COUNTRY DESCRIPTION: Occupying 5,743 square miles on the eastern half of an island in the Timor Sea between Indonesia and Australia, Timor-Leste
has a population of approximately 1.1 million people. Timor-Leste became independent on May 20, 2002, and is a democratically-governed,
independent nation with an elected President and Parliament. Following successful presidential and parliamentary elections
and a peaceful change of government in 2012, UN and Australian-led peacekeepers departed Timor Leste.
Decades of occupation and periodic eruptions of post-independence violence – most recently in April 2006 – have left Timor-Leste with extremely poor infrastructure and limited economic opportunities. Electricity, telephone and telecommunications, roads, and lodging remain unreliable, particularly outside of the capital. Timor-Leste's economy relies largely on revenues from offshore oil and gas production. Read the Department of State's Fact Sheet on U.S.-Timor-Leste relations for additional information.
SMART TRAVELER ENROLLMENT PROGRAM (STEP) / EMBASSY LOCATION: If you are going to live in or visit Timor-Leste, please take the time to tell our Embassy about your trip. If you enroll in STEP, we can keep you up-to-date with important safety and security announcements. STEP will also help your friends and family get in touch with you in an emergency. Here’s the link to the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program.
Local embassy information is available below and at the Department of State’s list of embassies and consulates.
The U.S. Embassy in Dili
Avenida de Portugal
Praia dos Coqueiros
tel: (670) 332-4684
fax: (670) 331-3206.
ENTRY / EXIT REQUIREMENTS FOR U.S. CITIZENS: You need a passport valid for six months beyond the date of arrival in Timor-Leste. You don’t need a tourist visa prior to
arrival by air, but if you are arriving in Timor-Leste without a visa, you must pay a $30 fee for a 30-day tourist visa. Visas
on arrival are no longer available at the land border with Indonesia. If you are arriving to Timor-Leste by land, you will
need a visa prior to entry, which can be obtained outside of Timor-Leste only from the Timorese Consulate in Kupang, Indonesia.
You will also have to pay an additional fee for each 30-day renewal of this visa. Please see the website of the Timor-Leste Immigration Department for additional information on visas and extensions. Visitors traveling via air must transit Singapore, Darwin in Australia or Bali in Indonesia en route to Timor-Leste.
The U.S. Department of State is unaware of any HIV/AIDS entry restrictions for visitors to or foreign residents of Timor-Leste.
Information about dual nationality or the prevention of international child abduction can be found on our website. For further information about customs regulations, please read our Customs Information page.
THREATS TO SAFETY AND SECURITY: If you are in Timor-Leste, you should exercise caution, use common sense, avoid large gatherings, remain alert with regard
to your personal security, and avoid travel after dark to the extent possible. Exercise caution in public places, including,
but not limited to, clubs, restaurants, bars, schools, places of worship, outdoor recreational events, hotels, resorts and
beaches, and other locations frequented by foreigners.
You should maintain a high level of security awareness while moving around in Dili, be alert to the potential for violence, and avoid demonstrations, large political gatherings, and areas where disturbances have occurred. Demonstrations can occur at or near symbols and institutions of the Government of Timor-Leste, including government buildings, police stations, and houses belonging to prominent politicians. Even demonstrations intended to be peaceful can turn confrontational and escalate into violence with little or no warning.
Timor-Leste has experienced several episodes of violence since independence. The most serious was in April 2006, when civil
order broke down and the government requested the return of international security forces to help restore order. More recent
instances of unrest included sporadic, localized violence following national elections in August 2007, and an attempt to assassinate
former President Ramos-Horta and Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao in February 2008. There have been no major country-wide civil
disturbances since 2008 and international peacekeepers departed from the country at the end of 2012.
Timorese security forces occasionally establish security checkpoints along roads. These legitimate checkpoints are intended to enhance security and should be respected. There are also occasional illegal checkpoints which you should avoid but which to date have been primarily targeted at Timorese. If you are traveling in Timor-Leste, you should remember that despite its small size, much of the territory is isolated and can be difficult to reach by available transportation or communication links.
All U.S. citizens should always ensure that passports and important personal papers are in order in the event it becomes necessary to leave the country quickly for any reason. The U.S. Embassy in Dili is not able to issue emergency passports and has only limited capacity to process passport renewals.
Stay up-to-date by:
CRIME: Crimes such as pick pocketing, purse snatchings, residential and automobile break-ins, and theft occur throughout the country but are more frequent in Dili, the capital. These crimes often occur in recreational areas and facilities frequented by foreigners. If you become a victim of these crimes but resist, you may end up facing physical violence by perpetrators. There is occasional gang-related violence, which, at times, has affected foreign nationals. Stone-throwing attacks on vehicles occur during periods of gang conflicts and civil unrest and have resulted in serious injury and death in the past. You should avoid travel at night or alone in unfamiliar areas. Women should avoid traveling alone, especially at night, because sexual assault or banditry is possible. Timor-Leste is socially conservative and you should avoid wearing revealing clothing, particularly in crowded public areas such as markets.
Don’t buy counterfeit or pirated goods, even if they are widely available.
VICTIMS OF CRIME: If you or someone you know becomes the victim of a crime in Timor-Leste, you should contact the local police and the U.S. embassy. We can:
The local equivalent to the “911” emergency line in Timor-Leste is 112, but the line is frequently busy or unattended. The Embassy duty officer can be reached outside of normal business hours at 7723-1328.
Please see our information on victims of crime, including possible victim compensation programs in the United States.
