Updated 2019: New updated information on the schedule change of Dragon Star Speed Boats.
Atauro island is by far one of my favorite places to go in Timor Leste. Located north off the coast of Dili, the island is one of the most beautiful places to go snorkeling and diving in the country. With only a few ways to get to the island, Atauro is still able to maintain its remoteness allowing the marine life and the local communities to flourish. Atauro island is not to be missed!
Due to the lack of information, I had the hardest time finding a way to get there from Dili without breaking the bank and after doing some research, this is what I found. Here are all the ways to get to the Atauro island.
Note: Most transportation options will take you to Beloi beach which is where the main town is located.
See more: Not sure what to do on the island? Here is the ultimate guide on things to do on Atauro island.
1. Dragon Star Fast Boats (Recommended)
Thursday - Monday Saturday - Sunday | 18 USD/one way
Dragon Star Fast Boat is by far one of the most reliable, affordable and runs most often from Dili port to Beloi beach, Atauro island. The trip will take you one hour and 15 minutes and it leaves at 8:00 AM at the Dili Port (location is shown below) and from Beloi beach back to Dili at 3:30 PM.
Tickets can be bought for 18 USD at their office on the opposite side of Dili port near Gloria Jeans Cafe, next to Rolls N Bowls restaurant. You might be able to get a local ticket if you buy it at the gate the day you depart but I would recommend getting one the day before via their office for reassurance. The location of the office is shown below:
I personally took this one when I was there traveling on
Friday and took one back on Monday (Updated 2019: This no longer applies as they only run on the weekends now).
2. Nakroma Ferry
Saturday Only | 4 USD/one way
If you have time to spare, another great option for cheap transport is getting the local Nakroma ferry that departs once a week on a Saturday. The ferry leaves at 8:30 AM and it will take around 2.5 - 3 hours to get to Beloi beach. It comes back on the same day at 3:00 PM. The ticket can be bought directly at the port for 4 USD per person one way.
Note: I was at the port on a Saturday and they said that the ferry will not be running this week as it was still docked in Indonesia so don't count on it being available. Ask the people at the port the day before to make sure that the ferry is available.
3. Laju Laju Ferry
Thursday Only | 3 USD/one way
This is the cheapest way to travel to Atauro Island but as unreliable as the Nakroma Ferry option above and pretty much the same in all other aspects. The ferry goes off from Dili seaport at 8 AM and comes back at 3 PM from Beloi beach. It cost 3 USD per person and it will take around 3 hours one way.
4. Compass Charters Water Taxi
On Demand | 45 USD/one way
This is the what most chartered water taxi boat looks like. Don't let the size fool you, they are fast!
Updated 2019: I have heard a report that Compass Charters Water Taxi no longer operational.
This used to be the only way you can travel to Atauro outside of Saturday but with the Dragon Star speed boat being available, this option is no longer the only way unless you want to charter your own boat and travel on Tuesday and Wednesday. The boat leaves at the Dili waterfront, just to the east of Palácio do Governo building at 7:30 AM daily and comes back from Atauro at 9:30 AM on weekdays and at 3:00 PM on weekends. The ticket will cost you 45 USD per person one way.
5. Local Boats
On Demand | Depends on the negotiated price
If you are a little adventurous, you can go around Dili waterfront and ask a local fisherman to take you there on their small fisherman boat. You will have to negotiate the price yourself and make sure that the weather is good and the tide not too strong. You don't want to be stuck on a small boat during a storm.
6. MV Atauro boat
On Demand | 35 - 45 USD/one way
MV Atauro boat or it is known by Kevin's boat is owned by, you guess it, Kevin, that runs a whale-watching company on the island. He also does Dili - Atauro trip frequently for 35 - 45 USD per person, one way. To get the schedule and the latest price, I recommend you contact him directly.
Phone: +670 7733 6612 (Kevin)
7. Beloi Beach Hotel Boat
On Demand | 45 USD/one way
Another on-demand charter option to travel from Dili to Atauro Island. If you are staying at the Beloi Beach Hotel (which is not on the beach as the name suggested), you can get a package deal that includes roundtrip transports, 2 nights at the hotel including all 3 meals for $240 per person. The boat leaves from Dili at 8 AM from within the Marine Police Compound (UPM) at the Dili foreshore, next to the Largo Lecidere. For more information, contact them directly or visit their website shown below.
Email: [email protected]
Phone: +670 7558 3421, +670 7729 2222
8. MAF Airplane
By Availanle Schedule | ~600 USD/one way
Last but not least, you can fly with the NGO plane from Dili international airport for around 600 USD per flight. You may be subjected to rescheduling depending on the emergency situation they have to deal with at the moment. For more information, please contact them directly with the information I gathered below:
How I did it
The local kids really do love seeing tourists walking around their island and enjoying the beauty of their home.
Updated 2019: Dragon Star no longer runs on Thursday and Monday, only the weekends. With this schedule changes, I would recommend either visit Atauro Island on the weekend and stay only a night on the island, or you can take the Laju Laju ferry on Thursday and get back to Dili with Dragon Star Speed Boat on Sunday.
My initial plan was to combine a trip with the Nakroma ferry (3 USD) on a Saturday and to come back with the Dragon Star speed boat (18 USD) on Monday to minimize the cost but unfortunately, the Nakorma ferry was not available on a Saturday I was there so I decided to take the Dragon Star speedboat both ways.
There was a slight delay in the morning when I left, but all in all, it was more reliable, comfortable and safer than I thought. The boat also left on time from Atauro to Dili on Monday and it costs me 36 USD for a round trip instead of 90 USD if I went the chartered water taxi route which I thought was the only way to do it.
If luck is on your side and you are in Dili from Thursday to Monday, I would recommend you take a ferry to the island, and then come back with the Dragon Star speedboat to minimize the cost and maximize your time on the island.
The beautiful untouched coral reefs and crystal clear water are waiting for you at the Beloi beach on the Atauro island!
Are you planning a trip to the Atauro Island soon? If you have any question, feel free to ask me in the comments below.
Further Reading for Timor Leste
I hope you found this travel guide useful. If you are looking for more articles about Timor Leste, here is a selection of articles to help you plan your trip:
- Looking for a complete itinerary and travel guide for Timor Leste? 10 Days Itinerary to Timor Leste.
- What do you know about Timor Leste? Not much I assume. If you are interested in the history of Timor Leste, here is a brief history of Timor Leste.
- Dili is the capital city where you will probably begin your journey into one of the least traveled countries in Asia. To help you get acquainted with Timor Leste, check out our one day travel guide on things to do in Dili.
- Once you got to Atauro island, be sure to check out our travel guide on things to do on Atauro Island.
- Looking to go off the beaten path in Timor Leste? Baucau is a great place to break your trip toward Jaco Island. Here’s a quick guide on things to do in Baucau.
- Done with the beaches in Timor Leste? Why not explore the untouched mountain region of Timor Leste? Here’s a complete travel guide on things to do, where to stay and how to get to Maubisse.
- Timor Leste is not the easiest country to travel in. I struggled to stay calm as I made my way to Baucau on a public bus in mid-summer. Here’s my story on real adventure and whether if it was worth it.
- For all articles about Timor Leste, visit Timor Leste Travel Guide page.
- Looking for more travel guides for the Southeast Asia? You can find more on my Southeast Asia Travel Guide page.
- For more of my travel guides, visit my Destinations page.
The Solo Traveler’s Journal is a series of posts by BucketListly where we will follow our founder, Pete Rojwongsuriya around the world as he singlehandedly travel alone and experience different cultures, people, and historical locations one country at a time.
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