Timor-Leste

Timor-Leste flag

Packing Guidance

This guidance is designed to describe appropriate clothing, the cultural context where you will be living and working, and the professional expectations of your workplace.

As you decide what to bring, keep in mind there is a 100-pound weight limit on checked baggage.


Overview

In general, most items you will need are available in country and locally acquired items are often the best at helping you integrate into your community. However, locally available items may not be the brands, quality, prices, or sizes you are used to. Bringing some key items from home might make your transition to service more comfortable.

This guidance has been compiled by Peace Corps staff and Volunteers and is based on their experience. Use this information as an informal guide as you make your own packing list, bearing in mind that each experience is individual. There is no perfect packing list!

This packing guidance is designed to help you think through different categories of items and consider what you might want to bring, considering work expectations, cultural considerations, and your own personal preferences.

Climate

As you prepare for your time in Timor-Leste, it's essential to consider the tropical climate prevalent throughout the year, with coastal temperatures reaching the mid-to-high 80s and slightly cooler conditions in the mountainous interior. The country experiences a rainy season from November through April, characterized by heavy rains that can result in muddy tracks and roads.

For your clothing choices, volunteers often opt for tops with short sleeves, especially in coastal areas, and layering for flexibility. In mountainous regions, a warmer layer such as a sweater or jacket may be necessary. Footwear is crucial, particularly during the rainy season. Durable, waterproof shoes are recommended, and having a small, portable umbrella can be beneficial, given the occasional heavy rains. While umbrellas are available locally, good quality ones can be pricey. Thin rain ponchos are also easy to find in local shops, but if you prefer a thicker or sportier rain jacket, you may want to bring one.

To protect against the sun, consider wearing a hat, polarized sunglasses, and light layers. Additionally, lightweight pants or a long-sleeved layer can provide protection against mosquitoes, which can carry diseases like dengue and malaria.

During the dry season, expect dusty tracks and roads to and from your work. If you have specific preferences for face masks, it might be wise to bring some items along. Overall, versatile clothing that can adapt to the diverse weather conditions will be valuable during your stay in Timor-Leste.

Items provided in-country

During pre-service training, Peace Corps Timor-Leste will provide you with the following items:

  • eSIM-capable phone or a phone with a SIM card slot (the cost of a monthly phone plan is included in your monthly stipend)
  • External battery
  • Mosquito net
  • Insect repellent
  • Sunblock body lotion with SPF 30-35
  • Water filter
  • Smoke Detector

Peace Corps Timor-Leste reimburses up to $300 to purchase a bike. We recommend you purchase your bike after you have been at your permanent site for at least three months since there is no way for you to know whether the roads are conducive to bike riding. Some roads near your site may not be paved, cobblestone, or quite rutted. You must wear a bike helmet, which Peace Corps provides, at all times when riding a bike.

If your permanent site is near the ocean, you can check out a life jacket from the Peace Corps office and keep it for your two-year service.

You may borrow books from the Peace Corps library, and limited camping and sporting equipment is available from the Volunteer lounge.

Prohibited items

Peace Corps Volunteers are not allowed to take:

  • Pets
  • Weapons
  • Explosives
  • Radio transmitters (shortwave radios are permitted)
  • Drones
  • Automobiles or motorcycles
  • Flammable materials or liquids such as lighter fluid, cleaning solvents, hair spray, or aerosol containers
  • Valuables such as precious jewelry or family heirlooms
Drugs

Do not bring any drug that has not been authorized by the Peace Corps for medical purposes without prior consultation with Office of Health Services Pre-Service. This includes prescription and over-the-counter drugs. Illicit drugs, including marijuana and related products such as CBD and herbal substances such as kratom, are prohibited during Peace Corps service, even if they are legal in your home of residence. If you use, possess, or distribute illicit drugs, you will be administratively separated from service.

Clothing

When considering your clothing choices, consider items that are interchangeable between categories and that can mix and match well to get the most flexibility out of the items you bring. Please watch video on how to dress in Timor-Leste hereto find more information.

Work clothing

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. While short-sleeved shirts or tops are acceptable and even recommended for the heat, it's important to note that low-cut or sleeveless tops are not considered appropriate unless covered with a wrap or sweater.

