After a violent conflict that led to its independence from Indonesia a little over a decade ago, East Timor (officially, Timor Leste) suffered from crippling poverty and political uncertainty. Still quite poor and lacking the tourism infrastructure of more popular Southeast Asian destinations, East Timor remains off the tourist map for all but the most intrepid backpackers and ambitious international entrepreneurs. Nonetheless, untouched beaches, endless inland mountains and forests, and colorful celebrations — including one of Southeast Asia's best Carnival parades — provide plenty of options for a well-rounded culture and adventure-rich vacation.
Unrest is occasionally an issue, though any violence these days is not usually targeted at foreigners. Trekking outfitters and dive shops offer tours and dive packages out of the Timorese capitol of Dili. East Timor is certainly still rough around the edges, but it does have one unexpected convenience: U.S. dollars are the main form of currency, so there is no need for American travelers to worry about exchange rates.