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February 18, 2023, 06.41 PM

JAKARTA, – A new cross-border bus service between Indonesia and Timor Leste is scheduled to launch in March, providing smooth connectivity to cities in both countries.

In a recent interview with, Indonesia’s Ambassador to Timor Leste Okto Dorinus Manik said that the government will provide state-owned public transportation operator PT Damri buses to serve routes between the Indonesian city of Kupang and Dili in Timor Leste.

Besides, a private Indonesian company will also deploy its fleets called Bagong.

“We will launch a seven-day-a-week bus service that will link Kupang to Dili,” Ambassador Okto said on Wednesday, Feb. 15 in Jakarta. 

Also readIndonesia, Timor Leste to Improve Economy in Border Areas

“We are planning to launch the bus service next month as we have completed its standard operating procedure,” he said, adding that a total of five buses from DAMRI and Bagong are ready in Kupang.

They are currently waiting for the buses provided by Timor Leste to arrive. The average travel distance between the two cities is about 400 kilometers, which will take about six to seven hours to drive.

The new bus service is expected to make it easier to travel between two countries by public transport. In addition, the Indonesian government officially added Timor Leste as a country eligible for visitor visa exemption on Thursday, Feb. 12, according to the director general of Immigration circular letter. The Timor Leste passport holders can now enter Indonesia without a visa for a 30-day stay.

The issuance of the circular letter was coincident with the recent official visit of Timor Leste’s Prime Minister Taur Matan Ruak to Indonesia from Feb. 11-14.

“We’re grateful that the visa-free policy [for Timor Leste citizens] is effective on Feb. 13, 2023, during the visit by Mr. Prime Minister,” said Okto, who began his ambassadorial post in Dili on Dec. 13, 2021.

Enhancing investment, trade ties

While in Indonesia, the Prime Minister also witnessed the signing of a joint statement on the establishment of an economic zone in border areas.

Also readIndonesia-Timor Leste Ministers Hold Economic, Border Talks

Both governments have agreed to develop the economy in the border areas of Indonesia’s East Nusa Tenggara (NTT) province and Timor Leste’s Oecusse Municipality.

Oecusse is an exclave municipality of Timor Leste that is surrounded by NTT Province.

The visit also saw the signing of memorandums of understanding (MoUs). The four MoUs focused on the areas of higher education, industrial engineering, as well as meteorology, climatology, and geophysics, and the capacity building for the national elections commission.

President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo stressed the importance of building stronger economic cooperation with Timor Leste, resolving border issues, development cooperation, and the accession of Timor Leste to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), according to the envoy.

“We aim to achieve mutually beneficial cooperation, enhancing economic cooperation in border areas, especially in East Nusa Tenggara,” said Okto.

Also readTimor Leste’s President José Ramos-Horta to Visit Indonesia in July 

The improved connectivity between the two nations will pave the way for the business and economic sector, supporting the movement of people and goods, the ambassador said.

Hence, the two countries also agreed to encourage negotiations to establish a bilateral investment treaty to boost development. This treaty can be used as an umbrella to build cooperation in road development, tourism, agriculture, and farming.

“We hope the signing of bilateral investment treaty will be done this year,” he said.

In 2022 alone, Indonesia’s investment in Timor Leste had reached $818 million in the banking, oil and gas, as well as telecommunications sectors.

Timor Leste’s economy is almost entirely dependent on oil and gas, with about 90 percent of revenue coming from this sector.

Southeast Asia’s youngest nation lodged its application for full membership in ASEAN in early 2011. Indonesia, as the rotating chair of ASEAN this year, is preparing a roadmap to support the full membership of Timor Leste.

Timor Leste, a former Portuguese colony of about 1.4 million, was one of the Indonesian provinces for 24 years until it declared independence on May 20, 2002, following a United Nations-backed referendum.


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