When selecting clothing, choose materials that are lightweight, breathable, and quick drying, given the climate. Jeans are not considered suitable as business wear. During the initial phase, particularly through training and the first months at the permanent site, you should dress very conservatively until you fully grasp what is acceptable in your workplace.

While professionals aren't expected to have a different outfit every day, the emphasis is on keeping work clothes clean and tidy. A practical tip from a fellow Volunteer includes bringing an adjustable belt—either one without holes or that you're comfortable piercing—in case of weight fluctuations.

Special occasions

It’s important to know about the cultural nuances in smaller towns and rural areas of Timor-Leste. During celebrations like weddings or house inaugurations, it's common for older people to wear traditional clothing, such as locally woven tais, or printed kabaya or kambatik. Traditional dances and rituals often accompany these events, creating a rich cultural experience. If you're invited to participate in a community gathering, wearing tais may be part of the occasion, and these can be borrowed or bought locally.

Given the Catholic influence in Timor-Leste, the local church plays a significant role in community social activities. Many Volunteers attend church activities with their host families. While most work attire is generally sufficient, it's noted that Timorese often dress a bit fancier for such events. Nice slacks and a shirt or a lightweight dress are considered appropriate. Timorese women might accessorize with earrings, and men with wristwatches.

An important cultural note is that Timorese wear black clothing during the mourning period for a close family member. If you're dressed in a fully black outfit or dress, it might lead to others offering condolences. Understanding these cultural practices helps build strong connections within the community. If you have more questions or need further insights, feel free to ask.

Leisure and recreational clothing

Whether it's visiting neighbors, taking walks in the community, or heading to the beach, the emphasis on modest dress remains. Timorese typically opt for skirts or knee-length shorts, paired with t-shirts or tank tops with wider straps, avoiding body-hugging attire even during casual moments.

When it comes to swimming, both genders commonly wear shorts and t-shirts, with a recommendation to avoid revealing swimwear or cover it up. Rash guards and board shorts are considered acceptable. For sports classes like yoga, leggings, gauchos, or capris paired with loose t-shirts or tank tops are common choices. Some Volunteers use long-sleeve athletic tops to prevent sunburn, highlighting the practicality of adapting clothing choices to the climate.

Additionally, the suggestion to use quick-dry underclothes in the heat is a useful tip for staying comfortable. If you have any more questions or need further insights into local customs and preferences, feel free to ask.

Notes on purchasing clothes locally

The widespread availability of secondhand clothing is a notable aspect of local markets, offering a variety of options. However, the limited selection in clothing shops in Dili is something to keep in mind, particularly if you're above a size large, as finding suitable clothing may pose a challenge. Sports bras and other sporting attire are difficult to find or expensive.

Notes on laundering

You will likely be washing all your own clothes by hand and line drying them. You might also have limited choices in detergents, which may be harsher than you are used to. This brings a few considerations: durability of fabrics, ease of maintenance, speed of drying (important in the rainy season), and visibility of your clothes to families and neighbors. We recommend that you try handwashing your clothes before you get to Timor-Leste to see if that helps you narrow down your clothing choices.

Shoes

In professional settings, closed-toed shoes are the standard, with occasional flexibility for women to wear dressier sandals. However, it's essential to avoid casual sandals and flip flops, particularly in schools, offices, and government workplaces. Considering the diverse terrain, which can range from hilly and rocky to muddy, and the likelihood of walking to and from work, prioritize shoes that combine durability, waterproofing, and comfort. Breaking in your shoes before arrival is advisable.

During the rainy season, it's common for some Timorese to wear a casual and easy-to-clean pair of shoes or flip flops while commuting to work, later changing into a more polished pair for the office.

For leisure activities, simple flip flops are easily accessible in local markets. Based on recommendations from current volunteers, it's wise to bring sturdy hiking sandals, a dress shoe for special events, and even cleats if you're a soccer player.

Keep in mind that the shoe selection available might be more limited than what you're accustomed to, making finding replacements or specific sports/running shoes challenging, especially in larger sizes. For those wearing shoes above a size 40 (size 7 U.S.), purchasing shoes in Timor-Leste could be difficult. Volunteers suggest bringing a backup pair of your preferred shoes or exploring creative ways to mix and match with your wardrobe for versatility.

