Clicky

badge

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

20 useful FAQs to help your Macau visit Planning!

This post answers a set of FAQs that can help in your Macau trip planning.

Q1: What is Macau’s local currency? How much is it in INR? Where to convert?
Macau’s local currency is known as MOP or Macau dollars. 1 MOP is approx. 9 INR. Forex dealers in Chennai didn’t have MOP stock. They advised me to take USD or HKD (Hong Kong Dollar) and convert in Macau.

At Macau airport, I got 380 MOP for 50 USD. Later in the day, I went to a bank in Macau, where I could get 394 MOP for 50 USD. Thus you can save if you convert only a small amount in airport, convert the rest inside the city.

Most shops in Macau readily accept HKD, because HKD has slightly higher value. (You will get 514 MOP for 500 HKD) Shops will accept it at 1:1)
Q2: How expensive/cheap is Macau to visit?
Macau is reasonable. Below are some sample costs. In my opinion cost of spending a few days in Macau will be similar to what you would spend in Thailand or Malaysia
•    An half a litre water bottle- 4 to 5 MOP
•    An apple (one piece)- 4 to 6 MOP
•    A plate of vegetable biriyani in a decent restaurant- 60 MOP
•    One night stay cost in a decent hotel: 300 MOP
•    Taxi for 3 kms- 30 to 40 MOP
•    Bus fare from Airport to city- 4 to 5 MOP per person
•    Entry fee for attractions- free in most cases, Macau tower 135 MOP per person onwards
•    Ferry to Hong Kong- 160 to 180 MOP per person depending on weekday/weekend, operator/ferry point etc

For 2 people, for 4 days, factor a stay+food+travel expense of about INR 25000-30000
(4 night stay in budget hotel at about 12000 INR + Daily meals and breakfast MOP 200-300 per person per day *4 = INR 8000-12000, local transport and misc- INR 6000
Of course flight extra, casino spend and Macau tower/adventure expenses extra. Of course depending on luxury of the hotel or duration of stay these can vary.

Our 9 day Macau-Hong Kong trip costed us about 1.3 lakh rupees INR, including 24k spent on cruise, 15k on Macau tower skywalk and 10k on HK Disneyland entry fee. Of the 80k balance, 40k was on flight, rest on hotel, food and other miscellaneous expense.

Q3: How many days is required to explore Macau fully?
3 to 4 days are adequate in my opinion.  2 days for northern island, another day or two for Taipa and surrounding areas. Just one day visit from Hong Kong will be too little. Minimum 2 days recommended.

Q4: What are the key attractions in Macau? Why should we visit Macau?
Majority of tourists visit Macau purely because of its casinos, hoping to win something big. Casino is the primary attraction and driving factor. But obviously, Casinos are not charity houses and ensure that they always make more money. Your probability of returning home richer is near zero, so I have always avoided Casinos even though I had chance and exposure in Singapore, Copenhagen and many other places. If you have decided to lose a small amount and experience may be it is fine, but if you fall into the temptation of recovering lost money by playing even more, (a temptation that can grow stronger because of the ambiance, good looking girls around, ATM machine in the corner and some wild belief that luck is on your side) then be assured you are doomed. Leave your cards behind while visiting Casinos.

Read this and this to understand why Casinos always make money at the expense of visitors.

Casino is primary revenue source for Macau but revenue from Casino is apparently on the decline- read this post for more details.

Besides casino, other attractions in Macau are: Giant Panda Pavilion, Macau Tower, Guia fort, Ruin of St Pauls, Senado Square, China Border, Grand Prix Museum, Kum Iam temple etc. Good to explore but not so sure if you should travel all the way just for these. Most people club Macau with Hong Kong, which makes more economical sense.

Q5: Is Macau well connected to India? How to reach?

Compared to nearby Hong Kong, Macau is NOT very well connected to India. AirAsia has one or two daily flights here and can connect Indian cities via DMK (Thailand). I didn’t notice any other big carrier providing connectivity.

Most visitors fly to Hong Kong, which has direct flight from many Indian cities (Cathey, Jet, Air India etc) and then take ferry to Macau- this works out well if you plan to cover Hong Kong also in same trip.
Q6: Do we get good Indian food in Macau?
Yes. Read more details here

Q7: Is it possible to manage with English in Macau?
Yes. Macau was a Portuguese colony and there is heavy Portuguese influence there, besides Chinese/Mandarin language because of bordering China. However most people (in supermarkets, hotels etc) are able to converse in English so we didn’t face any language problem

Q8: Is Macau a shopping destination?
No. At least I didn't feel so. All resorts have brands shops and malls but nothing that isn't available elsewhere.

