Osolata, East Timor
Pin This
Open Media Gallery

Osolata, East Timor

© Creative Commons / yeowatzup'

East Timor Travel Guide

Key Facts
Area

14,919 sq km (5,760 sq miles).

Population

1.2 million (2013).

Population density

80 per sq km.

Capital

Dili.

Government

Republic. Declared full independence on 20 May 2002 after the UN Transitional Authority in East Timor (UNTAET) had run the country for nearly three years during its transition to independence. Prior to UNTAET, the country had been under Indonesian control since 1975.

Head of state

President Taur Matan Ruak since 2012.

Head of government

Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao since 2007.

Electricity

220 volts AC, 50Hz. Electricity supplies may be erratic with many power cuts.

In May 2002, after 450 years of continuous foreign occupation, East Timor became the world's newest independent state. However, East Timor's road to independence was long and traumatic.

The Portuguese first arrived on the island in the early 16th century and by the 1550s had occupied the eastern part. The Dutch took control of the western part, which became part of the Dutch East Indies and, after independence, Indonesia.In 1975, the new left-wing Portuguese government relinquished all of its colonies. East Timor then enjoyed just a few days of independence, before the Indonesians annexed it as their 27th province. There was little local resistance and the international community largely acquiesced.

The main Timorese independence movement, FRETILIN (Frente Revolucionario de Este Timor Independente), which was originally formed to fight the Portuguese, now had to gear up again to combat a new and even more brutal occupier. In the savage counter-insurgency campaign that followed, the Indonesian army killed over 100,000 East Timorese. It was not until the 1997 Asian economic crisis and the subsequent removal of veteran Indonesian President Suharto that the growing international criticism of the Indonesian campaign began to have some effect.

In June 1999, President Habibie of Indonesia announced that a referendum would be held in East Timor, offering independence or autonomy within Indonesia.The referendum was held in August 1999 and 80% opted for independence. By way of revenge, the Indonesian army, along with local militias that they had armed and financed, indulged in an orgy of destruction and killing that displaced hundreds of thousands of people and destroyed the territory's already fragile economic base.

In October 1999, a UN transitional administration (UNTAET) was set up in East Timor, pending the conduct of national elections. The new country faced a massive reconstruction task and the government has found it difficult to deliver on many of its initial promises.Colonial architecture, Portuguese fortresses and other remains from the 100-year-long Portuguese occupation can be found all over the country. However, many towns and villages were destroyed during the Indonesian occupation and the fighting in 1999, and these are only slowly being rebuilt. Many houses are still built on stilts in the traditional way, using local materials such as grass, bamboo, tree trunks and palm leaves.

Travel Advice

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office in the UK advises travellers to be aware of and attentive to the uncertain security situation when travelling in East Timor.

The security situation in East Timor remains fragile. You should avoid demonstrations and large crowds and if you become aware of any nearby military activity you should leave the area immediately.

Crime continues to be a problem, including gang-related violence, robbery (in some cases armed), assault and attacks on vehicles. You should exercise caution if going outside after dark.

There is no British representation in East Timor. Emergency consular services are provided by the New Zealand Embassy in Dili. Applications for new passports or renewals should be made to the British Consulate General, Jakarta, the British Consulate, Bali or any other British passport issuing post.

There is an underlying threat from terrorism. Attacks could be indiscriminate, including in places frequented by expatriates and foreign travellers.

The tropical cyclone season in East Timor normally runs from November to April.

This advice is based on information provided by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in the UK. It is correct at time of publishing. As the situation can change rapidly, visitors are advised to contact the following organisations for the latest travel advice:

British Foreign and Commonwealth Office
Tel: 020 7008 1500.
Website: www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice

US Department of State
Website: http://travel.state.gov/travel

Edited by Jane Duru
Did you find what you were looking for?
Newsletter