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Dili is a city of 222,000 people (2015) on the northern coast of East Timor, squeezed along the narrow plains between the central mountains which run the length of the Timor and the Ombai Strait. This charming, lazy little seaside city suddenly found itself taking the role of national capital when East Timor became an independent country in May 2002.

Dili is also capital of a district with the same name. The district includes the surrounding areas, mostly to the east.

Understand edit

Map of Dili

Dili was the classic backwater during colonial times, being the main city of a remote colony in a remote part of the world. However, this heritage left Dili with a distinct Portuguese flavour and together with Macau, is probably the furthest east where you can savour genuine Portuguese food and architecture. Dili has since recovered remarkably, although one can still see many gutted buildings.

Visitor information edit

  • 1 Tourist Information Center (Centro De Informação Turística) (Rua Avenida de Portugal, Farol, Dili, Timor-Leste). 08:00-17:00. This should be the first place that you visited to get an orientation and idea to go around Timor-Leste. You can get maps of other cities and recommendation on how to get there etc.

Orientation edit

Dili has sort of a colonial core, with its waterfront and a square bordered on the south side by the impressive Government Buildings. The commercial areas of Lecidere lies to the east, Colmera is to the west and the former Mercado Municipal (Central Market) is to the south.

Get in edit

By plane edit

Presidente Nicolau Lobato International Airport
  • 1 Presidente Nicolau Lobato International Airport (DIL IATA formerly known as Comoro International Airport) (6 km west of Dili).    

Flights are available from:

  • Denpasar, Bali on Indonesian carriers Batik and Citilink. There are daily flights, all arriving and leaving in the afternoon. These flights are the cheapest and improvements to Bali airport and elimination of Indonesian VOA fees for many nationalities make transiting through Bali feasible.
  • Kupang, West Timor on Air Timor Mondays and Fridays.
  • Darwin, Australia on Qantaslink and Australian regional carrier Air North however the flights are very expensive.
  • Singapore, also on Air Timor

Some nationalities, e.g. countries in the Schengen zone, do not need a visa. If you do need a visa, go to the VOA counters at the end of the path from the aircraft before going to the immigration booths. A standard 30-day tourist/business VOA is US$30, preferably in exact change. Bring U.S. dollars as there are no ATMs airside and the landside ATM is not always working.

You must complete an arrival card and customs card. All bags are x-rayed. Customs staff are friendly but like to check lots of bags, mostly looking for taxable goods.

There are no domestic flights except for light charters.

Getting there: Taxi drivers ask for at least US$10 for the trip into Dili. The taxi drivers are more honest and less aggressive than in the past. Just make sure you agree on a price of $10 or so before heading off. You can also walk out to the main road - which is the main road linking Dili with Batugade on the Indonesian border - to catch a mikrolet (25 centavos). Alternatively, you can pre-book through a taxi booking company, although this is usually more expensive if travelling alone:

A metered "Blue Taxi" service operates in Dili. They serve the airport, too, but a meter fare to central Dili (around Lecidere) will be US$10 anyway, although only $5 to Timor Plaza.

When departing, remember to pay the $10 exit tax, which is collected as you check in, and complete the departure card (which does not need to have the same number as your arrival card - if check-in staff don't give you one, just get one from the poles in the middle). After checking in, you can wait at the café outside the terminal or even go to the Burger King next door. The airport is small and immigration and security are fast, so you only need 5-10 minutes to get through to the departure gates, where there are some duty-free shops (one selling 2004-model digital cameras) but no food shops.

By car edit

Dili is well linked by road from the Indonesian border at Mota'ain, near Batugade, which lies about 115 km west.

A reasonably good road also links Dili with Baucau, East Timor's second largest city 123 km to the east. The road continues further east to Los Palos and Tutuala.

Southwards, a road climbs up the mountains which run the length of the island of Timor, passing the hill town of Maubisse, on the way to the southern coast.

All other roads in the country are of terrible quality.

Cars can be hired from Rentlo.

By bus edit

Buses fan out from Dili to various parts of the country. Most leave very early in the morning, and would do the "keliling" (going around town to scout for more passengers) before actually leaving Dili.

  • West of Dili

Buses leave for Batugade and the Indonesian border at Mota'ain. US$3. The journey is about 3 hours. Note that you cannot get an Indonesian visa at the border. If you have to get one in Dili, you might have to queue at the Indonesian embassy as early as 03:00.

