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How to Take the Bus from Kupang to Dili and Travel to Timor Leste in 2024

Given its remote location, travel to Timor Leste can be both time-consuming and expensive. But as a budget traveler, I always find a way so I’ll share my tips for getting to Timor Leste cheaply.

One trick to reach it on a budget is to take a bus from Kupang to Dili.

If you don’t even know where Timor Leste is, don’t worry, many don’t. It is a really small country of 15000 sq. km. sharing the island of Timor with Indonesia, about 500 km north of Australia.

It is one of the world’s newest countries (only Montenegro, Kosovo, and South Sudan are younger) and officially became independent in 2002. You should read my comprehensive travel guide to Timor Leste before your trip.

Fly to Kupang, then bus to Dili

A little-known trick involves using Kupang’s El Tari Airport as a cheap gateway to the island of Timor. This way of getting to Timor Leste takes way longer than a direct flight but also costs half and allows you to check out Kupang!

If you’re flexible and not in a hurry, then this is for you, so read on!

Flights to Kupang

There are regular flights to Kupang from most airports in Indonesia, including Jakarta, Surabaya, Denpasar, and Labuan Bajo. The carrier is usually Lion Air, but some flights are with Batik Air, Wings Abadi Airlines (both part of Lion Air Group), and Citilink.

Just as a reference, if you book between 1 and 4 weeks in advance, the cost of a one-way ticket is around:

  • Jakarta to Kupang: 100-120 USD
  • Surabaya to Kupang: 65-80 USD
  • Denpasar (Bali) to Kupang: 70-90 USD
  • Labuan Bajo to Kupang: 70-80 USD

You will need a place to sleep in Kupang for one or two nights. I stayed in this RedDoorz hotel close to the Mangrove forest and I can recommend it.

Hotels in Indonesia are almost always cheaper if booked online. I paid 120000 IDR / 8$ per night.

Murals in Kupang, East Nusa Tenggara, Indonesia

Bus from Kupang to Dili

There’s a regular service with a modern, air-conditioned bus from Kupang to Dili. The distance is 450 km and it takes 12 hours since the roads are very winding. Even though the drivers are good and the roads are in acceptable condition, it’s still not the most pleasant bus trip.

Two companies are serving the bus route between Kupang and Dili – Damri and Babadok.

However, finding reliable information about the Damri service has proved difficult for me, so I will share with you my experience with Babadok.

All you have to do is message them on WhatsApp to book your ticket. Their number is +62 821-4765-2911. They speak enough English, but Google Translate can prove helpful still.

In 2024, the bus from Kupang to Dili travels on even dates (2,4,6…) and the bus from Dili to Kupang travels on even dates (7, 9, 11…). The price is 400.000 IDR / 27$ one way and 750.000 IDR / 50$ return.

Do note, that if you pay in USD or you book/pay from Dili, they charge more: 40$ one way and 75$ return. However, sometimes they run promos with reduced prices so you may get lucky.

Travel to Timor Leste by bus from Kupang to Dili
The bus from Kupang to Dili

The bus departs at 6 AM from Terminal A Bimoku in Kupang and arrives around 5 PM behind Timor Plaza. Do note the 1 hour time difference between Kupang and Dili.

On the return leg, the bus departs at 7 AM from behind Timor Plaza and arrives at 6 PM at Terminal A Bimoku.

Border Crossing at Mota’Ain

The border crossing is very quick, efficient, and without any problems. You get off the bus with your luggage, pass Indonesian Immigration, walk to Timor Leste Immigration, pass customs and passport control, and board the bus again.

They were so lax with checking luggage, that I somehow managed to get through without having my luggage checked. Then I went back (unprompted) to tell them and they waved me through.

Throughout all that everybody was extremely friendly and welcoming.

Mota'ain Border Crossing between Indonesia and Timor Leste
Mota’ain Border Crossing

Other Ways to Travel to Timor Leste

Even though the bus from Kupang to Dili is the cheapest, it still requires you to be in Indonesia before that to take a domestic flight to Kupang. Here are your other options to travel to Timor Leste.

Fly directly into Timor Leste

Timor Leste has one international airport in its capital Dili – Presidente Nicolau Lobato International Airport. It’s small and only has a few flights per week. The Timorese government is planning to make the big airport in Baucau operational, but until then it’s only Dili.

There are only two international destinations served from and to Dili – Denpasar (Bali) and Darwin (Australia).

From Denpasar (Bali)

There are 4 weekly flights from Bali to Dili – on Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and Sunday. The carrier is the Indonesian Citilink known to be reliable and comfortable. A one-way ticket costs between 220-300 USD.

