Timor Leste Driving Guide
Timor Leste is a unique beautiful country. Explore all of it by driving when you get your International Driving Permit
Timor-Leste gives a breath of fresh air for tourists who wear out when visiting crowded tourist destinations. With almost everyone making their way to travel and discover new places, this island country in Southeast Asia provides a homey and laid-back destination style. Timor-Leste is one of the least visited areas in Asia, but take no offense as this country offers several landmarks for tourists seeking adventure, serenity, and discoveries.
Explore the underwater marine life on the islands, hike to the mountains, and get to know the locals in between rides; Timor Leste will make your Asian exploration a memorable one. You can even visit some untouched destinations in the country. And who does not want to enjoy the beach without worrying about it getting crowded by tourists?
How Can This Guide Help You?
Visiting a foreign country without any knowledge of what awaits you as you land on its territory can be dangerous. Get to know Timor-Leste as you read through this guide. This includes the things you can do in the country and its top destinations you should visit. And before driving in Timor-Leste, be familiar with the country’s driving rules and etiquette and car rental details.
Timor-Leste is considered a young country after gaining its sovereignty from Indonesia in 2002. Dili, the country’s capital, is the largest city. As you visit the country, you will see some Portuguese customs sightings, including its language. Portugal colonized Timor-Leste from the 16th century until 1975. People here are mostly Christians. Only one of the two predominantly Christian countries in Southeast Asia, the other being the Philippines
Timor-Leste is an island country that sits in Southeast Asia and Oceania. It is neighbors with Australia to the south. The only thing separating them is the Timor Sea. On the west of the country is the Indonesian province of East Nusa Tenggara. The country covers the eastern half of Timor Island, Jaco, and Atauro, Oecusse. It has a tropical climate with distinct rainy and dry seasons.
Timor-Leste has two official languages - Portuguese and Tetum. The Tetum language belongs to the Austronesian family of languages. Portuguese was added to the official languages of Timor-Leste in 2002 upon the county’s independence. Some Timorese also use the Indonesian and English languages.
Timor-Leste has a total land area of 14 919 square kilometers. Despite being an island country, much of its land area is mountainous, having Mount Ramelau as its highest peak with an elevation of 2 963 meters above sea level. Timor-Leste is one of the major suppliers of coffee in the world, including a popular coffee chain. More than 67 000 households in the country grew coffee. Besides coffee, Timorese are also exporters of cinnamon worldwide.
Early inhabitants in Timor-Leste believed to date 42 000 years ago. This was after cultural remains on the eastern tip of Timor-Leste were found and said to be one of the oldest human activities in Maritime Southeast Asia. Three waves of migration happened in Timor-Leste from the descendants of Veddo-Australoid, Melanesians, and proto-Malays.
During the 14th century, Timor-Leste became a member of the trading networks and Indonesia, Malaysia, China, and India, exporting sandalwood, slaves, honey, and wax. It was the abundance of sandalwood that attracted European explorers. From 1769 to 1975, Timor-Leste was under the Portuguese regime. In December 1975, the Indonesian military staged an invasion of East Timor that ended in 2000.
The Prime Minister heads the government and the state under the unitary semi-presidential representative democratic republic framework. The government framework of Timor-Leste is based on that of the Portuguese government. Meanwhile, the legislative power is with the government and the National Parliament. The Judiciary, however, is independent of the executive and the legislature.
In 2019, the World Tourism Organization recorded 74 800 tourist arrivals in Timor-Leste. A slight decrease compared to that of 2018, where the country accommodated 75 000 tourists. The government invested in expanding facilities like its airport in Dili and other establishments to cater to more tourists in the coming years. Timor-Leste is generally safe for tourists, with low crimes recorded and zero terror attacks in the last decades.
International Driver’s Permit FAQs
Before you start driving in Timor-Leste, the city of Dili, or in the country’s rural areas, you have to prepare your documents. Apart from your driver’s license and passport, you also have to secure an International Driver’s Permit. It is your ticket for a hassle-free drive in Timorese territories. Here is some information about yourIDP in Timor-Leste.
Which Countries Recognize International Driver’s Permit?
An International Driver’s Permit is valid to over 150 countries worldwide. When driving in Timor-Leste, it is vital to have your IDP with as most authorities will ask for it, including car rental companies when you rent a car in the country. Since it is valid in several countries, you can still use it on your next trip after exploring Timor-Leste. Make sure that it has not reached its expiration date.
How Long Does it Take to Get an IDP?
It will only just take two hours to complete your application online. You need to fill out a form with personal information. Before you can have your IDP to start driving in Timor-Leste, your zip code, address, name, contact number, and shipping address should be written on the application. You also need to upload your valid driver’s license and a passport-sized photo of yourself. For your payment, you need a credit card.
