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Home : Holidays : Southeast Asia : East Timor : Discover Timor Leste

Discover Timor Leste

Welcome to East Timor, southeast Asia's newest nation. Independence has brought mixed fortunes to this recovering conflict zone, and it remains a country in transition. But it has fine beaches, colonial towns, rugged mountains and a lush interior, with Dili a taste of Portugal in the tropics.

The island offers a m¨?lange of Portuguese colonial remnants, a laid-back atmosphere and some very nice beaches. East Timor (a former Portuguese colony), is nowadays called "Timor Leste".

Dili, the capital of Timor Leste, is a pleasant, laid-back little town with a number of good restaurants and hotels. There are nice beaches all around the capital, and more further away.

Dili is also the starting point to an unspoiled snorkelling and diving experience at the nearby island of Atauro

All About East Timor - List of 5 Star, 4 Star and 3 Star East Timor Hotels and Resorts

Getting There

Air services into Dili's Comoro airport are still very limited. Air North flies to/from Darwin, Australia, daily (flight time two hours), but from the rest of the world it's a case of flying into Bali and then taking one of Merpati's Denpasar-Dili flights (four flights per week). An international departure tax of USD10.00 is payable when leaving East Timor.

The Batugade border crossing to Indonesian West Timor is open, but there are no regular bus services. The crossing at Oesilo in Oecussi is also currently open. A weekly barge links Dili and Oecussi, loaded with freight and passengers.

What Do the Timorese Speak

Linguistically, East Timor has been described as a complex multilingual mosaic. At least sixteen distinct languages are indigenous to East Timor, some of them closely related, others completely unrelated to each other. These can be divided into more than 30 groups of "dailects" or "sub-dialects". Of these languages, the most widely spoken is Tetum, and still widely spoken is Bahasa Indonesia.

Since the Indonesian invasion of 1975, Tetum has gradually undergone a transformation - as the Indonesian administration has tried to strangle the language, banning it from schools and formal use, the people see Tetum and other indigenous languages as a living beacon of identity. Great efforts have been made by people both inside and outside East Timor to undertake the work of developing what has always been an oral language tradition into a written language as well.

Portuguese is spoken by the generation of Timorese who grew up prior to 1975, and has also often been seen as a language of resistance to military occupation. However, as a fact, Portuguese is spoken by only about 5% of the population.

The younger generations of Timorese, educated under Indonesian occupation learnt Bahasa Indonesia as their educational language. But far from "Indonesianising" this generation, it has enabled them to communicate and take action within the Indonesian arena - and to gradually raise awareness amongst the Indonesian community, especially the student community. This holds the East Timorese in good stead for our future good international relations with the country's neighbours.

A fact is that the Portuguese language has not yet been widely disseminated on this island, and Tetum and Bahasa Indonesia remain the main languages.


The population today is estimated between 800.000 and 1 million. The population consists of: Austronesian (Malayo-Polynesian), Papuan, and a small Chinese minority. 

East Timor (Timor Leste) has a common boundary with West Timor, which is part of Indonesia. 

Religion: Roman Catholic 90%, Muslim 4%, Protestant 3%, Hindu 0.5%, Buddhist, Animist (1992 est.).