Buses also go to Maliana and Ermera.

  • East of Dili

Several buses leave for Baucau early in the morning but also occasionally later during the day from Rua Quinze de Outubro just south of the stadium near the Mercado Municipal roundabout. US$5, 2.5 hours. These buses can also be caught at Becora, the suburb to the east of Dili.

By boat edit

Dili is no longer a port of call for Indonesia's Pelni ships. There are also no regular boats to Australia. (For any traveller interested in going by cargo ship to Darwin as part of an overland round the world trip, there are only two shipping companies that go to Australia (ANL and Swire) and who will not, under any circumstances, take on paying passengers. This is not an issue with insurance or security, simply that the boat owners (separate from the shipping) have dictated that no passengers are allowed (June 2016).)

Get around edit

Microlets in Dili city

During the day, plenty of yellow taxis shuttle passengers around the city for US$2-3 (although locals pay less). Further journeys, such as to Areia Branca beach and Cape Fatucama will cost more ($5 each way and you might need to arrange for the taxi to wait for you).

As evening approaches, the price will go up (around $5 for a medium trip). After dark, most of the taxis disappear. However, there are usually ones waiting outside expat bars, which will ask at least $10, even for short trips. You can also call a night service (if you can find a current number for one). You can also try getting your hotel to arrange a taxi for a night out or ask taxi drivers that you meet whether they work at night and, if so, get their number. Either way, it will probably cost at least $10 for any trip after dark. Try to have exact change for taxis.

The metered Blue Taxi service is much cleaner and more reliable than the yellow taxis, and they can be booked by phone on 331 1110 or 7742 7777. However, the metered fares are roughly double the yellow taxis - e.g. Lecidere to Timor Plaza is $6 compared to $3 (or even less if you bargain hard) for a yellow taxi. Blue taxis may be the most useful at night.

There are occasional reports of taxis attempting to get extortionate fares from clueless passengers. This risk has reduced at the airport; however, there have been reports of this being done to cruise ship visitors. Make sure you know a reasonable fare for where you want to go and stick to it. Nowhere within city limits should cost more than US$5-10.

Mikrolets (vans converted to take passengers) also ply their fixed routes, for example from near the Mercado Municipal to Comoro, Becora and other suburbs of Dili and even further. They cost 25 cents per ride. You flag one down, and when you reach your destination, just rap a coin against the metal to signal a stop request, and pay the driver after exiting. You can see a map of mikrolet routes here, that is up to date as of Jan 2019.

See edit

Areia Branca Bay, on the way to the Jesus Statue
  • Visit Cristo Rei, the statue of Jesus that stands on a headland to the east of Dili. Rumour has it that, when the mainly Muslim Indonesians built the statue as a gift to the mainly Christian East Timorese, they designed it so that Jesus would be facing towards Jakarta. The statue is about 20 metres tall and stands on a globe of earth. The route from Dili along the beach and up the steps to the Jesus statue is popular with exercising internationals and local fishermen, and passes several niches representing the stations of the cross. The view from the statue across the bay to Dili is spectacular. From Dili, follow the main road east out of town. Taxi drivers will take you there for US$5 but you will need to pay extra to make sure they wait while you have a look.
  • 1 Cape Fatucama. Aka Backside Beach. The beach directly behind the Jesus statue, it's a scenic, inverted c-shaped coastline with near-transparent waters much better than the one at Areia Branca. If driving, head east towards Baucau on the road that crosses the ridge near Ramos-Horta's house and look for the turnoff on the left. Otherwise, you walk up the steps towards Cristo Rei and then, halfway up, go down other steps to the beach.
  • 2 Resistance Museum, Rua Universidade (next to the university). M-F 09:00-17:00. Learn about the struggle for East Timor's independence and what the people went through in the massive 25-year-long struggle. $1.
  • 3 Dare War Memorial (10 km inland along the road that goes from Palacio de Governo into the mountains). A memorial to Sparrow Force, an Australian unit that fought the Japanese in Timor for several years, plus an exhibition on the unit and on the Timorese experience of the war. Good views over Dili and a café open on weekends. Free.
  • 4 Motael Church (Igreja de Santo António de Motael) (Next to the port; Microlet #9). The oldest church in Timor-Leste. Originally from around 1800, the current building dates to 1955. The church played an important role in the independence struggle. In 1991, when independence activists demonstrated against the Indonesian occupation, they were offered protection in the church. At night, the Indonesians stormed the church and shot activist Sebastião Gomes. After his memorial service, a demonstration started in front of the church which ended in the Santa Cruz massacre, in which at least 271 people were killed by Indonesian security forces.    
  • 5 Chega! Exhibition, Avenida de Balide (Microlets #1 & #4), +670 331 0315, . M-F 10:00-12:00, 14:00-17:00. Set in a prison used during Portuguese and Indonesian times, you can visit the dark cells in which prisoners were held. There's also an exhibition on the struggle for independence and the persecution of Timorese people during the Indonesian occupation.
  • 6 Santa Cruz cemetery (Cemitério de Santa Cruz), Rua de Santa Cruz (Microlets #1 & #7). Site of the Santa Cruz massacre on 12 November 1991 when at least 250 Timorese were murdered after a funeral procession for activist Sebastião Gomes, who was shot in Motael Church. You can see the graves of Sebastião Gomes, as well as of British cameraman Max Stahl who had filmed the massacre and later requested to be buried here. Free.  

