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I am on the mission to travel all the 195 countries in the world (but not on a race, more like on a slow and steady fashion) and started the new decade 2020 completing travel to all the countries in southeast Asia SOLO! It was a big milestone I achieved in January because I work super hard, save and do these trips and I am beyond grateful to be able to do it and share what I know here. No one funds me, I do the funding except sometimes when I get to work with brands, I’m always grateful though.
So I wasn’t sure how many days I should stay in Dili but when I googled, I found loads of people were saying there is not much to do and 1-2 days is enough. After traveling to 46 countries, one thing I am sure of is 1-2 days is never enough. Every country is beautiful in its own way and with a new culture, food, history, sightseeing and off the beaten path places to explore, you definitely need more than 3 days. So, here is the exciting 7 days Timor Leste itinerary. (The place is so beautiful I won’t be surprised if you end up staying longer though!)
In this east Timor blog post, you can also read about a bit about east Timor, Atauro island, what are the do’s and don’t in East Timor and of course the itinerary. You can also take this as a Timor budget and Luxury itinerary. Like me, if you are a solo traveler, this travel guide to Timor should be perfect but it also works even if you are traveling on a group or as a couple.
Do you know Timor means east in Malaysian language and Leste is Portuguese for East as well? And for 200 years Portuguese ruled over here, then Japanese and Indonesia.
Then in 2002 East Timor finally gained freedom/ independence and became one of the youngest countries in the world. It is still less known and less visited countries. Hence I recommend visiting now to see its raw and untouched beauty before the crowd goes!
Dili Timor Leste solo travel itinerary
- Dili Timor Leste solo travel itinerary
- Exciting 7 days Dili Timor Leste solo travel itinerary
- Day 1: Went to Tais Market, Dili Cathedral and Sky Bar Timor Plaza
- Day 2: Visit 3 Dili beaches, hike to Cristo Rei statue, and Yoga
- Day 3: Go to Museums, Cave, play Top Golf Games and Fine Dining in Dili, East Timor
- Day 4: Visit Dare and local Tour by JDN
- Day 5-6: Explore Atauro Island for snorkeling, diving, and fishing
- Day 7: Relax
- Let me know –
First important Travel tips to Timor:
1 When is the best time to visit Timor Leste?
This one is a bit tricky because when I went end of January, Google weather predicted rain and thunder all 10 days but when I landed I had sunshine every single day! (but locals told me it was raining straight three days before I arrived so, it could be pure luck too!) Bottom line- take the weather advice with a grain of salt!
East Timor typically offers a tropical climate between 20-30 degrees all year round, with a rainy season from December to March and a dry season from June to September. So ideally the best time to visit this paradise island is from April to July, that’s when you get the best weather.
2 Do you need a visa for Timor Leste?
For Australian passport holders – If you’re visiting Timor-Leste for tourism and you arrive via Nicolau Lobato International Airport or Dili Seaport, you can apply for a visa on arrival (of up to 30 days duration) In other circumstances, including if you enter Timor-Leste by land, you’ll need to get a visa before you arrive. For the rest of the world, please check with the local consulate first.
3 How to get to Dili, East Timor?
The best way to get to Timor-Leste is via plane. You can fly into Dili, the capital, from Darwin, Singapore or Bali, which is the cheapest way because you could also cross the land border from the Indonesian border.
I flew with Air North from Darwin to Dili. It was an early morning flight but it meant clear visibility for the beautiful view outside, and it was an only 1-hour flight! Best part? It was the smoothest flight ever and even though just an hour’s flight, you will still be served the munchies and the beverages!
Air North has been in the aviation industry for over 40 years and employs 300 staff! I couldn’t have found a better way to get to Dilli from Darwin.
4 Which local Sim card to get in Dili?
After you land at Dili international airport, get yourself a local Telkomcel sim card. You can choose from Combo I (data, call & SMS $15) valid 30 days, Combo II (unlimited data, SMS $25) valid 60 days, Data only $10 valid 30 days and Call & SMS $2 valid 24 hours and $8 valid 30 days. There are shops on your left as you exit the entrance or buy in the city center.
5 How to go around Dili, East Timor?
Usually solo traveling Asia, I suggest Grab (taxi app) but they don’t have it yet in Dili. But there are two types of taxies in Dili. Yellow and Blue. I used both and suggest getting on the blue one because it has a meter on and you don’t have to haggle. Advise using the yellow one when you are with a local, seems to be safer that way. It is not about yellow taxies charging more though, actually yellow was cheaper than the blue one (maybe because I was with a local) but I heard some bad stories about taxi drivers treating females badly on yellow ones!
The best way is if you can ride or drive you can rent out a scooter or a car. If you don’t they also run public transportation which is like a microvan in Kathmandu. Locals call it mikrolets, colorful microvans charging only.50cents wherever you stop within Dili!