Toiletries and medications

You should bring a three-month supply of any prescription and/or over the counter medications you use that are authorized/approved by the Peace Corps.

Note: Prior to service, Peace Corps supplies all volunteers with a medical kit containing basic, over-the-counter medications, as well as multivitamins.

See a detailed list of items included in the medical kit.

The medical unit will replenish prescriptions after the initial three-month training.

If you wear eyeglasses, bring two pairs (of the current prescription) with you. Contact lens use will be considered on a case-by-case basis.

See additional guidance from the Office of Medical Services.

Additional guidance for Peace Corps/Timor-Leste:

You should find most personal hygiene and toiletry items locally, such as shampoo, conditioner, body soap, razors, and toothpaste. It's advisable to bring enough supplies to cover your needs for the first 2-3 weeks. For specialty products, consider bringing a larger supply to ensure availability.

During pre-service training, the Peace Corps Medical Officers (PCMOs) will provide you with feminine hygiene products. Once you begin your service, you have the choice of continuing to receive supplies through the PCMO or receiving an allowance to buy them locally. If you prefer, the PCMO can also supply a menstrual cup. If you have specific preferences for hygiene products, bringing a larger supply is recommended.

For those wearing hearing aids, it's essential to bring extra batteries as they are challenging to find in Timor-Leste.

Electronics

In Timor-Leste, the standard voltage is 220, and a variety of plugs are used. (See World Power Plugs for more information.) The most common ones are the Indonesian style, with the Australian/Singaporean style being less prevalent. It's advisable to consider having a universal travel adaptor, preferably one with surge protection. While cheap adapters are available locally, having a multi-pronged/universal one is more convenient.

Bringing a laptop or tablet can be beneficial, especially as there will be virtual learning during pre-service and in-service training. If needed, Peace Corps has a limited supply of computers for use during pre-service training if needed.

Peace Corps will supply you with a dual SIM smartphone, but some volunteers opt to bring their personal smartphones. If you choose to bring your own phone, ensure it's unlocked before leaving the U.S. Volunteers are responsible for purchasing their phone plan with their monthly living allowance. It's not recommended to buy an international SIM card, given its high cost and varied service support in Timor-Leste.

During Staging, Peace Corps will provide you with a power bank featuring an integrated solar charger. It's crucial to carry this with you to Timor-Leste.

Additionally, items like USB drives, external hard drives, or Bluetooth speakers can be significantly more expensive in Timor-Leste. Considering this, bringing these items with you can be a cost-effective choice.

Other items to consider

Considering your unique interests and personal preferences, you might want to think about bringing additional items that could enhance your experience. Here's a description of common activities that volunteers engage in, along with suggestions from past volunteers on items they found enjoyable and that might be more challenging to find locally. It's important to note that these items aren't mandatory or explicitly recommended but could add a nice touch to your time in-country.

Travel or sport equipment

  • Good water bottle
  • Sturdy and waterproof backpack
  • Flashlight or headlamp to walk to outdoor toilet at night.
  • Bandana or other face covering to wear when traveling on dusty roads.
  • Multi-purpose tool or pocketknife, carabiners
  • Sports equipment: hacky sack, frisbee, soccer ball, yoga mat
  • Camping gear or sleep sack

Household goods

  • Quick-dry towels and washcloths are handy, but cotton towels can be bought locally.
  • Compact mirror
  • Sewing kit
  • Work gloves

Crafts or games

  • Craft materials: cross stitch materials, knitting needles and yarn, embroidery materials, coloring books, etc.
  • Games: playing cards or dice for liar’s dice
  • Journal for self-reflection

Gifts for your pre-service and site host families

Many Volunteers have brought small, inexpensive gifts to give to their training and long-term host families. Previous suggestions have included:

  • Wall calendar with photos of America
  • Candy, snacks, or chewing gum.
  • Special teas or spices
  • Toys for children: jump ropes, crayons and coloring books, noisemakers, glow sticks
  • Beauty products: hair clips, nail polish
  • A rosary blessed by the Pope.
  • Clothes: t-shirts or hats
  • Photos of your family