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Timor-Leste

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Summary

  • Exercise a high degree of caution in Timor-Leste because of the uncertain security situation. The situation could deteriorate without warning. Pay close attention to your personal security at all times. Monitor the media and other sources about possible new security risks.
  • Localised unrest can occur, including street gang clashes and political demonstrations. Avoid all protests – the situation can deteriorate without warning. See Safety and security.
  • Sexual harassment of foreigners is common, including indecent exposure and sexual assault in the form of groping. This can occur in any location and at any time. Be particularly careful in isolated areas and travel in groups where practical. See Safety and security.
  • Opportunistic crime can occur. Risks increase at night and if travelling alone. See Safety and security.
  • Checkpoints can operate throughout Timor-Leste. Always carry identification documents for you and your vehicle. See Local travel.
  • Driving conditions are hazardous due to poor quality roads, heavy traffic, poor signage and lack of street lighting.  While on official travel outside Dili, Australian officials do not drive at night other than in exceptional circumstances. See Local travel.
  • Medical facilities are extremely limited. If you become seriously ill or injured, you'll need to be evacuated. Medical evacuation is very expensive. See Health.
  • See Travel Smart for general advice for all travellers.

Entry and exit

Visas

If you're visiting Timor-Leste for tourism and you arrive via Nicolau Lobato International Airport or Dili Seaport, you can apply for a visa on arrival (of up to 30 days duration). There is a charge for a visa on arrival. There are no money exchange facilities at the airport.

In other circumstances, including if you enter Timor-Leste by land, you'll need to get a visa before you arrive.

If you can demonstrate you have a valid reason for extending your stay in Timor-Leste beyond 30 days, you may be able to extend your visa. Apply to the Immigration Department of Timor-Leste located at Vila Verde, Dili, to extend your visa.

Visa and other entry and exit conditions (such as currency, customs and quarantine regulations) can change at short notice. Contact an Embassy or Consulate of Timor-Leste or Timor-Leste Immigration for up-to-date information or to arrange your visa.

Other formalities

A departure tax of 10 US dollars (USD) previously applied to departing travellers. In early 2017, this tax ceased to apply at the airport but is incorporated into the cost of an airline ticket, but it could be re-instated. Have US$10 available on departure, in case the tax is re-instated.

Passport

Make sure your passport is valid for at least six months from the date you intend to return to Australia and has at least two blank pages.

Your passport is a valuable document and attractive to criminals who may try to use your identity to commit crimes. Always keep it in a safe place.

Be aware of attempts to obtain access to your passport by deception.  If you are forced to hand over your passport, contact the Embassy for advice.

If your passport is lost or stolen, you must notify the Australian Government as soon as possible.

Money

The official currency of Timor-Leste is the US dollar (USD). Declare all amounts in excess of US$5,000 on arrival and departure. Prior authorisation from the Central Bank of Timor-Leste (CBTL) is required to import or export amounts exceeding US$10,000.

It is illegal to import currencies other than USD into Timor-Leste, above certain limits, without a permit issued by the CBTL. Example: if you want to import more than US$2,000 worth of Australian dollars in a calendar month, you'll need approval from the CBTL.

More information: email info@bancocentral or phone the CBTL on (670) 331 3712 or 331 3714.

This is the only currency accepted as legal tender. USD notes issued prior to the year 2000 are not accepted.

Many establishments don't accept credit cards, including hotels, shops and restaurants. There are several ATMs in Dili that accept international credit cards. Check with your bank whether your Australian credit card and ATM card will work in Timor-Leste.

Safety and security

Civil unrest and political tension

Timor-Leste has been stable for a number of years, but there are ongoing security risks. The situation could deteriorate with little warning.

Protests against the Australian Government were held outside the Australian Embassy in February, March and August 2016 and could happen again in the future. Australians have been harassed because of their nationality.

Localised unrest occurs in Timor-Leste, including street gang clashes and political demonstrations. Violent disturbances, often resulting from minor disputes, can erupt without notice and escalate quickly.

  • Exercise a high degree of caution in Timor-Leste because of the uncertain security situation.
  • Pay close attention to your personal security at all times.
  • Avoid spontaneous gatherings, demonstrations, protests, street rallies and other large public gatherings, as they may turn violent.
  • In Dili, be particularly vigilant in the vicinity of Tasi Tolu, Comoro and other crowded areas.
  • If you are being harassed, move quickly to a safer location.
  • If a dispute breaks out near you, leave the area immediately and move to a safe location.
  • Monitor the media for information about possible new safety and security risks. Avoid trouble spots.

