Features of holidays in Macau: attractions, entertainment, prices
Macau is the best place for travel, family and outdoor activities. Its location is on the coast of the South China Sea, next to Hong Kong. It is an autonomous administrative region of the People’s Republic of China. There are a huge number of attractions, colorful markets, skyscrapers. It’s a small state with all the amenities – luxury hotels, architectural monuments, which have centuries of history. Many tourists from different countries come here every year.
Historical and geographical background
For a long time Macau was a colony region of Portugal. Today the official languages are considered to be Chinese and Portuguese. In 1999 Macau was annexed to China and given the status of an administrative region.
Archaeologists have found ancient artifacts. Presumably they were used by people who lived in the 4th century BC. According to historical reference, the famous Chinese Qin Dynasty ruled during this period. The land and territory of Macau belonged to Guangdong Province. It was often frequented by sailors and travelers who stayed overnight and took a break from their hard journey.
The area began to be inhabited by permanent residents after 1277. Gradually the population increased. The people of Macau began to build temples and places of worship. During the Middle Ages, European colonizers began to settle here. The owners of the land and uninvited guests began a war, as well as a confrontation. European people began to engage in trade, to conquer different regions and territories of China.
Thanks to their labor and innovations, Macau began to gradually develop. After a few years, goods began to be exported to India, other states. The total area is 30.0 km 2 . There is a megalopolis of Zhuhai near the strait. Much of the area has been built up. There are lands here that are planted with crops, plants. Locals graze cattle in local pastures.
There are no forests in Macau, but there are numerous green spaces. Tourists can appreciate the hilly terrain. In some areas the old relief has been preserved.
According to the generally accepted international classification, the territory of Macau borders on the subequatorial and subtropical zone. High humidity prevails here. During the winter, the temperature does not drop below 13 degrees Celsius. The hottest period is July. During this time, the air heats up to almost 30 degrees Celsius. The annual precipitation is 2100 mm.
How to get there
Many tourists from Russia want to visit the Asian metropolis. There are several options and ways to get to Macau:
- You can buy a plane ticket to the following destinations – Beijing, Shenzhen, Hong Kong, Bangkok. You can choose different destinations of Asian cities. At airports in China you need to buy a ticket to Macau.
- Another popular destination is a plane ticket to Hong Kong, Shenzhen. Then you buy a ticket for the ferry.
- Tourists can fly to Shenzhen by plane. From this Asian city, there is a bus to Macau.
There are no direct flights from Moscow or other cities of the Russian Federation. Tourists will have to make connections. Macau International Airport accepts only local carriers. You must change planes in any major Asian city.
The most advantageous variant of the flight is a connection in Beijing. The trip will take no more than 13 hours and 20 minutes. The average cost of a plane ticket is 70-90 thousand rubles, including transfers. Connecting flights in Beijing are offered by such airlines as “Hainan Airlines” and “Air Macau”. It takes almost 15 hours to fly through Shanghai and almost 16 hours to reach Bangkok.
There is a single flight from St. Petersburg. Tourists will have to wait for the connection in Beijing. The easiest and only way to get to Macau from the Chinese capital is by plane.
Local transportation in Macau includes only buses and cabs. There are no streetcars or subways. You can move around the city on foot to see the sights and learn the culture of the locals.
Each stop has a detailed bus route map, as well as bus stops. Additionally, fares to certain areas are listed. The text is written in Chinese and Portuguese. A map of Macau is available at the kiosk. The cost of a bus ticket varies between 3 and 8 pattacs. The price depends on the length of the route.
Many of the routes are circular. You only need to pay for the fare with coins. At the entrance of the bus, there is a box that serves as a cash register. Locals pay with cards. Tourists can take free transportation from the hotel, casino. After checking into a local hotel, you should check with the receptionist for a bus schedule where there are free rides for visitors.
You can move around Macau by cab. Fares are inexpensive. You will not have to pay more than 10 pattaks for boarding. Each kilometer is charged at 4 patakkas. Luggage must be paid for separately. It is important to remember that 100 pattak is 400 rubles. The exchange rate should be checked before the trip, you should make a size of currency and stock up on coins.
