Asia’s newest country is moving silently in its transition to mature its Economy and Society. It is a country where a lot is still on the drawing board and where there is still opportunity to start things with best practices considered. I guess you can say that East Timor is an El Dorado for Nation Building because a lot of the experiments are hits and misses.
Take Tourism for example, the industry is not well developed and people there are still not that used to tourists, but that for me is one of the big reasons why you should visit East Timor. People here are lot less consumer centric than in most countries you will have gone too. But I have to say that somehow the city has a 1 country 2 systems feel. The UN has had a large presence in the islands and it seems that there is a UN expat price and a local price. For example, foreigners are charged with a base price of 1 USD for a taxi but locals pay much less. It can be quite expensive in EastTimor though, the island does not have enough resources yet.
There are around 230,000 inhabitants in Dili, but the City itself feels like a small town. It is tucked between a mountain range and a beach , unfortunately the mountains have not much trees, but still the city setting is beautiful!
East Timor, also boasts of lots of pristine white beaches. They have recently improved the roads going East, and so just drive a little bit further East to find your own beach if the one near Dili gets crowded.
If you’re in to diving, you’re in luck, Dili is one of the best kept secrets for divers… like the Philippines it has lots of good spots which really are untouched, and it is really even more off the beaten track! Make sure to stay in a hotel that is specialised in Diving, 3* hotels not facing the sea can have a very Spartan feel. I guess hostels are a lot better than these types of accommodation, at least it is easier to find travel mates if you are going solo.
If you know a little bit of Spanish or even better Portuguese, you can try it out with the locals, a lot of them understand it but Portuguese was mainly used by “elite” East Timorese , and so the vast majority speak local languages like Tetum. Portuguese and Spanish remains a big Ice Breaker when it come to speaking the locals. I’ve tried it out a lot with taxi drivers and have had good conversations with them.
Although I got a little bit of apprehension going to East Timor because of what I have read about the country in terms of security in certain guides, I have to say that I really felt safe in Dili.
I visited East Timor whilst I was in Bali, the direct flight to Dili took a little bit less than 2 hours. Singapore and Darwin are other gateways to East Timor.