Once your application is approved, you will receive an email with your IDP’s digital copy attached to it. Remember to start driving in the Timor-Leste region; you need to have a physical copy of the IDP. It will be shipped to your location within seven days for US-based citizens and 30 days outside the US. While waiting for your IDP to arrive, check your other documents before driving in Timor-Leste and update them if the need arises.
Do I Need an IDP?
If you plan on driving in the Timor-Leste region, you need to secure an IDP. Police checks are frequent in the country, and they will ask for your documents. You do not want to jeopardize your trip by not having the complete documents. There may be exemptions for this, especially to tourists whose passports are printed in English. Your IDP is valid to other countries, so getting one will not be a waste of money.
Can I renew my IDP?
The International Driver’s Association issues IDP valid for one up to three years. Once your IDP has expired, you can renew it by doing the same steps as the first time you applied. Remember that to renew your IDP after driving in Timor-Leste, your zip code, name, address, and email address must be on the application form. You may have to update some of your personal information so confirm everything first before submitting your application.
Renting a Car in Timor-Leste
The easiest way to travel from one place to another without minding the time or public transportation schedule is through a private car. There are so many places and things to explore in Timor-Leste where public transportation is limited. So it is best to rent a car and start driving in Timor-Leste, the city of Dili, and other rural areas. Read through below to know more about ways to rent a car in the country and additional car rental information.
Car Rental Companies
Most car rental companies are locally based. If you want to start driving in Timor-Leste airport, you can ask your car rental to pick up your car from there. Rentlo Car Hire has 90 well-maintained vehicles from cars to SUVs and buses to accommodate your transportation needs. It is one of the most recommended car-hires in Timor-Leste. If you are traveling to Timor-Leste in a group, EDS Car Rentals has a 30-seater bus that you can rent.
ESilva Car Rentals, meanwhile, has large, medium, and small 4WD and VIP vehicles where you can rent. In any case, if your car needs to be changed during your trip, they can do that for you. You just have to check the terms with this service if the vehicle replacement is for free. Like any other car rentals in other countries, you have to inspect their services before driving in Timor-Leste to update your budget before flying out to the country.
Upon booking your car rental, companies will ask for your valid driver’s license and your International Driver’s Permit if your passport is not English. Car rental companies vary in asking for an IDP, so you have to check with the company to make sure. Some will also ask for your flight number if you are booking a car rental at the airport. You also need to provide a credit card to pay for your car rental booking.
Car rental companies in Timor-Leste offer vehicles depending on your transport needs. You can choose sedans and compact cars if you drive through cities and other urban areas in the country. However, if you prefer to explore the Timorese outskirts, they recommend renting a four-wheel drive, as roads leading to the rural places can be very rough and difficult to pass through when it’s raining.
Car Rental Cost
Prices online for a car rental package can change anytime, so before choosing a car rental company, you first compare all car rentals before booking for one. The rental fee is based on the type of vehicle you rent, the car’s size, and insurance. It will also cost you more if you wish to add another driver, insurance, WiFi, GPS, child seats, and a refundable fuel deposit. Below are some rental price estimates for vehicles you can rent in Timor-Leste.
- Sedan: $35/day
- 4WD & SUVs: $100/day
- Bus: $110/day
You have to be at least 18 years old to rent a car in Timor-Leste. Some car rental companies will charge a young driver’s fee for drivers under 25 years old. This will also be one of the things you need to check with your car rental company since it will be an added cost on top of your basic car rental cost.
Car Insurance Cost
Car insurance in Timor-Leste usually costs $25. This will also depend on the extent of the coverage. Insurance is one of the most important things to consider when driving in a foreign country. You never know what will happen for the duration of your trip, so it is better than apart from being mindful while driving. You also make sure that you will not spend a huge amount of money on damages to vehicle accidents on the road.
Car Insurance Policy
Some car rental agencies offer third-party liability insurance covering you for any claims of damage to the other party. All Timorese car rentals are required to have the Risk Reduction Policy where it covers any damage to your rented vehicle. The Ultimate Protection reduces your excess to zero, meaning if you return your car with damage, you will not be paying extra. They may offer you a Value Protection that gives a reduced excess in case of a damaged vehicle.
A Full Comprehensive Insurance is also available for long-term rental. Some car rental insurance policies in Timor-Leste are different from what you usually know. So it is better to consult your insurance provider and a Timorese car rental agency at the same time. This way, you will have options on what policy to include in your car rental booking.
Road Rules in Timor-Leste
No matter how good a driver you are, driving on a foreign land will require some familiarization. Rules when driving in Timor-Leste vary from those familiar to and those that are distinct to the country. Following the driving regulations in Timor-Leste prevents you from any untoward incidents like accidents or hurting animals and pedestrians crossing the streets.
Before driving in Timor-Leste, it is essential to know the important regulations implemented by the country. There are police checks everywhere, and if you are caught, there will always be penalties for your violations. And even if you are not seen, failure to follow essential regulations can lead to accidents not just involving you, but other motorists as well. Here are some important rules you need to follow.
