Macao is called the “Las Vegas of Asia” and the “Gambling Capital of Asia”. Yes, that is definitely true, but, Macao is more than that. This small city, neighbor of Hong Kong, has more to offer than what you may think. Portugal, a former colonizer of Macau, has left not only tangible historical marks, but, also intangible cultural influences.
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The city is a great fusion of East and West cultures. Home to some of the oldest temples on one side, and the other side, some oldest churches. Ancient buildings on this side, and on that side, enormous and luxurious resort hotels. This two-faced city is the epitome of “Moving Forward but Never Forgetting the Past.” And it is small, so, it can easily be explored in a short period of time.
Macao has three islands; Macau Peninsula, Taipa, and Coloane. Macao Peninsula is connected by bridge to Taipa and Coloane and is easily reachable by taxis and public buses. Hotels are situated and scattered on all three islands, and it is not important where you stay, because, the city is small.
To give you a brief round down of what’s on Macau, here is the Ultimate Macau Travel Guide.
Flying In and Out of Macao
Macau has an airport, albeit small, that accepts and transfers people traveling from Mainland China and some countries in Asia. Travelers of Macau from other side of the world have Hong Kong as the main point of entry. From Hong Kong, visitors take ferry to enter Macau, either directly from Hong Kong International Airport or Hong Kong City.
Where to Stay?
Macau has some of the biggest resort hotels in the world. 5-star hotels are mostly located at Cotai Strip on Taipa Island. Though, there are some luxurious hotels in Macau Peninsula, this is where you’ll find budget hotels. Hostels, dormitories, lodges are rare. Honestly, Macau hotels are pretty pricey compare to some other countries in Asia.
The city is very small and tourist attractions are within walking distance, except if crossing the bridge. Free shuttle buses are available on all entry points of Macau that are provided by big hotels. It is true, with smart planning, that you can explore Macau without shelling out cash for transportation. Public buses and taxis are also widely used. Taxis are infamous here, so, as much as possible make sure to only take taxis from official taxi stands.
Portuguese and Cantonese are the local foods, but, a wide array of cuisines are readily available. Macau also takes pride to its own local street foods such as, Portuguese egg tart, pork bun, and ta bing lo (meat balls). These street foods are available on the street of Senado Square all the way up to Ruins of St. Paul’s Cathedral. Michelin-starred restaurants are mostly located at the hotels all around the city, but, head down to Taipa Village for some authentic local restaurants.
Ruins of St. Paul’s – the most recognizable and most famous landmark of Macau is this broken church. Burnt three times, this church holds more than a share of Macau’s cultural history. Just beside the Ruins are Mount Fortress, Na Tcha Temple, and Macau Museum.
Senado Square – this famous square is home to some Portuguese buildings that remind the visitors that Macau is half western and half Chinese city. It is also where lots of local shops and local restaurants are situated. Have a stroll on this lovely street and snap some good photographs.
A Ma Temple – the oldest temple in Macau is located just near the city centre and is a place of worship and a famous tourist attractions. The temple is quite small but the importance of it, is what makes it a favorite stop for tourists. Maritime museum is found just at the right hand side of the temple.
Macao Tower – there is no better place to get an unobstructed view of Macau than to be at the observation deck of Macao Tower. Extreme sports enthusiasts have found their favorite place in Macau in this tower, where activities like, bungee jump, sky walk, sky dive, and tower climb are the names of the game.
Old Taipa House Museum – an old and preserved Portuguese houses that are serving as museums are what attracted tourists the most on this island. Complement it with seasonal decorations of the surroundings can make this place the perfect hangout of tourists.
Taipa Village – the downtown on this side of town is home to some of the best local restaurants, bars, and local delicacies shops.
Venetian Macau Hotel – the most famous hotel and one of the biggest, is surprisingly one of the most visited places in the whole Macau. This Italian-styled hotel has mesmerized millions of visitors since its inception.
Coloane Village – this is the equivalent of Senado Square and Taipa Village on this side of town. This is the home of the first Portuguese egg tart bakery, Lord Stow’s Bakery, and is the main reason why tourists come here.
Hac Sa Beach – “hac” means black and “sa” means sand, Black Sand, and that is because it literally is a black sand beach. If your group wants to picnic, this is the best place to go for there are tens of barbecue stands that are free to use for everyone’s enjoyment.
Panda Pavilion – this is the only place to see lovable pandas. The pandas are taken good care of and is open for public with a minimal charge of MOP10.
If you are a museum fanatic, Macau also has lots of historical and specialized museums everyone can enjoy and learn from. You may find it here: Macau Museums in a Day
Have Kids? Then, this is the link for you: Top Things to Do in Macau with Kids
If you are looking for some products imitations, like how you imagine shopping in China, then, you’ll be disappointed. Macau has the largest shopping centers in whole Asia offering wide variety of products, from local shops to exclusive brands. Four Seasons Shoppes, One Central Shops, and Wynn Hotel shops are just three of numerous luxury brands shopping centers found in town. For frugal shoppers, you might want to go to Senado Square to score some cheap finds at some local and low-end shops.
Okay, Macau is called the Las Vegas of Asia, but, do not expect nightlife to be as lively as that of Vegas. Yes, there are quite a number of bars, clubs, and lounges for your choosing. But, you might also find it not on par with your expectations. Ladies nights are usually Wednesdays, and weekends are when the bars are jam packed. Start your night early with happy hour openings for good price, because, nightlife in Macau is surely expensive.
Macau Patacas (MOP) is the official currency and Hong Kong dollars (HKD) is also accepted. Some shops may accept Renminbi (RMB) but it is one is to one. It is better to change your money to HKD especially if you are also going to Hong Kong, for one, MOP is not accepted in Hong Kong. Foreign Money exchange is immediately available at the airport and many are available at the famous attraction all around Macau. Casinos inside the hotels and local banks also accept money exchange. Currently the exchange rate is 1USD=8.0042MOP.
Portuguese and Cantonese are the official languages. Mandarin is also widely used. Due to tourism boost and the growth of expatriates, English is now widely understood and used. Although, there are still some shop workers and taxis drivers who are not english proficient, hoteliers are whom you should go to if needed help whether on recommendations or directions.
There are four seasons in Macau; Winter on December to February, Spring on March to May, June to August is Summer season and September to November is Fall season. The average temperature during winter is 10-15 degrees Celsius, while, it can get to as high as 32 degrees on Summer. Humid months are the most uncomfortable months, from April to June. You can bet on typhoons during the months of July and August.
Best Month To Visit
If you want to prevent a big crowd, do not plan your visit during Chinese New Year and Golden weeks happening every first week of May and 1st week of October. November is a very good choice of month, not only because of a very fine weather, but because of activities happening. Annual Grand Prix and Food Festival are happening during this month, so, if you are a fan of cars and food, there is no other month to visit, but, this month. March and April are good months too because of the weather. Same goes for October.
Need more tips? Here it is: Travel Tips for Travelers Going to Macau
What are you waiting for? Come and Visit Macau, Now!