Skip Navigation


Photo © Utrecht

Travel Guide Asia China Macau



Casino Lisboa in the distance

Casino Lisboa in the distance

© All Rights Reserved bruntonal

With less than 100 kilometres separating it from Hong Kong, Macau has been overshadowed by its popular neighbour. But Macau can't complain: a thriving gambling industry has brought the city great wealth. Nor can visitors complain, as Macau is one of China's most interesting cities. Macau is a limited democracy whose foreign and defence affairs are the business of China. What makes Macau really fascinating, though, is its starkly Mediterranean look. The Portuguese turned it into a significant port in the middle of the 16th century; over the centuries, it turned into a home for the Portuguese elite and, as a result, distinctly Portuguese architecture began to spring up. Christianity filtered into China through Macau, too. The city is the site of the Basilica de São Paulo, one of the most important monuments of Christianity in China.

Don't come to Macau expecting a traditional Chinese town, or a skyrise metropolis like Hong Kong – Macau is completely unique among Chinese cities.



Brief History

Macau did not develop as a major settlement until the Portuguese arrived in the 16th century. In 1535, Portuguese traders obtained the rights to anchor ships in Macau's harbours and to carry out trading activities. Around 1552–1553, they obtained temporary permission to erect storage sheds onshore, in order to dry out goods drenched by sea water; they soon built rudimentary stone houses around the area now called Nam Van. In 1557, the Portuguese established a permanent settlement in Macau, paying an annual rent of 500 taels of silver.

In 1583, the Portuguese in Macau were permitted to form a Senate to handle various issues concerning their social and economic affairs under strict supervision of the Chinese authority. Macau prospered as a port but was the target of repeated failed attempts by the Dutch to conquer it in the 17th century. Following the Opium War (1839–42), Portugal occupied Taipa and Coloane in 1851 and 1864 respectively. In December the 1st, 1887, the Qing and Sino-Portuguese governments signed the Treaty of Amity and Commerce, under which China ceded the right of "perpetual occupation and government of Macau by Portugal”. In return, Macao Government would cooperate with Hong Kong's smuggle of Indian opium. Portugal was also obliged "never to alienate Macao without previous agreement with China", therefore ensuring that Macau would not go into other hands. Macao officially became a Portuguese territory.

In 1928, after the Qing Dynasty had been overthrown, the Kuomintang government officially notified Portugal that it was abrogating the Treaty of Amity and Commerce; the two powers signed a new Sino-Portuguese Friendship and Trade Treaty in place of the abrogated treaty. Making only a few provisions concerning tariff principles and matters relating to business affairs, the new treaty did not alter the sovereignty of Macau and Portuguese government of Macau remained unchanged.

Influenced by the Cultural Revolution in mainland China and by general dissatisfaction with Portuguese government, riots broke out in Macau in 1966. In the most serious, the so-called 12-3 incident, 6 people were killed and more than 200 people were injured. On 28 January 1967, the Portuguese government issued a formal apology.

Shortly after the overthrow of the Salazar dictatorship in 1974 in Lisbon, the new Portuguese government determined it would relinquish all its overseas possessions. In 1976, Lisbon redefined Macau as a "Chinese territory under Portuguese administration" and granted it a large measure of administrative, financial, and economic autonomy. Three years later, Portugal and China agreed to regard Macau as "a Chinese territory under (temporary) Portuguese administration". In 1987 China and Portugal signed a Sino-Portuguese Joint Declaration, making Macau a special administrative region of China. The Chinese government assumed formal sovereignty over Macau on 20 December 1999.




Macau is situated 60 kilometres southwest of Hong Kong and 145 kilometres from Guangzhou. It also has 41 kilometres of coastline, yet only 310 metres of land border with Guangdong. It consists of the Macau Peninsula itself and the islands of Taipa and Coloane, which are now connected by landfill forming the Cotai Strip. The peninsula is formed by the Zhu Jiang (Pearl River) estuary on the east and the Xi Jiang (West River) on the west. It borders the Zhuhai Special Economic Zone in mainland China. The main border crossing between Macau and China is known as the Portas do Cerco (Barrier Gate) on the Macau side, and the Gongbei Port of Entry on the Zhuhai side. Macau Peninsula was originally an island, but a connecting sandbar gradually turned into a narrow isthmus, thus changing Macau into a peninsula. Land reclamation in the 17th century transformed Macau into a peninsula with generally flat terrain, though numerous steep hills still mark the original land mass. Alto de Coloane is the highest point in Macau, with an altitude of 170.6 metres. With a dense urban environment, Macau has no arable land, pastures, forest, or woodland.