Like most countries, drunk driving is not allowed. In Timor-Leste, the permitted blood alcohol level is 0.05%. Despite the leeway given by authorities, it is still best not to consume alcohol when you are on a trip and have to drive often. Sure, you travel to enjoy and explore the new place; however, you need to enjoy it responsibly. You do not want additional costs on your trip because you got fined or encountered an accident for drunk driving.
Turning Signals at an Intersection
Signal lights are an essential tool to communicate with other drivers on the road. If you wish to reduce speed, stop, park, change direction or lane, overtake or make a u-turn, make sure to turn signals in advance. Do it just enough for other drivers to be aware that you are making a change. Be sure to keep turning your signals until maneuvering is complete.
Also, car horns when making a change are allowed in Timor-Leste, but make it short. You can use sound signals in case of imminent danger outside of built-up areas, intersections, curves, junctions, and bumps with reduced visibility. Note that there are corresponding fines for not following these rules. After all, you are not turning signals for your own sake but other motorists and plying on the streets.
After driving in Timor-Leste, province parking will be up to you. You just have to make sure that it does not obstruct the roadway and any vehicle from passing through. Rural areas can be very remote and quiet, so it is best to park in well-lit areas. Meanwhile, in cities and other rural areas of Timor-Leste, park your car in designated parking areas. When parking, make sure you position your vehicle in the same traffic direction.
You cannot park on bridges, tunnels, underpasses, overpasses, and at any place with insufficient visibility. Fines are to be given to that caught parking on traffic islands, central poles of a roundabout, pavements, and other areas designated for pedestrians. If you decide to park on regions with limited duration, make sure to move from the parking space on or before it reaches the allotted parking time.
Ensure you and your vehicle are in good condition before driving
Before driving in Timor-Leste, inspect the vehicle’s overall condition, from the engine to car doors, wipers, windows, and there are physical scratches and bumps on the car’s body. This is to ensure that you will not get into any trouble as you drive along Timorese roads. Of course, you have to prepare all the necessary things before hitting the road. This includes travel documents, child seats, early warning devices in case of accidents or car breakdowns.
General Standards of Driving
It is also essential to know the driving standards in Timor-Leste, so you will be aware of what Timorese usually use and do when driving on their territory. Locals also use either manual or automatic cars. You can ask your car rental agency about what is better based on Timorese road conditions. Some prefer manual transmission to save fuel. Ensure that you are comfortable with the transmission type you choose. After all, you will be the one driving on foreign land.
When driving in Timor-Leste in a district or built-up areas, you drive at a maximum speed of 50kph. If you are passing through motorways, remember to stay at the speed limit of 120kph. If you are to explore the remote areas, driving in Timor-Leste in the province and other rural areas must not be more than 90kph. Anyone who violates the speed limit rule should pay a penalty of US$3 to US$15.
To ensure everyone’s safety, all passengers and the driver inside the vehicle must use seat belts when the car is moving. If you are traveling with a child, make sure to provide special child restrictions seats. While you can get away from authorities for not using seatbelts, you can never get away with injuries in case of accidents.
When driving on Timorese roads with two or more lanes in the same direction, you must position your car on the far left-hand lane. This will give way for vehicles to overtake and change direction on the right-hand lane. At roundabouts, keep driving to the central part’s right-hand side as the inner lane is for the ongoing traffic
Traffic Road Signs
Some road signs in Timor-Leste will most likely be the same as the other countries, but there are a few signs that you can only see in the country. That is why it is best to keep track of them so you will be guided when driving in Timor Leste. Here are some traffic road signs posted on the roadside of Timor-Leste.
Warning signs alert drivers to unexpected or dangerous conditions ahead, so you can slow down and be mindful while approaching the road sign. Warning designs vary, but they are generally triangular with a white background. Here are some of them.
- Stop sign ahead
- Yield/ Give Way sign ahead.
- Roundabout ahead
- Traffic signals ahead
- Two-way traffic ahead
- Crossroads ahead
- Junction with a side road ahead
- Traffic merges ahead
- Road narrows ahead
- Dangerous crosswinds
- Uneven surface
- Bump ahead
- Dip in road
- Slippery road surface
- Pedestrian crossing
- Crocodile nearby
Regulatory signs indicate or enforce traffic laws that apply either at all times or at specified times or places on the street or a highway. Familiarize some of them below.
- Yield/ Give way
- Yield to oncoming traffic
- No entry
- Road closed
- No motor vehicles
- No motorcycles
- No bicycles
- No pedestrians
- Maximum speed limit
- No left turn
- No right turn
- No parking
- No overtaking
- No stopping
- Maximum weight
- Maximum height
Mandatory signs impose and obligations or commands that drivers should follow. You can find some of them below.
