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How best to get around East Timor?

Edinburgh, United...
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How best to get around East Timor?

Hi all, two friends and I are flying into Dili early August for a week.

Like most people to visit East Timor, its the diving that attracted us there, plus the relatively remote and unvisited nature of the new country. It is precisely the second reason that we find a little challenging especially when it come to transport for foreign travellers.

We have found sporadic info on travel connections between the eastern and western parts of the country but how to proceed from there is still a question mark.

In the 7 days there, we're planning to take in Jaco Island, Atauro Island and climb Mt Ramelau. Is taking public transport the best option or will it be more feasible and much easier to rent a car? Is it safe to drive in the country and are scooters recommended for non-license holders?

Thanks in advance for your comments :)

Ken

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1. Re: How best to get around East Timor?

Public transport is pretty much useless except for getting to the centres of main towns. Jaco will need a car (a good 4WD but it's well worth it). I haven't been to Ramelau but it's well off the main road and people normally go with a guide. For Atauro, the ferry or a hired boat is fine. Hiring a car in Dili is easy but they're not cheap. Roads and drivers are poor but there's not too much traffic and in August all the roads should be passable. Finding your way is the hardest part - no road signs and not a lot of English in the countryside, but the people will still try to help. Scooters would depend on how experienced you are. They might be fine in cities (although the traffic gets a bit dangerous in Dili) but to go anywhere else will involve a lot of dirt.

Adelaide, Australia
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2. Re: How best to get around East Timor?

Hello mrdom, There are 3 of us travelling to East Timor in July and I am thinking of organising an overnight tour to Balibo with a visit to Emerea on the way back. - using one of the tour companies. But, I am thinking of using public transport to get to some of the other places such as Baucau, Mundo Perido and Viqueque. I am happy to use mikrolets when I am in the towns. We have travelled through Cambodia and Laos using public transport and have stayed in some very basic places so that doesn't put me off, but I am concerned about the safety and the viability of travelling like this. Do you think it feasible?

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3. Re: How best to get around East Timor?

You can get buses to Baucau and Viqueque but I don't know any foreigners who have done it. There might be mikrolets in those towns, and probably car or motorcycle taxis, but not many. Cambodia and Laos are much more developed countries and are very used to tourists, whereas there are hardly any tourists in East Timor, so finding people to help you get where you want to go will be difficult unless you know the language (Tetun or Indonesian). If you arrive in town at a late hour (buses are not scheduled), finding accommodation will be very hard. It will be almost impossible to use local transport to see anything outside of the towns themselves (and there's not much in the towns). Mundo Perdido wouldn't have any transport at all. Safety might be an issue if there are no men with you (in general, East Timor is safe for men but women get severely harassed if alone).

As I said, I don't know anyone who's done this. It would be great to get a report on it but I'd suggest only trying it if you're the hardest of adventurers. The east road is pretty easy to drive yourself, so you could certainly hire your own car.

Adelaide, Australia
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4. Re: How best to get around East Timor?

Thanks for the information Mrdom. I think we will do a combination of organised touring and hire car touring. We do have a man in our group but none of us has any useful language so this would seem to be the safest option. Thanks again

Ottawa, Canada
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5. Re: How best to get around East Timor?

We used eco-discovery tours.. www.ecodiscovery-easttimor.com/index.htm - they were great about accommodating where we wanted to go and quick to get back to us to plan from home. The roads are pretty treacherous after Baucau - have to fully agree mrdom on his recommendations (and re: Cambodia/Laos)! Much different! :) Getting out to Jaco is spectacular.

Kenni-chin - if you're diving, would highly rec a new outfit called Aquatica. We were initially set-up with Dive Timor but their boat broke down (apparently this happens quite often). We dived around Autoro Island - and it was fantastic!! Aquatica dropped us at Barry's Place on Autoro after a day of diving , we stayed there for 2 days.. then they picked us back up to dive again around the island. Either way - enjoy!

Edinburgh, United...
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6. Re: How best to get around East Timor?

I dived with Compass Divers last time because they provide boat service to Atauro Island and back. We inquired at Dive Timor but it seemed that they we'rent conducting any dives on the east coast of the island and therefore wouldn't be able to drop us at Barry's.

I don't remember hearing of Aquatica online until we've returned from our dive. Anyway we'll try them out next time!

Hong Kong, China
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7. Re: How best to get around East Timor?

I wouldn't advice public transport from Dili to Bacau, because the scenery is so amazing, you'll miss it being stuck in the back of a public bus. I met some people that caught the bus and they saw nothing of the beautiful beaches, rice fields or mountains. There are lots of beaches worth stopping at fur a swim along the way.

I went by moped and left most of my stuff at a hotel in Dili and just took a daypack.

The roads are fine to get to Bacau on a moped or motorbike. And it's much cheaper than a car, about $30 dollars a day.

Tiger Fuel used to rent mopeds, but when we went there 3 weeks ago, they were all broken. You can hire bikes from Taltabi Motor Rental (tel: 7957364). It's difficult to find so here are the directions; when you cross the bridge in the direction of the airport, immediately take a sharp left (pretty much a u-turn) and you will find it. I'm passing this information on because I spent my first 2 days in Dili running around in taxi after taxi trying to find bike hire, nobody knew anything about where we could hire a bike from.

It's great having a bike even when just staying in Dili, Areia Branca is beautiful to ride around and not having to catch taxi's everywhere gives you a lot of freedom.

Oslo, Norway
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8. Re: How best to get around East Timor?

$30 a day is maybe cheaper than a car, but its still very expensive. In most Asian countries you easilly find motorbike / scooter for less than 5USD per day. Last week in Bali I rented for less than 2,50USD per day. 30USD is just crazy.

Hong Kong, China
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9. Re: How best to get around East Timor?

Yes but you will not be in Bali, you will be in East Timor. Bali is very touristy and everything is cheap. East Timor is not touristy at all and is expensive, western prices in most places. You can't compare Apples with Oranges when you look at the recent history of the country. There was only 1 bike rental place in the entire country when I visited and they didn't have many bikes, they also pay more to import the bikes and parts to fix the bikes than in Bali so they need to charge more.

Singapore, Singapore
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10. Re: How best to get around East Timor?

Hi Ken,

I am planing a trip to Dili end of September and have exactly the same itinerary and questions as you. May you help me and let me know what you guys did at the end? How did you get to the eastern beaches? Rent a driver?

Thank s a lot

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