Dili, East Timor Report of what it's like to live there - 08/15/21
Personal Experiences from Dili, East Timor
1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?
I have lived in Japan, South Korea, Qatar, and Thailand.
2. What is your home city/country? How long is the trip to post from there, with what connections? How easy/difficult is it to travel to this city/country?
Home is Philadelphia. Currently very challenging to get to Dili because of limited flights; there are no regular commercial flights, and only a few irregular charter options per month. Hopefully, if Singapore reopens more, air service will improve.
3. What years did you live here?
4. How long have you lived here?
5. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?
Housing, Groceries & Food:
1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?
Housing is generally good, all neighborhoods are close to the Embassy and to local shopping and dining. Most homes are Standard 3-4 three bedroom units. Generally good construction. Two neighborhoods are directly adjacent to the Embassy compound, the other two are fewer than 12 minutes away. Although the homes aren't as modern (kitchen/bathroom design) as big city posts, we are working to improve them.
2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?
This, and internet speed, are the only thing that makes Dili a "hardship" post. Not as much choice in the grocery store, but meat and vegetables are pretty good. Bread is great, and so is the local coffee.
3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?
More US brand paper towels and toilet paper. Breakfast foods like granola bars. Campbell's soups. Meat marinades.
4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?
There is a decent food delivery app. Good pizza, sandwich, and salad delivery options. Ok Japanese food, but meh quality sushi. There are about 10 restaurants that line the beach (about a 5 mile stretch) that have good seafood, Indonesia/Malay influenced dishes, Portuguese influenced food, and US/UK/AUS focused food.
5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?
No. Controlled very well.
1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?
Mail is painfully slow because of COVID impacts. In the before times, it was about one month delivery time.
2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?
Available, about US $200-250 month for regular assistance. I don't have a housekeeper, but connect with one woman for occasional ironing ($0.50 per shirt which she protests is too much) and paid $50 for a thorough house cleaning after my teen boy returned to the US; again, she would have accepted $25.
3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?
The Embassy has a fitness center, which is about to be overhauled. Some neighborhoods have fitness centers. A few good gyms are on the local economy and are affordable.
4. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?
Cash-based society. ATM at the Embassy which accepts my US card. Hardly any businesses (maybe 10-15%?) accept credit.
5. What English-language religious services are available locally?
A Catholic country, one English Mass per week. There is a big mosque. Not sure about other faiths, though there are some Protestant churches.
6. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?
Can get by without Tetun, Bahasa, or Portuguese. Learning some Tetun is nice and makes you feel more aware. Embassy pays for local language through Post Language Program for State USDH and EFMs.
7. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?
Yes. Other than the Embassy, not ADA friendly.
1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?
Affordable but not exactly safe.
2. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?
Toyota or Honda, sedan or small SUV. Motorbikes also useful. Don't bring a vehicle that requires specialized parts or mechanics.
Phone & Internet:
1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?
No real high speed internet. Can set up ahead of arrival.
2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?
Up to you. A local SIM is not very expensive and runs $20/month for about all the service you need.
1. Are qualified veterinarians and/or good kennel services available? Do animals need to be quarantined upon entry to the country? Are there other considerations regarding pets that are particular to this country?
Don't bring pets. The landlords won't accept them and no good vet services.
Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:
1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?
A bit of everything. More empty EFM positions currently than EFMs at Post. NGOs do hire as well.
2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?
Orphanage, women's shelters, English language groups
3. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?
Usually business casual, button up shirt, no tie, no jacket. Formal only for high level meetings.
Health & Safety:
1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.
Some harassment, usually at night.
2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?
General health services are limited, medevac is the challenge.
3. What is the air quality like at post (good/moderate/bad)? Are there seasonal air quality issues? Does the air quality have an impact on health?
Good air. Dusty during the dry season.
4. Are there any particular mental health issues that tend to crop up at post, such as Seasonal Affective Disorder (winter blues)?
Probably some sense of isolation.
5. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?
Consistent. Wet & dry season, Temps range from high 60s to mid 90s.
Schools & Children:
1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?
Two main schools, small.
2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?
Probably not a good decision to take kids with special needs to this post.
3. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?
Some, through the school.
1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?
Good morale. A couple thousand Europe, Australia, South America, and US expats.
2. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?
3. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?
Good for anyone with a sense of adventure who can hack a hardship post. People date. Families hang out.
4. Is it easy to make friends with locals here? Are there any prejudices or any ethnic groups who might feel uncomfortable here?
Somewhat. The business owners or middle class are friendly.
5. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?
No, a Catholic country so LGBT is mostly tolerated but not widely supported.
6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?
7. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?
Diving, exploring mountains.
8. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?
Some local crafts, not a shopper's paradise.
9. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?
Beautiful views, nice people.
Words of Wisdom:
1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?
Take more consumables.
2. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?
Absolutely. Love it here.