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It was in 2002 that East Timor (officially Timor-Leste) became an independent country, after a violent rule and conflict with Indonesia. The wounds are fresh and the damage to the East Timorese has only been lessened slightly through time.
Unlike Indonesia, the eastern half of Timor was never occupied by the Dutch during colonial times: Portugal held firm to this little slice of Southeast Asian jungle. The result is a fine glimmer of Portuguese influence breaking through (then) Portugal Timor's capital, Dili, and other towns. This colonial heritage mingled with local culture, as well as the nation's perfect beaches and spectacular mountain range, resemble the basic tourist attractions of most Southeast Asian countries. But do not come to East Timor without being prepared to be confronted and saddened by the war and the extreme poverty, because its scars are everywhere.
The first inhabitants are thought to be descendants of Australoid and Melanesian peoples. The Portuguese began to trade with the island of Timor in the early 16th century and colonized it in the mid-century. Skirmishes with the Dutch in the region eventually resulted in the invasion by the Dutch of the western half of Timor in the early 17th century, and in 1859 a treaty with the Netherlands and Portugal finalized the border of the island. Imperial Japan occupied East Timor from 1942 to 1945, but Portugal resumed colonial authority after the Japanese defeat in World War II.
The country declared itself independent from Portugal on 28 November 1975 and was invaded and occupied by Indonesian forces nine days later. It was incorporated into Indonesia in July 1976 as the province of East Timor. During the subsequent 24-year occupation a campaign of pacification ensued. Between 1974 and 1999, there were an estimated 102,800 conflict-related deaths (approximately 18,600 killings and 84,200 'excess' deaths from hunger and illness), the majority of which occurred during the Indonesian occupation.
On 30 August 1999, in a UN-sponsored referendum, an overwhelming majority of East Timor voted for independence from Indonesia. Immediately following the referendum, anti-independence East Timorese militias - organised and supported by the Indonesian military - commenced a punitive scorched-earth campaign. The militias killed approximately 1,400 East Timorese and forcibly pushed 300,000 people into West Timor as refugees. The majority of the country's infrastructure was destroyed. On 20 September 1999 the International Force for East Timor (INTERFET) was deployed to the country and brought the violence to an end. Following a United Nations-administered transition period, East Timor was internationally recognised as an independent state in 2002.
East Timor occupies the eastern half of the island of Timor, the largest of the Lesser Sunda Islands in the Malay archipelago. South of the island, the Timor Sea separates the country from Australia. North of the island are the Wetar Strait and Ombai Strait. To the west lies the Indonesian province of East Nusa Tenggara. Much of the country is mountainous, and its highest is Tatamailau (also known as Mount Ramelau) at 2,963 meters. The easternmost area of East Timor consists of the Paitchau (de) Range and the Iralalaro (de) area, which contains the county’s first conservation area, the Nino Konis Santana National Park. It contains the last remaining tropical dry forested area within the country. It hosts a number of unique plant and animal species and is sparsely populated. The northern coast is characterised by a number of coral reef systems that have been determined to be at risk.
East Timor is divided into 13 administrative districts.
Nino Konis Santana National Park is East Timor's first national park, designated in August 2007. It is located at the eastern most tip of the island and covers 123,600 hectares. 25 endemic bird species call the park home, including the endangered Timor Green-pigeon and the critically endangered Yellow-crested Cockatoo. The park also incorporates 55,600 of the ‘Coral Triangle’, a marine area with incredible biodiversity.
Atauro Island, just off the coast of Dili has been developing as an eco-tourism destination with some good potential for scuba diving, hiking and cultural immersion
Crowned by a Rio de Janeiro'esque statue of Christ, Cape Fatucama is a beautiful area of coast dotted with restaurants and bars.
The climate in East Timor is tropical, which generally means hot and humid, although the mountainous areas are a lot cooler. The western monsoon brings rains from December to March, while July to November are hot and dry. The average maximum temperature for the year is 25 °C.
Presidente Nicolau Lobato International Airport (DIL) in Dili is the country's only airport with regular public passenger services. However the runway cannot acommodate large passenger airplanes.
