Climate Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
Daily highs (°C) 31.3 31.1 31.2 31.5 31.3 30.7 30.2 30.1 30.3 30.5 31.4 31.1
Nightly lows (°C) 24.1 24.1 23.5 23.5 22.8 21.9 20.8 20.1 20.5 21.5 23.0 23.6
Precipitation (mm) 139.5 138.7 132.7 104.3 74.9 58.4 20.1 12.1 9.0 12.8 61.4 144.9


Dili lies on the northern coast of East Timor, squeezed along the narrow plains between the central mountains which run the length of the Timor and the Ombai Strait. This charming, lazy little seaside city suddenly found itself taking the role of national capital when East Timor became an independent country in May 2002.

Dili is also capital of a district with the same name. The district includes the surrounding areas as well as Atauro Island.


Map of Dili

Dili was the classic backwater during colonial times, being the main city of a remote colony in a remote part of the world. However, this heritage left Dili with a distinct Portuguese flavour and together with Macau, is probably the furthest east where you can savour genuine Portuguese food and architecture. Dili has since recovered remarkably, although one can still see many gutted buildings.


Dili has sort of a colonial core, with its waterfront and a square bordered on the south side by the impressive Government Buildings. The commercial areas of Lecidere lies to the east, Colmera is to the west and the former Mercado Municipal (Central Market) is to the south.

Get in

By plane

Presindente Nicolau Lobato International Airport

Presidente Nicolau Lobato International Airport (DIL) is located 6km west of Dili. Indonesian carriers Merpati and Sriwijaya have daily flights from Denpasar, Bali. Australian regional carrier Air North operates at least one flight a day (except Sunday) from Darwin, Australia. There are also direct flights between Singapore on Air Timor using Silkair aircraft scheduled on Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday. As there is little competition, fares are high. There are currently no domestic flights.

Getting there/away: Taxi drivers ask for at least US$10 for the trip into Dili. The taxi drivers are more honest and less aggressive than in the past. Just make sure you agree on a price of $10 or so before heading off. You can also walk out to the main road - which is the main road linking Dili with Batugade on the Indonesian border - to catch a mikrolet (25 Centavos). Alternatively, you can pre-book through a taxi booking company, although this is usually more expensive if travelling alone:

When departing, remember to pay the $10 exit tax (currently collected at a desk opposite the check-in counters, next to the tais shop) and complete the departure card (which does not need to have the same number as your arrival card - if check-in staff don't give you one, just get one from the poles in the middle). After checking in, you can wait at the café outside the terminal or even go to the Burger King next door. The airport is small and immigration and security are fast, so you only need 5-10 minutes to get through to the departure gates, where there are some duty free shops (one selling 2004-model digital cameras) but no food shops.

By car

Dili is well linked by road from the Indonesian border at Mota'ain, near Batugade, which lies about 115km west.

A reasonably good road also links Dili with Baucau, East Timor's second largest city 123km west. The road continues east to Los Palos and Tutuala.

Southwards, a road climbs up the mountains which run the length of the island of Timor, passing the hill town of Maubisse, on the way to the southern coast.

Cars can be hired from Rentlo but not Thrifty, as that company left in early 2006, shortly before the troubles began.

By bus

Buses fan out from Dili to various parts of the country. Most leave very early in the morning, and would do the "keliling" (going around town to scout for more passengers) before actually leaving Dili.

Buses leave for Batugade and the Indonesian border at Mota'ain. US$3. The journey is about 3 hours. Note that you cannot get an Indonesian visa at the border. If you have to get one in Dili, you might have to queue at the Indonesian embassy as early as 3am.

Buses also go to Maliana and Ermera.

Several buses leave for Baucau early in the morning from Rua Quinze de Outubro just south of the stadium near the Mercado Municipal roundabout. US$2, 3 hours. These buses can also be caught at Becora, the suburb to the east of Dili.

By boat

Dili is no longer a port of call for Indonesia's Pelni ships. There are also no regular boats to Australia.

Get around

Microlets in Dili city

During the day, plenty of taxis shuttle passengers around the city for US$2-3 (although locals pay less). Further journeys, such as to Areia Branca beach and Cape Fatucama will cost more ($5 each way and you might need to arrange for the taxi to wait for you). As evening approaches, the price will go up (around $5 for a medium trip). After dark, most of the taxis disappear. However, there are usually ones waiting outside expat bars, which will ask at least $10, even for short trips. You can also call a night service (if you can find a current number for one). You can also try getting your hotel to arrange a taxi for a night out or ask taxi drivers that you meet whether they work at night and, if so, get their number. Either way, it will probably cost at least $10 for any trip after dark. Try to have exact change for taxis.

There are occasional reports of taxis attempting to get extortionate fares from clueless passengers. This risk has reduced at the airport; however, there were recent reports of this being done to cruise ship visitors. Make sure you know a reasonable fare for where you want to go and stick to it. Nowhere within city limits should cost more than $5-$10.

