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Quick Facts
CapitalDili
Governmentrepublic
CurrencyUS dollar (USD)
Areatotal: 15,007 sq km
Population924,642 (2004 Census, Provisional; 467,757 males, 456,885 females)
LanguageTetum (official), Portuguese (official), Indonesian, English, 37 indigenous languages
ReligionRoman Catholic 90%, Muslim 4%, Protestant 3%, Hindu 0.5%, Buddhist, Animist (1992 est.)

East Timor (Portuguese: Timor Leste) (Tetum: Timor Lorosa'e) (Indonesian: Timor Timur) is a country in Southeast Asia and is the world's newest independent country. It lies northwest of Australia in the Lesser Sunda Islands at the eastern end of the Indonesian archipelago. East Timor includes the eastern half of the island of Timor, the Oecussi (Ambeno) region on the northwest portion of the island of Timor, and the islands of Pulau Atauro and Pulau Jaco. Tetum as official language and Indonesian are widely spoken in East Timor where Portuguese as official language is spoken in government and its administration only.

Regions

East Timor consists of 13 Administrative districts.

  • Aileu
  • Ainaro
  • Baucau
  • Bobonaro (Maliana)
  • Cova-Lima (Suai)
  • Dili
  • Ermera
  • Lautem (Los Palos)
  • Liquisa
  • Manatuto
  • Manufahi (Same)
  • Oecussi (Ambeno)
  • Viqueque

Cities

  • Baucau
  • Dili
  • Ermera
  • Liquica
  • Manatuto
  • Suai
  • Viqueque

Other destinations

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Understand

The island of Timor is a former Portuguese colony that declared itself independent from Portugal on 28 November 1975. Nine days later, Indonesian forces invaded and occupied the former colony, without incurring the disapproval of the United States or Australia. By July 1976 the colony had been annexed as the province of Timor Timur.

Over the next two decades, Indonesia integrated the colony, with many significant positions of authority being occupied by Indonesians, rather than the Timorese. An estimated 100,000 to 250,000 individuals are believed to have lost their lives during a campaign of pacification during this time.

The United Nations supervised popular referendum on 30 August 1999, where the people of East Timor voted for independence from Indonesia. After the results were announced, gangs of independence opponents, supported by the Indonesian military, terrorised the population in a civil war that destroyed much of the country's infrastructure. A United Nations peacekeeping force, led by Australian forces was sent in to re-establish a civil society and reconstruct the nation.

On 20 May 2002, East Timor was internationally recognized as an independent state and the world's newest democracy.

Get in

Indonesian citizens will get "visa on arrival" in the land border or airport.

By plane

From Denpasar (Bali), Indonesia, Merpati (http://www.angkasapura1.co.id/eng/location/info/bali/jwlbali.htm) will serve visitors to reach Dili, East Timor. The price for the ticket is approximately US$193 one way (May 2005).

There is also a flight between Kupang (West Timor) and Dili that operates a few times a week.

Airnorth flys from Darwin (Australia) to Dili twice daily, starting from A$199.00 one way.

By car

By bus

By boat

Get around

Talk

Tetum and Portuguese are the official languages, but Indonesian and (limited) English are also widely spoken. There are also about 37 indigenous languages, of which Tetum, Galole, Mambae, and Kemak are spoken by significant numbers of people.

Buy

The main two things to bring home from Timor-Leste are coffee and traditional hand-woven cloths called Tais. The design of the Tais vary distinctively from region to region, and an expert can even tell which family they are from. Much like Scottish kilts, Tais for a given family should only be worn by that family. In Dili, the best place to find Tais is the Tais market, where you also can buy local silver jewelry. Many street sellers also deal in Tais.

Between Dili and the airport of Dili is the art center Arte Moris. From there you can buy Timorese paintings, often painted directly on Tais. Recurring themes are local symbols and the life (and death) during the Indonesian occupation.

There are also some wood carvings in a style similar to what you might see brought from trips to Africa sold here and there, but these are less easy to find. Closer to the eastern tip of Timor-Leste, you might find turtle shell bracelets on sale. While it might be slightly less unethical to buy them in a place where they kill turtles both for food and shell, your more ethically inclined peers and the customs officer may differ.

The coffee of East Timor is dark and excellent and can be found at reasonable prices in any convenience store, or even at some roadside stalls.

Sandal wood used to be one of the most important exports of Timor-Leste, but it might take an expert to buy it now.

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