East Timor - Getting there

The view from my former house


Further to my recent post on my 6 months in Timor during 2008 here is a look at the rapid changes around transport, specifically Getting There.

 In 2008 there were extremely limited ways of reaching East Timor.

  1. Either flying from Darwin to Dili with a turbo propeller 15 seat aircraft at an extremely prohibitive cost of something in the area of $700aud each way.
  1. Air Merpati from Denpasar (Bali) at around $370aud
  1. Overland from West Timor – while cheaper, this process was hazardous as well as the border was commonly closed or disrupted

Now in 2014 I have discovered the following

  1. Air North now flys an newish small jet – Embraer 170 for around $550aud  Darwin – Dili
  1. Air Timor  Singapore – Dili  $370USD
  1. Sriwijaya Air – Denpasar (Bali) – Dili 2,200,000 IDR – approx $200-250 AUD
  1. Overland as above

Visitor / tourist visas, as with 2008 are available as visa on arrival for around $30usd for 30 days.
East Timor uses the USD for notes and Timorese coins.


While I was living there Comro Airport / Dili international

Airport was a dual Military & Civilian airport with UN flights, Australian Military and commercial airliners arriving often.



The view from my former house



6 Months Timor-Leste

I was fortunate enough during 2008 to live in Timor Leste for 6 months for work. Timor Leste – Leste meaning east in Tetum, the local language, really was a turning point in my life. I spent a majority of my time in the capital Dili, with only the briefest jaunts out of the city limits, usually on work business. Looking back, the lack of further exploration is one of my biggest regrets I am seeking to remedy with a return trip possibly in 2015. During my time in TL, I was also fortune enough to learn to speak Tetum to a conversational level. Sadly my reading and writing Tetum isn’t up to scratch.

In June 2008 when I arrived the the President, Jose Ramos Horta had been shot in an attempted assassination only a few short months earlier. After the briefing work had given me about what to expect they made it sound like I was going to an active conflict zone. However what I encountered could have been further from the truth.  Sure if you wanted your electricity to operate without question and in turn your air conditioning; if you wanted your milk fresh; your meat shrink wrapped; your fruit and veggies from mega farms then possibly TL isn’t for you. If however you handle never going over 40km/h in your car, never obeying a traffic light, coffee strong enough to melt the spoon, grass so dry and tough that will stab your shoes  - TL most certainly is for you. I tease.

Looking back, I can not think of a many negatives about the country while I was there – apart from not being able to drink the water from the tap. Over the coming weeks I will be making posts about my time there, sharing stories and experiences. If you would like to read more, keep an eye on this link, it will be a central point of all my Timor Leste posts.