Guide to Macau
Macau is the largest gambling place in Asia. Some would claim in the world. This topic is discussed in another Macau article in this section. So this guide to Macau is gonna be about almost anything else but gambling and casinos. We will address questions like the map and where to stay in Macau. What to do in Macau. And finally how to get there.
The Macau area consists of the Macau Peninsula and the Taipa/Coloane Island. Macau Peninsula is the “old Macau”. This is where you have the old city and find the original casinos. Macau Peninsula host casinos like Grand Lisboa, Lisboa, MGM Grand Macau, The Wynn, StarWorld and The Sands. Here you can go for a walk in the city and feel the architecture from the Old Portuguese time before the Chinese was handed back Macau. Macau is another example of the one country two systems approach that China also has been running with Hong Kong. Macau has its own money like they do in Hong Kong. The Macau currency is just a lot smaller than the Hong Kong Dollar. You can in fact use Hong Kong Dollar just as easily as you can use Macau dollar so no point really in changing to Macau dollar.
At the Macau Peninsula you will find famous attractions like Fishermans Wharf, Ruins of the Church of St Paul, Monte Fort, Largo De Senado, Macau Museum and Street of Happiness. There are more attractions but the best way to spot them is to get a map and walk around on your own. Macau is not bigger than if you can manage to walk for some hours you can explore a lot just by walking. You do not need to take busses or taxis.
Connected by bridges to Macau you will find the Taipa / Coloane Island. This is for the tourism a more modern place hosting the Las Vegas Strip look a like Cotai Strip. Cotai Strip is the most interesting part about Taipa / Coloane Island. Cotai Strip has been build as a small copy of the famous Las Vegas strip. Here you will find many of the Famous Las Vegas casinos including The Venetian, Hard Rock Casino, MGM, The Crown and more. There is a walking path so you can walk from Casino to Casino.
If you do not like to walk it is also possible to take buses between different casinos. Many of the largest casinos have a free shuttle bus service where buses are running a schedule on a jump on jump off basis. The service is free. This is also a good way to get from Cotai Strip to the Macau Peninsula casinos.
What things to do and see in Macau
Things to do in Macau can be of individual taste depending on how much you like museums, nature, building, gambling and so on. Below you can read what I enjoyed the most. Some of the attractions on the Macau Peninsula that I enjoyed where:
- Taking a walk a Fisherman’s Wharf. This is a nice decorated area with ancient ruins, a man made volcano and a very nice stretch of restaurants on a walking street.
- Ruins of the Church of St Paul. Located in the Macau Peninsula central area this is an easy place to walk to. The ruins them selves are nice and you walk up hill to get there. However I am also thinking the walk to get there on your own will be just as interesting as the actual Ruins of the Church of St Paul.
- Monte Fort. This fort is located on top of a small mountain you can climb. When you get up there you will have a magnificent view around Macau. What I did was I bought a coffee at Starbucks located just in front of the Ruins of the Church of St Paul and brought up there. It was very nice and relaxing. Something I can recommend others to do as well when heading towards the top. If you do it late afternoon you will be able to spot Macau during daylight but also see the views with the casino lights glowing around.
- Walking around the old quarters of the city. Here you will find some exiting spectacular narrow streets. Also you will find some nice squares and well maintained beautiful buildings. The area around Largo De Senado is alive and having a nice atmosphere though sometimes a bit too many tourists will be around.
- In the evening try walk to The Wynn Macau casino to see the dancing fountain. This fountain is dancing to the rhythm of the music and it looks quite spectacular.
- The Grand Lisboa has an interior and building design that is a must see when visiting Macau. Gambler or not you should go inside. The casino floor is actually nothing special only the building in it self.
You can spend one day or your first day looking around the Macau Peninsula. You should really try the Monte Forth when it is dark. From there you will have a very nice view.
The next day you could spend at Cotai Strip. I never really visited Taipa Village and Coloane Village so I cannot tell you what it is like. I had to prioritize and I fould the Cotai Strip to be most interesting for me. Thing to do at Cotai Strip
- The Venetian. This amazing replica of Venice as well as the sister Casino in Las Vegas is breath taking in size and atmosphere. Here you will find a casino floor big enough to compete with any other Las Vegas Casino floor. You will find a shopping area build around canals with Gondola boats sailing the canals just like in Venice. When you walk around the building there is a copy of the Palazzo del Doge popping up. This building has architecture so close to its true Venice counterpart that when taking pictures it can be almost difficult to tell the difference.
- City of Dreams you can walk to as well from The Venetian. Inside you will find some water shows and other kinds of entertainment besides Casinos and gambling. I did not try them so I cannot say if they are good. I just felt it seemed like a potential tourist trap. City of Dreams is a building compound where you can walk around in a circle and pass City Of Dreams, The Crown and Hard Rock hotel and casino. Especially the Hard Rock Casino had a casino floor I liked with nice music and cool decorations inside. However I still lacked a party like atmosphere or some vibrant atmosphere where players where drinking laughing and showing they had fun.
- Walk along the strip from The Venetian and you will pass spectacular building where each one of them almost is worth taking a picture of.
When you want to finish your day you can take a shuttle bus from City of Dreams or The Venetian to Macau if this is where you are staying.
Finding a hotel in Macau – Where to stay
First a general piece of advice if you want to secure the cheapest possible hotel room. The best discounts you will have in Macau if you travel outside the weekends. If you avoid Friday and Saturday you might save up to 50%. I was checking different hotel prices before I went there and I found out that prices went up dramatically during the weekend.
When deciding where to stay you should decide first if you want to stay in Macau Peninsula or at the Cotai Strip. If you stay in the Taipa / Coloane Island it has to be The Cotai Strip.
The prices will be higher at The Cotai Strip than in Macau Peninsula. Also there is more to do in Macau Peninsula unless you are just coming for gambling only. Then The Cotai Strip might be just as good. If you are not coming only to gamble but also want to see the city and have some historic atmosphere Macau Peninsula is a much better choice. When I was there my personal choice was to stay in Macau Peninsula and just take shuttle busses to The Cotai Strip.
The hotel standard is very high in Macau and you should consider before going to Macau that you might pay a bit more but you will also have a higher standard. This could be the time to decide to treat your self. Try seach for different dates and see how much discount you can avail from staying outside weekends and main holiday seasons.
Getting there to Macau
You can arrive to Macau in three way. One way is from China Mainland in which case you will pass a border control before entering the Macau Peninsula area. Same way you can also leave Macau into the China Mainland.
Another way is to arrive to Macau by airplane. Many airlines have started to serve Macau with direct flights. Especially the budget airliners seem to have picked up Macau as a destination and you can often fly much cheaper to Macau than to Hong Kong. This is also worth noting if you already know you are going to visit both Hong Kong and Macau at the same time.
What I did was to take boat from Hong Kong to Taipa / Coloane Islands. Then upon my arrival outside the ferry terminal building I found lots of shuttle busses. Here you can pick one that is near to your hotel if your hotel does not have a shuttle on its own. The price for crossing Hong Kong to Macau is about 20 USD and the trip will take you just about 1 hour. Also you can take boat from Hong Kong directly to Macau Peninsula.
There are terminals in Hong Kong in Tsim Sha Tsui, Hong Kong Island and currently they are also planning of making a terminal near the Hong Kong International Airport. So try ask in your hotel which terminal is closest to you and take a taxi to the terminal.