- Proceed right
- Turn right
- Turn right ahead
- Proceed right or straight
- Keep right or left
- Pass on either side
- Overtaking permitted
- Transit only
- Bicycles only
- Overtaking permitted
- Shared use path
Right of Way
At intersections and junctions, vehicles proceeding from the left-hand side have the right of way, so drivers at the opposite must give way. Vehicles entering the roundabout and those entering a motorway or a road reserved for motor vehicles and motorcycles through a slip road also have the right way. However, during heavy traffic, you must enter an intersection or junction, even though the right of way allows you to do so. Wait for cars to decongest before doing so.
Legal Driving Age
You have to be at least 18 years old to drive in Timor-Leste. It will be impossible for you to lie about your age since car rental companies will ask for your driver’s license and other documents to prove that you can use a car and drive on Timorese roads. For car rental companies, they allow 18-year old tourists to drive but have to pay for a young driver’s surcharge.
Laws on Overtaking
You have to overtake on the right-hand side. Before doing so, ensure that it will not result in any danger or disrupt traffic. On a one-way road, you can overtake cars on the left-hand side of the vehicle ahead of you decide to park or stop on the right side and has vacated the left side. Overtaking is not allowed at bumps, right before and at an intersection and junction, pedestrian crossing, curves with reduced visibility, and at all places which lack visibility.
When driving in Timor-Leste, you need to be on the left-hand side of the road. Some tourists, especially those from right-hand side driving countries, will find this rule strange at first, but as you go along your drive, you will get accustomed to driving on the left. Ensure to follow this rule to avoid any accidents and penalties.
Apart from the road rules mentioned earlier, you have to consider alternatives to using your phone if you urgently need it while driving. Read below to know more.
Can I Use my Phone while Driving?
While driving in Timor-Leste, the driver is not allowed to use any gadgets, including mobile phones. If you urgently need to answer a phone call, you need to use the hands-free system. Remember that answering a phone call while driving will divide your attention instead of focusing on driving. You can opt to park your car on the roadside and navigate through your phone. That way, you are safe, and you can relay the message to the person on the other line.
Driving Etiquette in Timor-Leste
Unfortunate circumstances will come our way no matter how you have prepared for your trip. Possible car breakdowns can happen, especially when driving in Timor-Leste; weather can be unpredictable and cause flooding on some roads. Road conditions when you were driving in Timor-Leste yesterday can be different today. As you read through, take note of things you need to do if some things come up when in Timor-Leste.
If suddenly your car breaks down in the middle of your drive, you have to steer clear of your vehicle to the side so it will not obstruct other motorists. You are allowed to park your car on the travel lane so long as you can immediately fix the problem; if not, follow the first option. Remember to use your early warning devices such as the warning triangle and beam deflectors for visibility, especially during the night.
Your car rental company offers assistance 24/7, so you might check that before driving in Timor-Leste. Or you can call the police so they can assist you. Never leave your broken down car behind; authorities might tow it, and it can cost you more to retrieve the vehicle from the towing area.
Authorities will stop you if they think you are not religiously following traffic laws in the country. If this happens to you in Timor-Leste, remember not to speed away instead of slow down. They will ask you some questions, so you have to respond nicely and politely. Just stay inside your car while the police are verifying your identity. Do not give them the impression that you are a threat to the country.
Apart from traffic laws, police stops usually happen if the authorities find your vehicle to be in bad condition - it may be dirty, or there is slight damage on the vehicle that can cause further accidents. Police will likely ask for your travel documents such as your license, IDP, passport, and visa. Have them available all the time, as forgetting one will never be an excuse to foreign authorities. This can lead to further doubts and questioning from police.
No matter how advanced technology could be, there will be times that you have to rely on manual ways. Say, for example, your GPS and WiFi are not working in certain areas in Timor-Leste, and your only option is to ask for help from the locals. Only a few Timorese speak English, so you need to speak the local language, Tetum. Here are some Tetum phrases which will surely come in handy in Timor-Leste.
- Good morning - "Bondia / Dader diak."
- Good afternoon - "Botarde / Lorokraik diak."
- Good evening/good night - "Bonoite / Kalan diak."
- Thank you very much - "Obrigado (for male) Barak" / "Obrigada (for female) Barak."
- Please - "Favór ida."
- Help! - "Ajuda!"
- How are you? - "Diak ka lae?"
- Do you speak English? - "Ita, bele koalia Inglês?"
- I do not understand - "Ha’u la komprende / Hawla hatene"
- Please speak more slowly - "Favor ida koalia nenek ituan."
- How far is it? - "Dook ka lae?"
- I’m lost - "Ha’u la’o sala tiha dalan"
- Where is the hospital? - "Klinika iha nebe?"
Security forces in Timor-Leste conduct occasional checkpoints along the road. Makeshift barricades are sometimes used as roadblocks. With this, you are expected to present your passport, license, IDP, and other documents. Before driving in Timor-Leste, airport checkpoints are in place in the country’s Customs and Immigration at the passenger terminal.