Where to Stay
Macau offers tourists a wide and diverse selection of hotels. They are all equipped with basic amenities and the room rates are below average. There are a few hotels that are most in demand among tourists:
- Grand Emperor Hotel. The average cost of living – 5000 rubles per day. Nearby is the historical central part of the city. Tourists can take a free shuttle to and from the hotel to the airport. Rooms are cleaned regularly and serviced. The hotel has a restaurant, non-smoking rooms for tourists, air conditioning and free internet. A delicious and hearty breakfast is included in the room rate.
- Sheraton Grand Macao Hotel. The average room rate is 3,800 rubles. The hotel welcomes non-smoking tourists. Parking lot is available at the service. Breakfast is presented in the form of a buffet. The rooms are air conditioned and there is a swimming pool. Tourists can use the gym.
- The Venetian Macao Resort Hotel. The average cost per room is 5,200 rubles. The size and scale of this hotel will impress every tourist. The rooms are spacious and large, and have 2 levels. On the territory of the hotel there is a shopping center. The staff is friendly, the corridors and rooms are cleaned regularly. Smoking is prohibited on the territory of the hotel. Guests can take advantage of free internet, parking spaces. There is air conditioning in the rooms.
Tourists can choose convenient accommodation in Macau. All hotels meet world standards. Visitors have a wide and varied selection of options for a comfortable stay.
Macau offers a variety of cuisines. It preserves the culinary traditions of Portugal, China, India, and Africa. Locals spend a lot of time cooking. Here they cook dishes from seafood, fish, pork, beans, and local vegetables.
Tourists will definitely like herbs, Indian spices, cheese, dairy products. Here you must try the chicken, which is cooked according to an ancient Portuguese recipe. The locals know how to masterfully combine several products and prepare delicious sauces.
In the restaurants you can order shrimp, which are grilled, green soup made of potatoes and cabbage. It is excellent for tourists who follow the principles of healthy eating. Restaurants are in the form of cafes, shops, coffee shops, restaurants, and food stalls. Cafes begin accepting guests from 8:00 am, and close at 21:00. If desired, tourists can leave tips if they liked the service, service. As a thank you, you can give the staff 10% of the total bill.
In order to attract a huge number of tourists in Macao appeared a real Duty Free. Each year there are built more and more shopping centers that amaze by their huge area. Tourists should definitely visit the Grand Canal, which area is more than 9 hectares. There are about 400 stores.
Tourists should buy expensive things, consumer goods. Here you can make a profitable investment in shopping. The light industry is well developed in Macau. Stores serve high quality clothing at an affordable price. Here they follow fashion trends.
While traveling, you can buy jewelry and antiques. Residents of other Asian areas often come to Macau for a good shopping experience. All goods are offered without additional markups and duty surcharges.
Attractions and Entertainment
In Macau, you can visit different places for active and relaxing recreation and entertainment. They are presented in a large and varied selection.
When traveling, you need to visit:
- AJ Hackett Macau Tower. Opening hours are from 10:00 to 19:30. This is the tallest tower in the world with an incredibly beautiful view of the city. Tickets cost 145 MORE.
- City of Dream. The complex includes four hotels, a casino, a shopping center. Here you can look at the monumental fountains, holographic mermaids.
- Macau Tower Convention and Entertainment Center. Opening hours are from 10:00 to 21:00. This is one of the high towers. The average ticket price is 2,000 rubles. Elevator rises to the upper floors. Glass cabins, open a full 360-degree view.
Tourists who like active recreation should definitely visit Macau and the local attractions.
Visitors who want to learn more about the local culture should take a stroll through the local streets. Several major attractions can be highlighted:
- Rua da Felicidade. This is a colorful place where it is equally beautiful not only during the day but at night as well. The street resembles a big market in China. There are stores, local shops, taverns, and budget hotels.
- Patio de Chon Sau. It is a historic center that has preserved the ancient architecture. The local authorities are trying to restore some parts. Tourists can stroll through the local streets, visit interesting stores, buy a ticket to the gallery.
Every street in Macau is beautiful and unusual in its own way. More experienced tourists recommend not using cabs and buses to spend more time getting to know the city, local streets, stores, and other establishments.
Tourists need to visit the many shopping centers, casinos, and parks. Macau is a great option to try your hand at gambling, get acquainted with the local nature. Here you can buy a ticket to museums that have preserved historical artifacts.