6. Local Timor Information
Currency = USD dollar
Capital City = Dili
Official Language = Portuguese, Tetum (15-31 other national languages)
Population = 1,183,643 (2015 census)
Time zone = UTC +9
Driving side = left
Calling code +670
Sin – Yes
Lae – No
Favór ida – Please
Deskulpa – I’m sorry.
Kolisensa – Excuse me
Ajuda! – Help!
Elo – HelloBondia / Dader diak – Good morning (from Portuguese “Bom dia”)
Botarde / Lorokraik diak – Good afternoon (from Portuguese “Boa tarde”)
Bonoite / Kalan diak – Good evening/good night (from Portuguese “Boa noite”)
Atelogu – See you later
Sorti diak ba loron ohin – Have a nice day
Hau ba lai / Adeus / Atelogu / Ate amanyá – Goodbye
Lao didiak / Boa Viajem – Bon voyage
Sorti diak / Boasorte – Good luck
Obrigadu (for male) barak / Obrigada (for female) barak – Thank you very much
7 Where to stay in Dili, Timor?
I stayed at the Hotel Timor Dili, the capital city of East Timor. It is only 20 minutes drive from the airport and not too far from the must-see places in town as well. Plus they provide pick up and drop off shuttle service from the hotel.
I stayed in the Junior suite and must say there was a lot of space! Huge King size bed, a nice comfortable couch, 2 TVs and desk-chair to work, water delivered daily and newspaper too if you are into it, and free wifi!
Buffet breakfast was fresh every day, mostly Asian inspired but there was an element of English with cereals, bread, tea, and coffee. There was also a swimming pool, a cafe/restaurant on the ground floor as well as a gift/ souvenir shop behind the cafe. It was charged100 USD per night which I found to be a typical price in Dili for a hotel room. Staffs at the reception desk were helpful and warm which made my stay great. So overall, I liked this hotel, enjoyed my stay here and recommend it to you on your visit to Dili.
Read the rest of it here -> Dili Timor Leste travel tips
Exciting 7 days Dili Timor Leste solo travel itinerary
Now, without further ado, let’s begin!
Day 1: Went to Tais Market, Dili Cathedral and Sky Bar Timor Plaza
My hotel picked me up from the Airport then my initial plan was to sleep. I hadn’t sleep in the last 24 hours because I had an overnight layover from Sydney to Darwin then Darwin to Dili. But my excitement was over the roof! I mean it was my last country in south east asia! It took me 5 years to get here so, I was buzzing and really wanted to explore than go to bed. Plus it is always a good idea to stay awake and sleep at the local time zone anyway.
So, on the first day right after I check-in, I decided to walk around my hotel. 2 mins left from the hotel Timor, I saw Gloria jeans, kept going a bit further and saw the parliament house. Then I realize it was just a long road to Cristo Rei which I had planned to go on one day later. So, I came back and passed the hotel kept going on the right, took left and went to see the Tais market.
Tais market was “U shaped” small but colorful. Basically Tais is a form of Traditional woven cloth made by East Timor women. It is considered an essential part of the cultural heritage and used for ceremonies, a sign of respect and appreciation towards guests, friends, relatives, home decor and personal apparel. You can find many patterns of Tais clothes here and various souvenirs made from it. The smallest Tais scarf from as cheap as $5! I feel the prices quoted were not expensive as they are hand made requiring 5 to 7 days per piece. Just make sure you don’t turn up on Sunday morning as many shops are closed for church service.
After that, I kept walking further passing all the strange structures on the road to get to the famous Catholic cathedral in Dili, Timor-Leste.
97% of people in Timor follow catholic religion and it is the meeting point for them in Dili. Built by Indonesia as a gift to the Timor people and consecrated by Pope John Paul II. It is aka Immaculate Conception Cathedral. The interior is rather austere by Catholic standards, but the stained glass is incredibly brightly colored. I think it was worth a visit but it’s a little bit off the beaten path, as it’s outside the center of town and not near anything of interest. But if you happen to be around, then sure, why not have a look? Just be respectful when there’s a service in place: they don’t only worship here, they also have funeral services.
After that I was exhausted with heat so, I went back to the hotel had lunch and rested for a few hours.
It was Friday night and I was advised by my hotel to check out the Sky Bar at the Timor Plaza for some live band and happy hour. I looked at it online and decided not to go but changed my mind later because Dili is small, there is not much happening and everyone kept telling me Timor Sky Bar is the most happening place everyone goes on Friday! So I got onto the blue taxi to check it out!
And everyone was right! The place was packed with travelers, NGO workers, locals, and ex-pats! It reminded me of my times when I lived in other cities like an ex-pat.
