East Timor Overview

By | January 23, 2021
Official language Tetum and Portuguese
Capital Dili
Form of government parliamentary democracy
Area 14,600 km²
Residents 1,000,000
Currency U.S. dollar
Time zone UTC + 9
License plate TL
Internet TLD .tl
Telephone area code 00670 (Source: ALLCITYCODES)

East Timor Overview


East Timor (Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste) is the northeastern part of the island of Timor, which lies in the Indian Ocean and belongs to the Lesser Sunda Islands (the western part of the island is the Indonesian province of Nusa Tenggara Timur, West Timor). The former Portuguese colony was annexed by Indonesia in 1975 and gained full sovereignty as an independent country on May 20, 2002. See East Timor country abbreviation.

The country covers approximately 14,600 km². East Timor is mostly mountainous, the highest elevation is the Tata Mailau at approx. 2,960 m.

The capital Dili is on the north coast of the country.


Timor has a tropical monsoon climate with little seasonal temperature fluctuations. The average values ​​are between 26 °C and 28 °C all year round. The annual rainfall is between 2,000 mm and 3,000 mm, most of the precipitation falls from December to March. Tropical cyclones reach the island an average of three to five times a year.

Flora and fauna

The rainforest on Timor is largely cleared. There are eucalyptus and sandalwood trees and acacias. Savannah can be found in the southern part of the island.

In contrast to the islands further north, there are mainly Australian animal species on Timor, such as marsupials such as the couscous. Reptiles, amphibians and birds are found in great biodiversity. The birds include numerous parrots, such as amadins and the Timor-winged Parakeet.


About a million people live in East Timor. Population growth is 5.4%. This island – like many others in the Southeast Asian and Oceanic region – has an ethnic diversity, the population is made up of around 15 ethnic groups. There are also Indonesians, Chinese, Arabs and Portuguese.

In addition to the old colonial language Portuguese, T¨¦tum and Bahasia Indonesia are spoken; in addition, many minorities have their own dialects. Another testimony to the long colonial past is the Roman Catholic religion, which is practiced by a large part of the population (98%). According to COUNTRYAAH, 1% Christian minority is made up of Protestants. There are also Muslims, Buddhists and Hindus.

Much of the settlement in East Timor was destroyed in the course of the liberation struggle. There is still a great shortage of social and health facilities. Life expectancy averages 66 years. Over 40% of East Timor residents cannot read nor write.


Political system

East Timor has been officially a sovereign country and a parliamentary democracy since May 20, 2002. The head of state is the President (since May 2012 Taur Matan Ruak). He has primarily representative functions, but is also the commander-in-chief of the armed forces. He is elected by the people for five years. The Prime Minister is the head of the government (ex-president Xanana Gusmão of the CNRT since August 2007).

The people’s representation consists of a chamber with different numbers of members (at least 52, at most 65 members). The people elect the deputies for five years. East Timorese are allowed to vote from the age of 17.

East Timor is divided into 13 administrative units.


East Timor is one of the poorest countries in the world. After the independence referendum in 1999, settlements and infrastructure in the country were largely destroyed. The country has received intensive foreign financial aid in recent years. It is a member of the United Nations, the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank (ADB). Around half of the population are either not or underemployed and almost 40% live below the poverty line.

East Timor has rich oil and gas deposits off the coast (Timor Sea), the exploitation of which began in 2004. Other mineral resources that have not yet been extracted are copper, manganese, gold and coal.

Rice, maize, batatas, cassava and beans are grown for their own use. For export, coffee, rubber, coconut trees and cotton are cultivated on large plantations. Forestry also plays a role in export.

The industry is poorly developed and focuses on food processing, soap making and weaving. The few exports are mainly delivered to the former colonial masters Portugal, Taiwan and Germany. The imports (food, fuel, machinery) come mainly from Indonesia, Singapore and Australia.

The currency is the US dollar.