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East Timor
East Timor
On the streets
Asia's next tourist hotspot

East Timor

Thursday, October 10, 2002
East Timor is not a holiday hotspot just yet, but with its beaches, excellent diving and snorkelling and people keen and anxious to make an honest living, it is slowly heading in that direction.

After what must have seemed like a lifetime, and after much loss of life and buildings, East Timor became an independent country on May 20, 2002, making it the newest nation on earth. It came at a huge price — most of the capital, Dili, was destroyed in 1999 and pretty well everything which remained bears scars from the violence. Dili was a Portuguese city with villa-lined beach roads and a massive garrison built in 1627.

The country is made up of the eastern half of the island of Timor at the eastern end of the Indonesian archipelago to the north of Australia. It was once part of the Australian continental shelf, fully emerging from the ocean four million or so years ago and is comprised of marine sediment, particularly limestone.

When you arrive today, the first thing you see are United Nations helicopters fringing the airport and peacekeepers with semi-automatic rifles slung over their shoulders. Then there are the derelict and gutted buildings, or a haze caused by bonfires, and the chaos of people and bikes.

It is a strongly Roman Catholic country and the hilltop headland at Cape Fatucama has an enormous statue of Christ, a gift from the Indonesian Government.

It is not a holiday hotspot just yet, but with its beaches, excellent diving and snorkelling and people keen and anxious to make an honest living, it is slowly heading in that direction.

Australian Graham Ross has a guide service business called "someoneontheground" and he firmly believes that East Timor will be the new Bali in a couple of years.

Hotels are popping up and while they aren't ritzy five-star establishments, they are very comfortable and staffed by friendly locals trying to please and get it right.

East Timor's second largest town, Baucau, is still charming. Just two hours east along the coast from Dili, it has superb beaches with clear water. It is cooler, greener and much prettier than Dili and Mega Tours is the recommended way to go there and be shown around. Before invasion it had its own international airport, and the Pousada Baucau is once again a hotel. In between times, it served as a military facility, but now the guns and signs of war have gone, and it is painted Portuguese Pink in the hope of attracting honeymooners.

The country has extreme wet and dry seasons — from May to November there is virtually no rain, but after the wet everything is green and cool. Rugged mountains run through the centre of the entire island and coastal plains are narrow.

There is little public transport, and the few remaining public buses are always overloaded. Tourists can rent cars or bicycles.


One-and-a-half hours by air from Darwin.


someoneontheground offers tours of Dili starting at about $85 per person.

Mega Tours offer day trips to Baucau starting at about $135 per person.

Qantas files daily to Darwin. Return economy airfares start from $463 ex Brisbane, $510 ex Perth, $566 ex Adelaide, $618 ex Melbourne and $624 ex Sydney, per person. Prices include charges/taxes and are current at time of recording but may vary at time of booking. Seasonal surcharges and conditions apply.

Air North flies daily to Dili from Darwin starting at $497 per person.
Please note that prices are valid at time of transmission and to the best of our knowlegde are inclusive of GST.

More information

Ph: 0500 569 745

Mega Tours
37 Antonio Carvalho Street
Dili East Timor
Ph: 0417 611 860

Ph: 13 13 13

Intrepid Travel will be operating small group adventures in East Timor from May 2003. For more information please e-mail

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