Luckily I was welcomed by the marketing manager and I got to meet the GM and the CEO of Timor Plaza as well! We enjoyed the dinner at the Sky Bar and the band was alright too. A few hours later, there were people dancing also.
It was a lovely evening but I was sleep-deprived. So I was back in my hotel room, sleeping like a baby!
Day 2: Visit 3 Dili beaches, hike to Cristo Rei statue, and Yoga
After breakfast at my hotel, I was out the door. You know you are in Dili when you see the Jesus statue on top of the hill. So today’s plan was to hike to the top of the statue and spend some time at the Cristo Rey Beach, Arena Branca (a beach before Cristo Rei statue) and the back beach which is behind the statue.
I met up with some friends who were living in Dili for 2 years working in NGOs like peace corps, mission crops etc. They were scuba diving at the back beach and even though I didn’t scuba I had a great day meeting all 5 of them. I like meeting new people, especially those who are living different lives than the norm. It inspires me on so many levels and getting to share our travel/life experiences is always fun too.
Out of all three beaches, I liked the back beach the most. It was secluded, water was beautiful and I could have stayed there every day of my trip. (Ps: I saw some locals camping there! not sure about the regulations on that though. Just make to take your rubbish with you before you leave guys)
Little later, three of us hiked to the top of the statue. It was a fun hike and the view was pretty. However, I am sure it would be even more beautiful during sunrise or sunset hike.
If you are into yoga, I suggest heading to the Caravela restaurant. Usually, they start at 1:45 pm.
For lunch and dinner, I recommend checking out Timor plaza, Castaways, Esplanada or Blackbox. You will see a lot of ex-pats and locals at these venues. Some days they have a live band too!
Day 3: Go to Museums, Cave, play Top Golf Games and Fine Dining in Dili, East Timor
Two of the worth going museums are
- Xanana reading room (there is a library and some WW2 Australian/Timorese history to get into the skin of the Timorese people and feel that what these resilient people have gone through. You can also make a donation to help with costs)
- Resistant museum ( This is an informative museum that covers the struggles this country had, with a brief history since the Portuguese colonization through very detailed information about the struggle for independence from Indonesia and the Timorese uprisings against it. It is a very small museum, so you wouldn’t need more than two hours there. 1$ entry fee. Definitely, worth it, it’s good to know the history of this special nation.
Japanese cave is worth looking at as well. It is a crazy cool tunnel in Venilale dug by the Japanese Army during World War II. Venilale is a sleepy town in inland East Timor known for its cool weather.
Then the day calls for some top golf games to relax. I had never played this type of golf before so, it was fun to try something new. They also have sand volleyball and minigolf and run fun mini top golf competitions.
After the game, I recommend getting a fresh coconut next door at the beach hotel and sit by the beach for that winning sunset views.
For dinner today, I had a reservation at Diya Restaurant. It is one of the best fine dining restaurants in Dili. I was excited and it definitely ticked all the boxes! I highly recommend you to try it out when in Dili.
Day 4: Visit Dare and local Tour by JDN
Back at the Dili Beach hotel for late breakfast by the beach and it was delicious! Then on the agenda was exploring the place called Dare. More like, I wanted to visit a particular spot to take some pictures (I saw it online) but the problem was there was no exact name for this spot, so just had to show people the pics in Dare and after going merry rounds for 30 mins finally made it!
Dare is only 20 mins drive up the hill in Dili. Some roads back in town were muddy because of heavy rain the week before but surprisingly the road to Dare up in the mountain was in great condition! The drive offered a stunning panorama view of the island and if you are on the right road, you will see a coffee shop high up. You can stop there but this exact spot where I took the pics is further up. If you keep following the road ahead from the cafe, you will pass the Church, take left and keep going. After some time you will see them bamboo structures like in Bali!
It was a fun place and I thought maybe it was a coffee shop too. So, people can have coffee/tea with the view and pay to take pictures. There were some people there but even after being there for more than 20 minutes nobody came around to sell anything! It was strange but the place is pretty and although little far from the center, it is definitely worth visiting. Probably stunning at the sunsets too but then maybe packed with mosquitoes too!
Juventude ba Dezenvolvimentu Násional (JDN)
Now back at the Dili, East Timor, I still had half-day in front of me. So I was recommended this local tour that is led by young Timorese people with the help of 2 advisors and are trained tour guides ages 17-24. But most of them are either continuing their post-secondary school studies or are working or looking for work. Hence when you do the tour with them you will help boost the income of the local community. It is going to a good cause, so feeling good is natural!
They do two three hour tours that are available either at 9.00 am or 2,00pm although they can also start earlier give the advance notice. One tour is the Dili History Tour, which tells the story of the Santa Cruz Massacre. It starts at Motel Church, to the Santa Cruz Cemetery, Chega Exhibition and if there’s time, to Tasi Tolu and the John Paul 11 statue.
