Buy in East Timor
The US Dollar is the legal tender currency in East Timor and all transactions are in dollars. Banks and a few ATMs can be found in Dili. East Timor issued coins denominated in centavos and are not the same size as U.S coins, although U.S. coins are widely accepted.
What to buy
Traditional East Timorese silver jewellery
Aromatic coffee beans and colourful hand-woven cloth called Tais are the two items that should be on your must-buy list when shopping in East Timor. All convenience stores and even some roadside stalls sell excellent coffee. Just as Scottish clans have specific patterns for their tartans, families in East Timor have Tais in specific patterns and colours.
Roasted coffee beans will be a great gift item. Note, some countries are strict rules about importing any food item.
East Timorese coffee is grown organically and tastes fabulous. Coffee was introduced in East Timor by the Portuguese. The local way of making coffee is to roast the coffee beans till they turn black and let out a great aroma. Low acidity levels ensure the excellent taste of East Timorese coffee.
A few of the coffee varieties like robusta have very high levels of caffeine. A late night cuppa might keep you up for hours, which might put you in a fix, as East Timor doesn’t have nightlife options outside of Dili.
Be sure to buy your coffee in a traditional market rather than Dili’s grocery stores, where the product will often be pre-ground and very stale.
Tais come in different designs and colours, depending on the region they are from, and they represent a distinct family. In Dili you should visit the Tais market to buy Tais and local silver jewellery. Tais can also be bought from street vendors. Local Handicrafts
The other items that will interest you are ethnic woodcarvings, batik cloth and embroidered fabrics sporting regional patterns. The ethnic woodcarvings available here are somewhat like the ones you might get in Africa.
A market can be found in every main town on the island. You may not find the huge array of shops in East Timor that you are accustomed to. These markets, however, cater amply to local needs. The marketplaces give the locals a chance to meet and interact with others on a daily basis. A walk through an East Timorese market will help you learn about the local produce of the region. Tourists attract a lot of attention so be prepared to be stared at. Also expect to be overcharged as many tourists before you have paid exorbitant prices willingly.
Along the waterfront, you will find many fruit stalls. These stalls are mostly run by women and are stocked with delicious local fruits. The papayas, mangoes and bananas are really tempting; make it a point to try out any unfamiliar local variety.