Traffic Safety and Road Conditions
While in Timor-Leste, you may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States.
All traffic operates on the left side of the road, and most vehicles use right-hand drive. Roads are often poorly maintained, and four-wheel drive may be required in some areas. Non-existent lighting and poor road conditions make driving at night hazardous. Driving in Dili is especially hazardous, with large trucks and military vehicles sharing the streets with vendors, pedestrians, and livestock. Many cars and, especially, motorcycles operate at night without lights.
Taxis, small buses, and mini-vans provide public transportation in Dili and elsewhere. However, public transportation is generally overcrowded, uncomfortable, and below international safety standards. Public transportation operators have been known to unexpectedly drop passengers at locations other than their destination due to the operators’ fears about certain areas or hours. Disagreement about fares has occasionally led to hostilities. Public transport is generally inadvisable and is generally unavailable after dark, although there is a growing presence of night taxis at select locations.
During the rainy season from November to May, rain showers can severely damage cross-island roadways, making roads particularly risky. You should use caution when traveling on the cross-island roadways in the mountain areas of Aileu, Ermera, Manatuto, Ainaro, and Manufahi provinces.
Accidents occur frequently. When there is an accident, you should contact the police. Bystanders sometimes attack the driver perceived to be responsible for a traffic accident. This is more common in rural areas and in accidents involving Timorese drivers, but crowds have occasionally attacked expatriate drivers at the scene of an accident. If you are involved in an accident and believe that there is a threat of bodily harm from people at the scene of the accident, it is advisable to drive to the nearest police station before stopping.
While it is required to obtain insurance for vehicles in Timor-Leste, compliance with this rule is limited and many drivers are uninsured. Most traffic accidents are settled informally between those involved.
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