Ok so this list is for you if you are moving to Dili. If you are heading to the districts, your list will be a tad longer. This is what has worked for me –
Bring from home:
- snorkel and flippers (you can hire from a few places). Rashie
- Birkenstocks – because this is office wear
- one good dress for the rare function at an embassy or something
- high SPF sunscreen (hard to find, super expensive), DEET (hard to find, super expensive), low-scented soap, vitamins, fancy hair conditioner
- Visa debit card – this is super important, no MasterCard here.
- bring lots of USD. The bank fees can be horrific.
- bed sheets, queen size – unless you are ok with second hand sheets from the market
- if you take pillows seriously you may like to bring one
- hiking shoes
- if you aren’t a kindle person I’d recommend having a think about converting – no bookshops, and not much to do. My kindle keeps me sane.
- worm tablets – trust me
- you will be adopted by a cat and will need fancy heart worming and flea drops. If you don’t like cats then that’s fine, but you are dead to me.
- if you menstruate, I strongly recommend you get a menstrual cup and start using it before you arrive. Life is much easier. I don’t always have running water at work and would hate to have to deal with a tampon.
- bring all the clothes and shoes you will need for your entire stay – street markets do sell second hand clothes. I’m 5’10” so I don’t even bother. It’s casual on the weekends. Showing knees and arms is fine. My workplace is formal, but many aren’t. I find cotton dresses and Birkenstocks works for me, but whatever makes you comfortable. Leave your suits at home.
- getting mail is difficult, and internet shopping is not an option – so try to be self sufficient when you arrive
- pens – most of the pens I have bought here have been rubbish. It’s infuriating.
- yoghurt making things – it’s good to have a hobby
- hard drive of movies
- bring your nice drink bottles and shopping bags from home – this country can’t handle the volumes of plastic waste generated. Do the right thing and don’t add to it. Drink coconuts, not beverages in plastic.
What you can get in Dili (at the time of writing):
- toothpaste (inexpensive)
- deodorant (inexpensive)
- stray cats (mine is excellent)
- handmade totes and handbags (tais)
- dog biscuits (to feed your cat)
- really nice local coffee – and coffee making things
- basic yoga mats
- excellent cigarettes (inexpensive)
- supermarket brand hair products
- tofu and tempeh at the markets
- watch out for all the bleaching and lightening skin products
- Indonesian insect repellent (no DEET)
- nivea products (but not high SPF sunscreen)
- There are heaps of fresh veggies, tofu, and most of the basics you need to cook, but there are droughts of imported food (butter, muesli etc). The tonic and soda water drought of 2018 has broken, much to everyone’s relief.
- I’m vegetarian so my food options in Dili can be a little disappointing when I eat out, but totally manageable.
- Food imported from Australia is obscenely expensive, so get ready to substitute for Indonesian brands
- If you are ok with not having everything available all the time you won’t have a problem with the food.
- You will start to understand Portuguese by reading the labels on the imported wine.
- Mateus wine is a big thing over here. Embrace it.
- Only fancy people have ovens. Gas bottle and a burner is standard.
Yes, the Facebook groups:
- Find a rental or share house – For rent in Dili
- Where people try to sell crap. Oh, and cars – Dili Expats (Timor-Leste)
- International volunteers (you need to specify that you are a volunteer) – Volunteers in Timor-Leste
- Yoga – Dili Yoga
- Finding things in supermarkets – Dili I Spy
- Community Tourism Timor-Leste
And finally, welcome! There are many wonderful experiences to be had here.
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