Triparound travel community

Holidays in Macau

Understanding Macau

As the first and last European colony in China, Macau has more visible colonial history than Hong Kong Walking through the old city you could convince yourself you were in Europe - if the streets were devoid of people and Chinese-language signage, that is The Portuguese population continues to maintain a small presence, but most of the population is native Chinese


Besides the city itself, Macau includes the island with Taipa and Coloane, which are connected by bridges and a causeway The mainland Chinese city of Zhuhai borders Macau to the North, and the border crossing carries heavy two-way vehicular and pedestrian traffic The Zhuhai Special Economic Zone extends south to Hengqin Island, an area west of Taipa, Cotai and Coloane; the Lotus Bridge from Cotai connects to that area There is significant movement by the local population of both Zhuhai and Macau across the border, making the two feel like twin cities

Macau is subtropical with hot summers and mild winters Visitors should note that typhoons often strike from mid-summer to Autumn which could stop many activities there Although winter is generally mild, there are occassional cold fronts which could make temperatures drop 10 C in a day


In the 16th Century China gave Portugal the right to establish a colony on Macau in exchange for clearing the area of pirates Macau was the first European settlement in the Far East It was also the last, when pursuant to an agreement signed by China and Portugal in 1987, Macau became the Macau Special Administrative Region SAR of China on 20 December 1999, ending over 400 years of Portuguese administration

China has promised that, under its "one country, two systems" formula, China's socialist economic system will not be practiced in Macau for at least fifty years after the transfer of sovereignty and that Macau will enjoy a high degree of autonomy in all matters except foreign and defense affairs

Like the Hong Kong SAR, Macau has its own government, passports, visas, postal system and currency


A Macao Narrative ISBN 0195920708 by Austin Coates Great introduction to Macau's colourful history You can buy this book at the museum in the Fortaleza do Monte which overlooks the Ruins of St Paul

Talking in Macau

Vong or Wong?

One of the oddities of Macau is that some Cantonese names and words that are pronounced with what in English is a "W" sound, and that in Hong Kong are transliterated with a "W", are transliterated with a "V" instead, such as in Cheoc Van which in Hong Kong would be Cheok Wan This can also be seen in the surname Vong in Hong Kong Wong No doubt Portuguese pronunciation has had an influence on this choice of transliteration To complicate things further, this has not been done consistently so there are both Vongs and Wongs in Macau - both written with the same Chinese character

Cantonese is the most commonly spoken language of Macau 88%, 2001 census Mandarin is spoken by some of the well-educated upper class as well as staff working at major hotels and tourist attractions However, don't expect your average local in the street to be fluent in Mandarin, though many are able to comprehend it to some degree

English is spoken, especially by people in the tourism business Nearly all museums and casinos have some staff with excellent English So do many hotels, shops and restaurants, especially the up-market ones However, English is not as widespread as in Hong Kong, and you will encounter plenty of people with little or no English in fact, according to the 2001 census about half the population don't speak anything but Cantonese This includes many taxi drivers and bus drivers, so be sure to have your hotel name in Chinese with you if you travel on your own, and have a good bus route map

Speakers of Portuguese won't find it very useful when talking to local residents in the 2001 census, less than 1% of the population indicated it as their "usual language", but it helps a lot in understanding place names and signs Knowing any Romance language French, Spanish or Italian helps some

All official signs in Macau are in both traditional Chinese and Portuguese Note that under the "one country two systems" policy, like Hong Kong, Macau continues to use traditional Chinese characters and not the simplified Chinese characters used in mainland China

What to see in Macau

Although best known for gambling, Macau is extremely rich in attractions and oozing with atmosphere, thanks to hundreds of years of fusion between European and Chinese cultures

Macau is a fascinating place to just walk around as the place is packed with churches, temples, fortresses and other old buildings bearing an interesting mix of Portuguese and Chinese characteristics Besides buildings, there are also hundreds of narrow alleyways forming a maze in the old part of Macau where the people of Macau carry out businesses and work If the sheer density of humans get to you, take a break and enjoy several pretty gardens or head to the island

One of the interesting things to see in Macau is a statue of the Bodhisatta Avalokitesvara known as 觀音 kwoon yam in Cantonese located next to the sea near the Sands Casino and MGM Grand Despite being a Chinese deity, the statue is distinctly European in design and resembles the statues of the Virgin Mary you can find in Europe

