Buying a Prepaid SIM Card in East Timor Guide

East Timor is an island nation East to Timor. Dili, the capital city, is a popular destination for travelers. Those who like to scuba dive or watch dolphins like to go to Atauro Island. Jaco Island is an unpopulated national park with a lot of beauty in it. There is enough to do in East Timor.

What you should not be doing, however, is paying expensive roaming bills. Roaming with your provider is often expensive, which is why well-seasoned travelers want to buy a local SIM card when visiting destinations. In this article, I will tell you all about the SIM cards in East Timor. Let's get this done.

Telecom Providers in East Timor

Timor-Leste, East Timor from now on, has 3 telecom providers; Telemor, Timor Telecom, and Telkomcel. Telemor and Timor Telecom are the largest providers in Timor, while Telkomcel is a small player. All providers have 2G, 3G, and 4G/LTE networks.

Coverage with all providers is good around the country, although you may experience some spotty connections in rural areas.

Just like most countries in Southeast Asia, you need to show your passport when buying your SIM card at official stores. You could also buy your card from street vendors. However, you could be charged an insane premium, up to 10 USD (they use the US dollar in East Timor, just “$” from now on) instead of $1. The only benefit of buying from a street vendor is that you would not have to register yourself. I can, however, not promise that the card will be shut down once the provider realizes that someone is using an unregistered card.

What SIM card should you buy when visiting East Timor? If you want to buy a SIM card in East Timor, I would recommend going with Telemor. They have good coverage and offer 4G/LTE to prepaid customers, unlike Timor Telecom.

There is not much more to add about telecom providers in East Timor, so let’s see what the providers have to offer to us.

Tip: Looking for cheap flights? Book with AirWander and add stopovers! Not in a hurry yet? Set up flight alerts with Airfarewatchdog and get notified when ticket prices for your preferred route(s) drop!

Telemor

Telemor Logo

Telemor became the most popular provider in 2017, beating the previous monopoly Timor Telecom. Telemor covers more than 95% of the population with its 2G and 3G networks. Their 4G/LTE is available in all 13 districts and covers 70% of the territory.

Telemor SIM cards are sold for $1 at their stores. Top-up vouchers are sold from $1 to $20. They offer various data packages, from $0.25 for unlimited data for an hour to $50 for 12 GB for 30 days. As they have so many plans, a handful of them will be listed below. All these plans have speeds up to 7.2 Mbps:

  • $0.25: 70 MB for 24 hours
  • $0.50: 150 MB for 24 hours
  • $1: 150 MB for 7 days
  • $1: Unlimited data for 24 hours
  • $2: 350 MB for 7 days
  • $2: Unlimited data for 48 hours
  • $5: 1.1 GB for 15 days
  • $10: 2.4 GB for 15 days
  • $15: 2.4 GB for 30 days
  • $25: 5 GB for 30 days
  • $25: Unlimited data for 30 days

If you prefer faster speeds, you can go for Telemor’s 4G plans. You need a 4G SIM card to take advantage of these plans:

  • $1: 400 MB daily
  • $3: 800 MB weekly
  • $20: 5 GB weekly
  • $50: 13 GB monthly  

Timor Telecom

Timor Telecom (TT) Logo

Timor Telecom used to be a monopoly until Telemor joined the market. It has good coverage but is the most expensive provider out there. Its 2G and 3G networks cover 94% of the population. Unfortunately, 4G/LTE is not available for prepaid customers.

Timor Telecom SIM cards are sold for $1 and come with 5 minutes, 10 on-net SMS, and 1 MB, all to be used within 7 days. Top-up vouchers are sold from $1 to $50. You get a bonus of 100% on your first top-up. For example, a $10 top-up will get you another $10 for free.

