Well I guess I don’t know that I really have a ton of ‘tricks’ for Macau, but I figured since Kevin does a great job with his posts and videos, maybe I could try writing about some travel tips. Let’s see:
Most people come to Macau from Hong Kong or mainland China by ferry. I hear it’s easy and I think if you’re flying into Hong Kong you can get on the ferry from inside the airport without evening having to go through immigration into Hong Kong. However, Air Asia has a direct flight to Macau which was cheap and easy from Kuala Lumpur. While we were in the airport, I saw flights for Bangkok, and a few mainland China spots as well.
FYI, for Americans, and I’m sure many other countries, unlike mainland China, Hong Kong and Macau are special areas, so you don’t need to apply for a visa in advance. But also because of this, you don’t get a cool stamp in your passport, you just get a little slip of paper you have to keep. But it’s free, so that’s better I guess.
Most people come to Macau for either a day trip from Hong Kong, or for the weekend to gamble. I think it’s worth a weekend trip. Two full days was perfect for us, and I highly recommend it, it gives enough time to see the sights and lose a bit of money in the casinos too.
Where to Stay
So I had a hard time finding a decently priced place for us to stay. All the hotels seemed really expensive. I couldn’t seem to find many budget options, they all seemed to be casino hotels. I also had trouble deciding whether to stay on Cotai (where most of the big casinos are) or on Macau island (where most of the historical stuff is). Most things I read suggested Macau was the better place if you wanted to sightsee, but on the other hand if we were out late at the casinos we wanted to walk back to our hotel easily. In the end we were extremely happy with our stay at:
The older precursor to the Grand Lisboa (that crazy shaped gold flower looking building you’ve probably seen somewhere before), our hotel was older, but nevertheless lovely. It was huge, quaint, fancy, and felt a little vintage-y. It was located on the southern part of Macau island. It was one of the cheapest options at just over US$100 a night (like I said, nothing was cheap), but it was easily worth the money. We were so impressed we even did a room tour video, which you can check out here: Macau Hotel.
But if you’re planning a Macau trip let me summarize:
-Northern part of Macau island: Didn’t make it that far up, but not a ton of hotels there.
-Southern part of Macau island/eastern side along the water from the pier: The casinos here are older, as they were built before the Cotai area started being developed. They are located in a compact area, mostly along the waterfront or lake front, and are mostly walking distance to many of the historical sights.
-Taipa: The northern part of the Southern island, but mostly locals, not many, if any hotels, but good food.
-Cotai: All the newer casinos are here: Galaxy’s complex, the Venetian, City of Dreams, etc. However, if you’re expecting the Vegas strip at night, you’ll be disappointed. It’s glitz and glamour but it’s not over the top.
-Coloane: The quiet, southern most part of Macau. It’s quaint, but there’s not much down here in terms of places to stay. There’s one beach side resort that’s rather pricey, but highly rated if you can afford it.
What To Eat
Of course the most important thing to figure out when you travel, what to eat. I did most of the research on must-try foods for Macau this time, though most of our suggestions came from an Anthony Bourdain episode. But for my two cents, you gotta try:
- The egg tarts, duh. This is like the number one thing people will tell you to eat in Macau. And the place to get them is Lord Stow’s. There are a number of outlets, though the original shop is all the way south in Cologne. Delicious, creamy, fantastic, and like HK$9 per tart.’
- The steamed milk pudding. This was hands-down my favorite thing we had. The place to get it is Yee Shun Milk Company. You can have it hot or cold, regular or with red beans or ginger. We had the classic, cold. So, so, so good. I think around HK$30
- Pork Bun. The place everyone says to go is Tai Lei Loi Kei, though we had these and another, much cheaper one, somewhere else. Personally, though both were great, I couldn’t tell what was so special about the one at Tai Lei Loi Kei, and it was HK$48, where the other one was HK$28.
- African Chicken and Minchi: These are supposedly must-try foods when here, but we didn’t find the time to try them.
- Portuguese food. Kevin and I took the bus down to Fernandos in Cologne. It was lovely. It’s right on the beach, an open air, simple place with good food. We had the chorizo and suckling pig. Personally, I have to say the chorizo was fantastic, and the suckling pig was good. They also had lots of delicious olives and great bread…mmmm! I think our meal over all was about HK$350, as we had Sangria as well. However, there are tons of great Portuguese restaurants all around Macau.
- Serradura or Sawdust pudding. A creamy pudding with layers of crushed biscuits. It was good, though I think the place we got it from was just okay.
So Tai Lei Loi Kei, Lord Stow’s, the well known bakery that makes the almond cookies (Koi Kei), a number of places for Serradura pudding, as well as many other well known Macau foods, are all available along this little food alley in Taipa. The street is called: Rua do Cunha.
Macau is small. It’s what I find so charming about it. Most of the touring we did around Macau island we did by walking, which in part was thanks to the great location of our hotel. The Macau tourism board created a fantastic app called Step Out, Macao. It has a number of great little walking tours with information about each spot. It also shows where all the free public wifi spots are, and which buses to take to which location. Thumbs up emoji for Macau tourism board for sure.
Another option is hotel shuttle buses. Most of the big casinos have buses that run from the ports to their hotel as well as between their various properties. Some of them have buses from the airport to the hotel, but these are less common as the ports are much more popular points of entry. Either way, you should check your hotel website to see if they have a shuttle, and what the timings are, as they don’t run 24 hours. We took the Wynn bus that was across the street from our hotel over to Cotai, even though we weren’t staying at the Wynn, no questions asked. However I have read that some hotels are more picky about taking their shuttle bus if you aren’t a guest or if you don’t have a receipt from their hotel/casino, so I guess save your receipts. However most of the time we took:
The Public Bus! It was so cheap and easy! We had a local SIM we picked up at an airport vending machine (HK$100) and google maps gave great directions for taking public transport. The buses we comfortable and gave the stops in English and Chinese, and there was a big hub bus stop just outside our hotel. The bus routes were between HK2.60-HK6 depending on where you were going. The ride down to Fernandos at Hac Sa Beach took about 30-40 minutes, but we got to see the whole southern island (Taipa, Cotai, and Cologne) including all the casinos along the Cotai strip, and great ocean views.
Taxis: We took a taxi to and from the airport. It was reasonably priced, the drivers were nice and spoke English, and they were extremely easy to find. They are metered, so no need to haggle or set a price before getting in. But of course, compared to the bus, much more expensive.
Next time….Tips on What to Do!