I have been sharing photos and stories about Timor-Leste for over a month now and I’m grateful by the responses I received from all of you. Almost two months have passed since my fieldwork in Dili and honestly, I miss the country. I miss the smiles and friendly greetings of the people, the white sand beaches just a few minutes from the city center, and the loads of lessons I get from my daily interaction with individuals from all walks of life.
As I prepare for my next fieldwork destination, I want to end my series of posts about Timor-Leste with a summary of my travel expenses. Timor-Leste is expensive compared to other countries in Southeast Asia mainly because most of its products are imported. The country is still in the process of building its capacity to sustain its own economy so this would most likely change in the next years to come. Additionally, the presence of a large international staff inflated the economy resulting to high prices that even locals can’t easily afford. On the other hand, there are still cheaper options especially for food but expect expensive goods and services for everything else.
There are three commercial airlines that regularly fly to Dili–Airnorth from Darwin, Air Timor from Singapore and Sriwijaya Air from Bali. The cheaper flight from Singapore is via Sriwijaya Air so I took a flight to Bali via Tiger Air. I had to stay overnight in Bali and had to pay the airport taxes accordingly. As always, I was able to get promo fares from Tiger Air and Air Asia.
– Singapore-Bali via Tiger Air – $58
– Bali-Dili-Bali via Sriwijaya Air – $299
– Bali-Singapore via Air Asia – $49
Airport Taxes: $70
This part includes all departure taxes, terminal fee and visa fee.
– Bali departure tax – $15
– Timor-Leste visa fee – $30
– Dili departure tax – $10
– Bali departure tax – $15
My accommodation in Dili is a combination of couchsurfing, apartment rental, and generosity of friends. I spent my first 3 nights with a couchsurfing friend for free and after that I stayed in a rented apartment/guesthouse for 8 days from which I checked out before I embarked for my trip out to the districts. When I came back to Dili, the room that I was previously renting was already occupied and I had no choice but to rent a much more expensive one. Thank God a friend of mine offered one of the apartments his parents is renting out and I was able to stay there for 3 more nights until my departure, for free! If not for the generosity of friends, my accommodation expenses in Dili would be outrageously expensive for a student like me.
For long-term accommodation, check out online advertisements, forums and Facebook pages. A couchsurfer I met was able to rent out a room in a shared apartment for only $300 a month.
Travel Tip: Most of the accommodations in Dili don’ t have an online booking mechanism but don’t fret as it’s actually easy to find an accommodation right there and my friend advised that booking over the counter may give the advantage of negotiating for a lower price. Most properties give discounts for long-term stay. Don’t forget to inquire about this.
I know that this part could have been cheaper if I didn’t splurge on “expensive” restaurants in Dili. Local restaurants called “warung” sell set meals for only $1-2. Coffee shops and restaurants frequented by foreigners/expats are obviously more expensive.
Local Transportation: $60.5
If you know how to drive a motorbike, the best way to get around the city is to rent one. But since I don’t know how, I relied on the help of friends who drove me to my destinations and on taxis that go around the city for a minimum fare of $1. Taxis have no meters but short distances (1-3kms) usually cost $1-2 and farther destinations cost $3-5. Taxi to and from the airport is $10. I have mentioned in my previous post that few taxis operate at night resulting to a more expensive fare.
Upon arrival in Dili, I availed of the Telkomcel sim card for $2 plus an initial load of $2 at the airport. Throughout my stay, I think I registered three times for the 1G internet/data package for $18 valid for 1 month (I’m a heavy internet user). I borrowed an internet USB from a friend and it saved me at least $20, I guess. Check Telkomcel’s website for updated domestic and international rates.
Travel Tip: When I went to Jaco Island, Telkomcel was virtually useless. As the newest network provider in Timor-Leste, I learned that they still have limited network coverage. Use the services of Timor Telecom for more reliable coverage especially outside the city.
Tais, the traditional fabric of Timor-Leste, is the best souvenir you want to take home with you. Head to the famous Tais Market and negotiate for prices. Most vendors are open for bargaining. I also bought t-shirts and magnets from some souvenirs shops in Timor Plaza, the only shopping mall in Dili opened in 2011. Also, don’t forget to check out the wooden sculptures sold along the beach near Dili Beach Hotel.
Entrance Fees: $0.5
This is the cost of the entrance fee to the Resistance Museum. Show your student ID to avail a discounted price.
Here I included the postcards I bought, the postage costs, and the boat from Valu Beach to Jaco Island. The Xanana Gusmao Reading Room has a nice collection of postcards from AusAid. They also sell souvenirs such as t-shirts, books related to PM Xanana Gusmao, posters, etc. They have a significant amount of books related to Timor-Leste and a free internet using their desktop computers. Check out this place and don’t forget to have a chat with their friendly librarian/IT personnel, Margarida, and please send my regards to her.