Q9: Are the beaches good?
No. The water was muddy- may be because heavy reclamation effort going on. So beaches do not appear to be USP of Macau

Q10: How is weather
Tropical- similar to Singapore and Thailand

Q11: Are public transportation good or do we need to spend on taxi?
•    Public transportation is good. You can use google maps to identify bus number and stop. Worked very well for us. Amount to be paid is displayed near the driver and you need to drop the cash in a box. No change will be returned and no ticket is given. Max ticket fare seem to be 4.6 MOP. Frequency is good, buses are air conditioned and well maintained
•    Many resorts provide free shuttle which you can use- but these shuttles will have only specific pickup/drop points
•    Taxis are easy to find, 17 MOP is minimum fare for 1.7 KM. Approx 10-12 MOP per km.
•    Most attractions in Macau can be covered on foot as they are hardly a Km apart.
•    There are no metro trains in Macau yet, but seems to be under construction

Q12: What is the best season to visit Macau
We are told September to Feb

Q13: What about visa?
Visa is free and on arrival. You will get to stay for a month. Process was easy and smooth. If you are entering via Hong Kong then you will have to clear Hong Kong immigration also- which is also free but you may wish to read this first.

Q14: Which sim card is best in Macau? Are Wi-Fi good?
We managed without any local sim card. Downloaded Google offline maps and my airtel prepaid would provide real time location, so I could navigate around. Hotels, airports, some buses and many attractions offer free WiFi, so we could manage with these.
Q15: Is tap water potable in Macau, as in Singapore?
No. Didn’t see many water dispensers either. You will have to buy drinking water

Q16: Is Macau really a country?
No. It was a Portuguese colony and now designated as “Special Administrative Region”. Doesn’t look like it has its own parliament, prime minister, military etc. But then, you clear immigration when you visit Macau and that is almost as good as visiting another country. So for practical purposes, I think we can consider it as a country.

Q17: How much did your flight ticket to Macau cost?
My Air Asia return ticket costed me around INR 19000 approx, including 20kg baggage for one of the passengers. But it was booked 9 months ago in a sale. If you get it for Rs 15000-20000 from your nearest Indian city (Round trip) then it is killer deal. Full service airlines can cost twice as much. Flying to Hong Kong will also be a bit expensive.

Q18: Is Macao popular for food?
Not very sure. There are many speciality restaurants and resorts like Venetian and Galaxy Macau have restaurants of all types. So great food is available but do your research on this, as my exposure/expertise in this is limited

Q19: Is Macau good place for cycling?

Don’t think so. Didn’t see any dedicated cycle lanes. Neither I saw people using cycles extensively, nor there were many shops renting cycles or dedicated parking spots for cycles.  So I guess people prefer motored biked and cars when they are not walking or using public transport.

Q20: What else we should keep in mind?
  • There is a grand prix event planned for Macau in November 2016
  • Most budget Hotels in Macau do not offer breakfast complementary
  • Macao is densely populated, but roads were clean and relatively congestion free
Hope this helps. Have a nice trip.

Scenic views of Macau from top of Macao tower

Macau tower is one of the highest points in Macau to take a look of the special administrative region. I have written about the adventure activity that I tried in an earlier post. In this post, I present to you the views of Macau city, clicked during the evening and night, from the top of Macau tower (Level 56 observation deck)

Inside the tower: Reflections

Above- view through the glass panel flooring- clarity is poor because glass was dirty on the other side
Below: Bungee jump in action


Above: heavy reclamation and construction activities are going on in Macau- sea is pushed back to recover more land and build more casinos and apartments.

Below: View of Macau Tower entrance area

Views of Macau city from Macau tower
You can also see China from Macao tower- details in this post.

Now comes the best part- night views of various bridges and flyovers around the Macao tower




 How to put some light on top of Macau tower?


We spent about half a day on top of Macau tower- reached at about 4PM and stayed till 8 PM, so that we could get both day time and night time views. Single entry and Two entry tickets are available (Single Entry- 135 MOP, dual entry for 170+ MOP). Ours was Skywalk Adventure ticket which included tower entry.

Similar posts: Views from Telstra tower, Canberra * Copenhagen Zoo tower- view from top * Gediminas tower, Vilnius * Shot tower in Melboure Central * Berlin TV Tower * KL Tower * Victory Column tower, Berlin

Monday, July 18, 2016

City Buses around the world-my observations

This is post Number 2000 on my blog.

