Timor Leste: Traveling in one of the least visited countries in the world

Timos Leste, or East Timor, is one of the least visited places in the world and also the newest country in South East Asia. It’s 1000 kms to the east of Bali and boasts pristine beaches, unspoilt mountains and reportedly some of the best diving spots.

So how is it to travel to this still unpopular destination? We asked our fellow traveler Larissa to share her experience with us.

  • How come did you decide to visit Timor Leste?

The fact that it is one of the less visited appealed to me, and for being such a small “far away” country. Also they are supposed to speak Portoguese, which is my mother tongue, but in a hindsight I can tell that they actually don’t.  I was backpaking through Southeast Asia and  was just “beside” it, and I thought that if I didn’t go then, I would never go.

Timor Leste Atauro Island
Boats moored at Beloi, Atauro Island
  • Was it easy to organize your trip there?

It was easy because a friend of a friend was living there and she helped me. Otherwise I think it would be challenging. I stayed for 10 days.  It is a small counstry, but you need time if you want to explore it, because it isn’t that easy to move around. I arrived by plane from Bali and left by road with a minivan to West Timor.

  • Did you need a visa and how did you get it?

I got the visa at the airport. (n.b. All EU Nationals can enter Timor Leste without a visa, while all other nationals can obtain it on arrival).

  • How did you move around?

In Dili I walked and took a ride on my friend motorbike. To Atauro Island I went by boat, obviously, and to Maubisse I went on the back of a truck.

Timor Leste Cristo Rei Dili
Cristo Rei, Dili
  • What were the highlights of your trip? What are the must-sees?

Atauro Island, definetly! Specially if you dive, the corals are amazing. I went there in a two-day trip with Compass Dive and loved it, it is really calm and peacefull. Hakmatek, a cooperative comunity in Maubisse is really nice too, you can stay there and take a walk through the mountains. Dili, the capital, has its charm with the coast in one side and the mountains on the others, also Maubara, a beach just outside Dili. On the way back we stoped at Black Rock, a beach club. It is a good option if you want to splurge a little bit.

  • How was the food?

It was like Indonesian food, with a lot of rice. They use a lot of root vegetables, corn, tropical fruits, fish and pork.

  • Do you feel it’s a safe place to visit?

Yes, I felt save, but my friend told me that harassment it is a big problem there.

Timor Leste Manatuto
  • Would you recomend it as a destination?

Yes, for sure!

  • Tell us a few words about you.

I am Brazilian, 36 years old. Two years ago I quit my job, took a sabatical and went backpacking through Southeast Asia, and it was the best decision I made in my life. I was a book editor back then, now, I’m a translator and proofreader. I love to travel (that’s why I work and earn my money for), but I don’t do it “professionaly”, I mean, I don’t have any blog or website, I just post my pictures on Instagram (@larissasalome), but it is nothing serious.

Some useful information for Timor Leste:

  • it’s an expensive country by South Asian standards
  • coffee grows naturally here and it can be found cheaper than elsewehere
  • the best time to visit is during the dry season, from May to October
  • there are very few atms outside of Dili and not a lot of places accept credit cards
  • MasterCard is not accepted anywhere
  • the cost of the visa on arrival is 30 usd, there are no money changing facilities at the airport
  • be aware of petty crime, especially in public transport, use a reliable taxi driver
  • women traveling alone should be particularly cautious


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