The following information assumes that the reader is already familiar with the general travel information for Indonesia usually found in the introductory sections of comprehensive guidebooks for Indonesia, such as the Lonely Planet publications Indonesia and Eastern Indonesia, and the Indonesia Handbook by Bill Dalton (Moon Publications).
There is one guide book on East Timor that was published within the last month and is available for purchase in East Timor and possibly in Indonesia too. East Timor, Land of the Rising Sun: A traveler's guide plus English-Indonesian-Tetum dictionary. by Octavio "Amakai" Soares. The non-historical information is probably useful. No decent maps, though. Of its 80 pages, 10 are a guide to sites in ET regency by regency, 30 is a phrase book, and 23 a dictionary. Although you might be able to special order a copy, it is likely to take 4-6 weeks. A good PDF (Acrobat) formatted color map of East Timor is available on the UNAMET web site at http://www.un.org/peace/etimor/etimor.pdf (you need acrobat reader to view or print it). Journalists are urged to review the UNAMET media travel guide found at: http://www.un.org/peace/etimor/ADVISORY.HTM.
The following tips supplement guidebook information with specific information about travel in East Timor July-September, 1999.
The sections are in the following order:
Clinics will be set up in several locations throughout East Timor, so volunteers will probably never be very far from adequate health care.
Fill a prescription for malaria pills before leaving home. The malaria (falciparum malaria) in East Timor is becoming resistant to mefloquine [mefloh kwin] (commonly sold under the name "Larium"), so a daily dose of doxycycline [dox ee SIL in] will be more effective (and likely better tolerated). The antibiotics in doxycyline provide additional protection against other diseases. Malaria pills are not completely effective.
Other nasty diseases are transmitted by mosquitoes, too, so take all precautions against being bitten: wear long sleeves and long pants; cover exposed skin with generous amounts of a mosquito repellent containing DEET; and sleep under a mosquito net or next to a strong fan. Consider using mosquito coils. Stay indoors after twilight when possible. Be especially vigilant in the early evening hours, when mosquitoes are most voracious. While inexpensive mosquito nets can be purchased in Dili for Rp 35,000, it is recommended that you bring mosquito netting from your point of origin or obtain it in Indonesia rather than East Timor (as supplies are limited there). Mosquito nets containing pyrethrum are a little more effective, but they are definitely not available in ET.
If you get sick, particularly with a fever, get tested and treated immediately. Falciparum malaria has a habit of progressing quickly and can be fatal if untreated.
Many travelers will experience diarrhea, especially the so-called "travelers diarrhea," or "TD." This type of diarrhea is usually caused by changes in diet, alcohol consumption, slightly contaminated food or water, and bodily stress, such as from heat and exhaustion. Plan to take it easy the first few days in East Timor. The standard treatments, described in guidebooks, will usually clear up TD within a few days. Carrying over-the-counter remedies, and a generic form of Lomotil, may be prudent, but travelers should not attempt to self-dose with antibiotics. Severe diarrhea can be a symptom of more serious diseases, however, so see a doctor if the diarrhea persists.
Vaccinations for hepatitis A and B are very strongly recommended. An oral typhoid vaccination is nearly as highly recommended. Get a tetanus booster shot if it has been more than ten years since your last one. Some health plans offer free vaccinations. Many relatively inexpensive pharmaceutical products are sold in East Timor, but refill any prescriptions before leaving home.
Japanese encephalitis exists in Southeast Asia, but there are no health statistics for its presence in East Timor. Check with your doctor and the CDC travel information page (http://www.cdc.gov/travel/seasia.htm) about current health information. The immunization is not considered a "must have" since the CDC's sense of "rural areas" means truly rural areas such as are not currently accessible to foreigners in East Timor. Consider your length of stay and likelihood of placement. Indeed, our latest report said: "Japanese Encephalitis is so rare in East Timor that the vaccination for it is not recommended."
The biggest health hazard may be road accident trauma, so walk defensively and wear a seatbelt when possible.
Any extra antibiotics, malaria tablets, painkillers, and vitamins that you take, if you would like to leave them, should be donated to clinics rather than individuals. Clinics are in a position to assess the viability of such medications given such factors as the degree to which exposure to heat changes the medicine's properties. Inexpensive medicines can be purchased in Bali and Kupang on your way to Dili. However, inexpensive medicines can be purchased easily in Dili and might presumably be fresher and more viable than medicines carried around in a backpack long before they are needed.
