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Travel Security Advice for Timor Leste

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COUNTRY DESCRIPTION:  

Occupying 5,743 square miles on the eastern half of an island in the Timor Sea between Indonesia and Australia, Timor-Leste has a population of approximately 1.1 million people.  Timor-Leste became independent on May 20, 2002, and is now a democratically governed, independent nation with an elected President and Parliament. 

In the violence that followed Timor-Leste's 1999 independence referendum, the country’s infrastructure, never robust, was totally destroyed and has been only partially rebuilt.  In April 2006, violence erupted again in and around the capital, Dili, resulting in further damage to infrastructure and setting back economic growth.  Electricity, telephone and telecommunications, roads and lodging remain unreliable, particularly outside of the capital.  Timor-Leste's economy relies largely on international assistance and revenues from oil and gas production.  Read the
Department of State’s Background Notes on Timor-Leste for additional information.



ENTRY / EXIT REQUIREMENTS:

A passport valid for six months beyond the intended date of departure from Timor-Leste is required.  Tourist visas are not required prior to arrival, but travelers arriving in Timor-Leste without a visa will need to pay a $30 fee for a 30-day tourist visa. There is an additional fee for each 30-day renewal of this visa.  Visitors traveling via air must transit Singapore; Darwin, Australia; or Bali, Indonesia en route to Timor-Leste.

The U.S. Department of State is unaware of any HIV/AIDS entry restrictions for visitors to or foreign residents of Timor-Leste.

Information about
dual nationality or the prevention of international child abduction can be found on our website.  For further information about customs regulations, please read our Customs Information page.



SAFETY AND SECURITY:

American citizens in Timor-Leste should exercise caution, use common sense, avoid large gatherings, remain alert with regard to their personal security, and avoid travel after dark to the extent possible.  Americans should exercise caution in public places, including, but not limited to, clubs, restaurants, bars, schools, places of worship, outdoor recreational events, hotels, resorts and beaches and other locations frequented by foreigners.

American citizens should maintain a high level of security awareness while moving around in Dili; be alert to the potential for violence; and avoid demonstrations, large political gatherings, and areas where disturbances have occurred.  Demonstrations can occur at or near symbols and institutions of the Government of Timor-Leste, including government buildings and houses belonging to prominent politicians.  Even demonstrations intended to be peaceful can turn confrontational and escalate into violence.  Although social and political tensions diminished in 2008 and 2009, American citizens should continue to exercise caution.

Gang-related violence occurs sporadically in Dili, and Americans risk intentional or inadvertent injury when traveling in affected areas.  While the overwhelming majority of gang-related criminal violence has been Timorese-on-Timorese, foreigners have been caught up in such violence and there have been credible reports of anti-Western attacks, most recently during a surge of violence in Dili in and Baucau in August 2007.   Over a thousand internally displaced persons remain in camps in and around Dili, several of which have been sites of recurring incidents of violence.

Timor-Leste has experienced several major episodes of violent civil disorder in recent years.  When demonstrations in April 2006 protesting the Government’s dismissal of 595 members of the armed forces escalated into rioting, civil order in and around the capital Dili broke down.  Tens of thousands of Timorese fled the violence and settled in camps for internally displaced persons (IDPs).  The Government asked for international security forces to assist in restoring order.  More recent instances of unrest included sporadic, localized violence following national elections in August 2007 and an attempt to assassinate President Ramos-Horta and Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao on February 11, 2008.  

At the Government’s invitation, the UN Integrated Mission for Timor-Leste (UNMIT) has been deployed in the country since August 2006.  In addition to a civilian component, UNMIT includes a UN Police Mission of about 1,500 international law enforcement officers and a military mission of about 700 troops from Australia and New Zealand.  The Security Council extended UNMIT's mandate most recently on February 26, 2009 until February, 2010.  In May 2009, the UN Police Mission in Timor-Leste began a gradual handover of authority to the National Police of Timor-Leste.  For more information on UNMIT, consult
http://www.un.org/Depts/dpko/missions/unmit/

Timor-Leste’s state institutions comprising the security sector remain fragile, and the country depends on these international police and security forces to assist in maintaining public security. Although authorities have made progress in recent months toward restoring public security, the risk of further violent civil unrest persists.

Americans are advised that international security forces and UN police and the Timorese security forces occasionally establish security checkpoints along roads. These legitimate checkpoints are intended to enhance security and should be respected. There are also occasional illegal checkpoints which Americans should avoid, but which to date have been primarily targeted at Timorese.  Americans traveling in Timor-Leste should remember that despite its small size, much of the territory is isolated and can be difficult to reach by available transportation or communication links.