The other tour is the Women of Timor-Leste Tour, which is also three hours. It is about the role that women played in the fight for Independence (including 3 short filmed interviews with 3 of these women) and some of the issues faced by young women today. It starts at Hotel Timor and goes to some of the places nearby where women were detained during the Indonesian occupation and then goes to Alola Esperanca to see women weaving Tais.
Both tours cost $21.00/person plus transport, which is about $4.00 – $6.00. You have the option to take either a local microvan or a taxi. Minivan is cheap .50 cents but makes lots of stops so I choose a taxi (and my guide got us a yellow cab and it was cheaper than the blue one! maybe because I was with the local?)
Something worth mentioning is, the tours are customizable. So I shared with my guide what I wanted to see and off we went to see 3 interesting places in two hours. First, we went to the Motel church which was only 5 minutes walking distance from my hotel. She explained the history of the church and the big landmarks across the road.
Our second stop was the Santa Cruz Cemetery. This is where the massive massacre of at least 250 East Timorese pro-independence demonstrators occurred in the Santa Cruz cemetery in the capital, Dili, on 12 November 1991, during the Indonesian occupation of East Timor.
The third stop was Tasi Tolu which means “three waters” locally. There are 3 lakes which you can see from the top of the hill where Pope Joh Paul II status is. But we didn’t go up the hill so, only saw 1 lake which was still worth seeing.
We also saw the closest look-alike to the traditional Timorese house called Uma Lulik. I had been wanting to see this since I got on the plane to Dili so I was happy to finally see one even though it was the modern version of it.
Then we passed a big field where locals were learning how to ride motorbikes and cars. After the field was a beautiful and calm lake I mentioned earlier. My guide mentioned the lake water turns red every time the country is in trouble! Some people also believed it turned red because many victims of the invaders during the Indonesian occupation (1975-1999) were buried there. The fact that East Timor had to cope with violent events (the Civil War and the Indonesian invasion in 1975, the crisis in 1999, and the unrest in 2006), also leads to superstition regarding the coloration.
My guide spoke good English and was able to paint the story behind the places fluently. Highly recommend this tour and don’t forget to tip at the end!
Sadly I couldn’t go to Atauro Island on this trip but below is the suggested itinerary from my friend who had been there a week later.
Day 5-6: Explore Atauro Island for snorkeling, diving, and fishing
Atauro Island is not very well known today but I have no doubt it will be in the near future. It is a small island north of Dili that looks like a paradise and offers amazing diving, snorkeling, or remote trekking. It looks like a perfect spot for getting lost in the books too! You could see fish as you arrive because the water is so clear, then stay in a simple, thatched beachside hut and your day’s activities are simply up to you. Life is full of nature and beautiful which can easily turn your days into weeks in Atauro!
The only thing is you have to get on one of the regular passenger boat services from Dili to get here. You can choose from a few boat operators though. ie dive/resort-operated fast boats, to the mass-passenger ferries Nakroma (operates every Saturday), and Success (operates every Thursday), to private charters.
How to get to Atauro island from Dili?
I have covered this topic in detail here.
In the morning at your convenient time walk to the waterfront and get a boat to Atauro Island. The local ferry leaves at 8 AM and takes around 3 hours one away but the cost is $3 only and comes back at 3 PM from Beloi beach. Alternatively, there is also other speedboats that have a high safety standard and the cost is $45/person/way.
On the way, keep an eye out for a group of dolphins, whales, seabirds or flying fish!
After arriving in Atauro, and checking in the hotel. The first thing on the agenda was to trek till the top of Beloi mountain. You can see the view of Atauro city from here. After that return to Atauro short walk to Beloi Beach for a swim, snorkeling, diving or fishing along the coast.
Another option is to head to the fisherman village at Bikeli. And If it’s low tide then visiting the hot spring water would be worthwhile.
1-night accommodation at Pousada Beloi (Atauro), inclusive of daily breakfast
Something worth adding here is boats can be organized between Beloi and other coastal villages, including Adara on the more isolated north coast as well.
At the eastern end of Timor-Leste, Jaco Island is only a short distance from the mainland and on arrival at Valu, it is easy to arrange transportation with local fishermen.
In the afternoon return to Beloi and get a boat to Dili and stay overnight at your hotel.
Day 7: Relax
I had an early flight so it was time for me to head to the airport. But if I still had more time on the last day, I would do the things I missed earlier or go back to that back beach again, eat some more food and then do some shopping or relax at my hotel pool.
I hope this Dili Timor Leste solo travel itinerary helps you plan your trip. Let me know in the comments if you have any questions.
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