How to get to East Timor

By | May 4, 2022


In May 2002, Timor-Leste became the world’s first independent country in the 21st century after 450 years of colonial rule. However, the road to political independence was long and traumatic. Portugal was the first colonial power of Timor-Leste (then Portuguese Timor) and occupied the eastern part of the country. Under the Dutch, the western part became the Dutch East Indies. In 1975 Portugal’s left-wing government gave up its colonies and Timor-Leste enjoyed a few years of independence. After that, Indonesia annexed the country and made it its 27th province. There was little resistance and the international community largely held back. The independence movement in Timor-Leste, FRETILIN (Frente Revolucionario de Este Timor Independente), was brutally crushed by the Indonesian occupiers. Around 100,000 people died. Only with the economic crisis in Asia from 1997 and the subsequent dismissal of the long-serving Indonesian President Suharto did a political change of direction begin. In a referendum approved by Indonesia in 1999, 80% of Timor-Leste residents opted for autonomy within Indonesia. The Indonesian army and local rebels they have armed retaliated in a bloody retaliation that displaced hundreds of thousands and completely destroyed the country’s ailing economy. A UN interim government (UNTAET) administered the country from October 1999 until the official elections. The new government of Timor-Leste faces the monumental task of reconstruction, which is progressing very slowly. Colonial architecture, Portuguese forts and other remnants of Portugal’s 100-year colonial power can be found throughout the country. However, many towns and villages were destroyed during the Indonesian occupation and hostilities of 1999 and are slow to rebuild. Many houses are still built on stilts in the traditional way and are made of natural materials such as grass, bamboo, tree trunks and palm leaves.

Getting there

Arriving by plane

According to top-medical-schools, Qantas Airways (QF) and Airnorth (TL) fly non-stop from Darwin (Australia) to Dili. Sriwijaya Air (SJ) offers non-stop flights between Denpasar (Indonesia) and Dili.

Flight times

Darwin – Dili: 1 hr 20 min; Denpasar – Dili: 2 hrs

Departure fee

A fee of approximately €8.50 (US$10) is payable on departure.

Arrival by car

By land, Timor-Leste is accessible from Indonesian West Timor via the Batugade border and from Oecusse via the Bobometo and Sakato border crossings. Long-distance buses: There are irregular bus services between Dili and West Timor (Indonesia). Toll: There are no tolls on the roads in Timor-Leste. Documents: In addition to the national driver’s license, the international driver’s license is required.

Arrival by ship

There are no passenger ships operating between Timor-Leste and its neighboring countries.


Traveling by car/bus

The road network has a total length of around 6,000 km. Coastal roads connect the towns in the south and north of the island. Connecting roads also run through the interior of the island between the north and south coasts.

Right-hand traffic/left-hand traffic


Condition of the roads

The roads are mostly in a very bad condition; Only the main routes are paved. Caution is required especially in the mountainous regions; roads there are often washed out quickly during the rainy season (December – April) and are therefore impassable. Night driving should generally be avoided.

Car rental

Rental cars are available in Dili. Travelers should definitely opt for an off-road vehicle. The minimum age for drivers is 18 years.


Taxis are available in Dili. For safety reasons, taxis should only be used during the day and if possible not left the hotel at night.


In Dili and on Atauro it is possible to rent bicycles. Mountain bikes are sold in Dili, but it’s best to bring your own gear for the challenging road conditions.


Buses, called biskotas, run between major cities like Dili, Baucau, Maliana, Los Palos and Suai. So-called bemos (minibuses) and microlets (minibuses) run in regional public transport between cities and the surrounding villages. Most of these buses leave early in the morning, are usually overcrowded and in poor technical condition.


Traffic regulations: – alcohol limit: 0.5 ‰; – Seat belts are compulsory for all car occupants; – Helmets are compulsory for motorcyclists; – Children must be transported in appropriate child seats. Speed ​​limits: – in built-up areas: 50 km/h; – country roads: 90 km/h; – Motorway: 120 km/h.

Roadside Assistance

The ADAC foreign emergency call offers ADAC members and holders of ADAC foreign health and accident insurance comprehensive assistance in the event of vehicle breakdowns, traffic accidents, loss of documents and money, and medical emergencies. The emergency number is available around the clock; in the event of damage to the vehicle: Tel. +49 (0)89 22 22 22, in the event of illness: +49 (0)89 76 76 76. In the event of breakdowns or accidents with the rental car, the car rental company should be contacted first.


In addition to the national driver’s license, the international driver’s license is required.

Traveling in the city

Taxis are readily available in Dili. The fare should be agreed before departure.

Traveling by ship

There is a weekly ferry between the enclave of Oecussi and Dili. Small boats, as well as a weekly ferry, operate between Dili and Atauro Island. Fishing boats go to Jaco Island on request.

How to get to East Timor