Dubbed the Las Vegas of Asia, Macau is a only one hour ferry from Hong Kong and shares its complicated relationship with China. A city lined with extravagant hotels, towering hundreds of floors above the Cotai Strip these establishments have everything your heart could desire, from enormous casinos, shopping centres, pools, bars and restaurants to name the least. These hotels are relatively inexpensive given their luxury and with such close proximity to Hong Kong, this is a perfect getaway for anyone who wants to pretend they have millions to blow in casinos or just sleep in a bed big enough for ten.
Macau is definitely an interesting break and alike to Hong Kong it has its own currency, passport and legal system. Here are a few things to bear in mind when visiting the city:
How to get to Macau
Although not technically far from Hong Kong, navigating your way to Macau can be a struggle on your first time. Make your way to the Macau ferry terminal in Sheung Wan, which is well signposted and easily accessible by walking or taxi. Choose your ferry company depending on where you would like to arrive; TurboJet for the outer ferry terminal close to the old town and St Paul’s square, CotaiJet for the Cotai strip. Whilst return journeys are around 320HKD these returns must be made on the same day, whereas single journeys are 170HKD. If using the TurboJet these departures are every 15 minutes and take around 55 minutes. For a full guide on this ferry system read our blog on public transport in Hong Kong!
Hotels provide free transfers to the ferry terminals
If you are staying at a hotel on the Cotai Strip they provide free transfers to and from the ferry terminals. Each hotel has its own coach stands at the terminals and as no-one checked any documentation before boarding, this may be a service open to anyone simply visiting the hotels. This is an especially helpful service, as these transfers take around 20 minutes and saves you a taxi fare!
Don't forget your passport..
Alike to Hong Kong, Macau is a SAR (Special Administrative Region), so if you are planning to visit by ferry you will need your travel documents to enter the city. You may also need your passport for hotel bookings, as they will often make a copy of the document when checking in. Alike to when you land in Hong Kong airport, you will also be asked to complete a landing card, which should be provided by attendants on the ships.
Macau has its own currency.. and it's different to Hong Kong's
MOP (Macanese Pataca) is the official currency of Macau and whilst you can pay with Hong Kong Dollars in most places, you will be given change in MOP, so make sure to use it all before leaving! MOP has a similar rate to HKD with roughly £1:10MOP and 1HKD:1MOP. Whilst using the Revolut card in Hong Kong, we were able to easily convert money from £ to HKD and again to MOP in Macau. If you don’t convert to this currency, when using cards the amount will be deducted in GB pounds.
Hotel deposits are EXPENSIVE
Whilst staying in the Venetian we were shocked when that the deposit for 2 rooms came to £200, an unnecessary expensive during this trip. Be prepared to have some extra money saved for the deposit, as we were also told that this money would not be returned until 2 weeks after checking out. Luckily the money was returned alot sooner than this (around 5 days after leaving Macau), but this meant that the money was returned (and in Hong Kong Dollars) when I had made it home.
Food and drinks are surprisingly reasonably priced
Surprisingly, alcohol was much cheaper in the hotels in Macau than they were in Hong Kong. We visited an Irish bar in the Venetian, with small plates costing around £6/7 each and gin and tonics only costing around £5 each. Whilst these prices were much higher in the night club (£13 for a gin and tonic), these were more similar to the prices across all the bars in Hong Kong.
The dress code is VERY casual
As a group of 5 girls, clad all in black with heels and makeup done to the nines we stood out like sore thumbs. Somehow this went against us, being denied entry into the casino at another hotel (Studio City) and attracted stares from everyone in the casino within the Venetian. Walking through our hotel we learned that staring being considered rude is only a Western impression, whilst being glared at by every single person in that hotel at 4am. Unless you are visiting a glamorous restaurant or have a special occasion, I would advise again bringing heels, or anything more formal than shorts and a t-shirt.
Clubs are scarce
Perhaps expecting the nightlife of Vegas itself, we were somewhat surprised by the lack of bars and cocktail spots in the hotels of Macau, with the main ‘strip’ home only to extravagant hotels with nothing else in between. To find bars you will need to hunt inside the hotels. Although these are open to visitors not just guests, I would assume that similar to the Venetian, everything will also have an early closing time.
Don't expect anything to be open after midnight
Returning from perhaps the only club on the Macau strip (Showhouse in Studio City, absolutely questionable to say the least) we hoped we could maybe get a drink in our own hotel before returning to our enormous rooms, but no luck. Despite there being a restaurant for every cuisine under the sun and plenty of bars, not one of was open during the early hours, which was unusual given that the casino was bustling 24 hours of the day.
Hotels have duty free stores
If you are looking to splash your newly acquired cash from the casino there are literally HUNDREDS of shops with everything from designer labels, to mid-range, skincare, makeup, food and gifts. But much more than that, the Venetian at least, is home to duty free stores so if you are looking anything that you may have missed in the airport, you will save money here too. If you are also looking for alcohol for drinks in your room they are ridiculously cheap here, with a litre of Gordon’s gin at around £10!
Theres more to Macau than casinos
Although Macau is infamous for its enormous and glamorous hotels, there is much more to it than just the glitzy casinos. Originally a Portuguese colony, a lot of this culture still remains in the old town, a maze of cobbled streets lined with colourful houses complete with white window shutters. Standing in the middle of Senado Square you might even forget for a minute you’re in China, as the buildings are so traditionally Portuguese and the tiled flooring so unlike Macau. Wander to the Ruins of St Paul’s to find the entire facade of a now destroyed church, enjoy a Portuguese nata or try some of the tried meats that people are often offering for free from their stores.