Do edit

  • There are good beaches near Dili. The ones near the centre of town are popular with kids but are polluted. The most accessible beaches are at Areia Branca near Christo Rei and they also have several bars and restaurants. The best close beach is Jesus Backside beach, which can be accessed either from a walking track that starts halfway up the stairs to Christo Rei, or by car by taking the road from Metiaut over the mountains and looking for a turn-off on the left (this is the remains of the road that used to go around the point).
  • Just down and across the road from the Leader supermarket is a Church that has an English language mass on Sunday morning at 10:30 (and Tetum Masses at other times).
  • You can buy VCDs, DVDs & audio CDs very cheaply. If you are taking a laptop its well worth having (illegal) software installed.
  • Visit Ramelau - the highest mountain in East Timor. You can stay at a place just before the top, and climb up for the dawn (a couple of hours climb). It is a fairly popular thing to do so ask around or ask at the Hotel Dili – they can arrange an excellent 4WD tour. It is freezing at night
  • Dive around Dili and Atauro Island. Dive Timor Lorosae, Freeflow, and Compass Charters are popular dive operators. There are a number of dive sites around Dili. Further out east, K41 and Bob's Rock are popular sites near Manatuto. Dive operators can arrange longer trips to Atauro Island or Jaco Island. Don't pass up the chance to see the last untouched reef in the world.

Learn edit

If you are on the road directly in front of the East Timor Government Building, Palacio Do Governo, face away from the airport towards the Jesus Statue.

If you walk up the left hand road, about halfway up on your right is Dili Cold Store supermarket, then you'll find the Xanana reading room. There is a café at the back and inside is a small library with English books, a video collection and documentaries about ET (with comfy chairs and a video so you can watch them there, and drink tea etc. from the café) and a book exchange. They also sell postcards and have internet access.

Buy edit

MasterCard is not accepted anywhere in the country, not in shops and not in ATMs.

Bank Mandiri, one of the major banks in Indonesia, has a branch in Dili. The bank is close to the Government Building in Dili. They also have several ATMs across town, for example at Timor Plaza or Tiger Fuel. It has not been proven that it can serve the Indonesian Mandiri account, but even if your overseas card works with Mandiri ATMs in Indonesia, it will not work with Mandiri ATMs in Timor Leste.

Caixa Geral de Depositos, a Portuguese bank trading as BNU, also has a branch in Dili, and branches at several other locations within East Timor. The claimed branch at Dili airport consists of an empty desk & window, it is never staffed.