What else you need to know about rest
Before you go and travel, you should additionally familiarize yourself with useful tips for tourists. There is a main post office in Macau. It is located in an old building in the central part of the city on the square. Here there are several departments where specialists communicate in different languages.
There are pay phones in different parts of the city. The local area code begins with 853. To call Hong Kong, dial the area code 001. For international calls, the area code is 00853.
The security level in the daytime is quite high. Tourists can not worry about their health. It is also safe in the evening and at night. The main problem in Macau is corruption. Statistics show that here the level of crime, burglary, robbery, assault and thefts is minimal.
More experienced tourists recommend not to leave things unattended. The government cares about visitors, so it takes action to minimize crime, deception. Cab drivers can inflate the price of the trip if they turn off the meter. They often take tourists on long routes, so it is recommended to study the map beforehand.
In Macau it will be interesting not only for adults but for children as well. Here you can visit various attractions and try your hand at gambling. People over 18 years old can enter the casino. You can pay only in Hong Kong dollars, patakka. Bank branches are used for currency exchange.
Going to Macau
Our regular contributor Maria Mikhaleva recently moved to China and, in addition to work, has been actively exploring the region. A couple of weeks ago, Masha visited Macau and did a detailed manual on a short trip to the casino area and Portuguese heritage.
To be honest, before I moved to China, I knew next to nothing about Macau – except that I could roughly show it on a map. But after a couple of months in the Celestial Empire, it was time to think about a visa. Those who live in the Guangzhou area have two main options: Macau and Hong Kong. From the town where I work, there is a bus to the Macau border – so I decided to opt for it.
Macau is a bizarre mix of cultures, a former Portuguese colony that came under Chinese rule for fifty years at the end of the last century. Signs in the streets and bus stops are bilingual, the wings of languid angels in the Catholic cemetery are protruding from behind the folded wings of human skyscrapers, and the Asian market is adjacent to a European-looking courtyard. Although the Chinese population dominates, and characters are crowding the Latin alphabet, for me Macau was a breath of Europe: street names can be read, supermarkets sell delicious cheese and unsweetened sausage (expensive, though!), Instagram is not blocked, and the cafes give a fork to the order. Many people speak English: even grannies on the bus were able to maintain a dialogue.
In Macau you can legally play in the casino, jump from the highest bungee jumping point in the world and look at the pandas. I don’t think anyone will fly to Macau just for that, but it’s still worth including the country in your trip to Asia.
In the modest territory of Macau there is an international airport, opened during the Portuguese rule (in fact, it was recently – in 1995). However, it is unreasonably expensive to fly there from Russia or Belarus: a round trip ticket from Moscow costs from € 480. It is much more reasonable and economical to visit Macao from China or Hong Kong.
The border crossing between China and Macau is located in Zhuhai, which can be reached from Guangzhou by train from Guangzhou South Station. Trains run very frequently (more than 60 options per day), the ticket costs around €9.2, travel time is just over an hour, and the end station is right at the border. You can check the schedule on the CTrip website.
From Hong Kong you can take a ferry to Macau. It runs every 15 minutes from 7 a.m. to midnight, and there are some night flights – they are more expensive, just like on weekends. A weekday day ticket to Macau costs €19.2. The detailed schedule and rates are published on the website of the carrier. I was told that near the ticket offices and just inside the ferry terminals you can find locals reselling tickets at lower prices. Where they get them from is a mystery to the narrator.
Another option of transport from Hong Kong is a bus which takes you by the world’s longest (55 km) bridge over the sea, opened a couple of years ago. Such a ride is much cheaper – €7.3 during the day and €7.9 at night.
“For me, Macau has become a sip of Europe.”
Macau is a special administrative region of the PRC. This means that the Chinese government handles defense and diplomacy, while the local government controls the police, customs and determines legislation, including rules for entering the country. There is a 30-day visa-free period for Russians and Belarusians. When I crossed the border by land, I was not given a stamp, instead I was given a form with the date of entry, which I had to keep until the end of the visit. Keep in mind that if you have a single entry Chinese visa and you went to Macau, you won’t be able to go back.
Macau has its own currency – pataca. One Pataca is equal to approximately €0.1. Also in the country in use Hong Kong dollars, which in addition are the official currency of the casino, the rate – 1:1.