Mikrolets (vans converted to take passengers) also ply their fixed routes, for example from near the Mercado Municipal to Comoro, Becora and other suburbs of Dili and even further. They cost 25 cents per ride. You flag one down, and when you reach your destination, just rap a coin against the metal to signal a stop request, and pay the driver after exiting. You can see maps and information about mikrolets at http://www.dilimicrolets.com/


Areia Branca Bay, on the way to the Jesus Statue



If you are on the road directly in front of the East Timor Government Building, Palacio Do Governo, face away from the airport towards the Jesus Statue.

If you walk up the left hand road, about half way up on your right is Dili Cold Store supermarket, then you'll find the Xanana reading room. There is a café at the back and inside is a small library with English books, a video collection and documentaries about ET (with comfy chairs and a video so you can watch them there, and drink tea etc from the café) and a book exchange. They also sell postcards and have internet access.


The official currency is USD. $5, $10 and $20 notes are the most common and useful. They do not need to be in great condition but may be difficult to use if torn - the exception is $1 notes, which get torn and filthy within a few months of arriving in Dili and can be easily spent in that condition (small notes, or coins, are particularly useful for taxis, warungs and street sellers). $50 and $100 notes may be used at hotels, supermarkets and expat restaurants. Don't bring pre-2004 notes or $2 notes (unless you want to bewilder the locals). American coins are not used, instead there are centavo coins, including the new 100 centavo coin that is helping rid the country of the dirty $1 notes. These coins are unusable outside Timor-Leste.

It is best to bring USD with you (remember that you will need $30 on arrival for the visa). You can exchange some currencies (e.g., AUD, NZD, GBP, Euro, IRD) at banks (be prepared for long queues) and at a booth in Timor Plaza, however, the rates are poor. There are several ATMs in Dili, the most reliable being the ANZ ones at the front of Timor Plaza. You don’t need an account with ANZ but you do need a bank card which will allow you to use the ATM (eg Visa). The use of these machines can be expensive however – ANZ charges USD$7 per withdrawal.

In addition you cannot transfer money from an ANZ overseas account to an account with the ANZ in Dili without incurring a USD$25 fee. It is best to contact your bank in advance for advice on the cheapest and most efficient way to transfer money between accounts.

Bank Mandiri, one of the major banks in Indonesia, has a branch in Dili. The bank is located close to the Government Building in Dili. They also have several ATMs across town, for example at Timor Plaza or Tiger Fuel.

Caixa Geral de Depositos, a Portuguese bank trading as BNU, also has a branch in Dili, and branches at several other locations within East Timor. The claimed branch at Dili airport consists of an empty desk & window, it is never staffed.

Small supermarkets and convenience stores are all over the city (with a particular concentration of small supermarkets in Audian) but will have a limited range and be oriented towards Asian tastes. Larger supermarkets that are good for foreigners will still have a limited range and you may need to visit several to get what you want (if you can actually get it - months-long shortages are common). Supermarkets only have small amounts of fruit and vegetables and will charge more than the markets. The main supermarkets of interest are:


There are plenty of restaurants in Dili, from local, Italian, Portuguese to Australian. Most popular in the evenings are the seafood BBQ places east of Dili on the beach.


Timorese and Indonesian warungs, where you pick your food from the window, are everywhere and cost $1.50-$3.00 for a typical meal.

To self-cater, start at the East Timor Government Building, Palacio Do Governo. Head east, away from the airport. If you walk up the left hand road, about half way up on your right is Dili Cold Store supermarket.

If you head out on the road towards the airport you will find the Comoro market, which is one of the two big markets in Dili. It is a little bit hard to find as it is set back from the road. If you are travelling from the UN building it is about a 20 minute walk – if you reach the Leader supermarket on the right you have gone too far. The markets are amazing. When you first arrive they look grimy and the place is covered in dust in the dry season and very muddy in the wet, but if you go inside you will find fruit, veggies, coffee etc all piled in little piles (this is the measurement for purchases – around 10c for leafy veggies and 50c for everything else). If you live with a Timorese family it is wonderful to go there and bring home little treats such as eggs and condensed milk, bananas and potatoes as they are usually beyond the everyday budget (rice and green vegetables are the staple diet of East Timorese).

The Leader supermarket has lots of western treats, including chocolate and toilet paper.


The legendary R 'n' R café has sadly closed, as did several other longstanding restaurants after the UN mission left; however, growing prosperity and an influx of Europeans have led to a proliferation of restaurants:



Moonlight over Dili

Friday after work (5 to 8pm) is the infamous happy hour atop Timor Plaza (Sky Bar - level 5), where many expats gather. Castaway is an expat bar on the main drag along the beach in Dili; drinks range from $4 beer and cocktails to a $10 giant margarita. They have a shelf of (largely English) books where you can leave and take, typical backpacker style. (Cigarettes are available at the bar but only worth it if you are feeling lazy, at $2.50 a pack which is more than double the price of street vendors' cigs!). Next to it is Nova bar.


There are plenty of hotels in Dili, ranging from cheap and basic (living in a container, with a window and a fan if you’re lucky, probably about US$5 per night) to less cheap and less basic (air-con and cable TV, probably about US$40 per night).

