DFAT Travel advice, East Timor and tourism – you decide
Current Travel Warnings.
It is difficult for people considering travel to East Timor to find first hand, up to date accounts about East Timor to inform their travel plans.
We know this because of our work in promoting motorcycle tourism in East Timor. Our experience is Australians often have impressions of East Timor that are based on the events of the past. Unfortunately the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade’s (DFAT) current travel advice for East Timor reinforces this negative perception. DFAT’s current advice for travellers to East Timor is to “Exercise a High Degree of Caution” due to the “uncertain security situation and the possibility of civil unrest”
To put this into perspective DFAT offers the same level of warning for various reasons to the following common tourist destinations that many travellers don’t think twice about visiting.
- · Thailand
- · India
- · Mexico
- · Morocco
- · Nepal
- · Peru
- · Philippines
- · Russia
- · Turkey
- · United Arab Emirates
- · Qatar
- · North Korea
- · Suva
- · Brunei
- · Costa Rica
Additionally many of these tourist destinations have the additional warning of the threat of terrorism, a situation that has never existed for East Timor
It is worth noting that Indonesia (Including Bali) has the next highest level of advice this being “Reconsider your need to travel” yet around 600,000 Australians travel there each year! (Source http://www.smh.com.au/travel/blogs/travellers-check/bali-too-much-of-a-good-thing-20110214-1asrh.html)
We understand why DFAT err s on the side of caution, however this warning added to the weight of bad press East Timor has received over the years and makes the job of this building this fledgling nation through tourism so much more difficult that it needs to be.
It is worth noting that neither the UK nor the USA have travel warnings for East Timor. The UK Travel advice can be seen at:
The USA travel advice can be seen at
Other perspectives about traveling to East Timor.
As tourism operators we are particularly heartened when we see articles in the mainstream media that highlight the beauty and magic of East Timor.
Here are two links to recent articles.
Jock Cheetham is a journalist with a long association with Timor.
Patrick O’Neil, Sydney Morning Herald, May 2011
Here are some links we have found useful when researching East Timor for our motorbike tours to get the “warts and all” day to day picture of the country. Timor is like any nation, including Australia, there are a diversity of views and ideas but the overall sense of development and optimism about the future abounds through these news forums
To further the aim of providing balanced and current accounts of what to expect in East Timor today we invite individuals and organisations with recent and if possible firsthand experience of life in East Timor to add their observations and comments. We would especially love to hear from East Timorese people.
Some observations people have already shared with us:
“I completely agree with you on how negatively East Timor is portrayed through media and Foreign Offices travel advice. My job over the last 3 years has been exactly to change that negative interpretation.”
David Palazón, Project Coordinator, Designer / Filmmaker / Researcher TATOLI BA KULTURA (Website to be launched in July 2011)
“Your comments about the Australian government’s travel advisory are well appreciated. Even though I am a US citizen, I subscribed to the Australian travel advisories when first planning a trip to Timor-Leste, and at this point I might as well unsubscribe. When traveling abroad, I have made it a point to look at a diversity of government sites, since in some cases there are political considerations that may influence the information.
When bringing students from the US, I usually look at the website of the US Department of State (state.gov) where there are currently neither travel alerts or travel warnings posted for Timor-Leste. Being of German extraction, I also check the website of the German Ministry of Foreign Affairs (whose travel information is, unfortunately, not available in English), where there are no warnings.”
Hinrich Kaiser PhD FLS: Associate Professor, Department of Biology, Victor Valley College
Research Collaborator, National Museum of Natural History, Member, International Advisory Board, Foundation for Post-Conflict Development
I agree, the information on Smart Traveller is misleading – it implies that violence is potentially around every corner and that Timor is a volatile place, day in, day out. Those of us who have been there and spent time there know that it is not.
Some of the things that are challenging are no more challenging than the simple life, and unpredictable elements, and occasional discomfort, that you have when you are camping. Gillian Howell
And finally a couple of our own observations
For the third year in a row In September over 300 mountain bike riders from Australia, the US and Canada are set to pit themselves against the gruelling roads of East Timor – They must feel safe enough to make the journey.
A number of secondary colleges have friendship relationships with schools in East Timor and have organised study tours to East Timor. Further some elite private schools are opting to organise tours to East Timor for their year 12 students as an alternative to Schoolies week. These school communities must feel their children will be safe.
A sure sign of a peaceful civilisation is that the Arts and a proud national culture are beginning to be showcased in East Timor, a few examples:
- · The research work of Taboli ba Kaltura that is working to develop an Academy of Creative Industries in East Timor. http://www.youtube.com/user/TatoliBaKultura
- · Arte Moris, an art school and community of artists in Dili, is flourishing and has been in operation for many years. http://www.artemoris.tp/
- · The Government of Timor Leste exhibited at the World Expo in Shanghai in 2010
- · 2010 saw the introduction of the Timor Leste Underwater photographic competition. http://news.theage.com.au/breaking-news-world/east-timor-puts-underwater-wonders-on-show-20101021-16vvc.html
- · In 2010 a night art and craft night market commenced on the edge of Dili at Areia Branca, a popular beach and tourist area
- · There has been protection and rebuilding of sacred houses and sites such as found at Mt Ramelau and Christo Rae
Please feel free to add you’re first hand and current observations.
Thankyou Shirley and David Carlos
Timor Adventures, Motorcycle tours in East Timor