Consider reviewing the following book for further ideas and elaboration on staying healthy, such as water treatment, and foods to avoid: Bezruchka S.The Pocket Doctor: A Passport to Healthy Travel. Seattle: The Mountaineers, 1999. Costs $6.95, and can be ordered from the publisher at: (800)553-4453 or your local bookseller. Consider bringing the book Where There is No Doctor by David Werner. Published by The Hesperian Foundation, P.O. Box 1692, Palo Alto, CA 94302. ISBN:0942364013. Translations of this useful health guide are available in many languages. If you were to bring a Portuguese or Indonesian edition you could leave it behind.
IFET-OP observers in East Timor will be accredited by UNAMET and will have to get Social-Cultural visas issued by the Indonesian government BEFORE YOUR arrival in East Timor. As of the end of July, more than 100 IFET-OP observers have received UNAMET accreditation, and at least half of those had obtained the visa. Here is the procedure you should follow after your application has been accepted by the IFET Observer Project:
If you are traveling via Australia, be aware that Australia requires visas from most visitors (including those from the USA) which must be obtained from a local Australian consulate before you go.
The transportation situation has improved. Yet, for some travelers at certain times, land sea, and air transportation will be scarce and unreliable. Buy tickets as soon as possible, and plan for cancellations and delays. There is no penalty for changing reservations on Merpati flights, but availability remains a major problem.
Always confirm flights 48 hours in advance, and once again about 24 hours in advance. Merpati will charge an excess baggage fee if the total weight of your two checked bags exceeds 20 kilos (about 45 pounds). The fee may be negotiable. Contact IFET for the most current detailed land, air, and sea travel information to East Timor.
[Please note, IFET is attempting to facilitate additional airline service to East Timor. As of yet, no agreements have been reached.]
[Travelers desiring information on frequent flyer awards requirements should send a request for our list to firstname.lastname@example.org]
The phone number for Merpati in Bali is 62 361 235358, but they ask that you fax any ticket request to 62 361 231962.
There is now a flight from Kupang to Dili on Tuesdays, but the former 3x weekly flights which originated in Bali, and also the small flights (20 seats) Kupang-Alor-Dili, have been cancelled. Land transport is possible, see FROM KUPANG transportation section below.
Two Australian air companies have made proposals for services. Flight time would be around 90 minutes. However, services can only commence once Indonesian authorities grant operating permits.Flying Darwin to Kupang
This is the cheapest way from Darwin at present. Merpati flies Wednesday and Saturdays. The Darwin-Kupang flight operates in the late afternoon (leaving Darwin at 4:00 pm and arriving in Kupang at 4:05 pm), and the reverse flight operates midday.Flying from Darwin to Bali direct (call Quantas 1-800-227-4500):
The cost roundtrip is $825A / $548US. Travel must be completed on these roundtrips in 5 days to 35 days.Flying Bali to Darwin
There are three Pelni Boats heading to Dili, which are the Dobonsolo, the Awu and the Tatamilau. These boats are normally on time, plus/minus a couple of hours. There are 1st, 2nd,3rd and economy class tickets. The tickets are usually hard to book in advance. Each ship only goes approximately once per fortnight:
The best option likely, is Dobonsolo. It leaves from Jakarta to Dili (via Surabaya -East Java, Benoa - Bali, Kupang - West-Timor) every two weeks (fortnightly). It's scheduled to leave Jakarta the 25th of June at 16.00pm, Surabaya the 26th at 15.00pm, Denpasar the 27th 09.00am and Kupang the 28th 13.00pm, arriving at Dili the 28th 22.00pm. We had heard that the boat would not be in service between August 6-20, but it appears that this information was incorrect. It is due to sail from Kupang on Monday, August 9. From Jakarta Economy is 175.000 Rp, 1st class 598.000 Rp. There are two options in between (2nd and 3rd class), and the closer you get to Dili, the cheaper it will be, so you might estimate what the prices are about.
Second option is Awu. Leaving from Denpasar the next time July the 5th at 14.00pm, via Waingapu (Sumba) 6th 15.00pm, Ende (Flores) 6th 23.00pm, Kupang (West-Timor) 7th 12.00am, Kalabahi (Alor) 7th 23.00pm and reaching Dili the 8th 06.00 am. It's fortnightly as well and the tariff from Denpasar is 132.000 Rp for Economy and 449.000 for 1st class.
