Timor-Leste Country Report
Foreigners wishing to travel to faraway Timor-Leste (population 1.2 million) should take a few issues into account while preparing their trip. Security and political institutions in the country remain fragile and violence can break out at a moment’s notice due to a precarious socioeconomic environment.
Since gaining independence from Indonesia 15 years ago in 2002, considerable political tensions continue to plague the Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste. Security conditions remain precarious (UN peacekeepers had been deployed in the country until the end of 2012).
The presidential election held in March 2012 took place without any notable discord. On July 7, 2012, the more significant legislative elections (the role of the president is largely ceremonial) took place under similar conditions. However, on July 15, 2012, violent clashes in Dili between partisans of the Frente Revolucionária de Timor-Leste (Fretilin) and security forces left one dead and many wounded, proving that stability in the country is not guaranteed.
On a regional level, Timor Oriental and Australia, after a decade of maritime border litigaton, have announced in Januray 2017 the annulment of a controversial treaty. Timor Leste asked years ago to retreat from the bilateral treaty (Certain Maritime Arrangements in the Timor Sea) of 2006, but Australia refused. The stake of this sovereign litigation is major for this small state; the Timor sea is source of immense reserves of gaz and oil.
Despite recent vigorous economic development (GDP up 4.3 percent in 2015), social tensions remain high, due largely in part to high levels of unemployment (20 percent of the population), particularly among young people. Furthermore, half of all households live under the poverty line.
Travelers are thus advised to steer clear of all protests and public buildings.
Areas along the border with Indonesia should also be avoided.
Poor economic conditions have fueled crime in Dili. The crime rate remains relatively low outside the capital, with the exception of the Baucau and Viqueque districts where the risk of carjacking persists. Foreigners are often targeted for their presumed affluence; keep a low profile and keep valuable objects (camera, jewelry) concealed. Never walk around alone and do not travel or go out at night.
Timor-Leste is situated in an active seismic zone and as such is prone to earthquakes, such as the one along the coast on December 2016 (6,6 on Richter scale).
Health conditions are decent in the country, but a few risks are of concern to foreigners. Diarrheal diseases (including cholera) and diseases transmitted through contaminated water (typhoid fever, hepatitis A) are common, as is tuberculosis. Malaria is endemic throughout the country, with a heightened risk of transmission from July-August and December-January. Insect-borne diseases are also common, including dengue fever (highest risk from October to March), chikungunya (present all year long across the country), and Japanese encephalitis (highest risk from September to March). Avoid all contact with bodies of fresh water due to the risk of contracting leptospirosis and schistosomiasis.
Finally, Timor Leste is affected by the Zika virus (disease transmitted by mosquito bites).
It should also be noted that there are few medical establishments outside of Dili. In case of a serious health issue, a medical evacuation abroad should be considered.
Finally, foreign visitors should take into account the fact that roads are poorly maintained and accidents occur frequently. It is therefore best to avoid driving at night.
There are no ATMs outside Dili and Baucau (three hours from the Capital); the use of credit cad is not common in al the country; it is suggested to always have cash for local shopping and payments.
Timor-Leste's climate is tropical with steady temperatures throughout the year and high levels of humidity. There are two seasons: the wet monsoon (November to March) and the dry monsoon (April to October).
Useful NumbersCountry Code: +670 Police: 723 06 86
Voltage: 220 V ~ 50 Hz
Timor-Leste: Parliamentary elections to take place July 22
TIMEFRAME: from 7/19/2017, 12:00 AM until 7/22/2017, 11:59 PM (Asia/Dili).