  • 1 Timor Plaza, Rua Presidente Nicolau Lobato (between airport and Dili centre). The shopping mall in Dili. Good place for ATMs, SIM cards, souvenirs, ice cream, cinema, and Friday after work happy hour. 1.5 km east of the airport.
  • 2 Empreza Di'ak NGO Shop, Rua Lautem 1, Farol (next to DaTerra Hostel), . M-F 09:00-17:00. A Timorese organisation that works on economical empowerment to build better futures. Here you can find beautiful handicrafts and traditional products from Timor-Leste.
  • 3 Arte Moris, Rua Presidente Nicolau Lobato (between Timor Plaza and the airport). Art centre that sells Timorese paintings, often painted directly on Tais. Recurring themes are local symbols and the life and death during the Indonesian occupation.
  • 4 Tais Market, Colmera (two laneways lead to it, one from near Harvey World Travel and one from the large T-junction). A central place to pick up Tais, old coins, woodwork, pottery and other curios. Beware the imitation Tais, which are sometimes from Indonesia. There are a lot of stores with mostly identical offerings, so look around and choose a seller at random, or based on who wants to tell you about the regional differences. US$40-60 for a large tais (depending on how fancy it is), $30 for a medium tais. Intensive haggling is not normal, so it's difficult to get 10%-20% off the first price, although discounts for multiple purchases are common.
  • 5 Alola Esperansa, Av. Bpo. de Madeiros (A bit south of the Mercado Lama roundabout), +670 7723 6363. 09:00 to 19:00. The shop of Alola Foundation, East Timor's non-governmental organisation for women and children. You can find at Mercado Lama (Mascarenhas) a lot of quality handicrafts produced by weavers from all around East Timor. Bags, wallet, shoes, clothing and various other local handicrafts (all materials made from Tais) and Timorese coffee. A nice souvenir or gift for people at home and you can are supporting women and children throughout East Timor. There is a second shop in Dili's shopping mall Timor Plaza in Comoro. You can be sure of getting genuine quality tais sold for a good cause, however, the prices are 5 times higher than at the tais market.
  • 6 Audian, Rua Audian (east of the Mercado Lama roundabout). This area is good for small supermarkets and hardware/household stores. You will need to visit multiple places to find what you want.
  • 7 Colmera, Near corner of Rua Nicolau dos Reis Lobato and Estrada de Balidae (aka Colmera Road). This area has a number of electronic and general stores.

Small supermarkets and convenience stores are all over the city (with a particular concentration of small supermarkets in Audian) but will have a limited range and be oriented towards Asian tastes. Larger supermarkets that are good for foreigners will still have a limited range and you may need to visit several to get what you want (if you can actually get it - months-long shortages are common). Supermarkets only have small amounts of fruit and vegetables and will charge more than the markets. The main supermarkets of interest are:

  • 8 Leader, Av. Presidente Nicolau Lobato (next to Timor Plaza). 09:30-21:30. Probably the best supermarket for expats, including a lot of household goods.
  • 9 Kmanek, Timor Plaza, level 1. Good value but a limited range.
  • 10 W Four, Timor Plaza (other side of the car park). Asian-orientated place but a good range and good prices.
  • 11 Landmark, Av. Presidente Nicolau Lobato. Large supermarket but lacking many items.
  • 12 Pateo, R. D Fernando. Portuguese supermarket. Nicely air-conditioned, unlike most supermarkets here. Good for Portuguese goods, e.g., canned fish, cheese, chorizo, wine, beer. However, it's quite expensive.
  • 13 Lita, Av. dos Direitos Humanos (Lecidere beachfront). The best downtown supermarket. A fruit market is directly opposite.
  • 14 Dilimart, Av. dos Direitos Humanos (next to Lita Store). Big supermarket downtown.
  • 15 Kmanek, Rua Belarmino Lobo (near the Burger King corner). Good cheap downtown supermarket but a limited range. Usually has fruit and veg sellers outside.

Eat edit

There are plenty of restaurants in Dili, from local, Italian, Portuguese to Australian. Most popular in the evenings are the seafood BBQ places east of Dili on the beach.

Budget edit

Timorese and Indonesian warungs, where you pick your food from the window, are everywhere and cost $1.50-3.00 for a typical meal.

  • 1 New Lili's, Rua Belarmino Lobo. Good Indonesian warung. Prices have increased since they became popular. $3-5.
  • 2 Starco Cafe, Rue Presidente Nicolau Lobato. Good Indonesian warung. $4-5.
  • 3 Bebonuk beach BBQs (Merkadu Hahaan), +670 7736 3584. This is a string of identical BBQs that sets up every evening on the beach, serving excellent chicken, pork and fish skewers for about $1 each (they may try to overcharge foreigners) as well as katapas (rice cooked in coconut milk). Gets very messy but it is surely the best value beach dinner in Dili. $2-4.

To self-cater, start at the East Timor Government Building, Palacio Do Governo. Head east, away from the airport. If you walk up the left hand road, about halfway up on your right is Dili Cold Store supermarket.

