ABOUT Timor is the Malay word for "east". The island of Timor is part of the Malay archipelago and the largest and easternmost of the Lesser Sunda Islands. To the north of the mountainous island are the Ombai Strait and Wetar Strait, to the south the Timor Sea separates the island from Australia, while to the west lies the Indonesian Province of East Nusa Tenggara. The highest point of East Timor is Mount Tatamailau at 2,963 m. The local climate is tropical and generally hot and humid, characterised by distinct rainy and dry seasons. The capital, largest city and main port is Dili, and the second-largest city is the eastern town of Baucau. Dili has the only functioning international airport, though there is an airstrip in Baucau used for domestic flights. From the 16th century onwards, East Timor was a Portuguese colony known as Portuguese Timor. The rest of the island of Timor, and the other islands that were later to become Indonesia, were colonised by the Dutch between the 17th and 19th centuries, and were known as the Dutch East Indies. Portugal largely neglected the colony, using it mainly as a place to exile those who the government in Lisbon saw as "problems" - these included political prisoners as well as ordinary criminals.

CLIMATE Temperatures in the dry season, from May to November, average 20°–33° C . The weather during this season is pleasant and dry. Around October or November, oppressive humidity arrives, and monsoon cloud activity builds up. The wet season, from December to April, sees average temperatures of 29°–35° C, with heavy rains and flooding. In the mountains, day temperatures are warm to hot, but are cool to cold at night. Earthquakes, tsunamis, and tropical cyclones occur.

BEWARE Crime continues to be a problem in East Timor, including gang-related violence, robbery (in some cases armed), assault and attacks on vehicles. There have been a number of attacks on foreigners in Dili, including bag-snatchings, during both the hours of daylight and darkness. You are advised to remain vigilant at all times and to avoid displaying expensive items of jewellery or carrying large sums of money. Harassment of and violence against women (including expatriates) has been reported. There are occasional violent incidents at nightclubs in Dili. There also continue to be sporadic incidents of fighting between groups of youths in various districts around East Timor, often but not always related to martial arts groups. Recent fights have taken place in Dili, Maliana, Suai and Same. Often these incidents involve stone throwing and occasionally machetes and knives. Most incidents happen at night although some have occurred during the day. You should avoid any demonstrations and large crowds, as these have the potential to deteriorate quickly and turn violent. Areas where there have been violent incidents in the past include government buildings (including the Palacio da Cinzas and Palacio da Governo) and on the road to the Nicolau Lobato international airport, close to Comoro market. You should exercise caution if going outside after dark.