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East Timor travel guide

About East Timor

Following its indepedence on 20 May 2002, East Timor became the only Asian country to be located completely in the Southern Hemisphere.

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.

In the aftermath, the main independence movement faced a savage counter-insurgency, during which the Indonesian army killed over 100,000 East Timorese. Finally, a referendum was offered to East Timor in 1999, and 80% opted for independence. Violent reprisals by the military followed, but the country eventually became independent.

Colonial architecture, Portuguese fortresses and other treasures from the 100-year 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 erected on stilts in the traditional way, using local materials such as grass, bamboo, tree trunks and palm leaves.

Despite the tragic recent history, East Timor's immaculate reefs, little-trodden mountain paths and rich, traditional cultural that has endured in the face of war make it a true hidden gem. Hiking in the hills will bring you to otherworldly jungle caves, while exploring settlements away from the capital of Dili give a taste of village life. Well off the beaten track, East Timor is still getting back on its feet, but is a raw and compelling destination.

Key facts

Area:

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

Population:

1,211,245 (UN estimate 2016).

Population density:

82.5 per sq km.

Capital:

Dili.

Government:

Republic.

Head of state:

President Francisco Guterres since 2017.

Head of government:

Prime Minister Taur Matan Ruak since 2018.

Travel Advice

Coronavirus travel health

Check the latest information on risk from COVID-19 for Timor-Leste on the TravelHealthPro website

See the TravelHealthPro website for further advice on travel abroad and reducing spread of respiratory viruses during the COVID-19 pandemic.

International travel

Commercial flights to and from Timor-Leste remain very limited. Check with your travel company for the latest information.

Entry and borders

See Entry requirements to find out what you will need to do when you arrive in Timor-Leste.

Returning to the UK

When you return, you must follow the rules for entering the UK.

Be prepared for your plans to change

No travel is risk-free during COVID. Countries may further restrict travel or bring in new rules at short notice, for example due to a new COVID-19 variant. Check with your travel company or airline for any transport changes which may delay your journey home.

If you test positive for COVID-19, you may need to stay where you are until you test negative. You may also need to seek treatment there.

Plan ahead and make sure you:

  • can access money
  • understand what your insurance will cover
  • can make arrangements to extend your stay and be away for longer than planned

Travel in Timor-Leste

A State of Emergency is in place in Timor-Leste until 29 September 2021. The government of Timor-Leste has lifted the lockdown in the capital city, Dili. Public transport services have resumed operation in Dili and to other municipalities. A proof of full vaccination must be presented to authorities when using public transport. Passengers must observe health protocols when using transport services. Only fully vaccinated citizens are allowed to enter and leave the capital, Dili. Some restriction rules are relaxed under the current state of emergency. Religious, political, social, cultural, sports events, funeral ceremonies with participation of more than 10 people and other large gatherings are allowed with strict observation of health protocols.

During the State of Emergency, if you are in Dili and want to travel outside to other municipalities, you will need a negative COVID 19 test and authorisation from the integrated Crisis Management Centre.

It is mandatory for all individuals to practice COVID safe measures, including wearing a mask, washing hands frequently, and maintaining social distance of at least two metres.

Anyone who displays a body temperature of higher than 37.5°C, or has a sore throat, or a cold, or respiratory distress including shortness of breath is forbidden to board buses, ships or aircrafts (the only exception is in the case of medical evacuation). Mandatory random COVID testing may be required.

Public places and services

Grocery shops, fuel stations, pharmacies, clinics, banking facilities and building material stores remain open but enforce a 1 meter minimum distance between each person.

Healthcare in Timor-Leste

Medical services in Timor-Leste are limited, particularly outside Dili. See Other Health care for more information. If you think you have COVID-19 symptoms can attend a health care facility for a COVID-19 test). Positive cases will be subject to isolation.

Your emotional and mental wellbeing is important. Read guidance on how to look after your mental wellbeing and mental health.

See also the guidance on healthcare if you’re waiting to return to the UK.

View Health for further details on healthcare in Timor-Leste.

COVID-19 vaccines if you live in Timor-Leste

As information is available about the national vaccination programme, this page will be updated.

The Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) is the UK authority responsible for assessing the safety, quality and efficacy of vaccines. It has authorised the Pfizer/BioNTech, Oxford/AstraZeneca and Moderna vaccines for temporary supply and use in the UK. Find out more about MHRA approval for these vaccines.