Various data packages are available. They come with a 100% bonus too. For example, the $10 pack would get you 2.75 GB for 15 days. Now, you would get another 2.75 GB, meaning that your total data allowance is 5.5 GB. A handful of Timor Telecom’s data packages are listed below:  

  • $0.25: 70 MB + 70 MB (140 MB) for 1 day
  • $0.50: 150 MB + 150 MB (300 MB) for 1 day
  • $1: 200 MB + 200 MB (400 MB) for 7 days
  • $3: 800 MB + 800 MB (1600 MB) for 7 days
  • $5: 1.1 GB + 1.1 GB (2.2 GB) for 15 days
  • $10: 2.75 GB + 2.75 GB (5.5 GB) for 15 days
  • $15: 4 GB + 4 GB (8 GB) for 30 days
  • $30: 8.5 GB + 8.5 GB (17 GB) for 30 days

Timor Telecom sells unlimited data packs called NetNonStop unlimited data. Your speeds will be reduced to 250 kbit/s, which is uselessly slow. I would not recommend getting their unlimited data packs.

Telkomcel

Telkomcel Logo

Telkomcel is owned by an Indonesian company called Telkom Indonesia (Telkomsel, as written in the logo). It is the latest operator to join the market and has a market share of more than 10%. Its 2G and 3G networks cover 95% of the population. They use the 850 MHz frequency only. It is not important to know what that means. However, it is not a frequency that is used often (Asia and Europe – used a lot in the Americas, including the Caribbean), so check whether your device works on that frequency.

Telkomcel SIM cards can be bought at the airport or at other stores. They are sold for $0.50 or $1 and come with 1 MB or 10 MB, respectively, to be used within 7 days. Top-up vouchers are sold from $1 to $25.

Telkomcel sells many data packages. A handful of them will be mentioned below:

  • $0.25: 40 MB for 1 day
  • $0.25: 80 MB for 7 days
  • $1: Unlimited data for 24 hours
  • $1: 200 MB for 1 day
  • $1: 150 MB for 7 days
  • $2: 400 MB for 7 days
  • $5: 1.1 GB for 10 days
  • $10: 2.4 GB for 10 days
  • $15: 2.5 GB for 30 days
  • $25: 5 GB for 30 days

Telkomcel also has around 20 WIFI hotspots in Dili. You can 15 minutes for free. 2 hours will cost you $0.20 and 24 hours will be $1.

Other Ways to Stay Connected When Traveling in East Timor

Some travelers do not want to get n East Timorese SIM card for various reasons. Some prefer to roam with their providers while others would prefer an international SIM card. Then we have those who like portable WIFI devices, and others who will connect to WIFI networks instead.

Roaming in East Timor with Your Provider

Roaming is a term used in wireless telecommunication that indicates a mobile device is outside the range of its home network and has connected to a different, available cell network. If you use your phone in East Timor without changing SIM cards, you would be roaming in East Timor.

Roaming can be expensive. This person received an £8,348.41 data roaming bill. I also found out why roaming is so expensive. However, it does not always have to be costly.

Many providers offer roaming plans where you can roam for free in select destinations like East Timor. Others may offer bundles that give you some minutes, SMS, and data. You also have providers that allow you to use your plan's allowance for a daily fee. Every carrier is different, so it is recommended to explore your roaming options before you go out and experience bill shock (which is not fun). Luckily, I have reviewed the roaming options of many providers so that you do not have to.

No idea how roaming works? I made this comprehensive guide about what roaming is and how it works. It is worth the read – promised!

You can also Roam As You Go, meaning that you will pay per minute, text, and MB. In most cases, this is not recommended, as these rates are insanely high (that is how people get bills in the thousands). There are some providers, however, that do have attractive Pay As You Go roaming rates. Do not get too excited, though, as the number of carriers that have decent standard roaming rates is rare.

International SIM Cards

International SIM cards are cards that have been made for travelers so that they do not have to deal with roaming costs.

There are many international SIM cards out there, such as OneSimCard and SIM cards from SimOptions. These SIM cards with the same as roaming with your provider, but the charges are often way less than actually roaming because they have been set up for international travel.

International SIM cards give you the same convenience as roaming with your provider. As in, not having to get numerous SIM cards, you will not use again, and being reachable on one number instead of multiple

International SIM cards are, however, more expensive than using a local SIM card, such as an East Timorese one. On the other hand, they are often cheaper than roaming with your provider. International SIM cards are appealing to those who travel frequently or those who are visiting multiple destinations in one trip. If you are only visiting East Timor, stick to a local SIM as discussed in this article.