CRIMINAL PENALTIES: While you are traveling in Timor-Leste, you are subject to its laws even if you are a U.S. citizen. Foreign laws and legal systems can be vastly different from our own, and criminal penalties vary from country to country. There are also some things that might be legal in the country you visit, but still illegal in the United States. You can be prosecuted under U.S. law if you buy pirated goods. Engaging in sexual conduct with children or using or disseminating child pornography in a foreign country is a crime prosecutable in the United States. If you break local laws in Timor-Leste, your U.S. passport won’t help you avoid arrest or prosecution. It’s very important to know what’s legal and what’s not where you are.
Based on the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations, bilateral agreements with certain countries, and customary international law, if you are arrested in Timor-Leste, you have the option to request that the police, prison officials, or other authorities alert the U.S. embassy of your arrest, and to have communications from you forwarded to the U.S. embassy.
SPECIAL CIRCUMSTANCES: Accessibility: While in Timor-Leste, individuals with disabilities may find accessibility and accommodation very different from what you find in the United States. Although the Timorese Constitution guarantees the same rights to disabled citizens as it does to all other citizens, Timor-Leste does not currently have legislation that mandates access to transportation, communication and public buildings for persons with disabilities. Currently most public places and public transportation are not accessible. Persons with disabilities will face difficulties in Timor-Leste as foot paths, rest rooms, road crossings and tourist areas are not equipped for people with disabilities.
Timor-Leste remains in a state of transition. The country faces continuing challenges that limit its law enforcement capability.
Many civil and governmental institutions are still being developed with international assistance. If you are traveling or
doing business in Timor-Leste you may find it difficult to identify legal or administrative mechanisms if problems arise.
The U.S. dollar is the official currency of Timor-Leste. You can exchange money at the three banks in Dili, but only to or from the Indonesian Rupiah, Euro, British Pound, Australian Dollar, Singapore Dollar, and Japanese Yen. Only a few establishments accept credit cards, usually requiring a substantial additional fee, and you should be prepared to settle all bills in cash. Dili has several ATM machines that accept U.S.-issued bankcards. However, you should not plan to rely exclusively on these machines, as they are frequently inoperative.
If you intend to travel to Australia from Timor-Leste, you should be aware that the Australian immigration authorities require an Electronic Travel Authorization (ETA) in advance of arrival. For more information, please consult the Australian Department of Immigration and Citizenship's website.
MEDICAL FACILITIES AND HEALTH INFORMATION: Although limited emergency medical care is available in Dili, options for routine medical care throughout the rest of country are extremely limited. Serious medical problems require hospitalization and/or medical evacuation to Australia, the nearest point with acceptable medical care, to Singapore, or to the United States, and can cost thousands of dollars.
You can find reliable information on vaccinations and other health precautions on the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website. For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad, consult the World Health Organization (WHO) website. The WHO website also contains additional health information for travelers, including detailed country-specific health information.
MEDICAL INSURANCE: You can’t assume your insurance will go with you when you travel. It’s very important to find out BEFORE you leave whether or not your medical insurance will cover you overseas. You need to ask your insurance company two questions:
In many places, air ambulance services, doctors and hospitals expect payment in cash at the time of service. Your regular U.S. health insurance may not cover doctors’ and hospital visits in other countries or air ambulance services if you need to be medically evacuated from Timor-Leste. If your policy doesn’t go with you when you travel, it’s a very good idea to take out another one for your trip. For more information, please see our medical insurance overseas page.
TRAFFIC SAFETY AND ROAD CONDITIONS: While in Timor-Leste, you may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States.
All traffic operates on the left side of the road, and most vehicles use right-hand drive. Roads are often poorly maintained,
and four-wheel drive may be required in some areas. Non-existent lighting and poor road conditions make driving at night hazardous.
Driving in Dili is especially hazardous, with large trucks and military vehicles sharing the streets with vendors, pedestrians,
and livestock. Many cars and, especially, motorcycles operate at night without lights.
Taxis, small buses, and mini-vans provide public transportation in Dili and elsewhere. However, public transportation is generally overcrowded, uncomfortable, and below international safety standards. Public transportation operators have been known to unexpectedly drop passengers at locations other than their destination due to the operators’ fears about certain areas or hours. Disagreement about fares has occasionally led to hostilities. Public transport is generally inadvisable and is generally unavailable after dark, although there is a growing presence of night taxis at select locations.
During the rainy season from November to May, rain showers can severely damage cross-island roadways, making roads particularly risky. You should use caution when traveling on the cross-island roadways in the mountain areas of Aileu, Ermera, Manatuto, Ainaro, and Manufahi provinces.
Accidents occur frequently. When there is an accident, you should contact the police. Bystanders sometimes attack the driver perceived to be responsible for a traffic accident. This is more common in rural areas and in accidents involving Timorese drivers, but crowds have occasionally attacked expatriate drivers at the scene of an accident. If you are involved in an accident and believe that there is a threat of bodily harm from people at the scene of the accident, it is advisable to drive to the nearest police station before stopping.
While it is required to obtain insurance for vehicles in Timor-Leste, compliance with this rule is limited and many drivers are uninsured. Most traffic accidents are settled informally between those involved. Please refer to our Road Safety page for more information.
AVIATION SAFETY OVERSIGHT: As there is no direct commercial air service to the United States by carriers registered in Timor-Leste, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has not assessed the government of Timor-Leste’s Civil Aviation Authority for compliance with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) aviation safety standards. Further information may be found on the FAA’s safety assessment page.
This replaces the Country Specific Information for Timor-Leste dated September 26, 2011, to update sections on Country Description, Entry/Exit Requirements for U.S. citizens, Threats to Safety and Security, Crime, Victims of Crime Medical Insurance, and Traffic Safety and Road Conditions.