Kupang – the “other” Timor

Larantuka to Kupang ferry: 16 hours

Kupang – Atambua: 280 km, 7:15

Atambua – East Timor border: 20 km, 0:45

East Timor border – Dili: 120 km, 3:45

This border crossing can go very badly wrong if you don’t plan it properly.

  1. Visa on entry is not available at the East Timor border crossing. You can get one in Kupang at the East Timor Embassy, where it takes three working days to process. Some nationalities do not need a visa – research it before you leave home. I spent six months planning the trip and it was an intentionally tight schedule. We didn’t have three days to wait for a visa to be issued in Kupang and the folks at the East Timor office in Sydney were kind enough to assist, so we had our visas authorities before we left.
  2. Get your vehicle export permit in Atumbua! You can’t get it at the border (the photo below shows the building where you can get it).
  3. Indonesian-plated motorcycles can cross into East Timor without a carnet, but they travel under a 10-day temporary import permit. The Indonesian customs office keeps the registration card (STNK) until the bike comes back. It must come back the same way. This takes some considerable planning for a one-way trip.
  4. The East Timor border control closes at 4:00 pm. You will need about an hour to get through the Indonesian and East Timorise formalities.
  5. The East Timor customs control recently moved into a new building which is not signposted (as at July 2017). It’s about 1 km from the Indonesian customs office.

The ferry crossing from Flores to West Timor is still entirely within Indonesia. There is a land border to make the international crossing from West Timor to East Timor.

I suspect that anybody who finally makes landfall at Kupang after travelling from Bali will have pretty much the same reaction: “Yee Haa! No more ferries!”.

We lashed out an extra IDR100,000 for the VIP upgrade, which meant we had “lie flat seats’, as they say in the airline industry. However, on the ferry that’s all they do. They just lie flat, all the time. Ours were pretty close to the toilets, which inevitably got really stinky.

Here’s an interesting observation: when folks wash themselves with a bucket after using “squat” toilets, quite a lot of the water spills on the bathroom floor. Then runs out along the deck. Just saying …

Tip: Don’t get on a ferry wearing riding jeans and motorcycle boots. Without getting into “too much information”, consider the mechanics of using a squat toilet when you can’t get your jeans below your knees. You can of course remove the boots, if you don’t mind standing barefoot in the slurry on the floor.

The VIP area of the ferry is air conditioned, and it’s worth it. I was still sweating but it was much worse outside the tinted door. One of the four air conditioners was broken, and another stopped working when a civic-minded young man unplugged it so he could recharge his phone.

The ferry arrived at Kupang about 2 am. There’s not much opened in town then – I think the Silvia Hotel might have been the only option. Happily is was a decent establishment – nice buffet breakfast and a very welcome pool.

The ride to Atumbua is mostly not scenic. It’s one that just keeps going, and going. The season much have been quite dry because the farms were mostly drab and dormant. We stayed there at the Hotel King Star, which has been through a few historical epochs. It must have been truly grand in its colonial heyday. The upper level including dining hall was closed for renovations when we were there, so maybe it will majestic again some day. The ground floor has already been done and, to be fair, the room was vast and well decorated.  But … mosquito screens! They were full of holes. We fumigated the room and went for a walk while the mosquito hoards decided what to do.

Out departure from Atambua was seriously delayed by the “fixer” guy who showed us where to find the Finance Ministry office (see photo below). All I needed was the darned address! The paperwork for vehicle export has to be obtained here. This is only relevant if you are riding an Indonesian-plated motorcycle. Foreign bikes will be travelling under a carnet, which you would have obtained before leaving home.

It was late afternoon by the time we finally cleared the border crossing. Shortly after, we were stopped at a roadside check where they wanted to see the bike registration card, which we had just been forced to leave with the Indonesian customs. Fortunately they were satisfied with the temporary import certificate.

The road to Dili was a mix of lovely new and almost deserted highway, and typical dirt plus broken pavement Asian regional road. Sadly there was no warning when transitioning and it was tempting to speed up on the good sections, only to be suddenly confronted with potholes, mud and broken pavement.

We rode for about two hours in the dark, and we were very happy indeed to see the city lights of Dili. First stop Burger King, OMG what a treat.

Finance Ministry shop front (Atambua, West Timor)

Finance Ministry shop front (Atambua, West Timor

Finance Ministry break times (Atambua, West Timor)

Finance Ministry break times, long break on Fridays (Atambua, West Timor)

Kupang night market

Kupang night market

Kupang to Atambua 1

Kupang to Atambua 1

Kupang to Atambua 2

Kupang to Atambua 2

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s