East Timor on a budget: 5 tips

East Timor, an ex-Portuguese colony, is a tropical island just one hour north of Darwin.


Getting there

Once you have overcome the initial panic of seeing the odd shell of a firebombed car by the side of the road, and one or two burned out villas on your ride in from the airport, is does get better, a lot better! A taxi from the airport to Dili, no matter where you are staying is US$5.

Standout features?

There are beautiful early 19th century Portuguese villas scattered throughout the hills overlooking Dili, and the coffee everywhere in town is exceptionally good.

Where to sleep


I’d recommend staying at the La Esplanada Hotel on Beach Road. Its friendly, the AC works, and there is a great pool to relax by when you most need it. A double room will set you back USD$75 a night with breakfast. Bookings are best made via email at [email protected]


Where to eat

Castaway Bar and Grill (Beach Road) is exceptional value and a fun, lively place to hang out. They serve mostly Asian fare and Jeffrey the owner, is one of Dili’s most enduring characters. An Australian, he arrived in Dili as a contractor in 1999, at the height of the conflict with Indonesia, and never left. Most of the meals at Castaway are between US$5-11.



The beaches in town are nothing to write home about but once you leave Dili they are simply gorgeous. There are no amenities so take everything that you will need for the day with you. Don’t leave anything of value in your car and make sure you leave the doors unlocked.

The SCUBA diving in Timor is world class and Dive Timor Lorasae, an Australian owned and managed organization; operate two of the fastest boats in town. Contact them at [email protected]


About the authorKeith Hockton


I was born in England but spent my schooldays in Malaysia, Borneo and Singapore and I have just moved back to Malaysia after living in Sydney for the past 10 years. I have no idea where home actually is but I like that idea, and love the idea of just traveling and writing for the rest of my life.


Food is a large part of my travel experience and Malaysia has some of the best in the region. Penang, where I now live, has arguably some of the best fare in the country.


Prior to pursuing a career in freelance writing, I wrote a SCUBA diving travel book for Australia, “Atlas of Australian Dive Sites, Travelers Edition”, published by Harper Collins, and I was in the investment banking industry for longer than I would like to remember. I’m a qualified Master Diver and a technical diving instructor, and I was actively involved in the clean up Australia campaign, where I organized teams of divers to help in the cleaning of Sydney’s beaches and waterways. Something I hope to emulate in Malaysia or at least help with.


I have written articles for the New Straits Times and various other magazines in Asia.




  • Great information on visiting Timor. We contemplated a visit to Timor on our last visit to Indonesia for a visa run. We ended up just moving on in our travels after our 30 days in Indonesia, but we fell in love with the diving there, so I am sure we will be back and we are still looking at Timor for a visit!

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