East Timor

East Timor Destinations Travel Guide

Flag of East Timor

Language: Tetum, Portuguese

Currency: US dollar (USD)

Calling Code: +670


East Timor, whose official name is the Democratic Republic of East Timor (in Portuguese: Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste, in Tetun: Republika Demokratika Timor Lorosa'e) is a Southeast Asian country. Island of Timor, the nearby islands of Atauro and Jaco and the exclave of Oecusse (Oecussi-Ambeno), surrounded by territory of the Indonesian region of West Timor. In total the country has a territory of  14 874 km2 and a population of more than 1 million one hundred thousand inhabitants.

The territory of the current East Timor was colonized by Portugal in the sixteenth century and became known as Portuguese Timor. The colony declared its independence in 1975, but a few days later it was invaded and occupied by troops from neighboring Indonesia, a country that turned the territory into its 27th province. In 1999, after an act of self-determination in East Timor, sponsored by the UN, Indonesia abandoned the former Portuguese colony and East Timor became on May 20, 2002 the first sovereign state that was born in the XXI century. After its independence, the nation became a member of the United Nations and of the Community of Portuguese-Speaking Countries. In addition, East Timor is one of only two Asian countries whose main religion is Catholicism (the other is the Philippines).

East Timor has a middle-income economy. In 2014 GDP per capita was $ 5,479 according to World Bank data. Nearly 40% of its inhabitants live below the poverty line, that is, they subsist on less than $ 1.25 per day, 6 and about half of the population is illiterate, and East Timor still suffers the consequences of the struggle against the Indonesian occupation that lasted for decades, leaving damage to the country's infrastructure as well as the death of around one hundred thousand people. Although the country now has an average human development index (previously low), it is expected that the percentage growth of its economy will be among the highest in the world in the coming years, East Timor is the only country in Asia whose language is official the Portuguese.


Travel Destination in East Timor

 Atauro Island is located on the extinct Wetar segment of the volcanic Inner Banda Arc in East Timor.



The toponym "Timor" comes from timur ("east" in Indonesian), which in Portuguese was written as "Timor" (port. Timor), which leads to the formation of a tautological toponym meaning "eastern east": in Portuguese Timor-Leste ( Leste means "east"), in the language of Tetum - Timór Lorosa'e (Lorosa'e - "east", literally "rising sun"). In Indonesian, the country is called Timor Timur, which uses the Portuguese name for the island followed by the word "eastern" because adjectives in Indonesian are placed after the noun.

The official name of the country in Portuguese is República Democrática de Timor-Leste and in Tetum is Repúblika Demokrátika Timór-Leste.



The first natives of the island lived in the Jerimalai Cave about 60-50 thousand years ago. From 38 thousand years BC. up to 17 thousand years BC Jerimalai Cave was uninhabited, which is most likely due to the lowering of the sea level.

Presumably 4 thousand years ago, Timor was inhabited by representatives of the Australoid race, who spoke the ancient Papuan languages. Later, Austronesian Mongoloid tribes, who came from the islands of modern Indonesia, began to settle in Timor. The Tetums were the last of these settlers, probably in the 16th century. The Tetums had a significant impact on the development of all the then inhabitants of the island - taking the example of the Tetums, they began to move from primitive gathering to agriculture, in particular, to growing rice.

At this time (in the XIV-XVI centuries) Timor was visited by Javanese, Malay and Chinese traders who bartered sandalwood from local residents, which was in great demand in the countries of Southeast and South Asia.

The Portuguese were the first Europeans to arrive in the area in the 16th century and establish several settlements on the island of Timor while the surrounding islands were colonized by the Dutch.

The first Portuguese who were traders arrived in Timor between 1509 and 1511 in the area of ​​the modern city of Pante Macassar. Only in 1556 did the first Catholic missionaries appear, and by the 17th century Lifau had become the center of their activity. In 1702, Timor was officially declared a colony of Portugal. Dili, founded in 1520, became the capital of East Timor in 1769.

In 1859, Timor was divided between the Netherlands and Portugal under the Treaty of Lisbon, but the final border between the possessions of these two countries on Timor was determined only in 1914.

During the Second World War, the island was occupied by Japan (from 1942 to 1945). After the war, Portuguese power was restored. East Timor remained a Portuguese colony until 1974.

