Travel Guide

Macau City Travel Guide

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Travel Guide

Macau is a Special Administrative Region (SAR) belonging to the People's Republic of China. Macau is well-known for its gambling, generating more revenue from gambling than even Las Vegas. The tiny city is dotted with old colonial buildings that were built by the British, the Portuguese and other European rulers over time.

Most of the population is native Chinese, but given Macau’s reputation as the friendliest global gambling den, there’s always a floating population of Europeans, Americans, Asians and Indians around. Macau is known not only as the Oriental Las Vegas, but also as the Gourmand Paradise, given the plethora of dining options offering delicious global cuisines. With its international vibe, vibrant gambling and fashion scene and deep-rooted Chinese traditions, Macau offers excitement, intrigue and plenty of entertainment for travelers.

Macau’s official currency is the Macau Pataca (MOP), which is equivalent to 0.12 dollars (as of late 2017). The Hong Kong Dollar (HKD) is also in circulation in Macau. Macau is a free port and global trade is a huge part of its current economy. Taxation is low and foreign investments are encouraged. The gaming industry opened in 2002, and since then the gaming casinos have grown to become a major part of Macau’s economy. Macau’s other areas of economy are insurance, finance, and real estate. Macau has been transformed into a leading global tourism destination owing to its large investments in resort and entertainment projects. The city enjoys a relatively high GDP; 70% of all employment belongs to service areas such as hospitality and entertainment.
Macau was under Chinese rule for centuries, and during this time, it was a hotbed for smugglers and pirates. China gave the city’s control to Portugal in the 16th century in exchange for their help in clearing out piracy from the city. Macau thus became the first Far East European settlement. In 1987, Macau became a Special Administrative Region (SAR) of China, ending 400 plus years of Portuguese administration. Macau, being the first country to be colonized by Europe, was also the last to obtain its freedom from colonial rule. While Macau is now a part of China, it maintains its own ruling systems, like the neighboring Hong Kong. Over the years, however, China has established a more or less strictly-benign rule over Macau that has seen to benefit Macau but hasn’t earned China any brownie points, since Macau is not a total democracy.
Here are some interesting known facts pertaining to Macau:
  • 50% of Macau’s residents are Buddhists.
  • Several 4,000 years old ceramic works of art were excavated from Macau’s largest natural beach, Hac Sa (Black Sandy Bay).
  • 95% of Macau’s total population is Chinese
  • Macau is the only city in China where gambling is not only allowed but is a large part of the city’s economy.
  • Macau’s residents speak a Portuguese dialect called "Macanese Portuguese".
  • Macau has the world's highest population density per square kilometer
  • Macau is home to the largest casino in the world - the Venetian Macao, owned by the Las Vegas Sands. This casino is located in the largest single structure hotel building in Asia, whose floor area measurements make it the sixth-largest building in the world.
  • As a Portuguese colony, Macau was used as a human trafficking point for Chinese slaves to Portugal.
  • The Grand Canal shopping center is the largest indoor shopping mall in Macau, measuring at 968,000 square feet.

Macau is a subtropical city; this means summers are quite hot, while winters are mild and enjoyable, without being too cold. The lowest temperature expected in winter, especially during a cold front is not less than 10°C (~25°F). Macau does suffer violent typhoons during mid-summer. Residents and tourists are recommended to heed typhoon warnings and schools and businesses are closed during very bad typhoons.

The weather in Macau is famously unpredictable. It can be sunny and bright one moment and wet and rainy the next. You may also face some truly extreme weather in Macau; warnings are regularly issued for direct-hit typhoons, extreme heat, black rain, thunderstorms or landslides. Spring is the season when you can expect black rainstorm warnings and apocalyptic downfalls. Summer sees plenty of thunderstorms and summer showers as well, along with Hong Kong typhoons. However, for the most part, the city is bright and sunny and very tourist-friendly.

