Moving from one point of Timor-Leste to another can be an enlivening venture that adrenalises the unprepared.
Less of a terminal and more of a congregation, Tasi Tolu is the transport gateway to all points west in Timor-Leste. The theory is simple: Indonesian-style bemos and mikrolets wait for passengers before heading to Liquiçá, Gleno, Ermera, Balibo, Maliana and beyond. A simple, straightforward transaction.
The reality can be slightly different. Visitors should not worry if they find the terminal, on the outskirts of Dili, a touch overwhelming. It is, after all, controlled chaos; with transport whizzing around as touts jostle for passengers, the whole experience can unnerve even the hardiest of troubadours.
It can be loud, too. Indeed, it is possible to feel a vehicle’s presence, the bassy vibration emanating from monstrous sound systems rattling rusty frames and tooth fillings alike.
Getting in an empty vehicle can be a double-edged sword. There may be space to stretch out, but then the drivers will demonstrate the art of killing time as they scour for custom. An hour or so of this can be a trying experience for even the most patient of passengers. Factor in the heavy humidity compounded by a lack of air conditioning and it is no wonder tempers can fray.
However, this is not to say the process is a negative one. Far from it. As visitors learn a few hacks – be it tapping a coin on the handrail when their stop appears or getting a feel for when transport is genuinely about to leave – they will feel the country opening up to them.
EITM’s advice: Enjoy the ride.
Some good(ish) things to remember about Tasi Tolu:
- Journeys from Tasi Tolu should cost $3-$10 depending on location. Make sure to check prices before departing.
- On a related topic, it would be a wise move to know some basic Tetun, especially numbers. While not much bargaining takes place, the terminal is a frenetic place, and minor details such as prices can get lost in the maelstrom.