Indonesian occupation of East Timor
The process of decolonization in Portuguese Timor began in 1974, following the fall of the authoritarian regime in Portugal. In 1975, a radical Maoist regime was established in the territories controlled by the FRETILIN party, maintaining friendly relations with the Khmer Rouge and similar movements; From July 23 to August 6, 1976, a delegation of the Democratic Republic of East Timor paid an official friendly visit to Kampuchea.

On November 28, 1975, the FRETILIN party proclaimed the independence of East Timor. However, the next day, the APODETI and UDT parties announced the annexation of East Timor to Indonesia, and 9 days later, parts of the Indonesian army invaded the country. On July 17, 1976, East Timor was declared the 27th province of Indonesia, with APODETI chairman Arnaldo dos Reis Araujo appointed as the first governor.

The invasion and subsequent repression were carried out with the support of the United States, which supplied weapons and trained Indonesian special forces units Komando Pasukan Khusus[en] (Kopassus). Australia supported the actions of the Indonesian authorities and interfered with the activities of the Timorese liberation movement abroad.

In 1999, under pressure from the UN, a referendum on self-determination was held in East Timor. As a result, 78.5% of the population voted for independence. This led to a new outbreak of violence, which required the introduction of an international peacekeeping contingent. On May 20, 2002, the former Portuguese colony was officially declared an independent state.

Diplomatic relations with the Russian Federation were established on May 20, 2002. The Russian Foreign Ministry officially uses the name "East Timor", but the UN officially adopted the Portuguese name of the state in Russian - Timor-Leste.

2006 East Timorese crisis
The clashes that began on March 16, 2006 between former members of the East Timorese army, who were dismissed for participating in a strike due to what were perceived as excessively cruel demands of army discipline, and the police, which escalated into mass clashes, led to the collapse of the government, the police, chaos and rampant crime. East Timor's capital, Dili, was taken over by youth gangs, looters and warring factions, as well as by defecting police officers who looted and burned the houses of local residents, beating their owners. The rebels also put forward political demands - the resignation of Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri. It was possible to partially normalize the situation and stop the bloodshed only after the entry of a peacekeeping contingent from Australia, New Zealand, Malaysia, Portugal and other countries in May 2006. Riots and clashes in East Timor were also noted in March and May 2007. The victims of the conflict in East Timor from March to June 2006 amounted to at least 30 people killed, the total number of refugees exceeded 27 thousand people.



The country is dominated by mountains, from which small mountain rivers flow into the Banda and Timor seas. There are earthquakes and tsunamis.

The climate in East Timor is subequatorial monsoonal with moderate rainfall. Wet monsoon leads to landslides and floods. Sandalwood forests grow in mountainous and foothill areas. The lowlands are dominated by tall grass savannahs with coconut palms and eucalyptus trees.

Small plateaus 500-700 m high are common in the east of the country. Low-lying accumulative plains stretch along the southern coast. The position of East Timor within the Alpine-Himalayan mobile belt determines the high seismicity and susceptibility of the island to tsunamis. The coast, shelf and especially the bottom of the Timor Sea are rich in oil and gas.



The population is 1,291,358.
Annual increase - 2% (fertility - 3.2 births per woman).
Urban population - 27%.
Literacy - 58% (2002 estimate).
Ethnic composition - Austronesian peoples (Tetum - 45%, Mambai - 15%, Tokode - 12%, etc.), Papuan peoples (Bunak - 11%, Makasai - 3%, etc.), Chinese - 1%.

Religious structure of the population (2005 estimate):
Catholics - 96.9%,
Protestants - 2.2%,
Hindus, Buddhists, animists - 0.6%,
Muslims - 0.3%.



East Timor has two official languages: Tetum and Portuguese, and two more "working" languages: Indonesian and English. "Working languages", according to article 159 of the Constitution of the Democratic Republic of East Timor, are used in the work of official bodies "when deemed necessary". The status of "working languages" is defined by the constitution as temporary, without specifying a date for the expiration of the transition period.

State-political structure
Republic. The current constitution was adopted on March 20, 2002. It is based on the model of the Portuguese constitution. The head of state is the president, elected by the population for a 5-year term (a second consecutive term is possible). The president can veto laws, dissolve parliament, and call elections. There is universal suffrage (given from the age of 17). Parliamentary elections were held on 30 August 2001.

