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Macau also spelled Macao, is a small city connected to China at the southern part of Guangdong Province while Hong Kong is 60 kilometres (40 miles) to the east. With a population of 650,000 people in a small area of 30.5 km2 (11.8 mi2), Macau is a very densely populated city.
The city was a former Portuguese colony from the 16th century until December 20, 1999. It is evident that the city has many Portuguese influences in the forms of architecture, food, tradition and religion. Since the city is given back to China, Macau becomes a Special Administrative Region (SAR) of the People’s Republic of China (similar to Hong Kong).
While gambling tourism brings in a lot of visitors (and revenue), there are many tourist attractions in Macau. The well-preserved colonial architecture can be seen in the historical centre, which has been deemed a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Many international hotels are world-class establishments that are worth visiting. Furthermore, Macau’s designation as a “Creative Cities Network in the field of Gastronomy” by UNESCO, draws foodies everywhere to experience the delightful Macanese cuisine.
I’ve been to Macau many times throughout my childhood and also in the last few years since moving back to Hong Kong. From a small city with a lot of character to the ever-changing, growing city (literally because parts of Macau is built on reclaimed land), the city changed a lot over the years, but in a good way.
Why Macau is Great for a Solo Female Traveller
Macau has a unique feel to the city. All the street signs, menus and every printed word are in Portuguese. And some even have a translation to Chinese. This city is very different from everywhere else in Asia because of its Portuguese influence. It’s one of the best cities to visit as a solo traveller.
Visiting Macau is quite easy. Many international flights arrive at Macau International Airport and two ferry terminals serving visitors from Hong Kong and China. From Hong Kong, you can take the hydrofoil ferry, TurboJET or Cotai Water Jet, and arrive in Macau in about an hour.
Safety in Macau is not an issue for solo female travellers. It is a non-violent city, and the risk is quite low. But beware of pickpocketing in crowded spaces. Otherwise, It is very safe to walk alone during the day and at night. You will not look like you are travelling alone because there are tons of tourists around. All. The. Time.
To be honest, I’m not quite sure of the public transportation side of Macau. I’ve been taking advantage of the casino’s shuttle bus system. All the casinos provide a shuttle bus service between ferry terminals, airport, historical centre and back to their hotel. For example, I can start at MGM Cotai, take the shuttle to the historical centre, take the Wynn Hotel shuttle back to Wynn Hotel and walk across the street back to MGM Cotai. You can pretty much go anywhere with free casino shuttle buses. And they are all free!
Macau’s official currency is the Macanese Pataca (MOP). Many establishments will happily take your Hong Kong Dollars (HKD) because the exchange rate is better for HKD. However, when you pay for something in HKD cash, you will likely get change back in MOP. Most places will take credit cards but do have a bit of cash with you for some of the smaller restaurants.
The standard voltage is 220V. Power sockets are of type D, M, G and F. Check here and see if you need to bring a travel adapter for all your electronics.
Data & Wifi
SIM cards are available in Macau without registration. You can buy them at a self-service vending machine at the airport and both ferry terminals. Prepaid cards are also available. Wifi is available in all the casinos/hotels and some restaurants.
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What to do in Macau
Macau has two parts: the historic centre is located on the Macau Peninsula which is on the north side of the city and the southern part which consists of Taipa, Cotai and Coloane. The city is quite small, and it’s easy to see it over two days.
In the heart of the city, the historic district is known as “The Historic Centre of Macao” and it has over 20 ancient monuments and places that are worth visiting. Like A-Ma Temple, Moorish Barracks, St. Dominic’s Church and the crowd-loving Senado Square. If you keep following the crowd and the signs, it will lead you through a narrow busy street that sells all the souvenir shops. At the end of the road, you will see the Ruins of St. Paul’s at the top of the hill. You won’t miss this – follow the crowd and selfie-sticks. Ha!
At the base of Ruins of St. Paul’s, turn left and follow the cobblestone street, you will find Travessa da Paixao, also known as Lover’s Lane. The hilly street has brightly coloured buildings that are totally Instagram worthy! And stroll over to Rua de Felicidade, where it was once Macau’s red-light district, but it is now full of restaurants and little shops.
And if you are a daredevil, you can attempt the skywalk and walk around the periphery of The Macau Tower, or bungee jump from the 233m (764ft) high platform, which is Guinness World Record for the Highest Commercial Bungy Jump in the world.
The highlights of Taipa are concentrated in and around Taipa Village. The Taipa Flea Market has open-air market and performance on the weekends, and authentic Macanese food can be found in Taipa Village as well (see the list of restaurants below). And while you are in Taipa, learn about the Macanese heritage at Taipa Houses Museum and stroll through Flower City Park.
Hotels and Casinos
Macau has a lot of hotels! Visiting some of the hotels is an exciting event in itself. Grand Lisboa Hotel has been around for as long as I remember and is one of the original hotels in Macau.
While you are touring Wynn Macau, make sure you check out light, music and fountain show at the Performance Lake. The incredible display of water and lights performance occurs every 15-minute intervals throughout the day.
