Have you ever heard about Timor-Leste? If not, you should know that it’s a country in Asia that barely receives tourists. It’s one of the newest countries in the world, and it’s pretty close to Australia. If you’d want to travel to this country, you may be disappointed by the lack of travel information, and you may have to do more research than you would with other countries.
Considering there’s little to know about Timor-Leste, you can’t send away the “Is Timor-Leste safe to visit?” question that pops up in your mind. Especially with little-known countries, safety can be a concern, because there is barely any news about the things going out on the territory.
If you’re looking for an off-the-beaten-path trip and you’re concerned about your safety, you may be in need of some Timor-Leste safety travel tips. You will get some help through this Timor-Leste safety guide, so you can be ready to pack if you feel like this place is the desired travel destination.
Highest Risks You’re Exposing Yourself to When Visiting Timor-Leste
Overall Risks in Timor-Leste: HIGH
The situation in Timor-Leste can be pretty bad in certain instances. For example, violence is not uncommon and may occur at any time, thus it is possible for you to experience incidents while there.
Crimes are very common here, and crime usually includes robbery, vehicle attacks, assault, and even gang-related violence. Some robberies may even be armed, which is where the risk increases, because you may end up in a really bad situation. Given there is a lot of poverty, people are more likely to try to steal from foreigners and help themselves.
Moreover, the political situation may be what results in violence as well. In Dili, there has been violence associated with campaign rallies. The government is pretty much stable at this point, but you can’t take it for granted, because more violence can still occur. Political demonstrations, protests, and rallies can end up badly for anyone passing by, as the situation can escalate without any given warning.
Timor-Leste has no recent history of terrorism, and despite being pretty much safe when it comes to that, you can’t exclude the possibility of an attack at any time.
In terms of natural hazards, there is a tropical cyclone season that runs from November to April. As it can end with casualties, it can be dangerous if you travel there during this period.
Theft and Pickpocketing Risks in Timor-Leste: HIGH
“How safe is Timor-Leste for tourists?” you may wonder now, after reading about the crime situation in the country. Crime is pretty common, sadly, and there have been past incidents that included theft. Even armed robbery has happened in the past, and while it doesn’t mean you will most likely be held at gunpoint, you can’t take it for granted either.
Foreigners have been targets for thieves in the past, and attacks such as bag snatchings are not just scenarios created in your mind. They happened during the night as well as in broad daylight.
Pickpocketing is also something that could happen, especially if you’re not paying attention to your surroundings, and you’re usually in your own world. Because of the poverty in Timor-Leste, people may be more likely to steal or do other various crimes in order to maintain their own well-being.
- How to avoid pickpocketing and theft in Timor-Leste?
One thing that should be common sense is not carrying expensive jewelry around. That would act as bait for people, and you may not be the jewelry’s owner anymore after a while. Also, don’t carry around large sums of money. You may end up losing them, and that’s certainly not a pleasant thing to go through when you expect to have fun.
If you have a bag, you’d better keep it tightly in front of you, as you don’t want to chase a total stranger in a foreign country, aiming to take your belongings back. Be careful on the streets, and if you’re walking alone, be wary of your surroundings at all times. Moreover, make sure you don’t wander the streets after dark.
Scam Risk in Timor-Leste: HIGH
Timor-Leste is a newer country, and that may be one of the reasons why someone may try to scam you, especially considering the financial situation of some people. Some of the most common scams maybe someone trying to distract you.
Basically, you may be approached by a stranger asking you for a favor, while in reality, he’s distracting you. This may unfold by someone else coming from behind you and stealing from your pockets or backpack. That being said, you should be vigilant and not trust strangers.
Also, some sellers may not give you the right amount of change, therefore you should always double-check the money you receive after buying something. If you need to negotiate, do it in advance, so there are no unpleasant surprises.
- How to avoid getting scammed in Timor-Leste?
Vigilance is the keyword when it comes to scams and Timor-Leste. In short, you should always pay attention to what's happening around you - if someone seems to be trying too hard to distract you, then that means something else might be happening behind your back.
Moreover, as mentioned, you should double-check your change when purchasing something, even if it takes a while. Naturally, you should be careful when using the ATM and when locals ask you for favors or such - one might ask you to take a photo while their accomplice tries to rob you.
Kidnapping Risk in Timor-Leste: LOW to MEDIUM
In terms of kidnapping, the situation in Timor-Leste seems to be stable - in short, there are no recent reports of kidnappings and such in recent years.
However, as a tourist/ traveler, it is better to come prepared for everything - you may never know when a simple robbery turns into something more serious.
- How to avoid getting kidnapped in Timor-Leste?
Naturally, you should avoid venturing into remote areas or in the poor neighborhoods of the cities that you plan to visit. Moreover, it is recommended to stay indoors during the night and to take a cab back to your accommodation rather than walk.
Obviously, you should avoid being left all alone in certain areas - even though the view might be interesting or worthy of a photo, you should stick to the areas that are populated by both locals and tourists.
Terrorism Risk: LOW
If you’ve been wondering “Is Timor-Leste safe to visit regarding terrorism?”, you can breathe in relief from this point of view. There is no recent history of terrorist attacks on the territory, so it’s generally highly unlikely that one would be conducted.
However, you can’t rule out the possibility of an attack happening altogether. There is a global threat of terrorist attacks, so you should still keep in mind that something could happen at any moment. If an attack happens, you should know that it could do so even in areas frequented by foreigners, and in any public area.
- How to avoid terrorism in Timor-Leste?
As mentioned before, the risk of terrorism is low in Timor-Leste. Still, you should be prepared and know what to do in case something happens.
Therefore, it is recommended to avoid places that are too crowded, especially places of prayer and official buildings, as these are likely to be targeted by terrorists.