Police conduct checkpoints to ensure that all foreigners arriving in Timorese territories are complete with all the necessary documents and have not overstayed their visas. Some borders in Timor-Leste are vulnerable to border crimes like human, drug, wildlife, and timber trafficking, and migrant smuggling. Authorities have to ensure that the country’s illegal entry and products are avoided, hence the frequent police checks.
You may also want to consider other factors when driving in Timor-Leste, such as things to do in case of accidents. Read more below for some tips.
What will I do If I Get Involved in Accidents?
If you get involved in an accident, the first thing you need to do is call the police. While waiting for authorities, exchange information with the other involved in the accident. Give your name, address, and contact number. Assess the situation as well and call the ambulance if there are injured passengers involved. Do not settle the incident on your own and let the police identify what happened. The police report can also come in handy during claims for damages.
Be careful of bystanders as well, as they might attack the driver perceived to be at fault for the accident. This is more common in rural areas and accidents involving Timorese drivers. If you think that there is a threat of bodily harm from people at the scene, you must call the police immediately or drive to the nearest police station.
Driving Conditions in Timor-Leste
To prepare yourself for your adventure in Timor-Leste, you also need to learn the country’s driving conditions and situations. You sure would be mindful when driving, but it pays to be ready to address untoward circumstances right away if there are. This makes you a step ahead of what’s going to happen when driving in Timor-Leste.
Timor-Leste had 274 deaths from road accidents based on World Health Organization’s data in 2018. Traffic accidents also are one of the leading causes of death in the country. 90% of accidents were caused by human behavior, so if you're driving in Timor-Leste, apart from you being mindful, it pays to observe other motorists as well. Since you never know if they are religiously following road rules or not.
No matter how much you follow traffic laws, there is still a good possibility of road accidents if others will not. Timorese authorities are beefing up police visibility round the clock to apprehend reckless drivers and those driving with expired licenses. Regardless, a tourist should be responsible for driving defensively with complete documents at hand.
You usually see a variety of public transport in Timor-Leste. These colorful microlets travel around Dili and other neighboring towns in the capital, taxis, and delivery trucks. These vehicles will usually be your companions when driving in Timor-Leste. Private vehicles like sedans and compact cars are also seen in urban areas; however, to experience what Timor-Leste has to offer fully, tourists opt to use four-wheel drives.
The first phase of the new expressway was completed in 2018 that connects the town of Suai on the South coast and the Dili City on the north coast. If you are driving in Timor-Leste, the district of Cova Lima is where the highway sits. There is no specific implementation of how much the toll costs; however, you might want to prepare some cash if you are headed south. Initially, the highway’s purpose apart from tourism is to boost socio-economic development.
Driving in Timor-Leste is a challenge for tourists as several roads are underdeveloped, especially those leading to the rural areas. Potholed roads can affect your speed and itinerary when exploring the country. You are to slow down a bit on roads that are in poor condition to avoid accidents. Speeding up on these road conditions can lead to car breakdowns
From November to May, when driving in Timor-Leste, the weather can severely damage cross-island roadways, making roads risky. These months are the rainy month in the country where frequent rains are experienced. You must take extra care when driving in Timor-Leste in the valley and mountain. Roads can change overnight; when driving in Timor-Leste yesterday, it was passable, then the next day, it was flooded because of an overnight downpour.
Reckless driving is still one of the main reasons for road accidents in Timor-Leste. For tourists, taking extra caution when driving is vital. You will be competing with taxis, small buses, mini-vans, large trucks, and military vehicles in rural areas. Defensive driving is of utmost priority when in Timor-Leste to avoid accidents.
You also have to keep in mind other factors when driving in Timor-Leste, like the unit used in speed limit signs and conditions when driving at night. Read through to know more about other tips when driving on Timorese roads.
What is the Unit used to measure Speed?
The same with many countries across the world, Timor-Leste used kilometers per hour to indicate speed limits. Whenever you see signs with kph, it means the speed limit that you have to follow on a particular area or road. Speed limits can vary on regions of Timor-Leste, so be mindful of them. It is easy to be familiar with these speed limit signs as it is also used in more than a hundred countries worldwide.
Is it safe to drive at night?
Exploring on Timorese roads at night can be hazardous. As you head your way to driving in Timor-Leste to a valley, a mountain, or any remote areas, there are unlit roads that are dangerous to pass. Despite using your headlights, you never know when animals would suddenly cross the street. Apart from this, most vehicles during the night, cars and motorcycles, operate without any lights. You can stop over and spend the night at accommodations nearby.
Things to do in Timor-Leste
Exploring Timor-Leste with its great wonders and some untouched tourism will make you think of staying longer than a tourist or even live here. It is possible to reside and work here, but you need to provide the necessary documents before legally staying in Timor-Leste. Read through the next chapters to know more about securing a driver’s license in Timor-Leste and the country’s job opportunities.
Drive as a Tourist
You can use your local driver’s license if you plan to drive in Timor-Leste. Ensure that you have with you an International Driver’s Permit together with your license. Your local license is only valid until the third month of your stay in the country. This means that if you wish to stay longer, you need to secure a driver’s license issued by Timorese authorities.
