Meters in taxi’s in West Timor are unheard of. Instead taxis operate on a fixed rate for most common destinations. The drivers have a list so just ask to see it. At the time of writing (2016), a trip between Kupang to/from the airport cost 60.000Rp, to/from Tablolong Beach 175.000Rp. In the unlikely event you’re going somewhere not on the drivers list, you’ll have to haggle and agree the price up front.
Wings Air/Lion Air operates a single daily flight between Kupang and Atambua (ABU) and recently commenced a daily flight between Kupang and Ba’a, Lekunik Airport (RTI) on Rote Island.
Susiair runs daily flights between Kupang and Savu Island, Tardamu Airport (SAU). Due to the short runway it’s only served by Cessna 208 Caravan jetprop aircraft. The limited seats means flights can book out quickly, especially during peak season from May to September so booking ahead is recommended.
There are quite a few tour companies offering all inclusive package tours to West Timor but large tour groups are unheard of. Most tours are run on demand with as few as two people although the smaller the group, the higher the price per person. You’ll find many tour companies online and most tours can be personalized to suit your own requirements.
Generally you’ll get a far better deal if you wait until you arrive in Kupang and arrange tours in person at any tour desk in town or the NTT Tourist Information Centre. There’s also a better chance you’ll end up with a local guide who knows the area, the people and the culture well.
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An alternative to booking a tour is to simply engage a guide. A good guide is not only a fountain of information, they’ll also act as your interpreter and trip co-ordinator but you pay for everything yourself as you go. We recommend you don’t pay your guide up front. Agree on a daily or trip rate and pay him at the end of each day.
The tourism industry is still pretty unsophisticated in West Timor and a lot of so called guides have been found wanting. One common complaint from travelers is the practice of guide swapping, where for example, you engage an English speaking guide and they send a non-English speaking replacement on the day. So when you’re interviewing a guide, make it clear that your deal is with them and them alone. The best way to avoid the pitfalls is to ask your accommodation or the NTT Tourist Information Centre to recommend a guide for you. You may end up paying a little extra but it could save you a lot of heartache.
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There are scheduled daily fast ferry services between Kupang and Rote Island and twice weekly slow ferry service between Kupang and the Savu Islands. These boats operate from the small harbour at Bolok, 2km south of Kupang’s main Tenau Harbour. Ferries don’t run in poor weather and given these islands exposure to the Indian Ocean swells, delays and cancellations are frequent, especially during the windy months of July and August.
There’s also a public boat servicing the short crossing between Kupang and Semau Island but it doesn’t operate on a fixed schedule, running instead when it has “enough” passengers so you may have to wait around a awhile. It operates out of Tenau Harbour. If you don’t feel like waiting, head to Bolok Harbour and charter a small boat instead.
Public minibuses connect Kupang with all the larger towns in West Timor including the ones most visited by tourists such as Soe and Kefa. Buses start running from as early as 5:00am and on the busier routes, run until 11:00pm. Local buses fan out from the larger towns to many of the surrounding villages but the services are less regular so the best option is to grab an ojek for further forays. Keep in mind roads are mountainous, often rough, winding and constantly up and down. Air conditioning is almost unheard of and the buses are often crowded so they can be awfully stuffy. If you’re prone to motion sickness, take some pills and some sick bags with you. Also, progress is pretty slow; work on about 30km per hour so a 100km bus trip will take at least 3 hours. The best place to find information on routes is the Kupang bus terminal in Walikota but be aware many buses don’t operate on a fixed schedule; they simply leave when they’re full.
Bemo’s service most of Kupang. In fact the bemo’s in Kupang are famous for their over-the-top paint jobs and thumping music. If you can stand the racket, catching a Kupang bemo at least once is almost a must-do. And at around 2.000Rp for an average fare, they’re a cheap and convenient way to get around the rather spread out city. The main bemo hub is the Koto Kupang terminal.
Travelling by private car is the most convenient way to get around West Timor. It’s almost impossible to rent a car on its own but very possible to rent a car with a driver. There are no set prices and what you end up paying can come down to how well you haggle. As an indication, a car with a driver costs around 400.000-750.000Rp per day depending on the destination. Trips from Kupang to Soe or Kefa with a lot of side trips can set you back as much as 1.000.000Rp. Cars can be arranged through your accommodation, any tour desk in town or the NTT Tourist Information Centre. If you’re lucky, you might be able to find an English speaking driver.
Ojek’s are common and convenient throughout West Timor. Unfortunately, around Kupang there have been reports of sexual assaults against females so be wary of approaching an ojek driver on the street. Ask your accommodation to recommend an ojek instead and women should always travel in pairs. Scooters are also a popular way to get around and cost around 60.000-70.000Rp per day. Hire can be arranged through your accommodation, any tour desk in town or the NTT Tourist Information Centre.