  • Macau Peninsula - The northernmost region connected to the Chinese mainland. It is the center of most tourist activity and is densely crowded.
  • Taipa is an island to the south of the peninsula and the site of the airport.
  • Coloane is an island further south.
  • Cotai is an area of reclaimed land that connects Taipa and Coloane.



Sights and Activities

Historic Centre of Macau

The Historic Centre of Macau is a World Heritage Site. This place Macau owes to its numerous historic monuments, including the ruins of Saint Paul's Cathedral, a fortress and a lighthouse as well as colonial colourful buildings and historical streets with some cobblestones. But it also was a strategically located port and of importance in the development of international trade. Macau was a Portuguese colony from the mid-16th century until 1999, when it was returned to China.


Casino Lisboa, Macau

Casino Lisboa, Macau

© All Rights Reserved Utrecht

Macau has become one of the biggest centres of gambling around the world and it is to be expected that within the near future there will be more casinos than in Las Vegas. Most casinos are in the city of Macau itself, between the historic centre and the harbour where most ferries from Hong Kong arrive. The Grand Lisboa probably is the best known but there are many more, all with their own characteristics. One building has an entire golden façade. Many people from China and Hong Kong come here, because officially it is illegal anywhere else.

Southern islands

The main Macau Peninsula (with historical Macau) is connected by three bridges with the island of Taipa. Further south is Coloane. The international airport is on Taipa and this area is developing in a very high speed, with very large new casinos being built as we speak, and some residential areas as well. Further south though at Coloane you can find some older fishing villages, beaches and great hiking and biking. Do not forget to stop once a while and have some fine seafood in one of the restaurants. Coloane is home to a golf course as well.

Other sights and activities

Macau tower

Macau tower

© All Rights Reserved Utrecht

  • Macau Museum
  • Macau Tower



Events and Festivals




Macau generally has warm to hot weather with relatively high humidity. The worst months are from May/June to September when the temperatures are above 30 °C during the day and at night it doesn't get any cooler than 25 °C. On top of that, the humidity can be overwhelming and it is rainy season with serious downpours and occasional hurricanes (typhoons) which can strike Macau. January and February are dry but cool with temperatures just under 20 °C on average and nights below 10 °C common. October to December is warmer and sunny and is the best time for a visit.

Avg Max17.7 °C17.7 °C20.7 °C24.5 °C28.1 °C30.3 °C31.5 °C31.2 °C30 °C27.4 °C23.4 °C19.6 °C
Avg Min12.2 °C13.1 °C16.2 °C20.2 °C23.6 °C25.7 °C26.3 °C26 °C24.9 °C22.3 °C17.8 °C13.8 °C
Rainfall32.4 mm58.8 mm82.5 mm217.4 mm361.9 mm339.7 mm289.8 mm351.6 mm194.1 mm116.9 mm42.6 mm35.2 mm
Rain Days61012121517161613754



Getting There

By Plane

Air Macau is the national airline of Macau, with flights from Macau International Airport (MFM) to destinations in China and in the wider East Asian region.

Low-cost airline AirAsia serves Macau as well, from its Malaysian hub in Kuala Lumpur.

To/from the airport

  • Bus: Within Macau, there are services with Transmac (Route 26, 36, AP1, MT2 and N2) and T.C.M. (Route 21, 36, AP1, MT1 and N2). Crossboarder coaches go from Macau International Airport to Huadao, Guangzhou, Panyu, Dongguan, Gongbei Border Gate and Hengqin Border.
  • Taxis and rental cars are available as well.

By Car

You can travel by car to/from Macau from two point in mainland China, connecting with Zhuhai. Few travellers get here with their own car or rental car though as travelling China by yourself in a car requires a special Chinese driver's licence and some bureaucratic hassle. Most people have a driver and you can take a taxi to Macau as well.

By Bus

Buses travel regularly to Guangzhou and Shenzhen and also to Dongguan, al of them in the Guangdong Provincie in China. It's about 2 hour to Guangzhou, 3 to the others. To Zhuhai from those places is also possible after which you cross into Macau on foot. Accommodation and food is much cheaper in Zhuhai.

By Boat

Boats connect Macau with Hong Kong. Some boats go to Hong Kong Island while most go to the Kowloon pier. In Macau, they arrive on the Macau Peninsula, just east of the main casino area. The Turbojet and New World First Ferries are the main operators. There are even several daily connections between Macau and Hong Kong International Airport directly with Turbo Jet Sea Express.