Remember that you cannot overstay in Timor Leste and need to leave the country once your visa expires. Visa and local license have different terms so if you feel like renewing your visa in the country, make sure that your stay has not reached three months yet. If it does, your local license is not valid anymore
Work as a Driver
Since Timor-Leste is a developing country, concerns about employment are one of their top priorities. Based on Timor-Leste’s labor force study, agriculture is one of the leading industries that create employment. Car, taxi, and van drivers also made it top the top ten. If you plan to work as a driver in the country, a driver’s average salary is 650 - 660 USD. Salary will depend on your employer and your competency as a driver.
Your tourist visa will not be valid if you plan to work in Timor-Leste. You have to secure a working permit with the necessary documents, such as an employment offer or any other document related to the intended activity. Timorese authorities grant working visas for single or multiple entries and stay up to one year. Unlike your tourist visa, which can be availed upon arrival, the working permit must be processed before traveling to the country.
Work as a Tourist
Efforts have been underway to promote Timor-Leste to the world. With its diverse destinations and a touch of natural tourism, the country aims to create more industry jobs. One way to work as a travel guide in Timor-Leste is through its travel agencies across the country. Employers will expect you to know the country’s history, destinations, and language. It will be your advantage if you are fluent in different languages, apart from your native one.
Just like applying for driving jobs in Timor-Leste, it is required that you have a working permit. It may not necessarily be that you have an employer already. Still, you have to prepare the necessary documents to prove that your intent to stay longer than a tourist in Timor-Leste is to work as a travel guide or any job in the tourism industry. A travel guide can also be a tourist driver, so it may come in handy if you have a driver’s license and know how to drive.
Apply for Residency
A tourist can choose between temporary and permanent permits if one wishes to apply for residency in Timor-Leste. The government issues temporary residency permits valid for two years. You are to provide valid travel documents, proof of residence, and income for the period given and make sure you don’t have any criminal record outside of Timorese territories. The issuance of a temporary residency permit costs about 100 USD.
Meanwhile, for those seeking permanent residence, there is no expiry date for this type of permit, and you are to renew it every five years. Take note that for Timor-Leste to grant you permanent residency, you must be a legal citizen for ten consecutive years and have not committed any crimes. Same with the temporary residence permit, issuance for the permanent ones costs 100 USD.
Other Things to Do
If you stay longer than a tourist can in Timor-Leste and plan to drive longer, you need to exchange your local license for the one issued in Timor-Leste. Below is some information on securing a driver’s license in Timor-Leste.
How to Convert my License in Timor-Leste?
Your local license is only valid for three months in Timor-Leste. This means that after three months, you need to replace it with the country’s license issued. You can visit the Department of Transport in Timor-Leste to process your application for a Timorese driver’s license. Corresponding driving tests will possibly be asked by authorities from you to complete your application. Driving without a license or expired ones is punishable by Timorese law.
The Top Destinations in Timor-Leste
The country boasts everything a nature-lover and adventure seeker would love - accessible peaks, untouched biodiversity, and visible local settlements. Timor Leste is a destination you have to explore from its capital city to the outskirts and rural areas. Get ready for some thrill and excitement as you explore this island country in Southeast Asia.
Dili is the capital of Timor-Leste and has many names like the ‘City of Peace’ and ‘City by the Sea.’ It is the largest city, commercial center, and chief port in Timor-Leste. The city itself spreads from the airport, along the waterfront, and to the east’s Cristo Rei statue. Dili might be a city, but it’d foreshore is home to runners and walkers during the morning and evening, especially when the weather is cooler
- From Presidente Nicolau Lobato International Airport, continue to Av. Pres. Nicolau Lobato.
- At the roundabout, take the 1st exit onto Av. Pres. Nicolau Lobato.
- Turn right.
- At the roundabout, take the 1st exit.
- Drive to your destination.
- Turn left.
- Go through 1 roundabout.
- Lastly, turn left and then turn right.
Things to Do
Dili offers a relaxed atmosphere despite being the capital and center for commerce in Timor-Leste. Spend some time on the beach or dig deeper into the country’s history through its museums and other landmarks. Here are a few destinations you can’t miss in the capital.
- Visit the Cristo Rei Statue.
This 27-meter high statue just sits outside the capital’s center. Late afternoon and early morning visits here are suitable to avoid the scorching heat. Just before you can witness the spectacular view, you must take 500 steps to the top. Stay until late afternoon for the sunset view. If you visit here from late September to early December, this is the best view to spot several baleen whale species.
- Swim at Dolok Oan beach.
As you hike going to the Cristo Rei statue, you will come across an intersection leading to the beach. Be sure to go left to see the Dolok Oan Beach. It is a white sand public beach and an alternative destination to those seeking a more peaceful day at the beach. The path leading to Dolok Oan beach is much harder compared to the others. Be careful as waves can get stronger here and some rocky bottoms along the water.