If you head out on the road towards the airport you will find the Comoro market, which is one of the two big markets in Dili. It is a little bit hard to find as it is set back from the road. If you are travelling from the UN building it is about a 20-minute walk – if you reach the Leader supermarket on the right you have gone too far. The markets are amazing. When you first arrive they look grimy and the place is covered in dust in the dry season and very muddy in the wet, but if you go inside you will find fruit, veggies and coffee all piled in little piles (this is the measurement for purchases – around 10c for leafy veggies and 50c for everything else). If you live with a Timorese family it is wonderful to go there and bring home little treats such as eggs and condensed milk, bananas and potatoes as they are usually beyond the everyday budget (rice and green vegetables are the staple diet of East Timorese).

The Leader supermarket has lots of western treats, including chocolate and toilet paper.

  • Miaow, Rua Belarmino Lobo (opposite Kmanek Lecidere, the old Kebab place), +670 73120605, . 10:00-18:30. Fresly baked French baguettes, develish fillings, mayo "to die for", delicious coffee, evil juices and more!

Mid-range edit

The legendary R 'n' R café has sadly closed, as did several other longstanding restaurants after the UN mission left; however, growing prosperity and an influx of Europeans have led to a proliferation of restaurants:

  • 4 Castaway, Avenida de Portugal (western beach road). One of the hippest and most reliable western joints. Good food, good staff, good crowd and views over the water. $6-15.
  • 5 Timor Plaza. Has a food court with western and Asian dishes, at higher prices than elsewhere. Makanan, the Indian-Malay place with roti canai, martabak and briyani, may be the best option (Il Gelato is in the same shop, with the best ice cream in Dili). There is a Gloria Jean's with reliable coffee but terrible breakfasts. Elsewhere in Timor Plaza are some cafes, a donut shop and a rooftop restaurant.
  • 6 Queen Tundriee, Avenida dos Martires de Patria (almost opposite Tiger Fuel). It can't decide on how to spell tandoori (you'll see tundriee, tundaree, tanduree, tondroori and others), but they know how to do it. Excellent tandoori chicken, samosas and daals, plus many other dishes, including great vegetable dishes. $4-8.
  • 7 Linivon, Bidau (Head 200m east from Rua Belarmino Lobo from the intersection with café La Esquina). Rendang. It's self-service, so you can pick the best pieces. Also has extensive other offerings. $4-5.
  • 8 New 88, Rua Audian. Also has a branch at Landmark and maybe others. Best Chinese food in town according to many Chinese, reliable place to get duck, but relatively expensive for Dili. $5-10.
  • 9 Caz Bar, Areia Branca. Great for drinks or food on the beach (just find the plastic tables and chairs on the sand, or ask staff to get some for you; the main bar is across the road and under cover). Big menu of mostly-western items that are good value considering the location and quality. $5-10.
  • 10 Kathy's Cafe, Areia Branca. Part of Beachside Hotel, it's the other western place on the Areia Branca. Excellent breakfasts eaten on the sand. $8-15.
  • 11 Early Sun, Metiaut. Reliable Chinese restaurant on the beachfront with a big menu of good-value dishes. $6-10.
  • 12 Little Pattaya, Metiaut. Combination Thai/Lebanese restaurant. Not the greatest food but probably the nicest setting of the beachfront restaurants and great for groups. $6-12.
  • 13 Tito's, Metiaut. Upmarket Portuguese restaurant on the beach. $15.
  • 14 Gion, Timor Plaza, lower level next to the car park. Best Japanese restaurant in town, but be careful about the sashimi. $12+.
  • 15 Arriba, Av. de Portugal (co-located with Osteria). A good opportunity to savour some of the worst Mexican food in the world. Very bland, poorly-made and quite expensive. Despite being the only Mexican option in town, still doesn't seem to get much business. $10.
  • 16 Golden Star, Rua Audian (near the corner of Belarmino Lobo, where the 24hr Kaliber 12 place is). Attractive Chinese restaurant in the suburbs with a few interesting "Timorese" dishes, like the saboco fish dish. $8+.
  • 17 Dilicious Timor (Next to the Portuguese Embassy, Microlets #3, 4, 9, 10). Tasty Timorese food made from local ingredients. Several vegetarian options. $6+.

Splurge edit

  • 18 Osteria, Av. de Portugal (western beachfront road). The best Italian food in town, but that's not saying much. Due to the high prices, the popular Sunday night specials ($10 pizzas and pastas) are the best bet. $10-25.
  • 19 Panorama, Timor Plaza Level 5 (co-located with Sky Bar). Excellent views over Dili but disappointing food for the price. Just drink at the bar and get some satay sticks instead. $25.