Booking directly with Citilink outside of Indonesia can be problematic, as they reject foreign debit and credit cards. My advice is to book with Skyscanner.

From Darwin (Australia)

There are daily flights between Darwin and Dili on the Australian flag carrier Qantas. The price is between 220-280 USD.

In addition, every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday there is one more flight on the regional Australian airline Air North. It’s marginally cheaper with prices between 220-240 USD.

You can book directly with Qantas and Air North, or check offers on Skyscanner.

Camara Eclesiástica Baucau
Camara Eclesiástica Baucau, Timor Leste

Visa for Timor Leste

If you’re carrying a passport from the European Union (including wider Schengen), Cabo Verde, or Indonesia, you don’t need a visa for Timor Leste. EU citizens can stay up to 90 days, whereas Cabo Verdians and Indonesians up to 30 days.

Everybody else can acquire a visa on arrival (30$) at Dili International Airport or seaport ONLY! This means you cannot just turn up at Mota’ain (the overland border crossing with Indonesia) and get a visa on arrival if you’re not from an EU or Schengen country!

If you’re from the US, UK, Australia, Canada, etc., and want to travel to Timor Leste from Kupang, you must go to the Timor Leste Consulate in Kupang and apply for an Authorization Letter, which will give you the right to enter Timor Leste overland.

I haven’t done this myself as I have an EU passport. However, I’ve read reports that it could be as quick as 1 day or as slow as 3 days. You have to go and check for yourself.

Other Entry Requirements

Officially, these are the requirements for traveling to Timor Leste as a tourist:

  • Secured accommodation;
  • Return or onward ticket;
  • US$150 per day in the country;

In practice, nobody ever checks for either of these. I find the last requirement especially ridiculous.

Yes, Timor Leste is relatively expensive but not as much as 150$+ per day. I managed to travel for way less and you can see my budget report here.

Parting Words

So there you have it! If you’re into getting to Timor Leste quickly and are not on a tight budget – fly directly from Bali or Darwin.

If you’re into slow travel and want to save money – fly into El Tari Airport, then take the bus from Kupang to Dili.


  1. Hello Simon,

    Can you confirm that, as EU citizen, you did not need to have the visa authorization upfront?
    The TL immigration page is a bit misleading stating that:

    “Except for Indonesian nationals and Portuguese nationals, all travellers arriving at a land border post must apply in advance for a “Visa Application Authorization”. When the traveller arrives at the border, the “Visa Application Authorization” must be presented to an immigration official. Then, if the traveller meets the other requirements the visa may be granted on payment of US$30. Travellers applying in advance may be granted a visa valid for up to 90 days stay, which can be valid for single or multiple entries”

    I am trying to determine whether “all travelers” in the above apply just to the one who require a visa (so not to EU citizens) or really all travelers, also from EU need this preauthorization.

    1. Hi Andrzej,

      Yes, I can confirm that all EU and Schengen countries are visa exempt and do NOT need any prior authorization for land borders.
      TL Immigration is misleading outright wrong about their own rules here.


  2. Hello
    I’ve contacted that phone number u gave for the tickets through WhatsApp but there’s is no response, do I know other ways of purchasing the tickets? Like at a terminal or ticket office? If you do can u recommend me a place?
    Thank uuuu

    1. Hi Vera,

      Check out their Instagram page: https://www.instagram.com/babadokexpressofficial/
      They post there often with up-to-date prices, so I assume you can reserve a ticket by messaging them on IG.
      These are their WA numbers as taken from their IG page: “Contact Us : WA (🇹🇱 +67077832999/ 🇮🇩 +6289669284879 )”


  3. Hello, and thanks for the excellent blog! Did you get transit visa for Indonesia? I was wondering if it’s possible to get transit visa in the boarder. We have by then already been in Indonesia for 30 days so when coming back from East Timor, we would only cross the boarder, then fly to Bali and then directly fly to Singapore. So in our case, the transit visa would be the best option.

    1. Hi Emilia,

      There is no such thing as transit visa for Indonesia (unless you’re transiting at an airport).
      You will need a regular tourist visa, i.e. the VoA/eVoA.
      Motain Border between Indonesia and Timor Leste issues visas on arrival. You can just get it at the border.
      Alternatively, apply online and get it via the Molina website. I have this article explaining it in detail:
      The eVoA is issued automatically and costs the same as the VoA.

      1. Ok thank you very much!

  4. Olá

    Vivo em Timor-Leste há pouco tempo, mas como estou a pensar fazer várias viagens, agradeço as dicas.
    Vou explorar o site.

    1. Send me an email if you have any specific questions, Joaquim. 🙂

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