- Learn history at the Archives and Museum of East Timorese Resistance.
The museum is not for the faint-hearted however can’t be missed when you visit Dili. It provides a well-narrated look into Timor-Leste’s turbulent past during the Indonesian occupation, highlighting Timorese’s struggle for independence. There are many graphic photos, artifacts like bloody clothing of victims, and weapons on display. For curious tourists, exhibitions are in English, Portuguese and Tetum languages.
- Take a stroll along Dili’s waterfront.
Visit here when the sun is out or the weather is more relaxed, as walking under the sun can be excruciating. You can find huge trees where most locals take shade from Dili’s temperature during the day. As you stroll along, you will see fishers going out of the sea and kids playing around. This is a great place to get a glimpse of Timorese’s daily lives. You can also visit the Palacio do Governo, which sits near the waterfront.
- Shop for local products at Tais Market.
It will always be a treat for tourists to discover the country from its museums and their products. Tais market in Dili’s main arts and crafts center showcased colorful and intricate Tais cloth, a hand-woven textile distinct to the Timor-Leste. Sellers in the market are very friendly and warm so if you are looking for a specific style of Tais, feel free to ask them. You can also shop handicrafts, bags, and jewelry here.
Atauro Island houses one of the most diverse reefs on earth. Hosts of white sand beaches, surrounded by coral reefs with abundant marine life, this island is your destination for anything about nature conservation and marine life. The good thing about this island is it sits just 25 kilometers away from Dili by boat. There are car ferries that you can ride with your vehicle. Just make sure with the car rental company the terms of bringing your rented vehicle to the island.
- From Presidente Nicolau Lobato International Airport, you can head to Dili’s Sea Port to ride the car ferry going to the island.
- Head east.
- Turn left.
- At the roundabout, take the 2nd exit.
- When you’re at the roundabout, take the 1st exit onto Av. Pres. Nicolau Lobato.
- Continue onto Av. Alm. Américo Tomás.
- Turn left onto R. António Heitor.
- Then make a left onto Av. Salazar.
- Destination will be on the right
Things To Do
You can never leave the island without witnessing its diverse marine life. The island offers excellent views for hiking, and warm locals will make your island visit memorable. Here are all the water and land activities you can do on Atauro Island.
- Go snorkeling
One of the top activities you can do on the island is snorkeling. Just some meters off the Beloi Beach are fish and coral reefs with their variety of colors. If you go further, about 20 meters from the coastline, you meet a drop-cliff where a bigger school of fish and more colorful corals are all around the area. The Atauro Dive Resort and the Beloi are covered with magnificent coral reefs and fish schools.
- Dive in the clear waters of the country
Some choose to visit the country to explore its marine biodiversity. As you dive to the deepest of the island, apart from the coral reefs, the volcano remains to walls going down into deep-mile canyons. The sea offers clear waters all day so that it will be worth your drive, and you can see marine fauna that is distinct in Timor-Leste. Local dive shops are available on the island where you can arrange your dive with.
- Explore Beloi town
There are several things you can do in the town of Beloi. Before you snorkeling and seeing marine life, you can wake up early to witness the spectacular sunrise on Beloi’s east coast. There is a viewpoint on a hill right next to Beloi town where you can see almost the whole island from above. You can do this after you chase the sunrise at the beach. During the no moon phase, gaze at the countless stars at Beloi Beach.
- Hike to Adara Village
Adara is a small village on the remote west coast of the island. Hiking to the village will take you about more than three hours, so that you might start your hike early. The village is home to 25 households; the remote place offers another life on the island. If you want to stay off-the-grid, then you can do some exercise and hike to the village. You can ask for a drawn map at Barry's Place in Beoi before starting your hike for you not to get lost.
- Explore local businesses on the island
At Atauro island, you will see the lively market along Beloi beach every Saturday. This is where people gather and trade their products. It starts from the Beloi port and stretches to Barry’s Place. And just right across Barry’s Place, you can see women making intricate handicrafts from native materials. Their products like hand purses, bamboo straws, and wooden goggles, rag dolls are also sold during the Saturday market.
Lospalos is the capital city of Lautem District in Timor-Leste. It sits 248 kilometers to the east of Dili. The city is home to a national park that you have to visit, including a lake with crocodiles. Find some wooden houses in one of the villages in the city that tourists get curious about. To fully experience native Timorese and their culture, check out their delicacies in the area and handicrafts available for you to take home as souvenirs.
- From Presidente Nicolau Lobato International Airport, Continue to Av. Pres. Nicolau Lobato.
- Head east.
- Turn left.
- At the roundabout, take the 2nd exit.
- Continue on Av. Pres. Nicolau Lobato to Av. Bpo. de Medeiros.
- Drive along R. Quinze de Outubro.
- Continue to Lospalos.
- Drive to your destination.
- Turn left then turn right.
- Slight left and then turn left.