Moreover, you should always keep an eye on your surroundings - and, in case you notice something suspicious, such as a menacing, so to say, group of people, or an unattended item, it is better to flee the area and report to the authorities. As they say, better safe than sorry.
Risks for Women Traveling Alone in Timor-Leste: HIGH
In case you’re a woman who loves exploring the world in only her own company, the question “Is Timor-Leste safe for solo women travelers?” may pop up at one point. If you end up wishing to travel there, you should take special precautions after you step on foreign soil, and make sure you don’t end up in a bad situation.
Incidents of harassment and violence against women have happened in the past, and some cases even involved foreign women. Even in areas near the Christo Rei statue, harassment has occurred at one point.
- How to avoid crime as a solo woman traveler in Timor-Leste?
Therefore, you should know always dress up accordingly, and not draw any attention to yourself through extravagant clothing. Wear something comfortable, and don’t show off too much skin.
Furthermore, you shouldn’t walk, so you must ensure that you are back at your accommodation by the time it gets dark. The last thing you want is being attacked while being alone in a foreign place, especially during the night, when you barely see anything.
You should also not trust strangers, because reading minds is sadly only possible in stories. That being said, it’s hard to know the true intentions of the one approaching you.
Rape Risk in Timor-Leste: LOW to MEDIUM
Even though there are no recent reports of such incidents, there have been a couple of reports telling of violence and harassment against women in Timor-Leste.
These acts of violence were targeting both locals and tourists/ travelers - therefore, it is better if you don't draw too much attention.
- How to avoid getting raped in Timor-Leste?
In order to avoid unpleasant scenarios, we recommend you inform yourself of the current situation of the country and of its customs - in short, you would like to know what kind of outfits are seen as offensive in Timor-Leste.
Moreover, make sure that you don't display jewelry or gadgets, as a simple robbery might escalate with little given notice. Basically, as mentioned before, just blend in with the rest of the tourists and try to draw as little attention as possible to you.
Risks for People Traveling With Children in Timor-Leste: MEDIUM to HIGH
As in the case of solo women travelers, the risks for people traveling with children are medium to high as well - however, given the fact that the kidnapping risk is low, the only thing that you have to worry about is your children getting lost.
Of course, there's also the chance they might be approached by strangers that will try to rob them, especially if they have a phone or other valuable items. Thus, it is recommended that you keep an eye on them at all times - obviously, you don't want to leave them alone while you wander through a market or such.
- How to avoid unwanted scenarios?
As mentioned before, there are not many things that can endanger your children in Timor-Leste - the only bad thing that could happen is them wandering off in the distance while you are not paying attention to them.
If you think you won't be able to keep them under surveillance, so to say, it is better to have a companion that will take care of them while you browse the shops, buy souvenirs, and such.
Natural Disaster Risks in Timor-Leste: MEDIUM
Timor-Leste has a tropical cyclone season running from November to April, and it may end with casualties. Due to this season, the country is susceptible to landslides, floods, and prolonged dry spells that cause insect infestations, food dangers, and diseases.
Conversely, the country is also at a high risk of earth tremors from time to time. Before you spend money on plane tickets, it is recommended to monitor the local news, so you are at least somewhat aware of the current situation.
Transportation Risks in Timor-Leste: MEDIUM
Driving in Timor-Leste may not be the most pleasant experience you’re going to encounter, because the roads are poorly maintained. As a result, there are frequent road accidents, especially accidents involving motorcycles.
If you decide to drive, you must have a current driving license that is valid for the vehicle class you want to drive. Also, you should take care when the roads are wet because you may slip and you’re at higher risk of accidents.
If you want to use public transport instead, you should always look for reliable taxi companies, and never hail one on the street. You can’t trust a driver unless they are from a reputable company, because they may scam you. Moreover, be careful in public transport, because this is one of the favorite places for people like thieves and pickpocketers.
That being said, you can now alone answer the question “Is Timor-Leste safe to visit regarding road travel?”.
Night-Clubs, Pubs, and Bar Risks in Timor-Leste: MEDIUM
Although the reports don't mention any incidents occurring inside night-clubs, pubs, and bars, you should still be careful, mainly because of the gangs frequenting them that can turn violent
There are also a few reports telling of violent incidents at a number of nightclubs in Dili - while not that frequent, they cannot be entirely ruled out and should make any traveler/ tourist take a look around before and after entering a club, pub, or bar.
If you think that a certain situation is about to escalate in such a facility, it is better for you to just leave, even if there are only two men fighting - you can never know if their friends or the members of the gangs they are in will show up and, if they show up, they might be armed.
Health Risks in Timor-Leste
According to various reports, the medical facilities and services are limited throughout Timor-Leste. For example, in the case of a medical emergency, most governments recommend the evacuation to Singapore or Australia.
Furthermore, there's also the risk of dengue fever and malaria - you should take the recommended vaccines and be extremely careful in the months from November to April when the rainy season runs and the frequency of dengue fever cases increases.
List of Vaccines You Need in Timor-Leste
Make sure that, before you decide to go on a trip here, you visit your doctor. It is recommended to do so at least four weeks before the vacation. Some of the vaccines you may need upon visiting Timor-Leste are:
- Routine vaccines
- Japanese Encephalitis
- Hepatitis A
- Hepatitis B
- Yellow Fever
Most Dangerous Areas in Timor-Leste
- The Christo Rei Statue
Concluding Remarks: Is Timor-Leste Safe to Visit?
There’s too little known about Timor-Leste, and it’s highly unlikely to hear someone saying that it is their dream destination. If you are adept at visiting places that barely make it to someone’s vacation list, then you may like it. However, you should take note of the Timor-Leste safety travel tips presented during this article.
Hopefully, you found this Timor-Leste safety guide helpful, and you’re aware of the risks the country poses.