Drink edit

Moonlight over Dili

Friday after work (17:00-20:00) is the infamous happy hour atop Timor Plaza (Sky Bar - level 5), where many expats gather. Castaway is an expat bar on the main drag along the beach in Dili; drinks range from $4 beer and cocktails to a $10 giant margarita. They have a shelf of (largely English) books where you can leave and take, typical backpacker style. (Cigarettes are available at the bar but only worth it if you are feeling lazy, at $2.50 a pack which is more than double the price of street vendors' cigs!) Next to it is Nova bar.

  • 1 Caz Bar, Areia Branca (Cristo Rei Beach) (next to Beachside Hotel), +670 7723 3961. Nice bar on the beach near Cristo Rei. Great pizza. Frequented by NGO staff.
  • 2 Kaliber 12, Rua Belarmino Lobo/Rua Audian. 24 jam! This corner store blasts music 24 hours a day. You can buy a beer at shop prices, sit outside and meet locals.
  • 3 Tower, Comoro Rd (Look for the wire tower with an illuminated T at the top). One of the hippest bars in town, it fills up with locals and expats (especially Portuguese) from about 23:00. $5 cover charge includes a drink. It's partly outdoors but still fills with cigarette smoke.
  • Moon Bar. The bar that the UN banned its staff from going to! It must be good then, but can you actually find it?
  • 4 Letefoho Specialty Coffee Roasters, Avenida de Portugal (western beach road, underneath Hotel Royal Beach). Promoting local coffee growers in a small hipster cafe. Some of the best coffee in town.

Sleep edit

There are plenty of hotels in Dili, ranging from cheap and basic (living in a container, with a window and a fan if you're lucky, probably about US$5 per night) to less cheap and less basic (air-con and cable TV, probably about US$40 per night).

Some cafes around town have ads for accommodation available, but generally the only way to find out where there are places available is to ask around. There are furniture stores around, but if you can find somewhere that is furnished it will save you a lot of hassle. If you get friendly with someone who works for the government they may be able to help you find some furniture. There is one real estate in Dili at 'Central Hotel near the post office which has a number of accommodation options.

There are quite a few foreigners in Dili who live in hotels or guest houses permanently. Other alternatives include:

  • ‘Kos’ style accommodation, where you get your own room and usually a bathroom, living with an East Timorese family; meals are usually shared with the family. The best way to find out about these places is to ask East Timorese friends or colleagues. Rent is generally about US$150 per month. Advantages include learning Tetum quickly, getting more exposure to East Timorese culture and spending time with an East Timorese family. Disadvantages can include lack of personal space, and no cooking facilities.
  • Share accommodation with other foreigners – there are plenty of shared houses of NGO people and UN people. Often the East Timorese owners will live next door. It would be usual to employ someone to help with cleaning, laundry and perhaps cooking. Few houses have washing machines. Most do not have air-conditioning either – you might want to invest in a fan. Share houses are sometimes advertised in places like the Dili Dive Centre, but word of mouth is the best way to find out. If you are looking for an empty house to rent, again, it's probably best to ask East Timorese friends or colleagues. Remember that places might not have furniture/a fridge etc., and purchasing can be expensive. Rent for this sort of accommodation is generally between US$150 and US$200 per month.

A cleaner visiting twice a week costs about US$25 per month. As well as getting your house and clothes cleaned, this also represents an opportunity for making friends with locals. Also, having someone around the house during the day when you are not there keeps the place a little more secure. If you can live with a Timorese family it would be ideal for learning more about the local language and culture but if not, get to know your neighbours – walking around your area and talking to people can go a long way.

Budget edit

  • Dili Central Backpackers, Cnr Rua Srg. Lobato and Rua Nu Badak, Ai-Kadiruhun, +670 7350 6279. Super friendly hostel with dormitory and single room accommodation close to the city centre. Owner is an Australian woman who has lived in East Timor for many years and is very knowledgeable about the place.
  • 1 DaTerra Hostel, Bebonuk (about 20 minutes walk from Timor Plaza towards the coast; Microlets #9 & 13 run nearby.), +670 7730 6030, . Quiet & friendly hostel in a residential house & neighbourhood. Tables & hammocks available to relax on the front porch. Delicious dinner for $6-10. Dorm $20, double room $30, incl. breakfast.