Tatamilau then is almost out of question, because it's just going to/from Dili once a month and means a trip to some of the most isolated places of the archipelago.
Although flight service to Dili has been limited to once a week, bus-transport from Kupang to Dili is reportedly safe now again. There used to be and perhaps still are many buses per day traveling in both directions. It takes 10 to 12 hours, so it is best to start at about 0600 or 0700. The advantage is that it is extremely cheap, and allows travelers to see the scenery. The disadvantage is that it is long and uncomfortable (small seats, many people, much luggage). It is wise, for comfort's sake, to book a front seat the day before travel, or a few hours before travel. The second disadvantage is that the bus can be stopped at roadblocks set up by pro-integration East Timorese militias. Though scary, the worst they will probably do is to send foreigners back.
Cars with drivers may also be easily rented quite inexpensively in Kupang for the journey to Dili. Ask at the big hotels and get a few quotes. Write down the agreed price and conditions so that extra payment cannot be claimed later. Microlets or small buses may be found for rent. Suitable for groups. Could try to catch a bus to Atambua (on the border of East and West Timor) then hire a car there. You have to pay for the petrol and driver's food and accommodation. They have to pay for breakdowns and tires etc.
Again, there are two ships from Kupang to Dili:Awu
There has been some discussion about chartering a plane from Jakarta to Dili. Unfortunately, there is a 50-50 chance that such a flight could be cancelled at the last minute, and the organizers might change the date. IFET-OP observers should not count on this option without a backup plan.
Maps of Timor with street maps of Kupang and Dili are available in Darwin and Dili. Downtown Dili is small enough to manage on foot. Taxis in Dili are very inexpensive; about Rp 2000. Microlets or Bemos (public minibuses or covered pickup trucks) are much less expensive (as low as Rp 300), but they are usually slower and often crowded. Just mention your destination, and the bemo crew will drop you off there. Eventually.
Cars, bemos and drivers can be hired in Dili. Ask at main hotels or at IFET headquarters. The usual price is Rp 200,000 per day around Dili, outside 250,000. A long day might run Rp. 400,000.Prices will probably go up substantially as the number of internationals increases.
Bemos and buses also travel between cities. Buses usually leave very early in the morning, but bemos may run through the afternoon. Cars and bemos can be privately hired with a driver, too. Transportation is very difficult after dark. Few, if any, taxis will be available, for instance.All forms of transportation will become increasingly scarce as the August vote nears and prices may escalate.
Hotels are fully reserved through September. However, advance teams have attempted to seek out the best accommodations options, and have recently reported that there now is sufficient housing in many places. These teams are confident that they will be able to find decent accommodations for every volunteer observer, although a few volunteers should be prepared to rough it on makeshift beds in public buildings and private homes. Try to bring a sheet and sleeping mat.
Toilet and bathing facilities will be very basic in some locales. Ever used an outhouse? Good. Ever flushed a toilet with a bucket of water? Very good. Ever used a bidet? Even better. Bathing involves using a dipper to pour water from a water tank (the mandi) over yourself. The morning mandi can be as eye-opening as a first cup of coffee.
The IFET-OP has voted to approve a one-time fee of $100 per observer upon arrival in Dili, to be used collectively to pay for housing expenses for the entire time spent in East Timor and food for the first few days during orientation.
Thrifty travelers should be able to live on less than US$15 per day for food, lodging, and transportation in East Timor. However, the sudden influx of foreigners is generating some price inflation. Prices in hotels, restaurants, and retail stores are fixed, but you are expected to bargain for anything sold less formally. Keep money, passport, credit card, and other valuables in a money pouch/belt worn inside your clothing. Many hotels in Denpasar, Bali provide safes for valuables. Don't automatically assume that money in a locked room is safe.
The 5-25-99 exchange rate was US $1=Rp 8000. A month later (6-20-99) saw the rate change considerably to US$1=Rp 6000.
The exchange rate for cash is generally better than the rate for travelers checks. Exchange rates in Denpasar, Bali are about 5-10% better than those in Dili, East Timor. It could be very difficult to exchange money outside Dili, and the rate likely far lower. For the sufficiently wary traveler, the crime rate in Indonesia and East Timor is low enough that the higher exchange rates for cash may make it worth the gamble to carry mostly cash.
