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The unknown country: Timor Leste. the best in 10 day.

This 20 years old country has never been so accessible and open to mass tourism as these days. If you are seeking an alternative to the crowded Bali, Timor Leste is probably what you are looking for. 

Spectacular whale migrations, healthy and extremely biodiverse reefs, 3000-meter high mountain are just the surroundings to colorful fabrics and the kindness of the smiling East Timorese. 

Timor Leste colorful fabrics
Timor Leste colorful fabrics

I struggled to plan my 10-day-long trip in the country, since there are not much consistent information available. Apparently, even one of the best travel guide as Lonely Planet has stopped the printing of its guides about this country.

However, after my time spent in Timor-Leste I can give you enough information in order to assure you an unforgettable stay.


Timor Leste is one of the youngest country in the world. It gained its independence just in 2002. 

The country came out from an Indonesian and Portuguese colonization, although it still conserve hints of their cultures.

If you want to know more about its history: the two colonizations and the journey to the independence, I suggest you to visit the Museu Du Resistencia in Dili.

Timorese people are mainly catholic (Timor Leste and Philippines are the only country in asia with catholicism as main religion) and the spoken languages are portuguese and tetun. Although some of them speak a bit of english too.

The colorful Taìs cloth, the handwoven traditional textiles, are the symbol and one of the most important produce of the island.

Traditionally, they are made and given as a gift from a woman to another one, in sign of respect. 

Nowadays they can be bought everywhere, but specifically at the Taìs market, in Dili. 


The island is reachable only by plane or sailing boat.

Planes landing in Dili, the capital, are arriving mainly from Bali (Indonesia) and Darwin (Australia). From the former, the operating airline company is Sriwijaya Air. From the latter the active are Qantas and AirNorth

I flew from Darwin with Airnorth and the first flight has been cancelled the day before (they called me and asked if I wanted to be booked in a Qantas one). The return one went very smooth. It was also the smallest aircraft I ever flew in.


People coming from the Schengen area get a 90 day free visa at the airport border (even though on the various websites a 30 USD tax was reported). Whereas Capo verde and Indonesia get a 30 days one. For all the other passport a visa is required. For more informations you can visit the immigration website.


Yes, you heard USD! From January 2000 the East Timorese government has decided to adopt the United States currency. Due to this, this country is definitely more expensive than the average other country in South-East Asia. Probably, the most expensive one. 

Moreover, cash is king! cards are accepted mostly nowhere and “I will withdraw once there” is not a safe plan. In fact, most of the ATM present in the territory are often out of cash or with low balance, therefore if you are lucky to find the working one, you can only withdraw a specific amount of money (20-50$) or less.

For a low budget stay, but still doing most of the unforgettable experiences (whales, diving, hiking) I would recommend not less than 600$ for 10 days. 


There are two main providers: Timor Telecom and Telemor. However, the latter network is the most reliable and with a better coverage. A small stand can be found right after the airport exit, on the right. 

I paid 17$ for unlimited data and calls, for 10 days. I reckon I have been scammed because I read that the common plans for 10 days are around 10$.

I never had coverage problems, but for Atauro island where I stayed 3 days without signal. 

Alternatively, disposable SIM card with a specific amount of data are sold in the small shop in every corner. the price change according to the capacity. But I have not tried them so i can not say more. 


Timor leste is one of the country in where I felt the most safe. Also my girlfriend has never felt insecure or in danger, even in the night. 

But I must mention what happen as soon as we exited the airport. We have been approached by the person who controlled our passport asking where we were headed. We told him our hotel name and he told us that it had changed name and redirected us towards another one (most probably run by his friends). So he stopped a taxi for us and told the driver where to take us: we were a bit confused (and that is our fault too) so we jumped on. The price for the ride was set at 10$. I told the driver three times we did not want to go to the other hotel and he took us there anyway. Once arrived in the wrong place he raised the price at 20$ with the excuse that our hotel was too far. Obviously I did not pay the other 10$ and I asked to be left there.

I thought that might have been a single case and we have been unlucky. However, five days after a taxi stopped in front of our hostel and the same happen to the girl just dropped off. Fortunately, the owner of the hostel came out to help the girl dealing with the furious driver. 


  • In Dili: Taxi are the fastest but the most expensive way to move around in the capital. I suggest to use Microlets, a funny reply to filipino's jeepneys. They work with specific stops and are numbered from 1 to 12 with different colors according to the route. They connect also the airport.

  • From Dili to Ataùro There are three different operators: 'SUCCESS' Leaves Dili at 8 am e takes you in Atauro in three hours, then comes back at 2.30 pm. You can purchase tickets at Dili wharf for 5 dollars and works just Tuesday. 'DRAGON' is the fastest speed boat. Takes you there in 1 hour and a half, leaves as well at 8 and comes back at noon. It costs 12 USD (VIP) or 10 USD (economy). Travels Thursdays and Saturdays. 'NAKROMA' is the government run ferry, takes you there in 3 hours, leaves at 8 am and comes back at 3pm. Costs 4 dollars and runs every Saturday.