And if history is not your thing, there is the Macau Tower of awesome views and adventure sports, or Fisherman's Wharf to enjoy some theme-park activities and shopping

You'll find most of the attractions in Macau Peninsula, but Taipa and Coloane, each with a pretty village, also draw hordes of visitors Visit the Cotai reclaimed land area to see its transformation into the "Las Vegas Strip of the East" The Venetian is the most famous with its Venice-styled shopping mall with rivers running through, and is also currently the largest casino in the world


A large section of Macau Peninsula has been designated a Unesco World Heritage site and 25 buildings and sites within the area have been deemed to have cultural and historic significance The sites are listed in the Macau Peninsula page One of the best ways to cover the sights is to do the Macau Heritage Walk circuit

Taipa Village and Coloane Village, previously inhabited by fishermen, are also interesting with their colonial-era shops and houses along narrow lanes


Macau has several museums The "Macau Museum Pass", which gives discounted entry to most of these, is currently off the market The main museums, such as the Macau Museum, are in Macau Peninsula although there are two museums on Taipa - the Museum of Taipa and Coloane History and Taipa Houses Museum

What to do in Macau


Gambling is Macau's biggest industry and busloads arrive daily from mainland China to try their luck In addition, many Hong Kongers arrive on weekends with the same aim For many years, the Casino Lisboa was the most famous and a landmark well known to people outside Macau, but it is being eclipsed by Sands Casino which opened in 2004 Nevertheless, the original Casino Lisboa is still worth a visit as its halls contain many original antiques on display from the private collection of gambling tycoon Stanley Ho

Most casinos are located along the waterfront on the southern side of Macau Peninsula North of the Lisboa is a strip with many smaller casinos, a number of hotels and bars, and quite a few restaurants This can be one of the more interesting areas of Macau; among other things it has quite a good Indian restaurant and several Portuguese ones However, parts of it are also fairly sleazy, with lots of hookers and touts, so some caution is in order New casinos have also opened in the area called NAPE south of Avenida de Amizade, including Wynn Macau and Sands Macau

All this is going to be overtaken by the new development on the Cotai Strip, which is being made into "The Las Vegas Strip of the East" The biggest casino in the world, Venetian Macao, opened its doors in August 2007 and the not-much-smaller City of Dreams followed in 2009, with many more still to come There are also several casinos on Taipa, including the Crown Macau

There are ATMs available at either casino as well as forex facilities to change your money Gamblers are required to be at least 18 years of age to be allowed to play Interestingly, local civil servants are not allowed to enter the casinos with the exception of the first three days of the Chinese new year

For the full listing of casinos, see the respective district pages

Greyhound racing

Another popular form of gambling in Macau is greyhound racing, where people bet on dogs in the same way that many people in other countries bet on horses The minimum bet is 10 patacas and payouts can be made in both Macanese Patacas and Hong Kong Dollars

Canidrome is your spot fo great Greyhound racing It is located on Avenida General Castelo Branco Greyhound races are held at Canidrome on Monday, Thursday and Friday plus weekends - racing starts at 7:45pm with 16 games each night

MOP$10 admission fee redeembable when betting to get in Box seats are MOP$80 for non-peak days and MOP$120 for weekends and holidays There is off-track-betting available for Canidrome at Jai-Alai Palace, Hotel Lisboa and Kam Pek Casino

Go Karting

There is a go-kart track on the southern end of Cotai

Adventure Activities

At a height of 233m, the bungy jump from Macau tower, maintained and operated by A J Hackett is the highest in the world Along with the bungy, one can also try the Sky jump, that is somewhat like a jump but is more protected and doesn't involve a free fall, and a sky walk, that is a protected on a platform running around the circumference of the floor Bouldering and sport climbing activities are also conducted at the tower's base See the Macau Peninsula page for details


Macau's two beaches - Hac Sa 黑沙 - black sand and Cheoc Van 竹灣 - bamboo bay - are located on the southern side of Coloane island They are very popular and are frequented by locals and visitors, especially at the weekend

Besides beaches, there are several public swimming pools all over Macau All high-end hotels also have swimming pools


There are opportunities for hiking and cycling on the relatively rural islands of Taipa and Coloane


There is a bowling centre of international standard which was constructed in 2005 for the East Asian Games at the Macau Dome 澳門蛋 in Cotai area There is also a bowling alley in Macau near the Camoes Garden/Protestant cemetery