Crime

Robbery (in some cases armed), assaults, theft and bag snatching aren't common but foreigners are sometimes targeted. Incidents have occurred in Dili, on nearby beaches and in rural areas. The risk of being a victim of crime increases at night and if travelling alone. 'Smash and grab' style theft of property from vehicles occurs. There have been cases of intruders breaking into homes known to be occupied by foreigners.

There is a history of gang-related violence, robbery, arson and vandalism in major towns, particularly Dili. Rocks are sometimes thrown at vehicles and property, particularly during the early evening and at night.

Sexual harassment of foreigners is common and predominantly affects women but can occur to both men and women. Harassment can include lewd remarks and indecent exposure.

Indecent touching and groping is also reported. Sexual assault can occur at any time, including in highly frequented public locations such as Beach Road or Timor Plaza in Dili. Incidents have also been reported in less populated areas such as Christo Rei (the Jesus Statue), Tasi Tolu, and in the vicinity of Back Beach (behind the Jesus Statue).

Violence against local women is widespread in Timor-Leste.

  • Carry only what you need. Leave other valuables, including your passport, in a secure location.
  • Avoid carrying bags that are easy to snatch.
  • Don't tempt thieves – avoid wearing expensive watches, jewellery and cameras.
  • Pay close attention to your personal possessions at all times.
  • Keep your car windows and doors closed and locked at all times, including when moving.
  • Don't leave valuables exposed in your car.
  • Secure your home or other accommodation, including when you're there.
  • Be alert to your surroundings.
  • Travel in groups where possible, including when exercising outdoors.
  • Avoid visiting isolated areas alone.
  • Avoid travelling alone on public transport or in taxis, especially at night.

Terrorism

Terrorism is a threat throughout the world.

More information: Terrorist threat worldwide  

Local travel

West Timor

If you're travelling to West Timor or other parts of Indonesia, read the travel advice for Indonesia.

Religious and cultural sites

You need to get permissions to visit some places that have special religious or cultural significance. Check with local authorities in advance. Monitor local reactions to your presence and activities and adjust accordingly. 

Water activities

There have been reports of crocodile attacks throughout Timor-Leste, particularly in the eastern districts and along the southern coast. Crocodiles have been sighted on beaches and in-land waterways, including popular destinations such as Manatuto, Baucau, Liquica, Com and some beaches in Dili.

Road travel

Driving conditions are frequently hazardous due to poor quality roads, heavy traffic, poor signage and lack of street lighting. Additionally, in rural areas subsidence, large potholes, animals, vehicles without headlights and pedestrians on the road are common. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), you are over three times more likely to be killed in a motor vehicle accident in Timor-Leste than in Australia. Large crowds can form quickly after traffic accidents and can become violent with little warning.

Take extra care when wet. Outside of Dili travel in convoy whenever possible, and avoid driving at night. Main routes are often single lane mountain roads, which can deteriorate rapidly and become impassable, particularly during the rainy season (December-April).

While on official travel outside Dili, Australian officials do not drive at night other than in exceptional circumstances.

There are limited emergency response resources outside Dili. 

Police can set up checkpoints anywhere in Timor-Leste. Makeshift barricades are sometimes used as unauthorised road blocks. Police may shut down roads in Dili during significant events such as commemorative ceremonies or major sporting events. These activities can cause traffic disruption and block major thoroughfares.

  • Check you have adequate insurance cover before driving in Timor-Leste.
  • Familiarise yourself with local traffic laws and practices before driving.
  • Carry your car registration papers and driver's licence for presentation to police if requested.
  • Drive defensively and legally.
  • Keep your car windows and doors closed and locked at all times.
  • Don't drink and drive.
  • If you are involved in a traffic accident, report it to the local police station.
  • Check the security situation and road conditions with local authorities before road travel.
  • Travel in convoy when travelling to regional areas.
  • Avoid driving at night outside Dili.
  • Follow the instructions of local authorities.

    More information: Road safety and driving

Driver's licence

You'll need a valid international driving permit (IDP) along with your current Australian driver's licence to drive a vehicle. Driving without an IDP could void your travel and vehicle insurance. After three months, you will need to obtain a local driver's licence. Third party insurance is not available.

Motorcycles

Check with your travel insurer whether your policy covers you when riding a motorcycle. Wear, and ensure your passenger wears, a correctly fastened and approved helmet.

Taxis

Many taxis are in poor condition and driving standards are often poor. You're at increased risk of robbery, sexual harassment and sexual assault in a taxi. Limousines arranged through your hotel and hire cars are a safer option.