Mid-range edit

  • Central Hotel, Av Presidente Nicolo Lobato (150m east of Palacio do Governo), +670 332 3888.
  • Venture Hotel, Rua Filomena De Camara, Bidau Lecidere (Behind Lita store, on road from Fatima statue in park, across from coffin shop), +670 331 3276. $28/night, $285/month.
  • 2 Beachside Hotel, Cristo Rei Beach, Metiaut, Dili (taxi from Dili centre about $5, ask driver to go to Caz Bar, then just a few meters further), +670 750 2184, . Nice new hotel and cafe, with beautiful beach and view (across the street). A short walk to Cristo Rei monument. Closes early (19:00), but Caz Bar is nearby for late food and drinks. $85 room, $30 dorm.
  • 3 Katua's Hotel, Rua Jose Maria Marques, Lecidere, +670 7746 9090. Reliable mid-range hotel downtown. $65-75.
  • 4 Hotel Lecidere, Rua Jose Maria Marques (near the downtown Burger King corner). Formerly the Tropical, this is a well-run Chinese-owned hotel with small and sterile (but clean) rooms, in the middle of downtown. From $50.
  • 5 Golgota Hotel & Resort, Av. da Restauração Comoro, +67077888888. Check-in: 15:00, check-out: 14:00.

Splurge edit

Connect edit

See the main East Timor page for general info.

WiFi is sometimes available in cafes, hotels and shops but is unreliable and usually no better than the (very slow) 4G cellular service.

SIM cards can be purchased at Timor Plaza and other cellphone stores.

By post edit

There is no delivery of mail to street addresses. If you want to receive mail, you need to use a post office box at the central post office. Packages from Australia generally take about 2 weeks. It's important that people write ‘via Darwin, Australia’ on the address, otherwise letters tend to go via Jakarta, Singapore or even Lisbon. Letters/packages have been known to take up to one and a half years to arrive, and occasionally disappear altogether, although this is the exception rather than the rule.

Stay safe edit

Crocodile warning in Dili city

The biggest risk in Dili is probably that of being involved in a traffic accident, It's a good idea to bring a quality good helmet in case you get a bike, or to use when riding on the back of other peoples’ bikes.

Basic precautions will ensure personal safety in East Timor. As with many cities, it's generally considered unsafe for a ‘malae’ (foreigner) woman (and probably a malae man, too) to walk around alone after dark. There have been a few reported incidents of people riding in taxis after dark being robbed. There have been a few malae houses broken into overnight. Generally, though, it feels very safe to walk around Dili during the day – there are always lots of people around.

The only other security precaution in Dili is to avoid gang activity, which normally occurs at night, particularly in the Bairo Pite district of Dili. These gangs are based on martial arts groups within Dili which, after Timor Leste's history of violence and upheaval, is a social network for many unemployed males. Setesete, PSHT and Korak are the main gangs and their graffiti can be seen throughout Dili. Travellers should keep their distance from these martial arts venues and leave an area immediately if gang-related violence seems to be a possibility.

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You can generally get everything you need in Dili, although some items are more expensive.

  • Bring US dollars. You will need US$30 for your initial visa on arrival at the airport. Check with your bank about usage in Timor Leste: MasterCard does not work anywhere in the country.
  • If you wear contact lenses, definitely bring lens solution as it cannot be bought in East Timor. Also bring a spare pair of glasses and/or leave a copy of your prescription at home in case you need a new pair sent over.
  • You can buy clothes in Dili, but larger sizes may be unavailable as Timorese are on average a lot smaller than Westerners. You're best off bringing as much as you need with you. Also bed linen and towels etc. are quite expensive. Make sure you bring your bathers!
  • Radio – East Timor can get Radio National and BBC World Service. There are also local radio stations broadcasting on FM such as Radio Rakembia
  • Books - There is a good bookshop called TIO. You can also order books off the net and have them sent here. If you are not too picky about what you read (content or condition), you'll find book exchanges at Castaway, the Dili Club and One More Bar. Many foreigners are also generous in lending from their own collections.
  • A mosquito net is useful for out into the districts.

With regard to dress rules, there are no hard and fast rules. Dili is more liberal than the districts, where people will expect women to wear clothes which cover their shoulders (ie not sleeveless) and trousers or a skirt below the knee. Generally, it's better to err on the conservative side. The most respectable clothing for young males are jeans with a buttoned through, short-sleeved, collared shirt. There are a number of clothing shops in Dili, but they are made for Timorese sizes so it is generally hard to find anything in a size bigger than an Australian 10.