Travelers and residents should always ensure that passports and important personal papers are in order in the event it becomes necessary to leave the country quickly for any reason.  Travelers should be aware that the U.S. Embassy in Dili is not able to issue emergency passports and has only limited capacity to process passport renewals.

For the latest security information, U.S. citizens traveling abroad should regularly monitor the Department of State's,
 Bureau of Consular Affairs' website

Up-to-date information on safety and security can also be obtained by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll-free within the U.S. and Canada, or by calling a regular toll line, 1-202-501-4444, from other countries. These numbers are available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays).

The Department of State urges American citizens to take responsibility for their own personal security while traveling overseas.  For general information about appropriate measures travelers can take to protect themselves in an overseas environment, see the Department of State’s extensive tips and advice on traveling safely abroad.



CRIME: 

Crimes such as pick pocketing, purse snatchings, residential and automobile break-ins and theft occurs throughout the country, but are more frequent in Dili, the capital.  Victims who resist may be subject to physical violence.  Gang related violence occurs, and has targeted foreign nationals.  Stone-throwing attacks on vehicles occur during periods of gang conflicts and civil unrest, and have resulted in serious injury and death. Visitors should avoid travel at night or in unfamiliar areas alone.  Women should avoid traveling alone, especially at night because sexual assault or banditry is possible.  Timor-Leste is a socially conservative country, and travelers should avoid wearing revealing clothing, particularly in crowded public areas such as markets.

In many countries around the world, counterfeit and pirated goods are widely available.  Transactions involving such products may be illegal under local law.  In addition, bringing them back to the United States may result in forfeitures and/or fines



INFORMATION FOR VICTIMS OF CRIME: 

If you are the victim of a crime abroad, you should contact the local police and the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate (see end of this sheet or see the Department of State list of embassies and consulates).  This includes the loss or theft of a U.S. passport.  The embassy/consulate staff can, for example, help you find appropriate medical care, contact family members or friends and explain how funds could be transferred.  Although the investigation and prosecution of the crime is solely the responsibility of local authorities, consular officers can help you to understand the local criminal justice process and to find an attorney if needed.

Please see our information on victims of crime , including possible victim compensation programs in the United States.

The local equivalent to the “911” emergency line in Timor-Leste is 112, or dial 723-0365.  The United Nations Security Operations Center is also available by dialing 723-0635. 



CRIMINAL PENALTIES: 

While in a foreign country, a U.S. citizen is subject to that country's laws and regulations, which sometimes differ significantly from those in the United States and may not afford the protections available to the individual under U.S. law.  Penalties for breaking the law can be more severe than in the United States for similar offenses.  Engaging in sexual conduct with children or using or disseminating child pornography in a foreign country is a crime, prosecutable in the United States. Persons violating Timor-Leste’s laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or imprisoned. 

Penalties for possession of, use of, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Timor-Leste are severe, and convicted offenders can expect long jail sentences and heavy fines.  Engaging in sexual conduct with children or using or disseminating child pornography in a foreign country is a crime, prosecutable in the United States.  Please see our information on Criminal Penalties



SPECIAL CIRCUMSTANCES:

Timor-Leste remains in a state of transition.  The country faces continuing challenges that limit its law enforcement capability.  Many civil and governmental institutions are still being developed with international assistance.  U.S. citizens traveling or doing business in Timor-Leste may find it difficult to identify legal or administrative mechanisms if problems arise.

The U.S. dollar is the official currency of Timor-Leste.  Money can be exchanged at the three banks in Dili, but only to or from a limited number of currencies.  Only a few establishments accept credit cards, usually requiring a substantial additional fee, and visitors should be prepared to settle all bills in cash.  Dili has several ATM machines that accept U.S.-issued bankcards.  Travelers should not plan to rely exclusively on these machines, as they are frequently inoperative.

Americans intending to travel to Australia from Timor-Leste should be aware that the Australian immigration authorities require an Electronic Travel Authorization (ETA) in advance of arrival.  For more information, please consult the
Australian Department of Immigration and Citizenship's website.



MEDICAL FACILITIES AND HEALTH INFORMATION:

Although limited emergency medical care is available in Dili, options for routine medical care throughout the country are extremely limited.  Serious medical problems requiring hospitalization and/or medical evacuation to Australia, the nearest point with acceptable medical care, to Singapore, or to the United States, can cost thousands of dollars.