Turbo Jet offers several ferries each day between the Macau Ferry Terminal (Outer Harbour) and the Fu Yong Ferry Terminal near Shenzhen Airport. There are connections to Shenzhen itself (Shekou) from the Inner Harbour as well as the Outer Harbour. Check Yuet Tung Shipping Co (Tel: +853-28574478) or Shenzhen Xunlong Shipping, the latter also has connections from Taipa Temporary Ferry Terminal to Shenzhen. CKS has ferries to/from Jiangmen near Zhuhai, while Yuet Tung also goes to Zhuhai (Wanzai).



Getting Around

By Car

Although several international and local companies offer cars for rent, it is not recommended nor necessary to get around by car, as distances are small and especially in the city itself things can get crowded sometimes. Traffic drives on the left and you need an international driving permit to rent one.

By Public Transport

TCM and Transmac both run buses in Macau and to the southern island of Taipa. Taxis are cheap and if shared with a few persons, make for a fast and economical way of getting around.

Most of the casinos in Macau provides free shuttle bus to the Ferry Terminals, Portas do Cerco (to China), airport, and others casinos or hotels.

By Foot

This is the best way of getting around Macau city itself and one or two days allows you to enjoy most sights by foot. A good map is essential though and remember that Macau is rather hilly and several sights are located on those hills. It can be hectic sometimes as well, though many streets have special pedestrian sideways.

By Bike

Bikes can be rented at Taipa island, but are of no use in the city and can not be taken from Taipa island at all. But you won't miss them in Macau city at all.



Red Tape

Visitors from most countries do not need a visa for a limited period of stay in Macau.

  • 180 days: United Kingdom.
  • 90 days: Andorra, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Bulgaria, Cape Verde, Croatia, Czech, Cyprus, Denmark, Dominica, Egypt, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Latvia, Lebanon, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Mali, Malta, Mongolia, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovak, Slovenia, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Tanzania.
  • 30 days: Australia, Canada, Chile, India, Indonesia, Kiribati, Liechtenstein, Malaysia, Mexico, Monaco, Namibia, New Zealand, Philippines, Samoa, Seychelles, Singapore, South Africa, Switzerland, Thailand, Turkey, the United States of America, Uruguay.
  • Nationals of China with valid Macau entry/depart documents, including residents of Mainland China, Hong Kong, Taiwan and overseas Chinese for a stay of up to 30 days.
  • The "Hong Kong Identity Card" (with symbol “*”, “***” or “R”), "Hong Kong Permanent Identity Card" or "Hong Kong Re-entry Permit" holders may stay in Macau for a maximum period of one year.

For a complete and up-to-date list, refer to the Macau Government Tourist Office - Travel Info.




See also: Money Matters

The currency of Macau is the Macanese Pataca (MOP). One pataca is divided into 100 avos, called ho (pronounced hoe) in Cantonese.

  • Banknotes: MOP$10, MOP$20, MOP$50, MOP$100, MOP$500, MOP$1000
  • Coins: 10 avos, 20 avos, 50 avos, MOP$1, MOP$2, MOP$5

The pataca is pegged with the Hong Kong dollar at the rate of HKD$100 to MOP$103.20. Hong Kong dollar can also be used in Macau with 1:1 rate.




Non-residents who wish to take up employment in Macau, including those from Portugal or China, need to obtain a valid work permit and are then issued the so-called Blue Card (officially called Non-Resident Worker's Permit). The process takes approximately a month to receive a work permit, at which time employment may begin, and another 1-2 months to receive the Blue Card.

As illegal employment has over the past decades been a problem plaguing Macau, the authorities do crack down severely on any offenders (both worker and employer) caught. Visitors are therefore advised not to engage in illegal employment.




Macau has 12 tertiary education institutions. Besides some smaller and more specialized schools (Security Forces School, Tourism School, European Studies Institute, etc.), the ones of importance are:




See also: [[Portuguese phrasebook

Macau's official languages are Cantonese and Portuguese. Mandarin is becoming more widely spoken, and most locals are able to comprehend it to some degree. Staff working at major hotels and tourist attractions will usually be reasonably competent in Mandarin.

English is spoken by most front-line staff in the tourism industry. Nearly all museums and casinos have some staff with excellent English, as do many hotels, shops and restaurants, especially the up-market ones. General English comprehension is similar to that of Hong Kong. It is useful to keep your hotel's name card for Taxi drivers.

Speakers of Portuguese won't find it very useful when talking to local residents as it is no longer compulsory in schools, but it helps a lot in understanding place names and signs. As Portuguese continues to be an official language of the SAR, government offices are required by law to have Portuguese-speaking staff on duty.

All official signs in Macau are bilingual in traditional Chinese and Portuguese. Note that under the "one country two systems" policy, Macau continues to use traditional Chinese characters and not the simplified Chinese characters used in Mainland China.




Macau is famous for excellent restaurants, unique cuisine and mellow bars. Above all, the city is famous for two cuisines: Portuguese and Macanese.

Portuguese food (cozinha portuguesa), brought in by its Portuguese colonizers, is hearty, salty, straightforward fare. While many restaurants claim to serve the stuff, fully authentic fare is mostly limited to a few high-end restaurants, especially the cluster at the southwestern tip of the Peninsula. Typical Portuguese dishes include:

  • Pato de cabidela (bloody duck) - a stew of chicken with blood and herbs, served with rice; sounds and looks somewhat scary, but it's excellent when well done
  • Bacalhau (salted cod) - traditionally served with potatoes and veggies
  • Caldo verde - a soup of potato, chopped kale and chouriço sausage
  • Feijoada (kidney-bean stew) - a Brazilian staple common in Macau as well
  • Pastéis de nata (egg tarts) - crispy and flaky on the outside and soft and sweet on the inside

Macanese food (comida de Macau) was created when Portuguese and Chinese influences were mixed together with spices brought from Africa and South-East Asia by traders, and many restaurants advertising "Portuguese" food in fact serve up mostly Macanese dishes. Seafood and barbecue specialist Fernando's on Coloane's Hac Sa Beach is probably the best-known Macanese restaurant.
Typical Macanese dishes include:

  • Almond cookies - Dry Chinese-style cookies flavoured with almond. Macau's top souvenir, they're compact, durable and hence sold pretty much everywhere.
  • Galinha à africana (African-style chicken) - Barbecued chicken coated in spicy piri-piri sauce.
  • Galinha à portuguesa (Portuguese-style chicken) - Chicken in a coconutty curry; despite the name, this is not a Portuguese dish at all, but a purely Macanese invention.
  • Pork chop bun - The Macanese version of a hamburger, the name pretty much says it all: it's a slice of freshly fried pork (often with a few chunks of bone left) with a dash of pepper placed inside a freshly baked bun.
  • Beef jerky - More moist and fresh than typical jerky, and quite delicious. Easily found on the street leading up to the Ruins of St. Paul, where vendors will push free samples at you as you walk by with great enthusiasm. Be sure to try them all before choosing the one you like best!

All that said, the food of choice in Macau is still pure Cantonese, and a few aficionados even claim that the dim sum and seafood here beat Hong Kong. The streets of central Macau are littered with simple eateries offering rice and noodle dishes for under $30 (although menus are often only in Chinese), while every casino hotel worth its salt has a fancy Cantonese seafood restaurant where you can blow away your gambling winnings on abalone and shark's fin soup.

The greatest concentration of restaurants is in the Peninsula, where they are scattered throughout the district. Taipa is now a major destination for those going for Portuguese and Macanese food and there are many famous restaurants on the island. There are several restaurants in Coloane, which is also home to the famous Lord Stow's Bakery, which popularized the Macanese egg tart.




The bulk of Macau's hotels are on the Peninsula, although there are also many options - including high-end ones - on Taipa and, increasingly, the Cotai Strip, which is challenging the Peninsula to become Macau's premier casino area. Coloane, which offers fewer and much quieter options, has accommodation ranging from the famous Pousada de Coloane to Macau's two beach-side youth hostels.

Hotel rates are most expensive on Friday and Saturday nights, because demand is higher with tourists coming to Macau to gamble over the weekend. Try to make a booking through a travel agent, even if for the same day, as the rates can be substantially lower than walk-in rates. If you are coming from Hong Kong, book through an agent at the Shun Tak ferry pier for the best deals. Getting a package deal including return ferry tickets gives you the best price.

In the Inner Harbour area, many of the pensions and two star hotels are also the place of business for many of the mainland PRC prostitutes that work in Macau, and most hotel "saunas" are in fact thinly disguised brothels.


Ole London HotelPraca de ponte e horta ,No 4-6 MacauHostel84
Fu Hua Guangdong Hotel Macau98-102 Rua Francisco Xavier PereiraHOTEL79
Ole Tai Sam Un HotelNo.43-45 Rua da telicidadeHOTEL-




Reasonably priced Portuguese wine is widely available. A glass in a restaurant is around $20, while bottles start from under $100, and a crisp glass of vinho verde ("green wine", but actually just a young white) goes very well with salty Macanese food. As elsewhere in China, though, locals tend to prefer cognacs and whisky. Macau Beer is passable and widely available, as is the Filipino brand San Miguel which has a brewery in Hong Kong. There is also a wine museum in which you can have the opportunity to taste over 50 varieties of wine.




See also: Travel Health

There are no vaccinations legally required to travel to Macau. There is one exception though. You need a yellow fever vaccination if you have travelled to a country (7 days or less before entering Macau) where that disease is widely prevalent.

It's a good thing to get your vaccinations in order before travelling to Macau. The general vaccination against Diphtheria, Tetanus and Polio (DTP) is recommended. Also a hepatitis A vaccination is recommended and when travelling longer than 2 weeks also typhoid. Vaccination against Tuberculosis as well as hepatitis B are sometimes recommended for stays longer than 3 months.

Only in rare cases is vaccination against Japanese Encephalitis recommended. Malaria does not occurs in Hong Kong, but dengue sometimes does. Just use mosquito repellant and wear long sleeves if you can when it is dark.

Finally, other possible health issues include diarrhea and other general travellers' diseases like motion sickness. Watch what you eat and drink and in case you get it, drink plenty of fluids (to prevent dehydration) and bring ORS.




See also: Travel Safety

It should be pointed out that compared to many other cities in the world, Macau is relatively safe to travel. The standard of living of the local Macau residents is generally good (one of the best in Asia). In addition, as a city geared towards tourism, the Macau government is keen to "clean up" the city and its image. For example, the police in Macau is now seen by the public as more effective than it used to be.

You should beware of pickpockets, especially in crowded areas like tourist attractions and the border stations. Keep your valuables somewhere safe. Pickpockets usually come in a group and use one person to distract people while the others work.

There is a risk of typhoons, mainly between July and September. A system of typhoon warnings is in place that are issued by the Macao Meteorological and Geophysical Bureau and are broadcast widely on television and radio.



Keep Connected


Chinoy Express, Rua dos Mercadores. A cheap and fast internet cafe ($5/hr) right near Rua da Felicidade.


See also: International Telephone Calls

Macau's international dialing prefix is 853.

Macau has excellent mobile phone coverage. Macau has both GSM 900/1800 and 3G 2100 networks. Check with your operator. Phone plans stemming from the Mainland require proper set-up for use outside of the Mainland.



  1. 1 2008 Q1 estimate, Statistics and Census Service (DSEC)

Quick Facts

Macau flag

Map of Macau


Local name
Àomén 澳門
Limited democracy
Macanese, Chinese
543 000[1]
Portuguese, Chinese (Cantonese)
Buddhism, Christianity (Catholic)
Macanese Pataca (MOP)
Calling Code
Time Zone
  • Latitude: 22.201874
  • Longitude: 113.544202


as well as Hien (11%), Herr Bert (9%), Peter (7%), simony (2%), Sander (<1%)

Help contribute to this article to share the ad revenue.

Macau Travel Helpers

  • simony

    Always go there

    Ask simony a question about Macau
  • nini

    spent 1 week in macau. enjoyed the feel of this portuguese country. the food is wonderful and the old ruins are a must.

    Ask nini a question about Macau
  • JessieZeng

    Hi,My name is AndyJessie.From Sichuan China.If you want to travel in Sichuan .U will send a e-mail to me.I can help U.abut your question"book a return ticket or do i hope that i have enough money to book a ticket from wherever i am at the time".Of course U can.Click here: U can book the ticket in here.If U are in china. I'm so sorry.I can't help U anymore .My english still having a few problem, but I getting better.wish U have a nice travel in china or anywhere.

    Ask JessieZeng a question about Macau
  • amgine

    born in macau. pls feel free to send me your question if you wanna visit my city. you will feel the unique blending of east and west, (i highly recommend to feel it by visiting the World Heritage "Historic Centre of Macau", you can experience macau by cultural activities, macanese cuisine etc), see how does chinese live with western people for hundreds of years.

    Ask amgine a question about Macau
  • stanzou

    actually i see a helper say its a portuguse country?But its a Chinese sepcial area,i mean Macao belongs to China,so i hope there will not be any voice like that again.Also to Hongkong and Taiwan,i should say,we are all the generations of dragons,we have the same language and culture,we are a family.

    Ask stanzou a question about Macau

Accommodation in Macau

This is version 43. Last edited at 12:51 on Aug 3, 15 by Utrecht. 44 articles link to this page.

Creative Commons License
Except where otherwise noted, content of this article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License