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 remarkably, although one 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.
Although Baucau has East Timor's second airport, the strip is rarely used for commercial flights. Instead, it is largely a military-style operation reserved for the delivery of goods and personnel.
The drive from Dili is 123km 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 other side of the road.
Cars can be hired from Rentlo and Thrifty in Dili, and possibly left at Baucau.
All long distance buses leave from Kota Baru, 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.
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.