  • By Plane: Macau has an International Airport, which is located off the shore of Taipa Island. Many international flights land here; find out if your place of origin has any direct flights to Macau.
  • By Bus or Ferry: If you are not able to get on an international flight to Macau, it’s best to land at Hong Kong airport, and travel to Macau by bus or ferry. Air Macau flies on a daily basis to Nanjing, Beijing Ningbo, Shanghai and several other destinations in China. So if you are able to fly to any of these destinations, it’s a simple matter to book a flight to Macau via Air Macau.
  • Ferries to Macau operate from several points in Hong Kong. There’s one at Hong Kong International Airport, where you can actually bypass Hong Kong Immigration and ferry directly Macau. Several ferry companies operate from mainland China at ports such as Jiangmen, Shekou (in Shenzhen) and Fu Yong Ferry Terminal (next to Shenzhen Airport).
  • By Bus: Take the coach from Guangzhou or from Shenzhen airport or from Shenzhen long distance bus station. In about 3 hours, you’ll be in Macau.
    Foreign nationals of the following countries/territories can enter Macau visa-free:
    • United Kingdom: For up to 180 days
    • EU Nations: All other European Union member states, plus Albania, Andorra, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Brazil, Cape Verde, Dominica, Egypt, Grenada, Iceland, Israel, Japan, Lebanon, Liechtenstein, Macedonia, Mali, Mauritius, Mexico, Moldova, Mongolia, Montenegro, Morocco, Norway, Serbia, South Korea, Switzerland and Tanzania can stay up to 90 days without visa.
    • Non-EU Nations: Australia, Belarus, Canada, Chile, India, Indonesia, Kiribati, Malaysia, Monaco, Namibia, New Zealand, Philippines, Russia, Samoa, San Marino, Seychelles, Singapore, South Africa, Taiwan, Thailand, Turkey, the United States and Uruguay nations can stay in Macau visa-free up to 30 days
    • Brunei: Brunei nationals can stay in Macau for up to 14 days without visa.

    Applying For A Visa: If you belong to a nation that’s not listed in the visa-free entry section, you will need to obtain a visa. Apply for a visa from your local Chinese embassy or consulate. You can also apply for a visa, on arrival in Macau, by paying MOP100 (individual), MOP50 (children under 12). Visas are issued on arrived for multiple entries within 30 days of the date of issue. This process of obtaining a visa on arrival in Macau is very quick and cheap, compared to obtaining a visa at the Chinese embassy or consulate. Citizens of Bangladesh, Nepal, Nigeria, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Vietnam cannot obtain visa on arrival in Macau. They will need to apply for a Macau visa at a Chinese embassy in advance.

    Points To Note:

    • Macau allows foreign nationals to stay for specific periods based on their passport validity. For example if a UK citizen’s passport is valid for 40 days, then that person can stay in Macau only for 10 days without visa.
    • Foreign nationals who enter Macau for less than 48 hours on transit are exempt from obtaining a visa.
    • All travellers must demonstrate that they have a minimum of MOP 5,000 to fund their stay in Macau. They must also possess a valid return or onward journey ticket. Residents of Hong Kong and Mainland China are exempt from this rule.

    Macau is rich in tradition, both European and Chinese. Although the city is best known for gambling, Macau has many attractions that have nothing to do with casinos. The city is packed with temples, fortresses, churches and old buildings that are an intriguing mix of Chinese and Portuguese architectural characteristics.

    • Bodhisatta Avalokitesvara: This statue depicts a Chinese deity, but done in European style. If anything, this Chinese statue resembles the statues of the Virgin Mary in Europe.
    • Rua da Tercena: This incredible flea market offers a mix of antique items along with popular art and fashion items.
    • Macau Tower: Tourists climb to the top of this tower to enjoy the awesome views from here. If you’re into adventure sports, you can try bungee jumping off the Macau Tower.
    • The Venetian: A Venice-styled shopping mall with river canals running through the buildings. You’ll find the world’s largest casino located in this mall.
    • The City of Dreams: This giant casino has a horde of high-end fashion shops, a free video 'bubble' show and three hotels. Plus, you’ll find the world's most expensive theatre show, the 'House of Dancing Water', which cost US$250 million to produce. During this show, the stage is loaded with five Olympic swimming pools worth of water.
    • Heritage Tours: Check out the Sao Paulo Cathedral, the Macau Museum, the Fort, Taipa and Coloane Villages, Macau Museum, the Museum of Taipa and Coloane History and Taipa Houses Museum.