Buying stuff in Macau

The currency of Macau is the pataca MOP, which is divided into 100 avos There are about 8 patacas to the US dollar

The pataca is pegged to the Hong Kong dollar HKD Hong Kong dollars are accepted by most businesses on a 1:1 basis, but most businesses will endeavour to give you change in HKD if you pay in HKD, if they have them Occasionally, however, a business might give change in Pataca notes and HKD coins or the other way around The HK$10 coin may not be accepted because of numerous recent forgeries Chinese Yuan RMB/CNY are also accepted in some areas and can easily be changed for either Hong Kong dollars or patacas In casinos, the Hong Kong dollar is the preferred currency, and gamers with patacas may actually be required to exchange to Hong Kong dollars or HKD-denominated casino chips before playing Transactions made at government offices though will require you to pay in Patacas

Getting money is quite easy as there are banks and ATMs on nearly every street Holders of a debit card on the international networks will have no issues withdrawing money Holders of Chinese Union Pay cards will not have trouble either withdrawing local currency from their RMB denominated accounts ATMs usually dispense in MOP 100 and 500 bills and HKD 100 and 500 as well and some will also dispense in CNY

Changing your currency into patacas outside of Macau is impossible and pointless Change enough Hong Kong dollars to tide you over, and then change the rest into patacas after arriving The money changers at the Barrier Gate provide good exchange rates, and you can also change the Hong Kong dollars you are holding into Patacas

On the other hand, try not to leave Macau with a lot of patacas Unlike the Hong Kong dollar, they are quite hard to exchange in most countries Even if you try to exchange them in Hong Kong, money changers may charge high commission thus giving you fewer HKDs than for what the MOP is worth

Visa and MasterCard credit cards are widely accepted in major restaurants, stores and the ferry terminal but some merchants may require a token minimum purchase amount, usually MOP 100

Tipping is generally not practised in Macau, though bellhops may expect about 10 patacas or so for carrying your bags In full service restaurants, a service charge is usually imposed and that is taken to be the tip However, you should know that the 10% service charge does not go to the actual people who served you, rather it is used by the owners to pay the salaries of said employees If you wish to give a tip, you should give it in cash directly to the person you wish to reward for their good service Taxi drivers also do not expect tips, and would return exact change, or round it in your favour if they can't be bothered to dig for change


Quite frankly, the shopping options in Macau don't hold a candle to Hong Kong While the newer megacasinos have introduced Macau to the joys of sterile franchise-filled malls, the city center streets around the older casinos are still a bizarre monoculture of ridiculously expensive watch, jewelry and Chinese medicine shops with an emphasis on herbal Viagra-type cures, all aimed squarely at liberating lucky gamblers from their winnings Finding tasteful souvenirs can thus be surprisingly challenging, although the touristy streets between Largo do Senado and the ruins of St Paul's do have a scattering of antique shops

Bargaining in the small shops can be done, but usually working on the principle of the shopkeeper quoting a price, the buyer making "hmmm" sounds and the shopkeeper lowering the price a bit A full-fledged haggling match is quite rare, as most antique shops sell precisely the same thing at precisely the same prices

Food and eating in Macau

Macau is famous for excellent restaurants, unique cuisine and mellow bars Above all, the city is famous for two cuisines: Portuguese and Macanese

Portuguese food cozinha portuguesa, brought in by its Portuguese colonizers, is hearty, salty, straighforward fare While many restaurants claim to serve the stuff, fully authentic fare is mostly limited to a few high-end restaurants, especially the cluster at the southwestern tip of the Peninsula Typical Portuguese dishes include:

  • pato de cabidela bloody duck, a stew of chicken with blood and herbs, served with rice; sounds and looks somewhat scary, but it's excellent when well done
  • bacalhau salted cod, traditionally served with potatoes and veggies
  • caldo verde, a soup of potato, chopped kale and chourico sausage
  • feijoada kidney-bean stew, a Brazilian staple common in Macau as well
  • pastéis de nata egg tarts, crispy and flaky on the outside and soft and sweet on the inside

Macanese food comida de Macau was created when Portuguese and Chinese influences were mixed together with spices brought from Africa and South-East Asia by traders, and many restaurants advertising "Portuguese" food in fact serve up mostly Macanese dishes Seafood and barbecue specialist Fernando's on Tapa's Hac Sa Beach is probably the best-known Macanese restaurant

