The city has East Timor's only major airport outside of the capital. During the political events of the late 1990s and early 2000s, the city found itself accommodating an influx of overseas jets and airplanes shipping people and supplies into the country. But Baucau has always been an important administrative and agricultural centre. It is the capital of a district with the same name.
Baucau has always played second fiddle to Dili in terms of national relevance. But the town has a backdrop that is just as scenic as that of Dili, with dramatic cliffs skirting the town.
Like Dili, Baucau suffered from the post-referendum carnage in 1999 where many of the main administrative buildings were burnt down. Departing Indonesian troops and the mobs they sponsored ripped out all infrastructure and utilities, leaving it without electricity and telephones. Baucau has since recovered, although you can still see many gutted buildings.
Baucau's administrative centre is located at the foot of the cliffs that overlook the town. There is a large colonial hall surrounding a small fountain that was used for public addresses in colonial times. Nowadays you are more likely to see a goat wandering through than any colonial administrators. The real action now happens up on the cliffline - an area called Kota Baru (Indonesian for "New Town") which was developed during the Indonesian era - where the UN and now the East Timorese government have set up shop.
The airport has not seen scheduled commercial flights since before the Indonesian invasion. Instead, it is largely a military-style operation reserved for the delivery of goods and personnel.
The drive from Dili is 123km (3-4 hours) along a windy but fairly safe road that follows the northern coastline. Many of the turns provide stunning views across pristine beaches to the ocean. The hillsides rise dramatically on the otherside of the road.
Cars can be hired from Rentlo and Thrifty in Dili, and possibly left at Baucau.
All long distance buses departing Baucau leave from Kota Baru (New Town), just beside the roundabout near the market. There are buses to Dili, Los Palos, Viqueque on the south coast, as well as many of the small villages around Baucau.
- To/from Dili: Several buses daily, most leave early in the morning. US$4 (you pay towards the end of the trip). Journey takes about 3 hours. Buses depart when they're nearly full, so prepare to wait. Buses from Dili to Baucau leave from Becora (on the eastern side of Dili), take microlet 1 or 2 to get there.
There are no regular ship routes visiting Baucau, although a major port development is scheduled for the near future.
Some taxis shuttle passengers around the city for US$1 (although locals pay less). Further journeys, such as to Manatuto will cost more.
Mikrolets (vans converted to take passengers) may also be flagged down.
Most foreigners who are in Baucau for any length of time will hire or buy a scooter or motorbike. There is a large demand for second hand motos, so ask around town for any deals. You can usually resell quite easily when you move on.
- 1 Old Town. Take a walk around the colonial centre of town ("Old Town"). The abandoned and often scorched buildings are eerie reminders of a bygone era. Many of the buildings still have architectural value. Children play in the buildings and in the fountains and spring overflow. Walk down the road following the beautiful spring down to the beach. Watch out for mangy dogs and goats roaming the streets!
- 1 Piscina de Baucau (just down the hill from the Pousada, on the road heading east out of Baucau). A large spring-fed pool owned by the Pousada, set in lush grounds, with a diving board and a slide. Beautiful place for a swim. 50c.
- 2 Coconut Beach (Watabo'o) (7km from Baucau along a dirt road). Beautiful and popular white sand beach with bungalows and camping.
- 3 Convent (next to the Pousada). Visit the convent mission for a look at the valuable work the sisters are doing with the children and less fortunate of Baucau. They also have a small store with local handicrafts.
- The local food, KULU, is well known in the country and has become the identity of the district.
- Pousada de Baucau. The restaurant at the Pousada aims for a fancy Portuguese and European menu but is very unreliable. $8-$20.
- 1 Victoria Cafe, Rua Vila Antigua Bacau. Decent restaurant in a nice colonial building with views over the old town. Portuguese and Indonesian. $6.
- 2 Amalia, down a sort of bridge near the bus stop and market. Good Indonesian restaurant with a large treed terrace. $4.
- Baucau Beach Bungalows. also has a restaurant on the beach.
- The handmade liquor, "tua sabu", is also worth trying.
- Loro-Sae Guesthouse: in the Old Town, US$ 10 / night
- Vitoria Cafe: in the "Old Town" (Rua Vila Antigua Bacau), US$ 10 / night for a simple room with fan. Food available. Bus from Dili can drop you there. Phone +670 726 3569, +670 729 7970
- 1 Pousada de Baucau. The fanciest hotel in town and quite good by Timor standards. There are a few terraces for sitting and most rooms have balconies overlooking the old town. $70+.
- 2 Baucau Beach Bungalows. Basic bungalows on the beautiful beach. $15.