Clean, crisp, new-looking $100 bills get the best exchange rates. Torn, taped, marked, and excessively worn bills will probably not be accepted. Smaller U.S. denominations get a slightly lower rate, but bring some 20s for emergency exchanges at poor rates, or as a communication aid for solving problems with unsympathetic officials.
The best exchange rates in Denpasar can be obtained from licensed money changers along the main streets of Kuta and Legian, on Jalan Pantai Kuta and Jalan Kuta Raya. Their rates will be probably be at least Rp 100 better than what banks offer, and they are much more convenient. Unfortunately there also seems to be a moneychanging scam on every corner. Look for licensed moneychangers that do not charge commissions and which give a carbon copy receipt containing the address. Count your money before leaving the exchange counter. If the moneychanger touches the money or distracts you while you are counting it, count it again. If that happens a second time, cancel the transaction. A typical scammer offers a very good rate, but then shortchanges customers through sleight-of-hand tricks with a fistful of Rp 10,000 bills. Two reputable moneychangers offering very competitive rates are PT. Budiasa Dwivaluta at 32A Jalan Pantai Kuta (a few blocks from the beach), and PT. Central Kuta, which has its head office at 165 Legian Street, Kuta. A rate more than Rp 100 higher than at these two places probably involves a scam. Some of the worst rates are offered at Denpasar airport, but even these may be better than exchange rates in East Timor.
In Dili, the best exchange rates are given for travelers checks, not cash. The BNI Bank behind the Mahkota Hotel in Dili is one of the best places to change money. It will not be easy to exchange money, especially travelers checks, outside of Dili, and the rate will likely be far lower. Small bills for change in East Timor may be difficult to obtain, especially outside Dili, so try to get many bills smaller than Rp 20,000. Since US $100 = Rp 600,000, exchanging a lot of money will net several "bricks" of rupiah bills. Consider storing the "bricks" in an unassuming bag, such as a toiletry-type bag, inside your day pack--then watch that pack!
Credit cards can be useful in Bali, but few places in East Timor will accept them. Credit card purchases are exchanged at the interbank exchange rate, the best possible exchange rate, but they also charge 2-4% commission. Even after the commission, however, credit cards may still offer the best net cost of changing money. ATM cards are not accepted in East Timor.
Try to learn some words and phrases of Indonesian, Portuguese, and Tetum before you arrive. Given the nature of our mission, Indonesian will probably be the most useful language to learn. The aforementioned Indonesian guidebooks provide a good introduction to the Indonesian language. One of the better Indonesian language books for beginners is Everyday Indonesian by Thomas Oey (Passport Books, Lincolnwood, IL, $14.95). A handy Indonesian/English dictionary by Modern Indonesian Publications costs $7.95. Tetum is the indigenous language of East Timor.
Use the Tetum word "obrigado" for "thank you" with the East Timorese, rather than the Indonesian phrase "terima kasih." Mai Kolia Tetun: A Beginners Course in Tetum AU$23, and A Travelers Dictionary English/Tetum AU$6.95 can be ordered from AETA in Melbourne ph 03 9416 2960 fax 03 9416 2746, email email@example.com or it can obtained from IFET headquarters in Darwin and Dili. Many older East Timorese speak Portuguese, and may understand Spanish as well. IFET headquarters in Dili will provide one page of useful words and phrases in Indonesian, Tetum, and Portuguese.
Overseas calling is easy at the Wartel offices found in the larger cities,but expensive. [expensive -- more than Rp 15,000 per minute to the U.S andto Europe] Wartel overseas calls are usually less expensive than calls charged to credit cards, though. Be aware that any telephone call in East Timor may be monitored by Indonesian intelligence agents. The time in East Timor is 12 hours ahead of New York (EDT).
Local telephone calls can be made from Wartel offices, or at somewhat scarce pay phones. Pay phones accept coins or telephone cards purchased in East Timor. Cellular phones are useful in Dili, but will only operate there and nowhere in the outskirts or even in the mountains. If you are to obtain a cell phone, please note that you should obtain Simpati / Hello Cards in Jakarta or Denpasar as these cards are not available in Dili. Very expensive cell phones may be purchased in Dili. Cell phones are much less expensive in Bali and Jakarta. Many places in Jakarta sell used cell phones for $100. For long term purposes, it is less expensive to buy a new or used one than to rent. Some Asian cell phones work in East Timor, but U.S. cell phones do not. Ask IFET for more specific information about cell phones for East Timor. Be aware that cell phone systems could easily be listened in on, and sabotaged.