  • Avoid using taxis, especially of you are female, and at night.

Public transport

Many buses, 'microlets' and trucks used as public transport are poorly maintained. Poor driving standards add to the safety risks of riding in these vehicles.

Boat travel

Travel by boat can be dangerous. Not all boats, ferries and other vessels are seaworthy. Passenger limits are sometimes exceeded and there may not be enough lifejackets for all on-board.

Piracy occurs in South East Asian waters. The International Maritime Bureau issues piracy reports.

  • Before you book, confirm that appropriate maintenance and safety standards are maintained.
  • Make sure any vessel you intend to board is carrying appropriate safety equipment. There should be lifejackets for all crew and passengers, including sufficient lifejackets suitable for children.
  • Check the International Maritime Bureau's Piracy Reporting Centre website before you set off. Avoid trouble spots and take additional security precautions as appropriate.
  • Don't board (or stay on board) an overloaded vessel.

More information: Piracy

Some cruise lines stop over in Timor-Leste.

More information: Cruises

Air travel

The Australian Government does not provide information on the safety of individual commercial airlines or flight paths. See the Aviation Safety Network website for information on aviation safety in Timor-Leste.

More information: Air travel

Laws

You're subject to all local laws and penalties, including those that appear harsh by Australian standards. Research local laws before travelling, especially for an extended stay.

If you're arrested or jailed, the Australian Government will do what it can to help you under our Consular Services Charter. But we can't get you out of trouble or out of jail.

Drug laws

There are severe penalties for drug offences in Timor-Leste.

More information: Carrying or using drugs

Other laws

If you interfere in local political processes or engage in political activity, you could face fines, detention and/or deportation.

LGBTI travellers

Timor-Leste does not formally recognise de facto or same-sex relationships. Social and cultural attitudes towards same-sex relationships can be conservative.

More information: LGBTI travellers

Australian laws

Some Australian criminal laws apply overseas. If you commit these offences, you may be prosecuted in Australia. Laws include those relating to:

  • bribery of foreign public officials
  • child pornography
  • child sex tourism
  • female genital mutilation
  • forced marriage
  • money laundering
  • terrorism.

More information: Staying within the law

Dual nationals

Timorese authorities may limit the ability of the Australian Government to provide consular assistance to Australian/Timorese dual nationals who are arrested or detained.

More information: Dual nationals

Local customs

There are conservative standards of behaviour and dress in Timor-Leste. Revealing clothing should not be worn in public places, including churches and markets. Take care not to offend. If in doubt, seek local advice.

Religious days are closely observed. Loud noise and frivolous behaviour are frowned on during these times.

Public displays of affection are not socially acceptable.

Health

Travel insurance

Take out comprehensive travel insurance before you depart to cover overseas medical costs, including medical evacuation. Make sure your policy includes adequate coverage for any pre-existing conditions.

Remember, regardless of how healthy and fit you are, if you can't afford travel insurance, you can't afford to travel. The Australian Government will not pay for your medical expenses overseas or medical evacuation costs. This can be very expensive and cost you many thousands of dollars upfront.

Confirm:

  • what circumstances and activities are and are not covered under your policy
  • that you are covered for the whole time you will be away.

More information: Travel insurance

Physical and mental health

Consider your physical and mental health before travelling, especially if you have an existing medical condition.

  • At least eight weeks before you depart, see your doctor or travel clinic for a basic health check-up, and to discuss your travel plans and implications for your health.
  • Get vaccinated before you travel.

More information:

Medication

Not all medications available over the counter or by prescription in Australia are available in other countries. Some may even be considered illegal or a controlled substance, even if prescribed by an Australian doctor.

Before you leave Australia, check if your medication is legal in each country you're travelling to and find out if any quantity restrictions or certification requirements apply. Consult your doctor about alternatives well in advance of travel

Take legal prescription medicine with you so you remain in good health. Always carry a copy of your prescription and a letter from your doctor stating what the medicine is, how much you'll take and that it's for personal use only.

More information: Prescription medicines

Health risks

Mosquito-borne diseases

Chikungunya, dengue fever, filariasis and Japanese encephalitis are prevalent in all areas of Timor-Leste. There has been good progress towards eradicating malaria but chloroquine-resistant strains of malaria have been reported in some locations. For Dili, malaria prophylaxis may not be necessary. 

