There are some good choices among the places to sleep in Dili, but many of the sleeping options subsist on the long term residence of expats assigned to East Timor and thus, haven’t felt competitive pressure to continue to improve their products. Elsewhere, don’t expect anything swanky – if you get a clean room with good mosquito nets or screens and a few hours of electricity for reading and a fan, you’re doing up for a good sleep. In most places you will be able to find some sort of accommodation, even if it is a home-stay. Otherwise you will need to find a place to camp. The cost per room can vary: if you are on a budget you can find something below US$15, the mid range would be between that and US$100, anything above that is pure luxury (not necessarily from a value-for-money perspective).
East Timor has no camping grounds, but there’s really no limit on where you can pitch a tent. In places like the remote parts of the central mountains and all across the south coast, your only accommodation will be a tent. Although the weather is mild (except high up in the mountains) you’ll want a tent to protect you from insects and sudden rain. You should bring your own gear if you plan to travel off the beaten track plus you should be mindful of where you are setting up your place to sleep (for instance someone’s backyard might not be a good idea without people’s permission)
Home stays – best choice to sleep
Home stays happen on an ad hoc basis: you may find yourself in a place where the hospitality of other will be your only accommodation. Remember, people have little , so offer to help out in any way you can. The Timorese are really a gracious lot, so someone will usually come forward with an offer if you’re in a rural village and it’s getting dark. The local police station or on NGO office is always a good source of leads to find the best place to sleep.
Dili has East Timor backpackers, which is the nation’s one hostel – and not a bad one for that matter.
Dili has some very good accommodation options at every price point from budget hotels through to mid-range and top end. But it also has many dumps where you will not be able to sleep even with high dosages of sleeping pills. You wouldn’t feel like your US$50 is going far when you find yourself in a windowless former shipping container or stuffy clapped-out room where the furnishings are buster and the decorations is cigarette burns. Compare places and bargain hard i you are planning on staying for a while. Outside Dili the story is not so straightforward. A handful of places offer better standards (Maubisse, Bacau and Com), and cheap family-run places have opened in a few other locations, many of which are very well run. Overall, though the choice is not wide and the standards not high. Cheaper hotels, where they exist may not have running water or showers. Washing facilities are likely to be Indonesian mandi style. A mandi is a large water tank, usually made from concrete and lined with tiles, from which you can scoop water with a ladle, jug or what looks like a plastic saucepan. Once wet, you soap yourself down and then rinse the soap off with more water from the mandi. A down-to-earth experience, a true antithesis from western modern shower dependent society.
Churches and other religious groups offer simple accommodation across East Timor. Your view of poverty won’t be in danger, but for US$15 or so you’ll have great shelter for the night. While not universal, you can find religious accommodation in Suai, Maubara, Maubisse, Lospalos, Aileu and other locales.