    You’ll find plenty of restaurants specializing in Macanese (a mix of ethnic rural, Portuguese and Chinese cuisines) and Cantonese food; you can get dim sum for breakfast and lunch if you like. Wine is always included in all menus, no matter the size of the restaurant. A typically generous portion of dim sum here will cost you much less than it does in Hong Kong, even in smart venues.

    You may not have pay more than MOP$250 per person for lunch at a smart restaurant, though extras such as water or crackers or bread on the side can add to the cost of a meal. A bottle of wine will set you back around MOP$120 in any restaurant. Apart from that, there are French patisseries, Portuguese food outlets, and a plethora of cafes selling short eats and junk food.

    Macao has a unique festival culture, which is a mix of traditional Chinese celebrations such as Lunar New Year, a few Portuguese celebrations, and large-scale international events such as the following:
    • Parade for Celebration of the Year of the Rooster: This Parade is based on a different theme each year, and sees residents marching across streets and plazas holding colorful flower arrangements. The Parade brings in the Chinese New Year along with several other festive activities from the end of January till mid-February.
    • The Macao Arts Festival: This festival brings together theatre, dance, music, and circus, multimedia and visual arts to become part of an artistic panorama of events in April-May each year.
    • The Macao Lotus Flower Festival: A showcase of beautiful perennial aquatic plants found everywhere in China. Every year, a particular lotus flower species is highlighted in the festival.
    • The Macao International Fireworks Display Contest: This is one of the best festivals in the world; it takes place on the Macau Tower Shorefront, and over 100 participants from different countries participate in this world-class pyrotechnic shoot-out. The festival takes place from mid-September to 1st October.
    Other annual festivals are the Feast of the God Tou Tei, the Tun Ng Festival (Dragon Boat Festival) and western festivals such as Easter, Procession of our Lady of Fátima, and Christmas.

    Apart from the casinos which are vibrant, dynamic and brightly-lit, Macau’s nightlife is surprisingly flat. If you want to drink, you head to the many restaurants, or in one of the bars in the “Macau Lan Kwai Fong” region along the waterfront facing the Porto Exterior. Here you’ll find bars with colorful street-side tables and live Portuguese music.

    Nightlife in Macau is definitely not as good as the glitz and glamor of nightlife in Hong Kong. A number of Vegas-style resorts bars and pubs are available where you can get a drink and catch a show. There is a huge conglomeration of bars is near the Kun Iam Statue, where you can get good quality drinks and entertainment. The best nightlife bet for you in Macau would be the all-night casinos with their gaming, drinking competitions and in-house entertainment. Top casinos put up scintillating entertainment to keep their guests coming back. If you’ve been to Las Vegas, you’ll know the kind of shows that casinos put up. It’s still fun, the atmosphere is vibrant and a great deal of money is transacted over gambling tables.