Macau is an expensive country. On Booking the cheapest hotel room for two people booking a month costs € 50. Cheaper options can be found on AirBnB – from € 40 per night for two (service charge included).
I found a couchsurfing accommodation with an Indonesian man named Eli, who works as a chef in a casino restaurant. He pays about €500 a month for his small apartment with one room that only holds a bed and a closet, a hallway that is impossible for two people to turn around, and a tiny kitchen, not including utilities.
The reason for the high price is the highest population density in the world: more than 21 thousand people per square kilometer. Oddly enough, it does not catch the eye: the streets of Macau, especially during the day, seem more deserted than the Chinese. At the same time, by Chinese standards, the population of Macau is like a provincial town: “only” a little more than 620,000 people (2017 data). But they nestle in an area of about 31 km². By comparison, the area of Minsk is more than ten times larger – 348 km². Eli told me that his local colleagues, in order to save money, rent accommodation in neighboring Juhai and commute across the border to work every day.
Macau is divided into two bridge-connected areas: the Macau Peninsula and the islands of Coloan and Taipa, merged together after a massive sea drainage in the 90s. It is quite comfortable to walk through each of these parts on foot, but the distance between them is better to overcome by bus.
Ticket costs € 0.66 (6 patacas). Fare is cheaper with a transport card, but I did not have time to figure out how to buy it. Moreover, there are two other ways to save money. You have to put cash when you pay in the box at the entrance, and if you want and have the nerve, it’s realistic to drop a couple of coins less. Or you can move around the city for free on branded casino buses. Large gambling establishments have organized shuttles to and from key points in Macau: the main hotels, the ferry crossing and the border control point. For example, Galaxy Casino has as many as ten routes, and some of them run buses until midnight. To get a ride, you don’t have to spend a pataaki in the establishment: you just get on and go.
Compact Macau can be explored in a couple of days if you want to – in a day and a half I managed to accomplish almost all my plans. I took the free shuttle from the border to the Grand Lisboa Casino, spent the bright part of the day exploring the Macau Peninsula, and by evening I moved to Taipa to admire the nightly casino lights. The next day I went to Coloan, took another stroll through the Taipa casino, and was back in China by 4 p.m.
The first gambling house opened in Macao back in 1847, and gambling has played an important role in the colony ever since. When it came under Chinese control in 1999, the Chinese government prudently did not want to lose the source of reliable budget revenues, although in other regions of the country such entertainment is prohibited by law. The Chinese did not go wrong: Macau is ranked first in the world by revenues from the gambling industry, ahead of Las Vegas.
Casinos in Macau are not just halls with slot machines and card tables, but grandiose complexes, including hotels, shopping malls, restaurants and other establishments, aimed at vacationers with fat wallets. This business generates the bulk of the area’s income and directly or indirectly involves two-thirds of the population, so coming to Macao and not going to a casino is like being in Moscow and not seeing Red Square.
The casino is open to anyone 21 years of age or older, and young-looking visitors are asked to show their passports. There are metal detectors in front of the entrances: in the past there were cases when players who had squandered a fortune put a bullet in their foreheads. Photography and videotaping inside is prohibited. I read in the reviews of other travelers, as if the guards ask to leave camera equipment in the lockers, but I was not searched, and I easily got in with a camera. I never dared to take it out, only once I secretly tried to take a few photos on the phone, and then I hardly escaped from the security guard who noticed it.
The main contingent of casinos in Macau are residents of neighboring China and Hong Kong. I only saw foreigners a couple of times, and only as observers. I quickly got bored watching the players: they did not show much excitement, and I did not know the rules. I was much more interested in the luxurious interiors and decorations of the gambling houses.
Of the 41 casinos operating in Macau today, I would note the following:
Grand Lisboa, the tallest building in Macau in the shape of a bouquet of flowers, which to me looks more like a huge golden spike. The architectural dominant feature of the city, part of one of the oldest casinos in Macau, the Lisboa, opened in the 1970s.
Wynn is worth a visit for the shows: at XX:00, a dragon surrounded by clouds of steam emerges from under a huge dome in the main lobby, and at XX:30, a golden tree of prosperity blossoms. I enjoyed both shows, so after one ends I recommend waiting a half hour for the next.