Protect yourself against mosquito-borne illnesses:

  • ensure your accommodation is mosquito proof
  • take measures to avoid insect bites, including using insect repellent and wearing long, loose fitting, light coloured clothing
  • get vaccinated against Japanese encephalitis before you travel
  • consider chloroquine-resistant malaria prevention medication, especially if you'll be spending time in rural areas
  • seek medical advice if you have a fever, muscle pain, rash or severe headache.

More information:

Rabies

Rabies is a potentially fatal viral disease that can be found in dogs, monkeys, bats and other mammals. There have not been any cases of rabies confirmed by tissue diagnosis in Timor-Leste but rabies is present in neighbouring islands and there have been suspicious clinical cases reported at Dili Hospital.

  • Avoid direct contact with dogs and other mammals.
  • If you are bitten or scratched by a dog, bat or other mammal, get treated with rabies immunoglobulin as soon as possible.

More information: Infectious diseases

Other infectious diseases

Water-borne, food-borne and other infectious diseases (such as gastroenteritis, typhoid and hepatitis) are prevalent. Tuberculosis is endemic and healthcare workers are at particular risk of exposure.

  • Use good hygiene practices including frequent handwashing.
  • Boil all drinking water or drink bottled water.
  • Avoid ice cubes.
  • Avoid raw and undercooked food.
  • If you're a healthcare worker, get tested for tuberculosis before any extended travel to Timor-Leste and after you leave.
  • Seek medical advice if you have a fever or are suffering diarrhoea.

Fish poisoning

In the past, local authorities have advised that fish sold on the roadside have been contaminated with formaldehyde. Heed any local warnings on avoiding contaminated fish.

Medical facilities

Medical facilities in Timor-Leste are limited.

Most emergency cases are treated at Dili National Hospital, which has limited facilities. Dental facilities are extremely limited. A limited supply of basic medicines is available.

There is no hyperbaric (decompression) chamber in Timor-Leste. If you plan to dive, make sure you have a current medical clearance to do so and that your insurance will cover you if needed.

If you become seriously ill or injured (including in a diving accident), you'll need to be evacuated. Medical evacuation can cost tens of thousands of dollars, depending on the circumstances.

Natural disasters

Tropical cyclones are unusual in Timor-Leste but severe storms occur, particularly during the wet season from November to April. Heavy rain can lead to flooding, landslides, damage to roads and disruptions to services.

If a natural disaster occurs:

  • secure your passport in a safe, waterproof location or carry it on you at all times (in a waterproof bag).
  • closely monitor local media and other sources such as the Global Disaster Alert and Coordination System
  • follow the advice of local authorities
  • contact friends and family in Australia with regular updates about your welfare and whereabouts.

Stay up-to-date on weather conditions and forecasts, natural disaster watches and warnings throughout your stay and plan accordingly. Monitor local and regional weather and disaster sites:

If you are travelling during the wet season, or after a natural disaster, contact your tour operator to check whether tourist services at your planned destination have been affected.

Earthquakes and tsunamis

Timor-Leste experiences earthquakes and tsunamis.

Real-time information on earthquakes can be found on the US Geological Service website. The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center, which you can subscribe to, provides real-time information on tsunamis in the region,

If there is an earthquake, follow the advice for all natural disasters and:

  • follow the advice of your accommodation provider and local authorities
  • monitor the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center and local sources
  • if you are in a coastal or low-lying area and the earthquake is strong or long, move to higher ground.

More information: Earthquakes

Where to get help

Depending on what you need, your best option may be to first contact your family, friends, airline, travel agent, tour operator, employer or travel insurer. Your travel insurer should have a 24-hour emergency number.

Emergency phone numbers

  • Fire: phone 115
  • Medical emergencies: phone 115 or go direct to the hospital
  • Criminal issues: phone 112 or (+670) 3312383 or contact the nearest police station.

The English language skills of emergency services officers may be limited. Always get a police report when reporting a crime.

Tourism services and products

For complaints relating to tourism services or products, contact your service provider directly.

Australian Government

Read the Consular Services Charter for what the Australian Government can and can't do to help you overseas. For consular assistance, contact the Australian Embassy in Dili.

Australian Embassy, Dili

Rua Martires da Patria
Dili TIMOR-LESTE
Phone: (670) 332 2111
Fax: (670) 332 2247
Website: timorleste.embassy.gov.au
Email: austemb.dili@dfat.gov.au

Check the Australian Embassy website for information about opening hours and temporary closures that may affect service provision.

In a consular emergency, if you can't contact the Embassy contact the 24-hour Consular Emergency Centre on +61 2 6261 3305 from overseas, or 1300 555 135 within Australia.

Additional information

Additional resources