British nationals living overseas should seek medical advice from their local healthcare provider in the country where they reside. Information about vaccines used in other national programmes, including regulatory status, should be available from the local authorities. This list of Stringent Regulatory Authorities recognised by the World Health Organisation may also be a useful source of additional information. Find out more information about the COVID-19 vaccines on the World Health Organization COVID-19 vaccines page.

Finance

For information on financial support you can access whilst abroad, visit our financial assistance guidance.

Further information

Check the Ministry of Health website for full details. Consular support may be limited in Timor-Leste as there’s no resident British diplomatic mission. Emergency consular services are provided by the New Zealand Embassy in Dili (24 hour emergency number: +670 7732 1015) and the British Honorary Consul. For all routine consular issues, contact the British Embassy in Jakarta, Indonesia.

Crime

Crime continues to be a problem in Timor-Leste, including gang-related violence, robbery (in some cases armed), and assault.

Be vigilant at all times and avoid displaying expensive items of jewellery or carrying large sums of money. There have been reports of harassment and violence against women.

There are occasional incidents of fighting between groups in various districts around Timor-Leste, often but not always related to martial arts groups. These incidents often involve stone throwing and occasionally machetes and knives. Most happen at night. Foreigners haven’t been targeted, but leave the area immediately if you’re aware of fighting.

Local travel

Take care if you go outside after dark. Avoid travelling alone or to isolated areas. 

Be particularly vigilant in border areas.

Crocodiles are frequently seen on the south coast and have even been seen at beaches near Dili.

Road travel

Poor road quality makes driving in Timor-Leste hazardous. Accidents are frequent especially involving motorcycles.

Drivers must hold a current driving licence valid for the class of vehicle they plan to drive. Take extra care when it’s wet. Outside of Dili, travel in convoy whenever possible. Main routes are often single-track mountain roads, which can deteriorate rapidly and become impassable, particularly during the rainy season (November-April).

Sea travel

There have been incidents of piracy and armed robbery against ships in neighbouring waters. Mariners should be vigilant, reduce opportunities for theft, establish secure areas onboard and report all incidents to the coastal and flag state authorities. 

Political situation

The UN peacekeeping operation ended its mandate in December 2012. The security situation in Timor-Leste has improved but underlying tensions remain especially during election periods where the security situation could deteriorate with little warning.

If you become aware of any nearby military activity you should leave the area immediately. If you are inside and become aware of military operations in your immediate area you should take cover away from windows.

Avoid any demonstrations and large crowds, as these have the potential to deteriorate quickly and turn violent.

Make sure your travel documents are up-to-date and available in case you need to leave at short notice. Keep a photocopy of the relevant pages of your passport to avoid any complications.

Although there’s no recent history of terrorism in Timor-Leste, attacks can’t be ruled out.

UK Counter Terrorism Policing has information and advice on staying safe abroad and what to do in the event of a terrorist attack. Find out more about the global threat from terrorism.

You should be aware of the global risk of indiscriminate terrorist attacks, which could be in public areas, including those visited by foreigners.

There’s a heightened threat of terrorist attack globally against UK interests and British nationals, from groups or individuals motivated by the conflict in Iraq and Syria. You should be vigilant at this time.

Don’t become involved with drugs of any kind. Penalties for breaking the law can be severe. 

This page reflects the UK government’s understanding of current rules for people travelling on a full ‘British Citizen’ passport, for the most common types of travel.

The authorities in Timor-Leste set and enforce entry rules. For further information contact the embassy, high commission or consulate of the country or territory you’re travelling to. You should also consider checking with your transport provider or travel company to make sure your passport and other travel documents meet their requirements.

Entry rules in response to coronavirus

Entry to Timor-Leste

The Government of Timor-Leste has extended its State of Emergency until 29 September 2021. During this period, airports, ports and land borders will remain closed as there continues to be a significant number of COVID infections in the country.

During the above mentioned period of closure, the following exceptions will apply:

  • Transit of Diplomatic or Consular Personnel, members of International Organisations and bilateral cooperation agencies, and workers in the petroleum sector, and other international workers whose work is relevant to Timor-Leste’s national interest;
  • Operation of medical evacuations, and;
  • International Transportation of goods.