IFET headquarters in Dili will provide limited access to email. There are some private email connections in East Timor, but remember that sending or receiving sensitive email may endanger your host. Free email accounts that can be accessed directly from the internet are available on many websites, such as www.hotmail.com. Access in East Timor to these sites is very slow, however. Encourage family and friends to email only the most essential information. Free fax email software that allows users to receive faxes by email can be obtained at www.efax.com or www.callwave.com.
Assume that all phone, fax, and email communications from East Timor are wiretapped. If you are communicating sensitive information (people's travel plans, for example), use PGP or other encryption.
Postal service is unreliable, so consider giving mail to a trustworthy departing traveler. Overseas postal rates are somewhat expensive.
Visitors will have to make their own fun indoors after the sun sets at 6 PM. Few books in English are available in East Timor, so pack plenty of them. Schools will gratefully accept book donations, especially children's books. Short-wave radios are sold in Dili for Rp 150,000-300,000. AA and AAA batteries are sold nearly everywhere. Bring lots of freezer bags to keep liquids from oozing into your luggage, and snack food fresh (energy/museli bars are good for when you're out in the field). Basic toiletry items -- with the exception of tampons -- are readily available, but not necessarily in your favorite brands. Bring plenty of fresh camera film. Fuji 100 print film is available in Dili, but slide film and specialty films probably won't be. Check the film expiration date before purchasing it.
Other recommended things to bring:
Visitors should bring cameras, videocassette recorders, tape recorders, and any other recording devices. Using these devices in sensitive areas, such as military installations, could result in confiscation of the recorded material, but probably not the device itself. The East Timorese will immensely appreciate any items that can be left behind when you depart.
A frisbee is an outstanding icebreaker in East Timor. Frisbees aren't sold in ET, so even the most mediocre tossers will draw crowds of at least 50-200 people. The fun really begins when you encourage onlookers to give it a try.
Plan to dress conservatively. Men should wear loose-fitting long pants. Women should wear loose-fitting tops and knee-length skirts or long pants. Tank tops, bare midriffs, and shorts and skirts much above the knee are inappropriate. Even sleeveless tops are not really appropriate. Shorts may be okay for lounging around in Dili, but never for official business. T-shirts are okay; but sport shirts (collared) are better, and usually more comfortable in the hot and dry months of July and August. Footwear can be very casual--sandals, sneakers, and sturdy casual shoes are fine. Bring a bathing suit for the beach.
IFET will provide shirts to identify us as IFET observers; you will be asked to buy them from IFET headquarters in Dili when you arrive. The price will be reasonable.
A light jacket will be needed by those venturing into cool mountain areas. For this reason, every volunteer is advised to bring at least one long-sleeved shirt, plus a light rain jacket.
Women should wear a t-shirt over a bathing suit when they go swimming; a bathing suit alone might be seen as immodest.
A cotton sarong is a very versatile item to pack. A sarong functions as a quick-drying towel, beach blanket, sheet for chilly early-morning hours, robe for the mandi, and comfy loungewear in your room. It takes up far less backpack room than a towel, and is eminently more practical. An inexpensive batik sarong can be purchased in Bali for about Rp 20,000. Get it hemmed in a few minutes for about Rp 4000.
Displaced people will continue to need food relief services, but there is no general food shortage in East Timor. Visitors may not always find their favorite fruit or vegetable available, but they can expect three nutritious, and often delicious, meals per day. The IFET advance team reports that they are working hard to provide delicious meals for every volunteer by placing volunteers in private homes, or by hiring cooks for houses that we rent.
Exchange extra rupiah currency in Bali before leaving. Exchange rates in your home country will probably be much worse. Don't forget to save Rp 50,000 for the International Airport Departure Tax.
Tuberculosis (TB) is common in East Timor, so it might be a good idea to get a quick, and usually free, TB test soon after returning home from East Timor, especially for travelers that had prolonged exposure in epidemic areas.
When the going gets rough, chill. A show of anger or defiance will only make matters worse. A smile and a tactful sense of humor are the most effective negotiating tools. :-)