Dili can get mighty expensive for the typical expat. Unlike many other major cities in Asia, Dili does not really have a thriving local economy that drives provision of goods and services at competitive prices.
Virtually all packaged goods are imported. A lot comes from Indonesia and China but for the usual expat needs, it mostly comes from Australia. And the expat market is pretty small, just like the number of well-heeled Timorese who could regularly afford this stuff.
The astute expat shopper can find plenty of substitute goods from Chinese and Indonesian sources if you try hard, and it can take a lot of time so most expats stick to a couple of reasonably reliable expat oriented supermarkets.
Housing runs the same way. If you really want air-conditioning, satellite TV, 24 hour electricity (ie have a generator), it will cost.
ECA International did a survey in August 2005 and produced expat cost-of-living rankings for Asian cities. Their top 10 went like this :
And for all that, you get no traffic lights (in the whole country), no cinema, no theatre, no library (of any significance), little sporting infrastructure, no fine dining at all, little to buy in the shops and crap Guinness.
But you also get “slow living”, less spending, perhaps more interacting, a 20 minute cycle trip east to west and NO western suburbia.