  • Almond cookies Dry Chinese-style cookies flavoured with almond Macau's top souvenir, they're compact, durable and hence sold pretty much everywhere
  • 'Galinha à africana African chicken Barbequed chicken coated in spicy piri-piri sauce
  • 'Galinha à portuguesa Portuguese chicken Chicken in a coconutty curry; despite the name, this is not a Portuguese dish at all, but a purely Macanese invention
  • Pork chop bun The Macanese version of a hamburger, the name pretty much says it all: it's a slice of freshly fried pork often with a few chunks of bone left with a dash of pepper placed inside a freshly baked bun

All that said, the food of choice in Macau is still pure Cantonese, and a few aficionados even claim that the dim sum and seafood here beat Hong Kong The streets of central Macau are littered with simple eateries offering rice and noodle dishes for under 30 MOP although menus are often only in Chinese, while every casino hotel worth its salt has a fancy Cantonese seafood restaurant where you can blow away your gambling winnings on abalone and shark's fin soup

The greatest concentration of restaurants in Macau is in the Peninsula, where they are scattered throughout the district Taipa is now a major destination for those going for Portuguese and Macanese food and there are many famous restaurants on the island There are several restaurants in Coloane, which is also home to the famous Lord Stow's Bakery, which popularized the Macanese egg tartYummy!

Drinking in Macau

Reasonably priced Portuguese wine is widely available A glass in a restaurant is around MOP 20, while bottles start from under MOP 100, and a crisp glass of vinho verde "green wine", but actually just a young white goes very well with salty Macanese food As elsewhere in China, though, locals tend to prefer cognacs and whisky Macau Beer is passable and widely available

Nightlife in Macau runs the gamut, with most casinos and hotels operating nightclubs For locals, though, the main form of entertainment is "saunas", which are thinly disguised brothels prostitution is legal in Macau and can be found in virtually every hotel, particularly on the Peninsula

Accommodation in Macau

The bulk of Macau's hotels are on the Peninsula although are also many options, including high-end ones, on Taipa and increasingly, the Cotai Strip as that area challenges to become Macau's premier casino area Coloane, which offers fewer and much quieter options, has accommodation ranging from the famous Pousada de Coloane to Macau's two beach-side youth hostels

Hotel rates are most expensive on Friday and Saturday nights, because demand are higher with many Hong Kong residents coming to Macau to gamble over the weekend Try to make a booking through a travel agent, even if for the same day, as the rates can be substantially lower than walk-in rates If you are coming from Hong Kong, book through an agent at the Shun Tak ferry pier for the best deals Getting a package deal including return ferry tickets gives you the best price

In the Inner Harbour area, many of the pensions and two star hotels are also the place of business for many of the mainland PRC prostitutes that work in Macau, and most hotel "saunas" are in fact thinly disguised brothels

Hotel listings are in the individual district pages Budget accommodation is one that carries a 2-star rating or below, a mid-range place has a 3-star rating, and a splurge place has a 4-star rating or above

Working in Macau

Non-residents who wish to take up employment in Macau need to obtain a valid work permit and are then issued the so-called Blue Card officially called Non-Resident Worker's Permit The process takes approximately a month to receive a work permit, at which time employment may begin, and another 1-2 months to receive the Blue Card

As illegal employment has over the past decades been a problem plaguing Macau, the authorities do crack down severely on any offenders both worker and employer caught Visitors are therefore advised not to engage in illegal employment

Cities in Macau

What do you think about Macau?, your travel companion

We all like to travel. I created for you and me and others like us, people who are always looking for somewhere to travel. Be it a country you've never been to before, or a country you've visited for seven times already. Create your travel profile and share your travel updates with friends, find the perfect cheap flight tickets and book the cheapest hotels around the world. In case of any problems, just drop me a line!

Where to start?

The best place to start, obviously, would be to create register (for free) and create your own traveller profile and start sharing your travel updates with friends. And of course, any time you start thinking of going travelling, use to search for flights, cheap hotels and rooms as well as things to do while travelling.


Please note that we really do recommend the sites we share with you, be it for hotels, flights or anything else. We use them ourselves as well. In case of some links our affiliates codes have been embedded, just to help us keep working on this site.