The Venetian is the largest casino in the world: an area of almost 3.5 hectares, 3 thousand hotel rooms, 640 gaming tables and more than 1700 slot machines. Already after my visit to Macau I learned that it is an enlarged copy of the casino of the same name in Las Vegas: in the pictures it is almost impossible to distinguish the American original from the Chinese version.
Outside the complex looks luxurious, especially in the evening: illuminated houses, gondolas “parked” by the pier, a copy of the Campanile, the St. Mark’s Cathedral… The interior decoration is also impressive, especially through the network of channels through which you can take a gondola ride, decorated like the Venetian shopping streets. This pleasure is not cheap – € 14.5 per trip, but is in high demand among the Chinese.
The Parisian is the neighbor of The Venetian, decorated in the French style. In front of the entrance is a replica of the Eiffel Tower, which is colorfully illuminated in the evenings.
The Galaxy is a golden giant complex with impressive night lighting and a fountain show in the lobby.
“Macau ranks first in the world in gaming revenue, ahead of Las Vegas.”
The years of Portuguese rule have left an indelible mark on the architectural makeup of Macau. Sometimes, wandering through the central streets, I forgot that I was not in Europe, and the crowds of locals seemed to me like travelers, just like me. It’s worth noting that there really are a lot of tourists around the ruins of St. Paul – the facade of the UNESCO-protected XVII century church. On the steps leading up to the site I saw, perhaps, the highest number of photographers in my life.
After pushing your way down the stairs, you find yourself on a pedestrian street filled with a variety of cafes and street-food outlets. Here you can try Macau’s most famous dessert, pastel de nata – Portuguese puff pastry tartlets with a sweet creamy yolk filling, one piece costs €0.9-1.1. Another local delicacy is the plate of juganja cured meat. They are quite expensive – from €6.5 to €16.3 for half a kilo. Luckily, there are bidders on the street offering free tastings of this and other local delicacies.
After grabbing a bite to eat, I made my way to Largo de Senado, the city’s main square – also a UNESCO site. On the way, you can check out St. Dominic’s Church with its free museum.
Nearby is another religious building with a rich history – dedicated to the goddess of the sea Mazzu (A-Ma) temple A-Ma, which predates Macau itself and even gave the country its name. The main part of the structure was built in the late fifteenth century, and it is still in operation. Worshippers pray, leave fruit in the temple and light aromatic sticks, spirals and candles, bought in the temple shop. The largest of the lotus-shaped candles is the circumference of a basketball and costs €151.
The religiosity of the people of Macau is literally felt: “Vases” with fragrance sticks can be found all over the city: in the streets, inside entrances and stores. A small portion (about 7%) of the country’s population is still Christian. A reminder of the Catholic past is provided by the cemetery of St. Michael the Archangel (15-19 Beco do Almirante Costa Cabral) with tombstones in Portuguese and exquisite sculptures. Nearby is Guia Hill, the highest natural point on the Macau Peninsula. On it in the XVII century was built Portuguese fortress, and in the XIX – the first modern lighthouse in the Far East. From the top of the hill offers an excellent view of the entire city.
Macau is made up of densely packed Chinese high-rise buildings, like the one my host lived in. Trying to add some space to their tiny apartments, people put cages on the windows, which are used as storage rooms or drying areas, making the houses look dreary. Also the laundry is dried on the roofs, so it’s not uncommon to have the entrance closed with just a pawl. It’s enough to slip into an entranceway with someone and take the elevator up to the top floor, and you can admire the city from above and take some cool shots.
“Venice and Paris aren’t the only cities that Macau has copied: they’ve also borrowed a bit of Rome.”
From above, you can see the two highest points in all their glory – the already mentioned Grand Lisboa Casino and the Macau Tower. The TV and radio tower is 338 meters high and has an observation deck which can be accessed for €18. The tower was entered in the Guinness Book of Records as the highest point (233 meters) from which bungee jumps can be made. I was excited about the idea of tickling my nerves, but the price of € 390 cooled my ardor.
Venice and Paris are not the only cities that were copied in Macau: a piece of Rome was also borrowed here. In the entertainment complex Fisherman’s Wharf erected its own mini-Coliseum surrounded by buildings in the ancient style. It’s a popular place for walks and photo shoots: wandering here even on a weekday, I constantly risked ruining someone’s shot.