Although Macao is commonly known as the Las Vegas of the East because of its glamorous resorts, casinos, and shopping centers, there’s much more to this Special Administrative Region (SAR). For example, you can explore the 15th-century temple that gave rise to thearea’s namesake. Or take a stroll down one of its streets that look like they’re straight outof Europe. And don’t forget to try some of the area’s food—Macao was even named a UNESCO Creative City of Gastronomy in 2017. Discover more about Macao’s ancient history, colorful culture, and laid-back vibe at this family-friendly guide. This region of the world has a lot to offer in terms of history—with 25 UNESCO World Heritage Sites1—as well as ultra-modern design hotels, Macao is a great choice for anyone interested in history, cuisine, luxury, and everything else in between.
Planning Your Trip
- June to August is the worst time of year to visit; temperatures are much higher, and humidity is at severe levels.
- Macao is a bilingual society, with Chinese (the Cantonese dialect in particular) and Portuguese being the official languages. Many people, however, speak English.
- The official currency is Patacas, which is divided into 100 cents. Hong Kong dollars are widely accepted in the country, but expect to receive Patacas as change for your purchases.
- Getting Around: For your convenience, many hotels provide complimentary shuttle buses to popular tourist destinations. If you prefer, there are also taxis and an extensive public bus system that covers the Macao Peninsula, Taipa Island, and Coloane Island.
- Many tourists visit Macao alongside Hong Kong since they are close to each other and a ferry ride away from one another.
Things to Do
Macao, with its famous casinos and hotels, has everything to keep you occupied outside of gambling. Whether you want to explore streets that resemble those in Europe, learn about the SAR’s history, view churches’ ruins, or ride the world’s first figure-eight Ferris wheel, you’ll discover something for yourself.
- A-Ma Temple is a must-see when in Macao; it’s the very reason that this city has its name. Back in the day, Portuguese tourists would ask locals where they were and “A Ma Gao” or “place of A-Ma” is what they’d hear. Eventually, “A-Ma gao” transformed into Macao after years went by. The temple has been around since 1400s and to this day, many worship here regularly.
- The Handover Museum is a must-see for history fans or not. When Macao was handed over to China in 1992, each province sent a gift as a way of expressing their gratitude. The museum houses the gifts from all 39 provinces, which are on display and displayed beautifully.
- The Macau Tower is the perfect place for thrillseekers who want to bungee jump233 meters off the edge of a building – which happens to be the tallest commercial dive in existence. If you’re not quite that adventurous, don’t worry! There are also options like walking around the edge of an observation deck (tethered, of course) or climbing to the top of the tower. And if you don’t want to do any activity at all, simply enjoyingthe stunning views fromthe toweris definitely worth your time.
What to Eat and Drink
Macao’s gastronomy is distinctive owing to its history. You may start the day with Cantonese food and end it with Portuguese cuisine. The Macanese egg tart is the most famous dish in the area. They’re available everywhere, even at the airport, but you should try them at one of Lord Stow’s restaurants instead. Other notable dishes include African chicken (braised chicken in a thick peanut sauce), almond cookies, and serradura (a chilled dessert made from whipped cream and crushed cookies).
Where to Stay
You will determine where you stay in Macau based on your desired experience. The Cotai Strip, located on Taipa Island, is home to the Galaxy resort complex, Wynn Palace, Parisian, and the ultra-luxe Morpheus hotel at City of Dreams. If you want to see a lot of hotels or if you want to go gambling, visit Taipa and Cotai.
Historic Macau awaits you on the Macau Peninsula where you can find the iconic Macau Tower, A-Ma Temple, and Ruins of St. Paul’s. The peninsula is also home to the historic center of Macao, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. For a quieter experience close to nature, book a room on Coloane Island where you’ll be near the Panda Pavilion and able to explore Buddhist temples, an ecological garden., and more.
The quickest and most popular transportation is the new HZM Bridge; it connects Macao with Hong Kong. There are three distinct options for traveling to Macao: air, boat, and the brand-new HZM bridge. The airport is only minutes from the city center, and many hotels provide free shuttle service to ferry visitors from the airport to their accommodation. Most flights departing from North America or Europe will require a stopover in Taiwan or Hong Kong en route.
After you’ve arrived in Macao, the next step is going through customs. The process here is similar to airports or ferries. Many people who are traveling take the ferry which ride lasts anywhere from 45 minutes to 1 hour. If you’re coming in driving from Mainland China or Hong Kong, then you will arrive on the HZM bridge/tunnel island
Culture and Customs
Macao’s culture is more similar to Hong Kong than Mainland China because of their shared political history. The Portuguese influence can be seen in Macao through its food and buildings. Most street signs are in either traditional Chinese characters or Portuguese, so tourists should not have any trouble navigating the SAR. Tipping practices are also similar to those in Hong Kong–it is unnecessary but appreciated nonetheless by bellhops and other service workers.
Casinos are a big draw to Macau, yet if you go, be ready for a more serious atmosphere than what you’d encounter in Las Vegas. There is no alcohol served on the casino floor, and most gamblers are focused on one thing: their game.
- Macao has a number of free shuttles to major attractions and vacation destinations around the island. Even if you don’t have a room at one of these bigger hotels, it’s simple to catch the shuttle.
- Although it costs money to bungee jump from Macau Tower, the views can be enjoyed at no cost.
- While the fall is certainly a wonderful time to visit, visiting during Golden Week in October might result in more significant crowds and higher lodging rates.
- Many of Macao’s greatest eateries are rather pricey. Consider lunch at a restaurant instead of street food like pork chop buns, egg tarts, or jerky to save money.