Flights from Darwin in Australia are operated by Airnorth. Flights from Denpasar in Bali, Indonesia are provided by Merpati Airlines. Flights can be booked out weeks in advance, so plans need to be made accordingly.
There is no rail infrastructure in East Timor.
The main border crossing with Indonesia is at Mota'ain, 115 kilometres west of Dili. The nearest East Timorese town is Batugade, 3 to 4 kilometres away. The nearest Indonesian town of is the West Timorese town of Atambua. You need an international driving permit and all the right documentation and insurance regarding the car.
There is a direct bus daily between Dili and Kupang in West Timor, Indonesia and the journey takes 12 hours. You can also do the trip in stages by taking minibuses to the border, cross on foot and go to the nearest town on the other side of the border.
There are no regular passenger services to and from Dili anymore though you might be lucky to get a ride on a cargoship or yacht.
There are no domestic flights within East Timor at the moment. Baucau has an airport (with a longer strip than the one in Dili in fact) and was used as the main territory under Indonesian occupation, but it is presently unattended. Suai Airport is also unattended.
There is no rail infrastructure in East Timor and West Timor in Indonesia.
Car hire options are available in Dili. Thrifty has a large fleet of cars.
Taxi services are available in the major towns. Standard fares are US$1, maybe US$2 for longer distances. The cars used are often recycled from other countries and could just look like regular cars.
Buses, mikrolets and vans run to many parts of the country, and at US$2-3 per trip are an economical means of getting around. The main cities of Dili, Baucau, Maliana, Los Palos and Suai are quite well linked by this infrastructure. Departures are generally early in the morning. Starting looking after 8:30am or so might leave you without luck.
Motorcycles can be rented from East Timor Backpackers.
There is a ferry connection from Dili to Ataúru Island and the Oekusi Enclave. You can arrange with a ride with local fishermen to visit Jako islet.
Check the Immigration Department of East Timor for more details.
If travelling overland to/from Indonesia, note that you can get a East Timorese visa upon arrival at the border, but not an Indonesian visa! You have to arrange one at the Indonesian embassy in Dili.
See also: Money Matters
The US Dollar, or "greenback", is the national currency of East Timor. One dollar consists of 100 cents. Frequently used coins are the penny (1¢), nickel (5¢), dime (10¢) and quarter (25¢). 50¢ and $1 coins also exist, but are rarely used. Frequently used banknotes are the $1, $5, $10 and $20 notes. $2, $50 and $100 notes can also be found, but are rarely used.
Portuguese and Tetum are the official languages of East Timor. Indonesian is also widely spoken but English is spoken by few. There are several dozen indigenous languages, including Tetum, Galole, Mambae and Kemak.
Most accommodation options in East Timor are in the capital Dili. There are some small options out of the capital, but generally the choice is fairly minimal.
See also: Travel Health
There are no vaccinations legally required to travel to East Timor. There is one exception though. You need a yellow fever vaccination if you have travelled to a country (7 days or less before entering East Timor) where that disease is widely prevalent.
It's a good thing to get your vaccinations in order before travelling to East Timor. The general vaccination against Diphtheria, Tetanus and Polio (DTP) is recommended. Also a hepatitis A vaccination is recommended and when travelling longer than 2 weeks also typhoid.
If you are staying longer than 3 months or have a particular risk (travelling by bike, handling of animals, visits to caves) you might consider a rabies vaccination. Vaccination against Tuberculosis as well as hepatitis B are also sometimes recommended for stays longer than 3 months.
Finally, other possible health issues include diarrhea and other general travellers' diseases like motion sickness. Watch what you eat and drink and in case you get it, drink plenty of fluids (to prevent dehydration) and bring ORS.
See also: Travel Safety
See also: International Telephone Calls
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Ask LIFAU a question about East Timor
Giving informations and contacts
Ask JasonET a question about East Timor
Hi, I am a expat living in East Timor. I came here in 2009 to volunteer for 12 months and I am still here! Happy to help with any questions you may have.
Ask munna a question about East Timor
i can easily add another country and that is nepal.the language there is not a problem for me
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