Expatriate Life in Dili and the Impact of a Governmental Push for Tourism

    Aug 16, 2019 @ 03:20 PM / by Eugene Kobiako

    Dili Central Development Plan - use

    A photo of the central development plan for Dili, East Timor. Photo taken by AIRINC surveyor Eugene Kobiako.

    Development and Housing in Dili, East Timor

    East Timor, or Timor-Leste as it is known in one of its official languages, Portuguese, is a small country in Southeast Asia just north of Australia across the Timor Sea. 

    It is one of the world’s youngest nations and still feels relatively undeveloped. The main expatriate population comes from embassies, NGOs, aid organizations, and banks.

    Due to security and infrastructure issues, the real estate sources I met with reiterated that almost all expatriates live in gated compounds and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future. Overall, the best compounds are the ones that are nearby the American and Australian embassies. They are usually all inclusive and have swimming pools, tennis courts, satellite television, and often have a restaurant on-site. Many expatriates leave their compounds for recreational options like dining out and outdoor activities, including hiking, scuba diving, snorkeling, and swimming.


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    Expatriate Recreation and a budding Tourist Industry

    East Timor is building a reputation as a world class scuba diving destination as the government has recently focused more on developing the tourist sector. Some locals and expatriates that I spoke with commented that the country is modeling itself to be the next Bali, and they’re making progress. A Hilton Hotel is currently being constructed and other hotels and resorts are now taking an interest. My other surveys took me across the Timor Sea to Australia, where the housing sources all confirmed that East Timor is starting to be marketed to Australians as a vacation destination.

    Dili currently has very low availability of brand name goods and services, including chain restaurants. One big exception is Burger King, which was one of the first big chains to enter the market. Clothing, electronics, furniture, and good quality auto parts are all difficult to find in the city. A lot of local people shop at Tais Market, but expatriates would not find an international selection there.


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    On-site Insight and AIRLinc

    This post is taken from On-site Insight, AIRINC’s in-house global mobility blog. On-site Insight provides AIRLinc subscribers with an exclusive “behind-the-surveys” insight into new and existing expatriate locations based on commentary and photos from our global research team. Included is information on general living conditions as well as changing costs for both goods and services and housing and utilities, along with much, much more! To find out more, click here. 


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    Topics: Housing, On-site Insight, Expatriate Housing, Insights and Experience, Transportation Data, Calculate a housing budget, International Housing Guide, Housing Assessment Tool, Dili, East Timor

    Eugene Kobiako

    Written by Eugene Kobiako

    Eugene joined AIRINC in 2016 as a surveyor and analyst in the Cambridge office, and is currently a client engagement representative for the Asia-Pacific region. A native of Seattle, he received his B.A. in European Studies and B.S. in Biology from the University of Washington in 2012. During his studies he spent two semesters abroad: one in Copenhagen, Denmark and one in Ottawa, Canada. Prior to AIRINC he has worked for the governments of Mexico and the European Union. He has been to over 80 countries for both business and pleasure. In addition to English he speaks Russian and Spanish fluently as well as some French, Danish, German, Swedish, and some basics in a few other languages. In his free time he plays the guitar and bass guitar, enjoys football (soccer) and hockey, studies foreign languages, and is an avid vexillologist. He is based in Hong Kong as of February 2020.