Getting In & Out of West Timor

Air

El Tari Airport (KEO) 15km from Kupang is the only major airport in West Timor, connecting with domestic flights to/from Java, Flores, Rote Island, Sulawesi, Bali, Sumba Island and Alor Island. Services are operated by a number of carriers including Garuda, TransNusa, Lion Air, Wings Air, Batik Air, Citilink and Sriwijaya Air. Flights with Garuda can easily be booked directly on line but for the smaller Indonesian carriers we recommend finding and booking flights online with tiket.com or a reputable travel agent once you’re on the ground in Indonesia.

Currently there are no direct international flights to Kupang. Flights between Darwin, Australia and Kupang were suspended years ago.

Sea

Regular slow ferry services operate between Kupang and the neighboring islands of Flores (various ports) and Alor (Kalabahi). The majority are operated by ASPD Indonesia Ferry. Check their website for the latest schedule information. The NTT Tourist Information Centre in Kupang also keeps a fairly up-to-date ferry schedule on their website. Tickets can’t be purchased in advance so head down to the wharf on the day of departure and get there early.

Pelni (Indonesia’s national shipping company) currently has three ships operating on a 2 or 3 week schedule linking Kupang with other islands in the archipelago, via long circuitous routes. You can check the Pelni website (use Google Translate) for the latest schedule and price information but be aware Pelni only release their schedules 4-6 weeks in advance.

For a short time there was a fast boat service operating between Kupang and Dili (East Timor) but it ceased operating. Another question that sometimes comes up relates to boat travel between Darwin (Australia) and Kupang. Whilst there are barges and cargo boats operating this route, they don’t provide passengers services.

Land

A remote land border crossing exists between West Timor and East Timor at Mota’aian but it’s hard work and notorious for closing without notice so it’s unreliable at best.

Officially, to make the crossing from West Timor to East Timor you first need to apply for a letter from the Timor Leste (East Timor) consulate that gives you permission to get a visa at the border. However, anecdotal reports are that this is virtually impossible as the East Timor consulate doesn’t respond to emails. So unofficially, if you present in person to the East Timor consulate in Kupang with a passport photo, a copy of your passport and complete a visa application, they’ll process it in three working days and print out an authority to be issued with an East Timor visa at the border. Take this and US$30 with you to the border and keep your fingers crossed.

The process for entering West Timor from East Timor is just as complicated. The border crossing doesn’t have Free Visa or Visa on Arrival facilities so you’ll need to go to the Indonesian Embassy in Dili, East Timor and fill out a visa application form. Allow three working days for your visa to be processed and keep in mind the visa application desk is only open between 9:00am-12:00pm Monday to Friday. It can get quite busy and they operate on a first come first served basis so get there early.

There is a daily bus service operating between Kupang and the border, and a similar service on the East Timor side to/from Dili.  The buses generally stop running by mid-afternoon so to be on the safe side, try to cross before noon so you don’t risk getting caught at the border without transport or a place to stay.  Recent information is that there are now a few companies offering cross-border minibus services between Kupang and Dili at very affordable prices. You should be able to arrange a ticket at any tour desk in town or the NTT Tourist Information Centre.  Including formalities at the border, the journey takes around 12 hours.

The commencement of fast boat ferry services in mid-2015 between Dili and the East Timor enclave of Oecusse (located on the mid-north coast of West Timor) has opened new entry and exit possibilities for travel between West and East Timor via Oecusse. Travellers can now make land border crossings at Bobometo border village near Kefa and further north at the coastal village of Wini. Neither have visa facilities though so you’ll still need to make your visa preparations as outlined above. However, just like Mota’aian, these border crossings can close without notice.