Timor Leste is a relatively unknown country and travel destination location in Oceania and is often considered to be part of Southeast Asia. It was to be my country #99 in my mission to visit every single country in the world. Getting to this country wasn’t easy and required a lot of planning. It is also a costly travel destination as it’s a relatively new nation that only got its independence in the early 2000s and much of its stuff has to be imported from abroad. Regardless, my experience in this destination was a decent one and it’s a good place to visit if you’re a certain type of traveller which I’ll be talking about in this article.
VIDEO – Whale Watching and Exploring Cristo Rei in Timor Leste – Country #99
Flying from Tokyo, Japan, to Jakarta
My adventure to Timor Leste started after my trip to Japan ended and I took Japan Airlines business class from Tokyo to Jakarta.
Upon arriving in Jakarta, I was shocked to learn that Indonesia ended its visa-free travel for 159 countries. I learned this the hard way when I went to the immigration counter and the officer told me Canadians have to pay for a VISA to enter the country. I stood there stunned but after getting a clear head, I realized I brought my Philippines passport as I’m a dual citizen. As of writing this article, you can only travel to Indonesia visa-free if you’re from one of these 10 ASEAN countries: Brunei, The Philippines, Cambodia, Laos, Malaysia, Vietnam, Thailand, Singapore, Myanmar, and Timor Leste.
After going through immigration, I presented the customs officer with my QR code which I filled out in Tokyo before flying out.
I spent the night at an airport hotel located in the landslide of the airport. It was called D’primahotel Airport Jakarta Terminal 3 Wellness Center. The airport hotel was pretty good and I got a decent rest before flying out the next day towards Bali.
Jakarta to Bali
I flew with Citilink going from Jakarta to Bali. I was scared at first because there was only a 3-hour connection time and I had to transfer from the domestic terminal to the international terminal. It’s a long walk between both airports. Luckily, I made it to the international terminal 1.5 hours before my flight to Timor Leste.
Flying from Bali to Dili, Timor Leste
Before long, I boarded my flight which was only one-third full going from Bali to Dili, Timor Leste.
From my knowledge, you can only fly to Timor Leste from Bali Indonesia, Darwin, Australia, and Singapore making it a hard-to-reach travel destination.
Arriving in Dili, Timor Leste
Upon arrival, I lined up to buy VISA on arrival which cost $30 USD. The lineup took forever. After purchasing the VISA on arrival, it was another long and barely moving lineup to clear immigration.
Finally, after clearing immigration, there’s one more annoying step which is to get the QR code to enter Timor Leste. I didn’t know we had to get one but luckily, they had PCs passed the immigration area where you can fill out the online form and take a picture of it with your mobile phone to present to the customs officer. Talk about a pain in the ass.
After finally leaving the airside of the airport, I had another long barely moving lineup to buy a SIM card which cost me $10 USD for unlimited data for 7 days. I’m only travelling in Timor Leste for 2 nights and 3 days so this is perfect and it came in handy during my time in the country.
Going to my accommodation in Dili, Timor Leste
I then took a taxi from the airport to go to my accommodation which cost me $10 USD.
I stayed in an accommodation called Dive Timor Leste. You actually can’t make an online booking here. The only way you can stay here is if you email them first and do a global wire transfer for 50% deposit for the room. I ended up staying in a studio which cost $85 USD per night. The cheaper guest houses that cost $40 USD were all sold out so I had to shell out the extra money to stay at this place. I’m happy with the decision as the room was clean and the place had excellent customer service. Not to mention the bar and restaurant within the accommodation also sold really tasty meals.
Booking an expensive tours
I ended up booking the $200 USD whale-watching tour for the following day with hopes to see the biggest creature on Earth, the Blue Whale, as well as Moby Dick, the Sperm Whale.
I had a fitting of the wetsuits for this snorkelling trip and it was a pain in the ass because I gained weight and they weren’t fitting! It’s also boiling hot in Timor Leste so the whole process was not fun. After I finished the fitting, I learned I can’t go snorkelling because I’m a newbie swimmer and they’ll be snorkelling in extremely deep waters (3km deep I believe).
I was bummed out but safety comes first.
Checking out Cristo Rei
I ended up grabbing a ride to Cristo Red which is the famous giant Jesus statue in Dili. I think the driver scammed me as the hotel quoted me $5 USD per way but he insisted it was $10 USD per way as it’s a holiday and everything cost double. Regardless, the guy did wait for 30 minutes for me while I did the Cristo Rei hike so it justifies the cost.
He also told me stories of how people operate on the island. Many locals spend 2-3 months working and earning USD and then spending a full month in Bali enjoying life since their USD goes a long way there.
Chilling at the accommodation
Before calling it a day, I ate some yummy Peri Peri chicken with rice and salad in the Castaway Bar attached to the accommodation and I chatted with this American guy who is nearly ending his own one year trip around the world.
The next day, we went on the Whale Watching tour. The manager gave me some gavel to take to prevent sea sickness. We took a small boat to reach the bigger boat and were fed sandwiches while we were briefed on what to expect.
The group consists of myself, the American guy from the day before, a Spaniard from Barcelona, a Japanese woman living in Malaysia, a German guy from Dusseldorf, a Chinese girl who lives in the US, and crew members from Australia and Timor Leste.
Unfortunately for us, the tour was lackluster as we didn’t see anything but dolphins which sucks. It’s just one of those things where you can’t control Mother Nature and the animals will appear when they feel like it.
Wrapping up my time in Timor Leste
Upon returning to land, I had some Prawn Laksa (I forgot to take a picture of it as I devoured it happily) as recommended by the Spaniard whom I ate lunch with in the accommodation. I was pretty tired so I ate an early dinner which is another Peri Peri chicken before calling it a day.
For breakfast the next day, I ate Nasi Goring which was meh compared to their amazing Prawn Laksa.
Scams in Timor Leste
Myself, the German guy and the Japanese woman went to the airport together via taxi. It was hilarious as we agreed on $10 USD for the taxi ride and the freaking taxi driver kept trying to make us pay $15 USD. The friendly Japanese woman didn’t mind because she said the taxi looked all broken up and he probably needed the money. But to me, it’s the principle that we agreed on $10 USD before riding in the taxi.
Beware of scams while in Timor Leste.
Even when I was lining up to check in at the counter, the Americans in front of me were being scammed for having their luggage too heavy and were being asked to pay extra. Turns out it was a scam because they were within the limit and the front desk counter was just making an excuse to shake some dollars off these Americans.
Flying out of Timor Leste
Before long, the three of us went through immigration and boarded the plane going to Bali ending my short adventure in Timor Leste.
I’d say Timor Leste is a good place to go if you love sea creatures. It’s one of the only two places in the world where you can swim with Blue Whales besides Sri Lanka so it’s a good place to do that. Their PADI certification here is also fairly priced at around $450 USD.
As of writing this article, I don’t dive but I do plan on getting certified sometime in the future.
I can’t believe I just completed country #99. One more to go to reach 100.