Legislative powers are exercised by the National Parliament, which consists of 88 members. Deputies are elected for 5 years by popular vote.

Main political parties (based on the results of the elections in June 2007):
Revolutionary Front for Independence (FRETILIN) - left, 21 deputies
National Congress for Perestroika - centre-left, 18 deputies
Social Democrats (two parties in coalition) - centre-left, 11 deputies
Democratic Party - centre-left, 8 deputies
3 more parties are represented in the parliament (2-3 deputies each), 7 more parties did not enter the parliament.


Administrative-territorial division

The territory of East Timor is divided into 13 administrative regions:
Cova Lima

The districts are further divided into 90 subdistricts, 700 sukos and 7225 villages (hamlets).

The border between East Timor and Indonesia was officially defined by Portugal and the Netherlands by treaties in 1859 and 1913. The border was finally established in The Hague in 1916. Following the re-declaration of East Timor's independence in 2002, the parties proceeded to delimit the border, which has not yet been completed. Differences remain over three sections of the border between Indonesia and East Timor. There is a free movement of people and goods between East Timor's semi-enclave Oecussi and mainland East Timor.

It is a member of the international organization of African, Caribbean and Pacific countries.



East Timor is an underdeveloped agrarian state. The country's economy was destroyed during the civil war of 1976-1999. Its basis was agriculture, which was dominated by irrigated agriculture. Half the population was unemployed. With independence, offshore oil and gas production, which is carried out with the help of Australian companies, came to the fore. The country's economy after independence is developing quite successfully.

On the territory of the country there are deposits of gold, platinum, marble and manganese.

Residents grow coffee, coconut, rice, corn, cassava, soybeans, sweet potatoes, mangoes, bananas, vanilla, tobacco, and cotton. The country has established the production of copra, soap and cosmetic products, as well as pearl fishing - one of the ways of income for the inhabitants of the country. East Timor has developed woodworking, leather, textile and food industries. Handicrafts: basket weaving, ivory and sandalwood carving, pottery making.

Benefits: Oil and gas deposits in the Timor Sea. Several oil fields have been found in the Timor Sea. The reserves of only one of them - Bayou Undan - are estimated at 3 billion dollars. The traditional basis of agriculture is coffee and tropical fruits.

Disadvantages: in 1999, during the riots, the infrastructure was badly destroyed. The industrial sector is poorly developed. Underdeveloped infrastructure, low literacy of the population.

The economy is based on oil and gas, marble, agriculture (coffee and tropical fruits) and sandalwood exports. In 2011, GDP per capita was 8.7 thousand dollars (118th place in the world). After independence in 2004, East Timor was one of the least developed countries in the world, the second poorest country in Asia after Afghanistan. In the first years of independence, oil and gas fields began to be developed in the country and the country's GDP increased 24 times from 2004 to 2011 from 400 million to 9.7 billion dollars. The state budget of the country has grown from $40 million in 2004 to $1.3 billion in 2011. The country has turned (according to IMF experts) into the world's most dependent state on the world oil price. In 2011, GDP growth was 10%, in 2012 the economic growth rate was about the same. The country's infrastructure, despite high oil and gas revenues, is poorly developed. The level of urbanization reaches only 27%; in 2010, 87.7% of urban and only 18.9% of rural households used electricity (the national average is 36.7%).

Agriculture (26.5% of GDP, 64% of employed in the economy) - coffee, cocoa, cinnamon, rice, corn, cassava, sweet potatoes, soybeans, cabbage, mangoes, bananas, vanilla.

Industry (17.8% of GDP, 10% of those employed in the economy) - oil and gas production, soap, clothing, handicrafts.

Exports ($108 million, 2017) - oil (61% of the value), coffee (24%), clothing, agricultural raw materials. Imports ($651 million, 2017) - mainly petroleum products and fuels (16%), machinery and equipment (26%), agricultural products, including rice (up to 4.8%), meat, tobacco and alcoholic beverages .

The national currency of the country since January 2000 is the US dollar. In addition, since 2003, their own Timorese centavo coins have been used, corresponding at the rate to the American cent. Coins are issued in denominations of 1, 5, 10, 25, 50,100 and 200 centavos.

mass media
The state-owned television and radio company RTTL includes TVTL (Televisão de Timor Leste - East Timor Television) and radio station RTL (Radio Timor Leste - East Timor Radio).