Skip to main content
US Flag An official website of the United States government

Connect with the Peace Corps

If you're ready for something bigger, we have a place where you belong.

Follow us

Apply to the Peace Corps

The application process begins by selecting a service model and finding an open position.

Peace Corps Volunteer
2 years, 3 months
Log in/check status
Peace Corps Response
Up to 12 months
Log in/check status
Virtual Service Pilot
3-6 months
Log in/check status

Let us help you find the right position.

If you are flexible in where you serve for the two-year Peace Corps Volunteer program, our experts can match you with a position and country based on your experience and preferences.

Serve where you’re needed most

Living Conditions in Timor-Leste

Housing and site location

Living with a host family is a crucial component of your service, offering a unique opportunity to fully immerse yourself in the local culture. In Timor-Leste, it is uncommon for individuals to live alone, and for many Volunteers, the bond formed with their host family becomes a cherished and invaluable aspect of their service. This arrangement not only promotes cultural integration but also enhances safety. While crime is rare in rural areas, instances of minor theft from houses occupied by foreigners have been reported, and although assaults are infrequent, they should be approached with caution.

Volunteers may reside in the capital town of a municipality or in nearby villages. Host family houses typically consist of cement blocks topped by corrugated metal roofs, which can become quite hot during the summer/rainy season months from November through March. To alleviate this, many Peace Corps Volunteers choose to purchase fans for their rooms.

Volunteers are provided with their own bedroom, furnished with a bed and table. Some may need to use their settling-in allowance to purchase a wardrobe. The Peace Corps ensures the installation of security wire and mosquito mesh on windows, and a mosquito net for the bed is also provided. Bathing rooms and toilets are generally separate from the main house, and toilets can be either Western-style sitting or Eastern-style squat.

While host families have electricity, brownouts are common. The electrical current is 220 volts and 50 Hz, necessitating transformers for U.S. electrical appliances. Given the diverse electrical outlets, a universal plug adapter may be necessary. Timor-Leste experiences frequent power surges, posing a risk of irreversible damage to appliances or laptops, making a surge-protected power strip highly recommended.

Cooking in Timor-Leste typically involves firewood or kerosene stoves. During pre-service Training, you'll learn how to cook on a firewood three-stone stove. For evening lighting, bringing a solar-charged lantern is recommended.

Living allowance and money management

Volunteers are provided with a monthly allowance in U.S. dollars, tailored to sustain a standard of living equivalent to that of the local community. This allowance encompasses essential expenses such as food, housing, household supplies, clothing, transportation to and from work, utilities, recreation, entertainment, and incidental costs. Peace Corps Volunteers are encouraged to align their lifestyle with that of their host country counterparts, ensuring a meaningful and integrated experience. Volunteers are discouraged from supplementing their living allowance with funds from home.

Food and diet 

The dietary staples in Timor-Leste vary based on the community's location. Coastal and near-city areas often rely on rice, while inland and mountainous regions predominantly consume corn. Dietary habits and a limited agricultural diversity contribute to meals mainly consisting of corn, rice, noodles, occasional fish (near the coast), meat, eggs, onions, tomatoes, and cassava. In more rural settings, the availability of a variety of vegetables and fruits is limited, especially from September to November during the latter part of the dry season.

It's important to note that the use of chili peppers is prevalent in Timorese cuisine, but it differs significantly from spicy foods in other cultures, such as Mexican cuisine. Corn is typically not ground into cornmeal; instead, it is commonly eaten roasted or boiled and mixed with vegetables. Timorese people are known for their exceptional generosity and often insist on sharing their food, regardless of its quantity.

For those considering a predominantly vegetarian diet, Timor-Leste is generally accommodating. However, incorporating fish and eggs into your meals can significantly simplify the dietary experience. While maintaining a vegan diet is possible, it may present challenges in acquiring the necessary variety of foods to ensure overall nutritional health.


Most Volunteer sites are connected to the nearest district center and/or Dili by public transportation, which includes small buses, converted vans known as microlets, and open-bed trucks called anggunas. While public transportation is generally reliable throughout the year, torrential rains causing landslides can close roads during the annual monsoon season (November to April). In such instances, rural residents may need to navigate obstructed roads or local trails to access transportation elsewhere, often requiring additional time.

Volunteers are encouraged to identify within the community, the alternative forms of transportation, such as private vehicles, taxis, or trucks, in case of emergencies. Some Volunteers opt to purchase a bicycle; Peace Corps provides a bike helmet. However, the challenging terrain and road conditions in certain areas make cycling impractical.

