Macau is also an autonomous region, just like Hong Kong, and was a Portuguese territory until 1999. Even if we were there for just a day trip, the strong influences could be seen in the architecture and the Portuguese language present everywhere. Last time I went to Hong Kong, I did not have time nor money for such a day trip, as I was a student on a very tight budget. But now, several years later, I jumped at the opportunity, and I can say that this can be a budget day trip, if planned ahead of time and accordingly.
Keep reading to see my tips and tricks on how to best manage your trip to Macau!
How to get to Macau
The easiest and budget-friendly way to get from Hong Kong to Macau is by ferry. Even if there is one leaving every 15 minutes, you cannot compare a ferry between two territories to the ferry from Hong Kong Island to Kowloon. If you want to be smart about this and maximise the time spent in Macau you should either (1) show up at the Hong Kong ferry terminal very early in the morning or (2) reserve your ticket ahead of time.
We showed up at the ferry terminal rather relaxed and thinking that the ferry leaves every 15 minutes, so we can always catch one – right? Not really. While the ferries do leave every 15 minutes, you will end up waiting much longer to catch one, especially if you aim for economy class. The economy class fills up very fast, so you might end up queuing, then waiting 30-45 minutes.
As this ferry is between two territories, you also have to think of passport control, so that can take extra time.
The cheapest ticket for one way is around 20E, and it gets more expensive on weekends and at night, and almost doubles if you are in first class or VIP class. If you are short on time and want to save every minute, then there will always be seats in the superior classes. Plus, you will get snacks and drinks included, as well as priority disembarkation. We ended up trying both classes – economy to go, and first class to come back (because otherwise we would have ended up back in Hong Kong too late).
What to see in Macau
If you are on a day trip, then you are going to check out the super famous sights in Macau. Here’s the order of sights that we did mostly on foot, starting from the Macau ferry terminal until A-Ma temple, and then taking bus to Cotai strip.
Kun Iam Temple
The Kun Iam Temple is considered to be the oldest temple in Macau, founded in the 13th century, though the current buildings of the temple were built in 1627. We were pleasantly surprised to find a peaceful and not full temple, especially during Chinese New Year. A true oasis in the middle of the urban jungle of Macau.
It was quite a walk from the pier to the Kun Iam temple, then to find the Ruins of St Paul (mostly because Google maps was messing with me), but there are plenty of indications everywhere, and followed the mass of tourists.
After a while, we found the Love Lane, a beautiful paste-coloured lane, at the end of which you will see the glorious Ruins of St Paul. The Love Lane is the perfect place for your colourful Instagram shots!
Ruins of St. Paul
Keep going up the Love Lane, then up the stairs and marvel at the Ruins of St Paul, the ruins of a 17th century complex which included St Paul’s College and the church of St Paul. From up there, you can get a nice view of Macau, and its mix of old and new buildings. I’m not sure if it is always this full, but there were a LOT of people on the stairs from the ruins, all the way down. So taking a photo of yourself alone is truly impossible.
Senado Square is a public square part of the UNESCO Historic Centre of Macau World Heritage Site. It has very beautiful architecture and you can do lots of shopping around. A truly Instagrammable place, but with CNY happening, it was super packed.
The walking culminated with the A-Ma temple, dedicated to the Chinese sea-goddess Mazu. Built in 1488, it’s one of the oldest temples of Macau. If you want to make visiting this temple a priority, make sure to visit it early. When we arrived there in the late afternoon, we were not allowed to go up the stairs and explore. Nevertheless, it’s a very beautiful temple, and the square around it can give you great views of Macau.
With Macau being known as “Las Vegas of Asia”, then you have to check out the Cotai Strip. I am a sucker for lit up buildings at night, so if you are too, then you have to check this place out. If you are not into casinos, at least you can check it out to see how it is. We went only in the Venetian, which is a replica of the one in Las Vegas. Having been to actual Venice in Italy, the recreation of the canals, with the fake sky and gondolas felt rather weird.
The Cotai Strip was the end of our trip, so if you are the same and have some cash to spend, this is where you can get some souvenirs or play some slots, to get rid of your Macanese pataca (even though some places accept Hong Kong dollars)
Getting back to Hong Kong
You can get back to Hong Kong by ferry – there is one terminal closer to Cotai strip (Taipa ferry terminal), but there are fewer ferries, and the last one leaves rather early. So it’s best that you take the bus back to the Outer Harbour ferry.