church held at our place about 3 times a month.   Its moderately conservative.
There is also a Sunday afternoon gathering of spiritually minded adults.  It rotates from house to house and acts like a support/discussion group.
Contact us for more details about these.