These categories are always subject to change, so you should reconfirm your eligibility to enter Timor-Leste, with the Crisis Management Centre (CIGC) your travel agent/airline and the Embassy of Timor-Leste.

You should not use the NHS testing service to get a test in order to facilitate your travel to another country. You should arrange to take a private test.

Quarantine requirements

To enter Timor-Leste you will need to be in possession of a valid negative COVID 19 (PCR) test. Following the presentation of the negative COVID 19 test, you will need to quarantine for 14 days either in a government facility at your own expense or in your own accommodation, subject to the approval of the Ministry of Health. Prior to the termination of mandatory quarantine periods, individuals will need to provide a negative COVID-19 test result and be cleared by the Ministry of health, before being authorised to leave.

Those who have been fully vaccinated and hold a valid vaccination certificate will be exempt from mandatory quarantine.

Those who have been fully vaccinated but have come from or passed through countries with a reported presence of the Delta variant of COVID-19 will need to complete a five-day quarantine. Unvaccinated children may be required to complete mandatory quarantine even when travelling with vaccinated parents.

Those who present symptoms of COVID-19, including a fever greater than 37.5°C, cough and/or breathing difficulties will be prevented from travelling, and taken to a health facility for a COVID-19 test.

For someone returning a positive result, they will be contacted by the authorities and isolated in either a health establishment (e.g the national hospital), an isolation centre, such as those at Tasi Tolu, Vera Cruz and Lahane or at home. Where the positive patient isolates is at the discretion of the Ministry of Health.

Testing on departure

Those wishing to leave Timor-Leste will be subject to health control measures including body temperature checks. Passengers are screened before entering the check-in area at Dili Airport. Those with symptoms of COVID-19 will not be allowed to board the aircraft and will be required to undergo a COVID-19 test, regardless of having a negative test result from within 48 or 72 hours of the flight. The situation in Timor-Leste can change quickly. In exceptional cases, the Government may introduce temporary border closures.

Regular entry requirements

Visas

A tourist visa costs US$30 and can normally be issued to the holder of a valid British passport on arrival at Dili International airport or Dili seaport, provided entry into Timor-Leste is regarded as being for a legitimate purpose. The visa will be valid for a single entry and will allow you to stay for up to 30 days.

British Citizens intending to enter the country via the Indonesia (West Timor) land border crossing at Atambua/Batugade need to apply in Kupang for a tourism visa in advance. This visa will generally be valid for a single entry and a duration of up to 30 days.

In Dili, tourism visas can be extended to a total of 90 days, for a fee.

If you plan to travel overland (rather than by the ferry) to the exclave of Oecussi you’ll need to apply for an additional visa. You must present your round trip ticket and complete the required forms at your nearest Timor-Leste embassy or consulate, or in Dili, prior to travel. For information on other types of visa see the Immigration Department of Timor-Leste.

Passport validity

Your passport should be valid for a minimum period of 6 months from the date of entry into Timor-Leste.

Yellow fever certificate requirements

Check whether you need a yellow fever certificate by visiting the National Travel Health Network and Centre’s TravelHealthPro website.

UK Emergency Travel Documents

UK Emergency Travel Documents (ETDs) are accepted for exit from Timor-Leste only. You can’t use an ETD to enter the country. If you wish to transit Timor-Leste, you should contact the Immigration Department of Timor-Leste before you travel to confirm the requirements.

Coronavirus (COVID-19)

Check the latest information on risk from COVID-19 for Timor-Leste on the TravelHealthPro website

See the healthcare information in the Coronavirus section for information on what to do if you think you have coronavirus while in Timor-Leste.

At least 8 weeks before your trip, check the latest country-specific health advice from the National Travel Health Network and Centre (NaTHNaC) on the TravelHealthPro website. Each country-specific page has information on vaccine recommendations, any current health risks or outbreaks, and factsheets with information on staying healthy abroad. Guidance is also available from NHS (Scotland) on the FitForTravel website.

General information on travel vaccinations and a travel health checklist is available on the NHS website. You may then wish to contact your health adviser or pharmacy for advice on other preventive measures and managing any pre-existing medical conditions while you’re abroad.