If you want to learn more about international SIM cards, check out my comparison post where I analyze 10 international SIM card providers.

Portable hotspots

Portable hotspots, or pocket WIFI, are devices small enough that they should fit into your pocket. These devices turn into your on-the-go WIFI hotspot while they connect to the cellular networks in the country.

There are many portable hotspots out there. Two reputable pocket WIFI companies I know are Skyroam (use coupon code PHONETRAVELWIZ) and Vision Global Wireless. WIFI access with Skyroam starts at $8 a day. Using a Vision Global device starts at $2 a day. Both services cover more than 130 destinations around the world.

A pocket WIFI device is ideal for those who are traveling with families or multiple individuals. This way, everyone can connect to the device and enjoy the WIFI network on the go. Some companies will charge you per GB while others will give you unlimited data. Be aware of the data restrictions of your device so that you will not receive a high bill after your travels.

Free WIFI connections

Finally, we have the most cost-effective way to stay connected: Free WIFI hotspots.

Although using WIFI hotspots may save you money, it may not be convenient as using a SIM card. First, you would have to find WIFI hotspots. East Timor has some WIFI networks around the country, but some are slow and useless.

Additionally, public WIFI hotspots are unsecure. I would recommend using a Virtual Private Network (VPN) if you connect to an unfamiliar network. The VPN will encrypt your data and will keep your data private. I use NordVPN, and you can get up to 70% off when you get a NordVPN subscription. Get yours today or find out more about NordVPN.

The Best Way to Stay Connected When Traveling in East Timor

Getting a SIM card from Telemor would do you well when considering an East Timorese SIM card. Be sure to explore the roaming options your provider offers you, as they may offer free or cheap roaming bundles.

You could also consider getting an international SIM card or using a portable hotspot. International SIM cards are attractive for those visiting multiple destinations at once or within a year. Portable hotspots will be useful when traveling with multiple people so that not each individual has to get a SIM card but can use the hotspot.

Visiting other countries in Southeast Asia? Check out my Southeast Asian SIM card buying guide, covering other Southeast Asian countries, such as Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam. Going to other places around the world? Then you should also check out my sim card buying guides for other destinations around the world.

What is next?

Looking for the best companies and gadgets to enhance your travel experience? Check out my resource page for the best companies to use when you travel! Save money on plane tickets, bus rides, cruises, and accommodation. Besides that, I also list services and items I use to make my life easier – and I believe they will help you too!

Book Your Flight for East Timor

It is time to book your flight. Find cheap flights with AirWander so that you can add free or cheap stopovers in destinations you have not considered yet before going to East Timor. If you are not ready to take off yet, set up flight alerts with Airfarewatchdog, and they will notify you once ticket prices to East Timor drop.

Book Your Accommodation for East Timor

I am a huge fan of Airbnb because it allows me to live with a local or get a local place for myself. Staying in someone’s house or apartment feels much different than being in a ho(s)tel, especially in East Timor. At least, that is how I see it. Moreover, Airbnb can often be much cheaper than staying in a hotel.

Get Your Travel Insurance for East Timor

You will regret not having travel insurance once you actually need it and “forgot” to get it. Nowadays, travel insurance is cheap and comprehensive unlike back in the days. World Nomads is by far the best travel insurance for adventurous travelers like yourself. You can even get insured WHILE already traveling in East Timor, which is not something many insurance companies allow you to do.

Get a Travel Debit Card

Travel Cheques are outdated. Paying with your credit card or debit card can be expensive because of all the exchange commissions banks charge you. TransferWise allows you to convert your main currency to the currency of your destination for a small fee (up to 8 times less than with your bank!) Getting a Transferwise Borderless account is FREE, so you will get an instant return on your investment.

Enjoy your trip!

Ernest Adu

Ernest Adu, going by just Adu, is the founder and editor at Phone Travel Wiz. He has been a traveler for 6 years. Although from Europe, the Netherlands, Adu's favorite region in Asia, in particular, East and Southeast Asia. He currently lives in Tainan, Taiwan due to the current pandemic and does not have any travel plans for after his stay in Taiwan.

Recent Content