It's important to note that Peace Corps policy strictly prohibits Volunteers from driving or riding as passengers on motorcycles for any reason. Additionally, Volunteers are not permitted to own automobiles or operate privately owned vehicles in Timor-Leste. Violation of this policy can lead to immediate administrative separation from the Peace Corps.

Social activities

Most social activities revolve around a Volunteer’s host family. Living with a host family is a fundamental aspect of the Peace Corps experience in Timor-Leste for all Volunteers. It offers deep cultural immersion, providing opportunities for Volunteers to learn the local language, customs, and way of life firsthand. This living arrangement promotes integration into the community, as Volunteers become identified as part of their local family and are perceived as community members rather than outsiders. Additionally, host families can provide a safety net and support system, guidance, and a sense of belonging. Living with a host family also can accelerate language learning and foster cultural exchange, benefiting both the Volunteer and the host family.

  • On weekends, Timorese families often “lao pasiar” (go for a walk) to the beach, around the community, or hikes into the mountains. Soccer and its cousin, futsal, are also popular to play and watch.
  • In the evenings, Volunteers often watch movies or play card games with children and their host families. Visiting neighbors for coffee or hosting casual English lessons with their family or community members are also common.
  • Family celebrations or “festa” (parties) are the primary social events in Timor-Leste. There are also several religious celebrations throughout the year.
  • In Timor-Leste, traditional Western-style dating is not commonly practiced. If couples spend time together, marriage is often the anticipated outcome. Public displays of affection are rare, even among married couples.

Professionalism, dress, and behavior

Professionalism in the Peace Corps requires an awareness of the host community's workplace culture, community values, and self-presentation. To maintain a positive, culturally appropriate professional standing within a host community or workplace, Volunteers may need to adjust their style of dress, hairstyle, facial hair, make-up, piercings, manner of greeting others, etc., to demonstrate respect for local culture and customs. How you present yourself, in both informal and professional settings, reflects you as an individual and you as a representative of the Peace Corps and the United States. In the U.S., dress (and other elements of personal appearance) may be seen as an expression of personal freedom and identity. In many host countries where Peace Corps Volunteers serve, the way you dress and present yourself may be interpreted as an expression of regard – or disregard – for those host community members around you.

Volunteers are encouraged to spend time in their communities, develop their language skills, and get to know the individual members of their community to better understand their traditions, culture, and local norms. As mutual trust is established over time, there may be opportunities for Volunteers to adjust their personal appearance and dress outside of the more rigid local standards. Volunteers are encouraged to discuss these potential adjustments with staff and other cultural mentors.

  • In Timor-Leste, the dress code for schools and offices leans towards dress-casual and conservative attire. In the workplace, it's customary to wear pants or skirts (past the knee), paired with collared dress shirts or blouses.
  • Cleanliness and neat personal appearance are important to the Timorese. Volunteers should expect to dress more neatly and conservatively than other community members to gain respect.
  • Visible body piercings (other than earrings) are not common among Timorese. While Timorese are tolerant, this may draw attention that can make a Volunteer feel uncomfortable.
  • Shoulder-length hair is generally acceptable on men if clean and well-groomed, however some teachers who are men choose to keep their hair short to model community expectations for students who are boys.


Cell Phones and Internet

In Timor-Leste, the quality of Wi-Fi capabilities and internet speed varies across municipalities. Despite efforts to enhance internet infrastructure, challenges persist, particularly in remote or rural areas. Accessing mobile and internet services typically involves acquiring a SIM card and selecting a suitable plan based on individual communication and data usage needs.

A common term in Dili is pulsa, referring to prepaid mobile credit or balance. It represents the monetary value loaded onto a mobile phone account, enabling users to make voice calls, send text messages, and access mobile data services for internet browsing. Both expats and locals use pulsa to prepay for various services. Acquiring pulsa involves purchasing physical top-up cards from street vendors or telecommunication companies, available in various package plans.

Timor-Leste’s cell phone coverage throughout the country is good, although different providers may have better reception depending on where you are located. Timor-Leste has some of the world’s slowest internet speed.

During Pre-Service Training Peace Corps pays for an unlimited data plan so you can access online training materials. After swearing in, your monthly living allowance should be enough to cover an unlimited data plan. The unlimited plans enable you to use Facetime, WhatsApp, Skype, or Facebook Messenger without charge.

You have the option of bringing your own unlocked smart phone or Peace Corps Timor-Leste will provide you with one when you arrive. The Volunteer lounge at Peace Corps office has desktop computers for Volunteers to use.


International mail delivery from the United States to Timor-Leste is slow and inconsistent. Packages mailed to Timor-Leste may not ever arrive, or if they do, it may take many months.