    Macau’s free port status makes it a shoppers' paradise. People come here to purchase gold jewelry, branded fashion, porcelain, pottery and Chinese antiques. It’s also possible to pick up some great wines here, as well as fabulous watches, cameras and knit-wear, plus a host of electric gadgetry, all at duty free pricing. The main shopping centers are located around Av. Almeida Ribeiro (New Road), Av. Infante D. Henrique, Rua Pedro Nolasco da Silva and Av. de Horta e Costa. Note that authentic Chinese antiques must have certificates confirming their provenance. Also, it’s perfectly acceptable to bargain in piazza venues.
    • Street Shopping: In Macau’s central downtown, Senado Square is home to a great number of street retail outlets, well known for fashionable clothes.
    • Rua S. Domingos: This area is known for its abundance of clothes, shoes and make up stores. There are stores selling clothes from brands such as U2/ G2000, Staccato, Nine West and others on the street. Go crazy buying duty-free makeup from stores such as Body Shop, Sa Sa, Angel, H2O+ and others
    • Rua Pedro Nolasco da Silva: A huge array of fashion, accessories and sportswear can be found here. There’s a short street called Rua da Palha here which sells quaint glass ware, artwork, delicate porcelain and water lily ornaments.
    • Three Lamps District. In this area, you’ll find tons of shops selling jewelry, clothes, shoes, cameras and electronic gadgetry.
    • Rua de S.Paulo Area: Here you’ll find several furniture and antique shops that sell authentic antique porcelain, ancient coins and rosewood reproductions of traditional Chinese furniture, different kinds of pottery, figurines, Chinese paintings and souvenirs.
    • New Yaohan: New Yaohan is famous for electronic appliances and several varieties of Japanese cameras.
    • Taipa Villa Bazaar: A bazaar is held in Taipa Village at 11 A.M. on Sundays, when you can buy a wide selection of handicrafts, clothes, toys, souvenir items and much more.
    • Wine Stores: Macau is the best place to purchase excellent Portuguese wines at duty-free prices. Sample some great wines at the Macau Wine Museum and obtain professional advice on wine-buying before you hit the stores.
    • Jewelry Stores: You can buy gold, pearl and crystal jewelry in shops on the antique street near the Ruins of St. Paul's and at New Road Area, Av. de Horta e Costa and the region close to Hotel Lisboa.
    If you’re willing to get off the beaten path and explore Macau’s intriguing cultural aspects, there’s a lot to see and enjoy here.
    • The Casinos: Many of Macau’s casinos are extremely beautiful. Even if you aren’t into gambling, do check out the Grand Lisboa, The Venetian Casino, and Galaxy among others. Enjoy some grand music and dance performances in the casinos, to understand why Macau is known as the Vegas of the East.
    • Shop in Macau-Venice: Go shopping at the Venetian Hotel & Casino, a huge building which has many water canals cutting through the spaces between buildings. The cobblestoned streets, painted ceilings, and the strong Renaissance era feel of this place will make you feel you’re actually in Venice.
    • A-Ma Temple: Visit the oldest Taoist temple in Macau, the A-Ma Temple, built in the late 1400s. Built according to ancient Chinese traditions, this temple is a living testament to Macau’s ties with China before Portuguese and other colonial influences.
    • Seac Pai Van Park: Visit the furry pandas at this park, enjoying their hilarious capers. It’s a must-do if you have kids along.
    • Macau Tower: The Macau Tower is 338 meters tall. Many people bungee jump off this building, plunging down to the ground at an insane speed. Macau Tower is the best place for you to get a birds’ eye view of the whole of the city.
    • Museum Tour: Macau has several art and history museums, and a range of special themed museums. Don’t miss visiting the Maritime Museum and the Sacred Art Museums as well. Do check out the Wine Museum for professional wine-buying advice and to taste some great wines. Also visit the Grand Prix Museum and the colonial Taipa Houses Museum.

      There’s a lot to see and do in Macau, so don’t get confused. Sign up for cleverly-put-together tour packages of Macau to see the best of the city.

      • Sightseeing Coach Tour of Macau from Shenzhen with Ferry: This tour lets you explore Macau and visit UNESCO-listed sites such as the A-Ma Temple, St Paul’s Ruins and the Monte Fort. You’ll also get to climb up Macau Tower for 360-degree views.
      • Macau Tower Tour: This tour gathers people from across Macau and Hong Kong for a tour of the incredible Macau Tower.
      • Macau City Sightseeing: Explore the former Portuguese city, Macau, on a full-day sightseeing tour. Explore and enjoy legendary landmarks, fabulous casinos and the Guia Circuit.
      • Gondola Ride: Float down on a Venetian gondola on water-filled canals at the Venetian Macau and get off for shopping, dining and photo opps.
      Rainfall is reasonably light or uncommon both in Fall and Winter, making these two seasons the best time to visit Macau. Visitors are advised to wear sports and casual wear during Fall, but to bring something warm if the evenings turn cold. During winter, sweaters will be required, along with a light jacket for evenings.
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