If you like live performances, there is an excellent show called The House of Dancing Water at City of Dreams. And concert-goers can see their favourite musician or band at the concert hall in The Venetian Macau Resort Hotel as many international singers and perform there.
And if gambling is your thing, are you in luck! Gambling is legal in Macau, and each hotel has its own casino. Try your luck at a slot machine or a baccarat table. After all, Macau is the gambling capital of the world.
Want to see a show or join a tour in Macau? Check out some of these options:
What to Eat in Macau
Macanese cuisine is the fusion between Portuguese food and Chinese cooking techniques. The people of Macau try to replicate European cuisine with local spices and ingredients, and the result is simply delicious.
Typical Macanese Food
When you are in Macau, you have to try all of these:
- Pork Chop Bun – fried whole pork chop sandwiched in a fresh baguette bun
- Bacalhau – salted cod, either grilled or in a croquette
- Caldo Verde – Portuguese kale and potato soup
- Clams – clams in garlic, olive oil and coriander
- Grilled fish – many types of fish to choose from. Like codfish, seabass, and sardines
- African Chicken – unique to Macanese cuisine, this is a hybrid of Portuguese and Cantonese cooking and with the influence of European, Indian and African flavours
- Portuguese Egg Tarts – similar to a Chinese egg tart but the Portuguese egg tart has a slightly burnt top
- Pork Jerky – large sheets of pork jerky are favourite amongst tourists
- Serradura – a traditional dessert where crushed tea biscuit is layered in between whipped cream and condensed milk
- Almond Cookies – great as souvenirs. Choi Heong Yuen is one of the best shops that sells almond cookies and other Macanese specialties like egg tarts, pork jerky, etc.
- Beef Offals in Curry – local Macanese snacks include fish balls, beef offals braised in curry broth
- Street food skewers – another typical Macanese snack where fish balls, tofu, pork blood cubes are skewered and cooked in a tasty broth
Where to Eat in Macau
I’ve tried all of these places and have nothing bad to say about any of them. I just want to go back for more!
A Petisqueira – 15 R. de São Joao, Taipa; I’ve been to this restaurant a few times, and everything I tried was excellent. But make sure you book a reservation in advance, you can almost never get a table if you walk in. The early reservation starts at 6:30. I love the fried clams, codfish cakes, sardines, seafood rice, and grilled seabass
Portugália – 5 Rua dos Mercadores, Taipa; a cozy little restaurant in Taipa Village. Try their clams “à bulhão pato” and shrimps “à là guilho”
Albergue 1601 – 8 Calçada da Igreja de São Lázaro; the restaurant is in a beautiful heritage building. Everything on the menu is delightful!
勝利茶餐室 – No, 94 Rua dos Mercadores; a small local restaurant that serves great pork chop on a bun. Don’t let the line-up scare you away; it moves quickly!
Tai Lei Loi Kei – No. 35, Rua Correia da Silva; there are many locations around the city. They even have the pork chop with pineapple bun; regular one has a toasted bun
Margaret’s Cafe e Nata – 17B, Goldlion building, Rua do Comandante Mata e Oliveira; if you can only eat one Portuguese egg tart, you have to come here. But I cannot see why you would only want one! Ha! But beware of the line-up. And you have to purchase your egg tarts first before you line-up.
Lord Stow’s Bakery – many locations; if the line-up at Margaret’s Cafe e Nata is too intimidating, try the Portuguese egg tart here. To me, it’s just as delicious!
Fong Da Coffee 蜂大咖啡 – No. 15 Largo Maia de Magalhães, Taipa; a little shop famous for their iced coffee. The shop has been around since the 50’s,
Where to Stay in Macau
MGM Macau is pretty impressive. The rooms are modern and have the most beautiful bathroom where they have a huge soaker tub and separate shower. The entire place feels luxurious and comfortable. The hotel is located on the peninsula side where you can easily walk to the historical centre. And if you are lucky, your room will face the harbour looking towards Taipa.
The newer MGM Cotai is a brand new luxury hotel with all the glitz and glamour. The lobby glitters and shimmers – they put a lot of thought into the design of the hotel. The rooms are just as lovely as the other MGM hotel. No expense was spared on designing and building this $3.4 billion dollar hotel.
Experiencing a five-star hotel comes with a steep price tag. A room at MGM costs about $200USD. Not super expensive but it is not your day-to-day accommodation (unless you won the lottery, but even still). I only take advantage of complimentary stays whenever it is available. (Psst. Insider tip: if you gamble a lot in the same casino and earn enough points, you too can enjoy the complimentary hotel stay. But I am not condoning or encouraging gambling. I don’t even gamble myself. Ha!)
If you don’t have deep pockets or it just simply hurts to spend that much money on one night of the hotel, there are other more affordable hotel accommodations on Agoda for about $30USD and up. Or get a private room or entire apartment from Airbnb for about $50USD and up. Don’t forget to claim your $35 Airbnb discount here.
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whenever i am in hong kong, i always try to make my way to macau. not because i want to gamble (i actually don't have the gambling gene 😅 haha) but i want to see the all cultural sites, pretty colonial houses…and to eat macanese food! 😁 the solo guide for macau is online! link is in bio
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