Some cafes around town have ads for accommodation available, but generally the only way to find out where there are places available is to ask around. There are furniture stores around, but if you can find somewhere that is furnished it will save you a lot of hassle. If you get friendly with someone who works for the government they may be able to help you find some furniture. There is one real estate in Dili at 'Central Hotel near the post office which has a number of accommodation options.

There are quite a few foreigners in Dili who live in hotels or guest houses permanently. Other alternatives include:

A cleaner visiting twice a week costs about US$25 per month. As well as getting your house and clothes cleaned, this also represents an opportunity for making friends with locals. Also, having someone around the house during the day when you are not there keeps the place a little more secure. If you can live with a Timorese family it would be ideal for learning more about the local language and culture but if not, get to know your neighbours – walking around your area and talking to people can go a long way.





By net

There are a number of commercial places where you can access the internet such as the business centre at many of the hotels. Globel Net has Internet $4.00 per hour they also have skype so bring your own head sets. Some hotels now offer free Wi-Fi access to their customers, including Dili Beach Hotel & Bar and in the Smokehouse Bar at the Backpackers. If purchasing a sim card, data can be added on (approx. $10USD for 800mb). It is easy to do this at the stores in Timor Plaza as they are able to set it up for you.

By phone

There are very few landlines in East Timor, most being in Dili. It’s a very good idea to bring a mobile phone handset, make sure you have it unlocked in your home country first otherwise it can cost up to $30.00 to have it unlocked here, and then buy a new sim-card from Timor Telecom (US$3). Local calls are pretty cheap, and an SMS within East Timor costs $0.20. Calls to Australia are about 50 cents US per minute, or 40 cents off peak (between 8pm and 8am and all day Sunday). Calls from Australia are quite expensive – about $3.50 per minute. On 31st July 2012 the National Numbering Plan (NNP) was changed and all mobile phone numbers now require an additional '7' be added to the front of the number making a total of eight digits. Land lines remain unchanged.

By post

There is no delivery of mail to street addresses. If you want to receive mail, you need to use a post office box at the central post office. Packages from Australia generally take about 2 weeks. It’s important that people write ‘via Darwin, Australia’ on the address, otherwise letters tend to go via Jakarta, Singapore or even Lisbon. Letters/packages have been known to take up to one and a half years to arrive, and occasionally disappear altogether, although this is the exception rather than the rule.

Stay safe

Crocodile warning in Dili city

The biggest risk in Dili is probably that of being involved in a traffic accident, It’s a good idea to bring a quality good helmet in case you get a bike, or to use when riding on the back of other peoples’ bikes.

Basic precautions will ensure personal safety in East Timor. As with many cities, it’s generally considered unsafe for a ‘malae’ (foreigner) woman (and probably a malae man, too) to walk around alone after dark. There have been a few reported incidents of people riding in taxis after dark being robbed. There have been a few malae houses broken into overnight. Generally, though, it feels very safe to walk around Dili during the day – there are always lots of people around.

The only other security precaution in Dili is to avoid gang activity, which normally occurs at night, particularly in the Bairo Pite district of Dili. These gangs are based on martial arts groups within Dili, which after Timor Leste's history of violence and upheaval - is a social network for many unemployed males. Setesete, PSHT and Korak are the main gangs and their graffiti can be seen throughout Dili. It is highly recommended that travellers keep their distance from these martial arts venues and leave an area immediately if gang related violence seems to be a possibility.


You can generally get everything you need in Dili, with only a couple of exceptions, although some items are more expensive. Some of the things you might want to bring are:

With regard to dress rules there are no hard and fast rules. Dili is more liberal than the districts, where people will expect women to wear clothes which cover their shoulders (ie not sleeveless) and trousers or a skirt below the knee. Generally, it’s better to err on the conservative side. The most respectable clothing for young males are jeans with a buttoned through, short-sleeved, collared shirt. There are a number of clothing shops in Dili but they are made for Timorese sizes so it is generally hard to find anything in a size bigger than an Australian 10.

Dili is really hot all year round, but it can get very cold overnight in the central districts – so make sure you bring something warm. It’s a good idea to bring a solid pair of sandals, as well as some thongs and runners.

Dinner can sometimes be a bit dressier and most people in offices come to work dressed smart casual.

Travelling as 'Malae'

Foreign men and women or 'Malae', should take care when catching a taxi or walking outside at night. Travellers should be careful with 'over-the-shoulder' satchels as it has been reported that people have been pulled off mopeds by thieves grabbing bags.

Local women dress conservatively in Dili. 'Short shorts', strapless tops and mini skirts are rarely worn by local women and may beckon unwanted attention. Generally, you want to wear 3/4 sleeve tops and long pants or skirts to protect yourself from mosquito borne diseases and to keep consistent with local dress.

Same-sex or overt public displays of affection may attract disapproval or vocal objection, especially from the older population.


Go next

Areia Branca ("white sand"), a beach about 3 km east of Dili (under the Christ Statue).

This article is issued from Wikivoyage - version of the Sunday, March 06, 2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.