Visiting Macau as a Day Trip From Hong Kong
Macau is a unique treasure in Asia that you may have never heard of, but should definitely visit at least once in your life.
It's like a European piece of Asia, mixed with Portugal, a little bit of Las Vegas, and...egg tarts.
Oh, the egg tarts. So delicious. :)
I'm also pretty sure this is the only place in the world where you'll find signs written in both Chinese and Portuguese. It's pretty trippy at first glance, haha.
With ferries leaving about every half hour from Hong Kong, and the ferry ride only one hour each way, it's a quick & easy day trip.
I honestly wasn't even considering going to Macau during my long weekend in Hong Kong because I'm not really into casinos or gambling, until I came across a blog post about Macau decided I was IN!
European-inspired architecture in Asia and a chance to see a new, unique country intrigued me.
That's why on my recent Asia trip I walked over to the China Ferry Terminal and bought my ferry ticket to Macau. And I'm so glad I did!
Why is there Portuguese influence in this tiny Chinese region/Asian country? Macau used to be a Portuguese colony up until 1999, when they transferred sovereignty back to China.
Like Hong Kong, Macau is an SAR (Special Administrative Region) of China. If this confuses you just as much as it did me, it operates as "one party, two systems". Basically, this means that both Macau and Hong Kong have their own economic and political structures separate from China.
The big debate is always if Macau is its own country or part of China. Personally, I would consider Macau & Hong Kong to be countries because you need your passports to travel through, and they each have their own government, currency, laws, etc.
OLD TOWN MACAU
Since I was doing a half-day trip, I boarded the bus and got off in the old town. I'm not into gambling, and while it would've been cool to see the hotels and casinos, the old town Portuguese architecture is what intrigued me the most.
What surprised me was that I was one of only a few westerners there. With it being a Sunday and an easy day trip from Hong Kong, I thought I'd see more travelers from around the world!
I really enjoyed walking around Old Town Macau. Here are the few things I saw and would recommend you do too:
SENADO SQUARE (Largo do Senado)
This is one of the main photos you'll see when you look up Macau, and it's easy to see why. It's gorgeous!! This square is beautiful. It was filled with people when I went, which isn't ideal, but you can expect that as a tourist area. Looking on the bright side, it was easy to find someone to ask to take a photo! (Solo traveler win!)
RUINS OF ST. PAUL'S CATHEDRAL
The ruins of St. Paul's Cathedral transported me back to Europe. It's cool to see the architecture and wander around the ruins. You can also go down to the Crypt and see some ancient Christian artifacts - again, just like Europe - I kept having to remind myself that I was in Asia!
MOUNT FORTRESS CORRIDOR (Fortaleza do Monte)
This ancient fortress is so cool. I was over at the cathedral and wandered over to the area to check it out, not having done any research about things to do before visiting Macau. I saw some people going up the stairs so I followed them and am so glad I did. I didn't realize you could see old cannons and also - my favorite - a high viewpoint of the city! I love viewpoints, whether it's an observation deck, the top of a mountain, or even a fortress. The Museum of Macau is also right over here if you have time to walk through.
KOI KEI BAKERY
You'll find Koi Kei bakeries all over Macau. I liked this bakery because they have free samples for all their cookies and treats, and plenty of fun gift box options to bring home! This is also where I got an egg tart for $10 HKD. (You can pay in Hong Kong Dollars or the Macanese Pataca. Either were accepted everywhere I went so I just used HKD, but know that you can't use Pataca in Hong Kong.)
Other points of interest:
LOGISTICS: HOW TO GET TO MACAU FROM HONG KONG
- It costs $42.50 USD for a round trip ferry ticket with TurboJet. You can pay at the terminal with cash or credit card.
- The Ferry in Hong Kong leaves at the China Ferry Terminal in Kowloon (or the Hong Kong Macau Ferry Terminal on Hong Kong Island, near the IFC Towers).
- You need to fill out a departure card and have your passport ready to go through Customs before boarding the ferry.
- Upon arrival, you can take free shuttles from the ferry drop-off into the city center.
TIPS AND ADVICE:
Budget enough time to get to the terminal, buy your ticket, and board the ferry.
I thought after buying a ticket with eight minutes to spare I could casually go grab an iced coffee and stroll on over, and completely forgot that there may a line for customs. Ha! The line was short at least...but I was still running to my gate!
HERE'S WHAT YOU NEED TO DO TO CATCH THE FERRY (FROM KOWLOON):
- Go to the correct floor at the terminal. At the Kowloon terminal, it is on the first floor (when you enter the doors from outside you'll come in on the general G floor). The departures area is on Floor 1.
- Buy your ticket in the Ticketing area. This is really quick if there isn't a line. I went on a Sunday afternoon and didn't have wait in line. There are a bunch of red TurboJet signs and staff around if you need help with anything.
- Go through Customs. Have your departure card filled out and passport ready.
- Walk through the boarding area and get on the ferry! Mine left from Gate 12, which is a few minute's walk from the Customs area.
- The TurboJet seats are comfy, like an airplane seat. The ferry is enclosed so you don't need to worry about wind or rain.
upon arrival: FERRY TERMINAL TO THE CITY
There are a few options you can do once you arrive in Macau:
- Take a free shuttle to Cotai, the hotel/casino strip (if you want to walk from the strip into the city center later it is supposedly a 20-minute walk)
- Take the 3A bus from the terminal to one of many bus stops for $3.20 HKD each way (about $0.50 USD) - this is what I did
- Take a taxi
- On the way back, the evening ferries were full. I was planning to leave with the 6:35pm ferry, but when I went to the counter to exchange my round trip voucher for the ticket, the guy said they were sold out and then next available economy class opening wasn't until 10:35pm. My only way to go was to upgrade to a Superclass seat for $21 USD...weighing my options, paying an extra $21 to get back to HK was worth it as I didn't feel like waiting at the Macau terminal for hours, nor would I want to take the bus back into the city again. Note the ferry departure times and how "flexible" your ticket really is!
Would I recommend visiting Macau?
Absolutely! I think a full day trip would be better than a half-day as even with several hours of walking around, there was still a little more I wanted to see.
If you're into Las Vegas-style hotels and gambling, then definitely plan a couple of days so you can do more than scratch the surface!