Information on vaccinations and other health precautions, such as safe food and water precautions and insect bite protection, may be obtained from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) hotline for international travelers at 1-877-FYI-TRIP (1-877-394-8747) or via the CDC websiteFor information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad, consult the infectious diseases section of the World Health Organization (WHO) websiteThe WHO website also contains additional health information for travelers, including detailed country-specific health information.



MEDICAL INSURANCE: 

The Department of State strongly urges U.S. citizens to consult their medical insurance company prior to traveling abroad. Important questions are whether the policy applies overseas and whether it covers emergency expenses such as a medical evacuation.  For more information, please see our medical insurance overseas page.



TRAFFIC SAFETY AND ROAD CONDITIONS:

While in a foreign country, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States.  The information below concerning Timor-Leste is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.

All traffic operates on the left side of the road, and most vehicles use right-hand drive.  Roads are often poorly maintained and four-wheel drive may be required in some areas.  Non-existent lighting and poor road conditions make driving at night hazardous.  Taxis, small buses and mini-vans provide public transportation in Dili and elsewhere.  However, public transportation is generally overcrowded, uncomfortable, and below international safety standards.  Public transportation operators have been known to unexpectedly drop passengers at locations other than their destination due to the operators’ fears about certain areas or hours.  Disagreement about fares has occasionally led to hostilities.  Public transport is generally inadvisable and is unavailable after dark.

Driving in Dili is especially hazardous, with large trucks and military vehicles sharing the streets with vendors, pedestrians and livestock.  Many cars and especially motorcycles operate at night without lights.

During the rainy season, travel on all cross-island roadways should be considered to be risky.  U.S. citizens should use caution when traveling on the cross-island roadways in the mountain areas of Aileu, Ermera, Manatuto, Ainaro and Manufahi provinces.  In the past, rain showers severely damaged several cross-island roadways, and several vehicles had to be airlifted out of the area south of Aileu due to landslides and roadway damage.

Accidents occur frequently.  When there is an accident, the police should be contacted.  It is not uncommon for bystanders to attack the driver perceived to be responsible for a traffic accident.  This is more common in rural areas and in accidents involving Timorese drivers, but crowds have occasionally attacked expatriate drivers at the scene of an accident.  If a U.S. citizen involved in an accident reasonably believes that there is a threat of bodily harm from people at the scene of the accident, it is advisable to drive to the police station or U.S. Embassy before stopping.

While it is possible to obtain insurance for vehicles in Timor-Leste, only a handful of foreigners have done so, and virtually no one else has automobile insurance.  Most traffic accidents are settled informally between those involved.

Please refer to our
Road Safety page for more information.  Visit the web site of Timor-Leste’s national tourist office and national authority responsible for road safety.



AVIATION SAFETY OVERSIGHT:

As there is no direct commercial air service to the United States by carriers registered in Timor-Leste, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has not assessed the government of Timor-Leste’s Civil Aviation Authority for compliance with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) aviation safety standards.  Further information may be found on the FAA’s web site.



CHILDREN'S ISSUES:

Please see our Office of Children’s Issues web pages on intercountry adoption and international parental child abduction.



REGISTRATION / EMBASSY LOCATION:

U.S. citizens living or traveling in Timor-Leste are encouraged to register with the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate at the Department of State travel registration page, so that they can obtain updated information on local travel and security.  U.S. citizens without Internet access may register directly with the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate.  Registration is important; it allows the State Department to assist U.S. citizens in an emergency.

The U.S. Embassy is located at Avenida de Portugal, Praia dos Coqueiros, Dili, Timor-Leste, tel: (670) 332-4684, fax: (670) 331-3206. The web site is http://timor-leste.usembassy.gov/.

This replaces the Country Specific Information Timor-Leste dated September 23, 2008, to update sections on Entry/Exit Requirements, Threats to Safety and Security, Crime, Victims of Crime, Criminal Penalties, Special Circumstances, Medical Insurance, Traffic Safety and Road Conditions, Aviation Safety Oversight, and Children’s Issues.


The UK Foreign & Commonwealth Office also has information regarding East Timor HERE.....

Looking for an Embassy ?, You can also check out our World Wide Embassies Listings Section HERE (For US Citizens) or HERE (For UK Citizens).........

There is a Malaria Warning for East Timor HERE........

Regards

The SW Team...............

 

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