Things To Do
Having a tropical savanna climate, many of the things you can do here are all about nature and enjoying the outdoors. Check the list below for activities you can do in the city.
- See crocodiles at Lake Ira Lalaro
Lake Ira Lalaro is part of the country’s national park and houses its highest concentration of crocodiles. Crocodiles have taken over this natural landmark because natives considered crocodiles to be sacred animals and that hunting them should be avoided. While you marvel at the lake’s view, be careful of some 300 crocodiles here. Inside this lake is also a half-sunken forest.
- See Uma Lulik
The Fataluku people built these elegant totem houses called Uma lulik. Locals believed that these scared houses symbolized a link between the past and present, the dead and the living. Uma Lulik is built with local timber, bamboo, and twine. You can also see traditional Uma lulik throughout East Timor’s indigenous villages and some replicas to honor and display the Fataluku people’s craftsmanship.
- Explore rock art at Lene Hara Cave
This cave sits just an hour away from the city of Lospalos, close to the village of Tutuala. Archeologists excavated the cave in 1966-67 and found numerous items like stone tools and giant rats’ bones. Inside the cave as well are painted rock art in roof panels and stalagmite formations. The rock paintings exhibit techniques, styles, and motifs present on other islands in the Southern Pacific, including Australia.
- Visit the wildlife at Nino Konis Santana National Park
The national park is the first one in Timor-Leste, with various wildlife living here, including the crocodiles in Lake Ira Lalaro and caves in Tutuala. The park’s dense forest is both tropical lowland vine forest, thick orchids and ferns, rosewood, and fig trees. Wildlife in the national park includes deers, monkeys, cuscus, sea turtles, and over 200 bird species.
- Experience the weekly market
A weekly market is held in Lospalos, where locals from neighboring areas descend on the village to sell their local handcrafted products like pots—making Lospalos a place of color and sounds. You can shop if you are into pottery or just enjoy villagers’ enthusiasm, negotiating, and haggling for great finds. Immersing with the locals is one way of exploring the culture and traditions of the country.
Maubisse is a historic town 70 kilometers away from Dili. The town is a popular tourist destination for people coming from the capital. If you are looking for a calm and quiet place to relax from the city’s hustle, you can head to this small town and enjoy nature. Like any other destination in Timor-Leste, Maubisse will never run out of hidden places for you to discover. You can visit here after your Dili tour.
- From Presidente Nicolau Lobato International Airport, continue to Av. Pres. Nicolau Lobato.
- Head east.
- Turn left.
- At the roundabout, take the 2nd exit.
- Continue on Av. Pres. Nicolau Lobato. Take Av. Alm. Américo Tomás to R. Quinze de Outubro.
- At the roundabout, take the 1st exit onto Av. Pres. Nicolau Lobato.
- Continue onto Av. Alm. Américo Tomás.
- Head onto Av. Gov. Alves Aldeia.
- Turn right onto Av. Bpo. de Medeiros.
- Drive along R. de Santa Cruz.
- Continue to Ainaro.
- Drive to your destination.
- Turn left, then another left.
Things To Do
Maubisse may be a small town but offers diverse destinations, from adventure to relaxation all in one town. Check the list below to explore the city.
- Check out The Pousada de Maubisse
Being under the Portuguese colony, Portuguese architecture is also evident across the country. One of them is the Pousada de Maubisse that is now a guesthouse in town. It is still a good visit even if you are not planning on staying the night here. The guest house sits at the highest peak in town, giving a 360-view of the Maubisse. The sunrise is also best viewed here.
- Experience authentic trading at Maubisse Market
The market is best experienced during the mornings when villages gather to trade goods. Timorese are generally warm and happy people, so mingle with them as locals do. Their products are usually from farm to market so that you can guarantee fresh produce from them. The vibrant colors of the market will give you a lasting impression of authentic Timor-Leste.
- Visit the “Eskola Verde”
This is also called the “Green School” that houses an organic farm, botanical garden, and a children’s playground. It’s an environmental education facility that aims to promote sustainable development. You can see here coffee farms and other vegetation that the local communities grow. You can start your walk from Maubisse market. Getting there can be tricky, so that you can ask the locals for directions.
- Swim at Hakmatek Waterfall
Just three kilometers from Maubisse market lies a waterfall that you must visit. After exploring the scenery in Maubisse, you can spend some time here and enjoy the cold waters from Hakmatek waterfalls. Some tourists here use this as a base camp to reach the highest peak in Timor-Leste. There are accommodations near the waterfalls where you can stay and explore the area, such as the coffee plantations.
- Hike the Ramelau Peak
You need to be quite fit to walk through dark and very steep trails leading to the peak. If you are into hiking and have enough time, hike the highest peak in the country with an elevation of 2986 meters above sea level. Apart from its stunning view from above, the peak is also an important pilgrimage site. At the peak is a giant statue of the Virgin Mary and climbing here is an annual Christian rite.
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