Dili is really hot all year round, but it can get very cold overnight in the central districts – so make sure you bring something warm. It's a good idea to bring a solid pair of sandals, as well as some thongs and runners.

Dinner can sometimes be a bit dressier and most people in offices come to work dressed smart casual.

Travelling as 'Malae' edit

Foreign men and women or 'Malae', should take care when catching a taxi or walking outside at night. Travellers should be careful with 'over-the-shoulder' satchels as it has been reported that people have been pulled off mopeds by thieves grabbing bags.

Local women dress conservatively in Dili. 'Short shorts', strapless tops and mini skirts are rarely worn by local women and may beckon unwanted attention. Generally, you want to wear 3/4-sleeve tops and long pants or skirts to protect yourself from mosquito borne diseases and to keep consistent with local dress.

Same-sex or overt public displays of affection may attract disapproval or vocal objection, especially from the older population.

Embassies edit

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  • Areia Branca ("white sand"), a beach about 3 km east of Dili (under the Christ Statue).
  • Jaco Island. Jaco Island lies off the Eastern tip of East Timor. The beach is white and the water is clear. No development is allowed on the island. You will need a 4WD to get there but it is well worth the trip. You drive out to Baucau (a sensational drive – lots of rice paddies etc.) and continue on to Tutuala. Ask directions there – you go down a road that is very overgrown after about 1 km. Take plenty of food and water because there aren't any local eateries, although you can buy fresh produce on the way there at a fraction of Dili prices from tables outside people's houses so it is just a matter of what they have then. Often there are fishermen on the beach and you can purchase fish from them, which they will cook up for you. It is quite expensive, about US$10 per fish and $5 to cook but two fish plus some paw paws feeds 10. To actually get to the island the fishermen will take you over, but it's again expensive – about US$10 for a boat. Still, it is amazing, a truly unspoilt beach.
  • Atauro Island is more easily accessed than the other two destinations. Atauro has a public ferry every Saturday for $4 each way, leaving 09:00 and returning 15:00. The journey takes three hours, meaning a Saturday day trip leaves you with only three hours on the island, which is enough to explore around the port area and complete the single available activity which is to eat and buy trinkets at the small market. You could sneak in some awesome snorkeling too, but to explore the island's other charms like diving and hiking you need to stay longer. Despite spending six hours on a ferry and only three hours on the island, the day trip is wildly popular with locals so the ferry may be very overcrowded. After the seating is full passengers sit on deck, on the floor and on the stairs. Chat with someone in a dive company about the best way to get there on other days of the week. You may be able to join a group or get some people together and make up a group and hire a boat (with crew and including lunch and snorkel gear) for a day. It is quite expensive but the water is incredibly clear and you might catch sight of dolphins and whales passing through the channel. Book accommodation in advance.
  • Liquica and Maubara are less than an hour west along the coast road (make sure to turn right at the T-junction in Tibar). Just before Liquica is the ruins of a prison where Timorese kings were imprisoned, with placards telling the story. Liquica has some ruined buildings and some beaches. Maubara is further along and has the ruins of a seaside fort, with a café inside, as well as some touristy shops and cafes on the beach.
  • Gleno is suitable for a day trip, especially if you want to see some mountains while staying on decent roads. Head west from Dili and go straight at the Tibar T-junction. The road passes through pretty valleys, then winds over heavily-forested mountains before reaching the wide valley of Gleno after about 2 hours. There are some shops and restaurants there. Beyond Gleno, the road gets much worse as it heads to Ermera and, eventually, Maliana.
  • Baucau, though much smaller than Dili, is Timor-Leste's second largest city and features an old town core with several beautiful buildings from the colonial era, a public swimming pool, and views all the way to the sea. Buses leave throughout the day from Becora bus station near the south-eastern end of Dili, take about 2.5 hours on the good road, and cost US$5.
  • Maubisse is a popular weekend getaway for people from Dili. Set in the mountains, temperatures are a bit cooler, and there are some hiking options. Anggunas (US$4) leave from the Mercado Taibesi bus station, cross the city centre, and then take the new road along the Ribeira Comoro via Aileu.
This city travel guide to Dili is a usable article. It has information on how to get there and on restaurants and hotels. An adventurous person could use this article, but please feel free to improve it by editing the page.