While Hong Kong is called New York of Asia, Macau is obviously Las Vegas – filled with big hotels and casinos, some of them entire copies of those in LV. Just 1 hour ferry ride, or 55 km ride through newly built bridge/tunnel, it’s the easiest destination for micro holidays. Although not many people decide to stay over night, a huge number of people likes to go for a full day trip.
I am not an expert in Macau sightseeing, but after visiting it few times, there are few things I learnt and would recommend people who never been (esp. those who do not live in this part of Asia). Here is my list of dos and don’ts. It’s highly subjective, so if you have any comment, let me know!
1 – DO NOT pay for buses or catch taxis.
When you come to Macau, you do not need to use any public transportation nor taxis at all, if you want to do the most important sightseeing spots. Most hotels have shuttles from ferry piers with stops in main areas. You can get on the bus and move around and nobody will ask you to show your hotel booking or ID. So when you want to go anywhere, find a big hotel around and wait for the shuttle.
Last time, P. and I planned to stay in the “countryside”, so we had no shuttle to take us around, but we managed to take a local bus – tickets cost 6 MOP, but you can pay in Hong Kong dollars as well. The only thing to note is to have exact amount as nobody will give you change. Buses in Macau work exactly like in Hong Kong – the only difference is that mini buses will still have back door for you to get off, so it’s quite smoother then mini buses in HK.
2 – DO try your luck in casinos.
If you are like me and imagine casinos like in a movies, where you have to wear a suit and a gown to be allowed inside, don’t worry! Although located in super expensive and fancy hotels, Macau casinos cater to less elegant crowd. In fact, many super rich Mainland Chinese (pretty much main target customers) dress very casually even though they have full pockets. So don’t worry about dress code and try your luck – you can choose a table based on your budget too and drinks come free, so you can take advantage of that too.
3 – DO NOT change money to local currency.
…if you have Hong Kong dollars. Although Macau has its own currency – Macau pataca, the exchange rate with HKD is pretty much 1:1 and everywhere you go in Macau, you can pay in HKD. You will get change in mixed HKD and MOP sometimes, and I think normally dollar coins are not accepted.
4 – DO venture out of the main touristic spots.
Once you tick all the popular touristic spots you found online, be brave and step out of the main route. The most popular street in Taipa is super crowded, but just a walk into any direction, you can find quieter streets, pretty restaurants and authentic Portuguese food. If you’re close to ruins of St Paul’s church – run away from the crowds to find amazing colourful streets and probably instagramable places, cute cafes and more relaxing vibe. Stay in a hotel that’s less popular with casino goers and enjoy chill atmosphere and greener environment.
P. and I stayed in a hotel in area called Coloane, the furthest tip of Macau possible and the closest village to the hotel turned out to be just as pretty as the popular spots, but with no tourists at all (only people staying in our hotel). See photo below for example: