Macau is often called the "Las Vegas of China" because of its giant casinos and glamorous nightlife, including the world's largest casino in an area devoted almost exclusively to gaming and entertainment options. Be sure to bring - or buy - your party clothes to take advantage of the exciting vibe.
Macau is an autonomous region within China known as the Macao Special Administrative Region of the People's Republic of China. Situated across the Pearl River estuary from Hong Kong, Macau incorporates the islands of Taipa and Coloane as well as the city itself. The city of Zhuhai forms Macau's border to the north.
The city was a Portuguese territory for nearly four centuries until 1999, and you'll still hear the language spoken out and about today. You'll also find streets with Portuguese names, paved with traditional Portuguese tiles, right next to ancient Chinese temples, and brand new office towers. It's a fascinating mix of flavors, sights, and sounds just waiting for you to discover.
Whether you are a gambler or not, you'll have to get out for at least one night to check out the incredible action at Macau's casinos, including the Venetian, the world's largest. Most of the casinos are in Cotai, but you'll also find them in the peninsula along with a few in Taipa.
Stroll around the peninsula to see ruins of the colonial era, including the Church of St. Paul, Chinese temples, and much more. The Guia Fortress, the highest point on the peninsula, is where you'll find the Chapel of Our Lady of Guia, built in 1622.
Macau is a free port, meaning goods arriving in the city are exempt from customs duty while in transit. You'll find great bargains on clothing, jewelry (especially gold), antiques, watches, and electronics.
Along with gaming tables, Macau's nightlife scene is full of upscale cocktail lounges and dance clubs for you to explore. Prepare to be dazzled by your options, with over-the-top decor and world-class sound systems in the dance clubs, chic rooftop bars, and live music venues among a wide range of choices.
You'll find plenty of flavorful Mediterranean cuisine along with Cantonese dishes. You'll also find many restaurants offering Southeast Asian food, along with influences from throughout former Portuguese colonies.
Summers are very hot in Macau, making the mild winters a popular time for tourism. Just be aware that from time to time, there may be cold fronts where the temperature drops to near freezing. The city is also especially crowded during the Lunar New Year celebrations in late January or early February of each year. Typhoon season occurs between mid-summer to fall.
The Macau International Airport (MFM) is located off shore on Taipa island. It is smaller than the airport in Hong Kong, but there is service to major Asian centers including Bangkok and Kuala Lumpur as well as many points in mainland China. Bus connections are available to town, with fares of MOP$33.50 plus extra charges for baggage. A taxi from the airport to destinations in the central part of Macau should cost about MOP$400. If your first stop is a casino, there are many free shuttles that will take you from either the airport or ferry terminal directly to the gaming tables. It is also possible to fly to Hong Kong and then take a ferry across the estuary to Macau. Fares for the ferry start at about HK$164 (MOP$168), with extra charges for baggage. There are also ferry connections to Shekou, Jiangmen, Fuyong, and the Shenzhen International Airport.
Zhuhai Railway Station (or Gongbei Station), just over the border to Macau, connects the city to the Guangzhou-Zhuhai Intercity Railway. Rapid train service is available from Guangzhou, with connections from there to Shenzhen Railway Station and Hong Kong Railway Station.
It is only possible to drive into Macau from mainland China if the driver of the car has both a Macau and Chinese driver's license, and the car is outfitted with numbered plates from both Macau and China. If you can meet those requirements, you can drive through the Portas do Cerco, located at the north tip of the peninsula, and the Lotus Bridge, which connects at the Cotai Strip.
There are many bus connections from the Macau Ferry Terminal and the city, making a bus-ferry combination possible from various points on the mainland. There are bus services in Macau to Guangzhou, along with Shenzhen airport and bus station. There is direct line from Dongguan. It is also possible to take the bus to Zhuhai and simply walk across the border to Macau.
Many of the city's finest accommodation is connected to the casinos. For palatial grandeur - including gondola rides on an indoor river - look no farther than the Venetian Macao Resort Hotel. The Rio Hotel and Casino offers sleek, modern rooms and amenities at a mid-level price. At the lower end of the price scale, you'll find many places like the Metropole Hotel Macau, with clean, comfortable rooms and basic amenities.
Macau Peninsula - this crowded part of town is where Macau connects to the mainland, and it's where you'll find most tourist attractions. The peninsula includes the older part of the city, with many colonial structures along with sleek modern businesses.
The Cotai Strip - this is where you'll find most of Macau's casinos and huge shopping malls. The Strip is actually a causeway of reclaimed land that links the city proper to its island neighbors, Taipa and Coloane.
Coloane - this island is the southernmost part of Macau, and it's where you can escape the city streets. It has a hilly geography, with hiking trails and two beaches you can relax on, including Hac Sa, a beach with black sand, along with a golf course.
Three bus companies offer local transportation in Macau, including Transportes Urbanos Macau, Sociedade de Transportes Colectivos de Macau, and Sociedade de Transportes Públicos Reolian. The flat fare is MOP$25.50 for travel within the peninsula, MOP$33.50 to Taipa, and MOP$40.00 to Coloane. Be aware, however, that most drivers speak only Cantonese, so you should check your route before you go.
Taxis can be scarce in town, and you may have to stand in line to wait for one. An average fare within the peninsula is about MOP$45. It is a good idea to have the name of your hotel or other destination written in Cantonese on a piece of paper you can show the driver, as most do not speak English. The Macau Peninsula is quite compact, and it's actually easy to walk to any destinations that interest you; this may be the better alternative.
It is possible to drive in Macau with a Macau or International Driver's License, and while the streets are very crowded, it can be an alternative to queuing for taxis. Rates start at about MOP$800 per day, and companies include Avis and Vang lek Rent-A-Car Service, but be advised that you will have to book well in advance as the supply of rental cars is somewhat limited. Renting a car and driver is another alternative, with rates starting at about MOP$400 per hour.
There are shopping malls located throughout the peninsula and the Cotai Strip, including Avenida Infante Dom Henrique and Avenida de Almeida Ribeiro, where you'll find local goods and souvenirs. Senado Square is a main area of central Macau, where the streets are lined with fashionable clothing boutiques and food stalls. New Yaohan, near the Ferry Terminal, is one of the city's most popular shopping centers and a great place to find discount electronics.
There are many grocery stores in Macau, including several locations of Royal Supermarkets on the peninsula, and Park 'n Shop Taipa on the island. A quart of milk costs about MOP$15.00 and a dozen eggs about MOP$18.50.
Lai Heen, at the Ritz-Carlton, offers a stylish dining room and fantastic Asian cuisine, with dishes starting at about MOP$400. For authentic Portuguese cuisine with an emphasis on seafood, look to Fernando's Restaurant, with mains starting at about MOP$160. The Golden Peacock has a menu of authentic Indian cuisine in an elegant dining room, with main dishes starting at approximately MOP$280.