  • Inter-cities You need to either rent a car (possibly with a driver, roads ar not the best) or take an infinite number of crowded buses to reach your destination. The main routes are from Dili to Baucau, Suai, Viqueue or Maliana.


Timor Leste food culture derives from a mixture between Portuguese and Indonesian. In the island are famous the worldwide known Pastel de nata and all types of mediterranean bread. 

Coffee is a must try. East Timorese sustain they have one of the best coffee in the world. The spontaneous cross hybrid of Arabica and Robusta varieties grows in the island’s mountains.

Known as Hybrid de Timor, the most famous one: Letefoho, is sold everywhere in the country. I tried the Letefoho specialty coffee roaster and I highly recommend it.

In the island is also very common eating freshly caught fish. 

Fish market in Ataùro
Fish market in Ataùro PH Beatrice Da Fre


Even though in 10 days it is impossibile to see and experience everything this country has to offer, it is enough to get a taste of it. 

It really depends what your interests are and whether you prefer to visit paradisiac beaches or hiking fresh peaks. I am giving you an idea of my trip and I will also talk about what I did not do but i would have done if I had more time.

Timor Leste 10 days itinerary
Timor Leste 10 days itinerary

DILI (3 days)

Three days are a short amount of time to get everything from the capital, but you do not really want to stay there since all the other activities the country has to offer.

The first night I slept at Rocella hotel and I paid 50$ for a double room. The place was clean and the staff very kind, the breakfast included which was a big plus for me. 

The second night I spent in the capital was after 5 days in Atauro island. I slept at da terra hostel staff was super, the owner explained us the culture and the history of timor and invited us in his other hostel in Baucau.  Meals (vegetarian, meat and fish) are offered for a set price of 6, 8, 10$.

It is one of the two hostels in town and the only one present in hostelworld. 

In Dili I suggest to visit the resistance museum and Tais market. 


Atauro island is reachable from Dili with ferries. make sure you plan when to go because ferries do not run every day. For example, if you arrive on Saturday, you must wait the next Tuesday. 

I arrived on Saturday with Nakroma. It was the cheapest one and I immediately understood why. 

It was super crowded and slow. However, it was also part of the local experience since all the tourists choose the speed boat and leave the ferry to locals. 

I came back the following Thursday with “dragon” the speed boat operating that day. 

the first three days I though I was joining a guided tour around the island with fishermen and mountain villages discovering. the tour was provided by ATKOMA a government supported tourism association. However, there is no possibility to book it on the website. I have been given a contact number to deal with. 

One month before landing in Dili I already had my itinerary and activities organized through the association at the price of 180$ for two people. The day before reaching the island, Avelino, the person who I talked with, told me there has been a change in the plans and I had to pay 80$ more for a boat to reach the first village of the tour. Reached the village I found out there was no tour but just a three days stay in a rural resort called Mario's place.

One of the activities included was experiencing the local spearfishing technique. 

The story behind was suggestive and interesting since the women of the village have as main source of food the fish caught through a spear. I had the chance to live this moment and got to know how they manage to store the caught fish while keep fishing. 

mario's place
Mario's place

After spending three days doing nothing but snorkeling I decided to come back to the other side of the island where the most biodiverse and healthy reef in the world lays. I spent two more night in Atauro dive resort. The place is really nice and clean. I had the opportunity to do a couple of diving even though they were expensive (80$ each).

If you are visiting timor Leste I highly recommend snorkeling or diving in that reef. 

Ataùro reef
Ataùro reef

BAUCAU (3 days)

Back from Atauro I stayed one night in Dili as mentioned before and then I moved towards Baucau, three hours east of the capital. I went there with some friends by car but there are also buses leaving the Dili’s central station at any time. 

Baucau offers a wide range of activities: jungle hiking, waterfalls and refreshing spring pools very close to the city centre.

I recommend Ponte Naturaleza, located 1.5 hours north of the city (but only reachable with a 4WD and a local guide which can be hired in the very last village before the trekking starts).

Swimming underneath Ponte Naturaleza
Swimming underneath Ponte Naturaleza

There is also a local swimming pool filled with spring water. The price is very low (2$).

Baucau's swimming spring pool
Baucau's swimming spring pool

The main reason I went in Baucau and I stayed at Da Terra farm was because Fernando, the owner, was offering cheap Whale watching tour. If you'd like more information take a look to this video

blue whale in Timor Leste
blue whale in Timor Leste

I managed to see some whales at the price of just 30$ instead of 300$ as the major companies ask. therefore make sure you are not wasting your money.

The main reason of this low price is the usage of local fishermen boats instead of big ones.

Moreover, the money go actually back to locals.

Whale watching expedition on fishermen's boats
Whale watching expedition on fishermen's boats

If I had more days to spend in the country, I would have definitely visited both Mt. Ramailau and Jaco Island.

Mt. Ramailau is the highest peak in the island reaching almost 3000 meters. for more informations about the hike, the stay and the mountain visit the Lonely Planet tips.

Jaco island is located on the east side of the country and the most efficient way to reach is through 4WD.


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