The legal status and regulation of some medicines prescribed or purchased in the UK can be different in other countries. If you’re travelling with prescription or over-the-counter medicine, read this guidance from NaTHNaC on best practice when travelling with medicines. For further information on the legal status of a specific medicine, you’ll need to contact the embassy, high commission or consulate of the country or territory you’re travelling to.

While travel can be enjoyable, it can sometimes be challenging. There are clear links between mental and physical health, so looking after yourself during travel and when abroad is important. Information on travelling with mental health conditions is available in our guidance page. Further information is also available from the National Travel Health Network and Centre (NaTHNaC).

Other health information

Medical services in Timor-Leste are limited, particularly outside Dili. In the event of a medical emergency, evacuation to Australia or Singapore is likely to be the best option for treatment.  Make sure you have adequate travel health insurance and accessible funds to cover the cost of any medical treatment abroad and repatriation.

The World Health Organisation have noted that the incidence of malaria in Timor-Leste has reduced dramatically in recent years. Dengue fever remains a risk throughout Timor-Leste, during the rainy season, which runs from November to April. There have been no reported cases of rabies.

If you need emergency medical assistance during your trip seek up to date local advice from foreign residents and/or dial 110 and ask for an ambulance. You should contact your insurance/medical assistance company promptly if you are referred to a medical facility for treatment.

Earthquakes can occur at any time. There have been no significant earthquakes since 2005.

The rainy season in Timor-Leste normally runs from November to April. You should monitor local and international weather updates from the World Meteorological Organisation.

See our Tropical cyclones page for advice about what to do if you are caught up in a tropical cyclone.

Money

Bring US dollars in cash or travellers’ cheques.

The limited banking system in Timor-Leste will not exchange Pounds Sterling cash or Sterling travellers’ cheques. The same often applies to Euros. Credit cards are of little use outside of major hotels. In Dili, ATMs are limited. Mastercard is not accepted anywhere. ATMs, banks or credit cards facilities are very limited outside Dili. Bring small notes when travelling in districts as large denominations are hard to change. Notes older than 2009 are usually rejected.

If you’re abroad and you need emergency help from the UK government, contact the nearest British embassy, consulate or high commission. If you need urgent help because something has happened to a friend or relative abroad, contact the FCDO in London on 020 7008 5000 (24 hours).

Foreign travel checklist

Read our foreign travel checklist to help you plan for your trip abroad and stay safe while you’re there.

Travel safety

The FCDO travel advice helps you make your own decisions about foreign travel. Your safety is our main concern, but we can’t provide tailored advice for individual trips. If you’re concerned about whether or not it’s safe for you to travel, you should read the travel advice for the country or territory you’re travelling to, together with information from other sources you’ve identified, before making your own decision on whether to travel. Only you can decide whether it’s safe for you to travel.

When we judge the level of risk to British nationals in a particular place has become unacceptably high, we’ll state on the travel advice page for that country or territory that we advise against all or all but essential travel. Read more about how the FCDO assesses and categorises risk in foreign travel advice.

Our crisis overseas page suggests additional things you can do before and during foreign travel to help you stay safe.

Refunds and cancellations

If you wish to cancel or change a holiday that you’ve booked, you should contact your travel company. The question of refunds and cancellations is a matter for you and your travel company. Travel companies make their own decisions about whether or not to offer customers a refund. Many of them use our travel advice to help them reach these decisions, but we do not instruct travel companies on when they can or can’t offer a refund to their customers.

For more information about your rights if you wish to cancel a holiday, visit the Citizen’s Advice Bureau website. For help resolving problems with a flight booking, visit the website of the Civil Aviation Authority. For questions about travel insurance, contact your insurance provider and if you’re not happy with their response, you can complain to the Financial Ombudsman Service.

Registering your travel details with us

We’re no longer asking people to register with us before travel. Our foreign travel checklist and crisis overseas page suggest things you can do before and during foreign travel to plan your trip and stay safe.

Previous versions of FCDO travel advice

If you’re looking for a previous version of the FCDO travel advice, visit the National Archives website. Versions prior to 2 September 2020 will be archived as FCO travel advice. If you can’t find the page you’re looking for there, send the Travel Advice team a request.

Further help

If you’re a British national and you have a question about travelling abroad that isn’t covered in our foreign travel advice or elsewhere on GOV.UK, you can submit an enquiry. We’re not able to provide tailored advice for specific trips.

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