Updated on 24th September 2018: Added the new "This East Timor" travel video to the article.
Baucau is the second largest city in Timor Leste. It is located 140 km away east of Dili, the capital city. Most travelers who decided to visit Timor-Leste often stay in Dili and call it a day but if you are an adventurous type of traveler and are looking for a real authentic adventure, Baucau serves as a good introduction to what to expect of the rural Timor-Leste cities and will allow you to travel eastward to places like Jaco Island or Lospalos.
Keep in mind that traveling in Timor-Leste is not easy if you don't have your own vehicle and require a lot of patience and time as the road is horrible, especially the one connecting Dili to Baucau. If you are not planning to travel eastward, I don't think Baucau is worth it but if you do plan to go to places like Jaco Island or Lospalos, Baucau is worth stopping to break the trip up. Without further ado, here is a guide on how to get to Baucau via buses and what to do in the city.
Things to Do Map
How to Get Here
The cheapest option to get to Baucau is to take a bus from the Becora Eastward Bus Station in Dili. The trip will cost you 4 USD and it will take you around 5 - 6 long hours on really bumpy roads so prepare accordingly. I personally took the bus myself and I can say that it was not a fun experience but it was the only cheap way to do it. The location of the Becrora bus station in Dili is shown below:
See more: A guide on things to do in Dili, Timor Leste.
If you can spare a few hundreds USD, I would recommend you rent a 4WD from Dili for a smoother experience. From the quote I got in 2018, the cost ranged from 100 - 145 USD per day + 25 USD for insurance. If you are interested, I would recommend asking Rentlo, one of the few rental companies in Dili where they actually do email back to you.
See more: Rentlo car rental rates for May 2018.
When to Go
The best time to go to Baucau is from June to September which is during the dry season where the sky is clear and no rain. Rainy season can make the trip even harder so I would recommend not visiting the before June.
Where to Stay
Baucau - Victoria Restaurant and Guesthouse - 35 USD/Night (Double room)
Don't get confused by the word "restaurant" in the name as they also do offer great rooms behind the restaurant. The room is really nice and comes equipped with a great queen size bed, hot shower and a hammock in front of the room. The breakfast is also included and serves on a beautiful balcony by the restaurant. You might even get it cheaper if you negotiate the price. Very well located on the cliff in the old town area near most of the attraction I listed here in this guide.
How to Get Around
Most of the attractions are walkable except the Uatabo beach and the new town center. In order to get to the new town, you can hail a microlet #1 and it will take you to the new town and Baucau bus station. One trip cost 25c.
This place is cheaper than most countries but not dirt cheap. Expect to pay around 30 - 50 USD per day per person including accommodation and food.
Keep in mind that this is just a suggested daily budget based on my style of traveling, which is leaning more toward the budget side of things. If you want to stick to this budget, expect to sleep in dorms, eat out only a few times, and be comfortable using the cheapest and most convenient way of transportation, which often times involves walking.
No internet access in the guesthouse or the restaurant so I would recommend getting a SIM card from Telkomsel either at the airport in Dili or Dili's city center before your trip. You can learn more about the available price plans here: Timor Leste Prepaid SIM card.
If you are looking for a travel insurance to go along with your trip to Timor Leste, I would recommend WorldNomads.com, which is what I use to look for a travel insurance that fits my kind of adventure. They have a simple and flexible search system that allowed me to find the right insurance for the right amount of time at an affordable price in seconds. If you need a travel insurance, give WorldNomads.com a try.
Things to Do in Baucau
Admire the Pousada de Baucau
The Pousada de Baucau used to be a place where the Portuguese elites would come to and stay while they run things around Baucau during the colonial time. You will find several of these Pousadas around the country where they would build a westernized place, usually isolated from poverty, where the Portuguese can stay in comfort. This one is one of the most well-maintained and has since turned into a guesthouse for travelers to indulge themselves in.
The place is beautifully maintained throughout with stunning restaurant area, beautiful traditional huts, well-kept gardens and a little zoom with monkeys in a case, something you would expect a colonial power would do to a place like Timor Leste.
Swim in the Baucau Swimming Pool
Usually, a public swimming pool is not much of an attraction in many places but in Baucau, it is special. It is not often that you would see a pool in the middle of a forest with coconut trees around it.
The pool is quite photogenic so even if you are not interested in swimming you can come and enjoy the beautiful scenery surroudning the pool.
Admire the Architecture of the Baucau Old Market
Baucau Old Market is a recently restored grand colonial-style architecture that has become the landmark of Baucau. It is one of the most impressive architecture in Baucau but unfortanately it was closed when I was there so I was able to get a little glimpse of its beauty from the outside. Unfortunately, no one seems to know what time it opens and when, so if you are the lucky one, please do let me know how in the comments.
Hike up the Abandoned Lookout Point
This may or may not be a lookout point here but when I was enjoying my time at the Pousada de Baucau, I spotted an abandoned platform so I decided to climb up and I was rewarded with a view of the coastline. The location of the lookout point and the trail is mapped in the map I created above so feel free hike up and let me know what you think.
Visit the St. Anthony Cathedral
On your way to the pool, you will come across the St. Anthony Cathedral where you will be able to see a small but significant example of how the Portuguese influence the architecture in East Timor. The exterior of the cathedral is decorated with the famous blue/white Portuguese tile art.
There is also a beautiful traditional-looking esplanade with a high, tapering thatched roof that is worth seeing.
Relax at the Uatabo Beach
Photo by Peter Shanks
If you are looking for a quiet beach, only 7 km away from Baucau, you can have a quiet white sand beach all to yourself, if you are willing to make your way to it. There are only a few microlets going down towards the beach and sometimes they might decided to stop before so be sure to ask your driver where they will drop you off. You can also walk which should take you around 2 - 3 hours one way but it is best to go with someone who knows the way.
Go People-watching at the Baucau Morning Market
Every morning, around the Baucau bus station, you will have a chance to witness how the people of Baucau actually live. This is as raw as it gets with people coming from all around the city, gathered along small dirt streets and to come buy/sell stuff.
I was at the bus station when I found the market and decided to walk around and capture some photos of the peopel. When I first saw the old town, I wonder how Baucau could be the second biggest city with 50,000 people living here as it looked deserted but now I understood.
Try the Best Mie Ayam in Baucau
If you are staying at the Victoria guesthouse, right next to the guest house, there is a restaurant called Bakso & Mie Ayam where I tasted one of the best Mie Ayam I have ever had the pleasure of tasting and all for only 2 USD.
Mie Ayam with its yellow curry-flavored chicken served with meatballs in this mouth-watering soup, a picture really do say a thousand words. The location of the restaurant is shown below:
And there you have it, a guide on cool things to do in Baucau. Baucau may not be a place for regular tourist but if you are determined to see the country as it is, not the tourist bubble you see in Dili, Baucau is a great place to launch yourself into the remote land of East Timor Leste.
Are you planning to travel east Timor Leste? If you have any question, feel free to ask me in the comments below.
The Solo Traveler’s Journal is a series of posts by BucketListly where we will follow our founder, Pete Rojwongsuriya around the world as he singlehandedly travel alone and experience different cultures, people, and historical locations one country at a time.
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