In each city/country I visit, I try to make the most of public transportation. Public transportation saves lots of money compared to taxi, gives us close experience of local life and usually doesn’t lose big on travel time. In this post, I am giving a view of how public transportation is, in various countries that I had been to. The idea is to identify best practices followed world-wide and understand how things work elsewhere. Public transportation usually involves a network of metros, buses, water taxis, trams etc. I am focusing only on buses in this post.
Tram buses in Lithuania
Generic observations about buses around the world
-    Only in developing countries like India and Srilanka we can find Non-AC buses and a dedicated staff (Conductor) to issue tickets. Most modern countries have automated payments through smartcards and very few countries allow cash payment to the driver
-    Looks like only in India we have reserved seat for women. All other countries I have been to, only have priority seating for senior citizen/pregnant women or handicapped persons.
-    Many countries that allow cash payment to driver do not refund change. So passengers need to either give exact change or forgo the balance. This may seem unfair, but makes life simple for everyone- passengers can opt for smart card and swipe in and swipe out, or board with exact change. No time is lost while driver tries to give refund and no hold up of passengers behind.
-    From what I have experienced, Sweden has the most inconvenient bus system for tourists- tickets can only be bought only from few select outlets (local residents have smart cards) and not on bus or in kiosks
-    Denmark and few European countries have a zone system- ticket price depends on how many zones you wish to cross. Have written in detail about this in an earlier post here
-    Almost in all countries buses have a red button on the pillars- if you need driver to stop the bus, you press that button. Otherwise driver may keep moving if there’s no one boarding at the stop.
-    Most advanced countries have an integrated transport system-one daily pass/access card is valid on all modes of transport (bus, metro, water taxi, tram etc) and an integrated app that tells you how to reach your destination using different modes. This makes it very convenient for visitors. India has a long way to go in this aspect.
-    Most countries have a streamlined flow of passengers- you board the bus through front door- show your pass or tap your card or pay for the ticket and move inside and at your designated stop, get out through middle door.
-    Countries that have tap on and tap off are tricky. If you forget to tap off (or machine doesn’t recognize the tap) you will lose lots of money, if you forget to tap in, you might be fined
-    While most countries have a fixed amount daily pass, Australia has a better system. In Sydney, after you have paid say 15 AUD on a given day, rest of the rides are free. This works best when you are not sure if you will be fully utilizing daily pass value (in fixed price model, if you take just one or two rides, you fail to make use of full value of the daily pass)
-    Sweden and few other countries are actively using buses fueled by Bio Diesel.
-    I find advertising on the bus is used to the max in Singapore (Refer image below)
-    Former Union Minister Ambumani Ramadoss said public transportation is free in Estonia’s capital
Creative Ads on a bus in Singapore
Ticket Related matters

Country
Pay on board?
Tickets Issued on board?
Conductor Available?
Refund Given?
Cost of per km transport
Australia
No
No
No
NA
Reasonable
Chile
Yes
Yes
No
Yes
Low
Denmark
No
No
No
NA
Can’t predict
Finland
Yes
Yes
No
Yes
Low
Germany
?
?
No
?
?
India
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes
Low
Lithuania
Yes
Yes
No
Yes
Low
Macau
Yes
No
No
No
Low
Malaysia
Yes
No
No
No
Low
Norway
?
?
No
?
High
Singapore
?
?
No
?
Reasonable
Srilanka
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes
Low
Sweden
No
No
No
No
High
Switzerland
?
?
No
?
High

? = I am not sure. Either I am unable to recall this aspect or didn’t get to try it. If you have information on these please share, I will update.
In most cities I bought daily passes, so didn’t have to pay on board or buy individual journey tickets
Technology and convenience

Country
Smart Card?
Smart Card works across other modes?
Daily Pass? *3
Daily Pass valid across other modes?
Apps Available?
Australia
Yes *1 (Mandatory)
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes
Chile
?
?
?
?
?
Denmark
Yes *2
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes
Finland
?
?
Yes
Yes
?
Germany
?
?
Yes
Yes
?
India
No
NA
Yes
No
No
Lithuania
No
NA
?
?
?
Macau
Yes
NA
?
NA
No
Malaysia
?
?
?
?
?
Norway
?
?
Yes
?
?
Singapore
Yes
?
Yes
Yes
Yes
Srilanka
No
NA
?
?
?
Sweden
Yes
?
?
?
?
Switzerland
?
?
Yes*4
Yes
Yes
*1: Looks like each Australian city has different card for buses-Melbourne has MyKi, Canberra has MyWay, Sydney has another etc
*2: Smart card in Denmark is issued for permanent residents only. Tourists can buy daily/3day/monthly passes
*3: Few countries like Finland issue passes that are valid for 24/48 hours from first use or time of issue, while other countries for a calendar day (less beneficial). You should be careful not to buy a daily pass at 10PM if it is valid only till midnight.
*4: Switzerland has a 3 day pass valid across all modes, not one day pass.

Facilities

Country
Ladies Seat Reservation?
Dedicated Entry & Exit
AC/Non AC?
Age of buses
Wheelchair / Baby cart friendly?
Australia
No
Yes
AC
New
Yes
Chile
No
?
?
Old
No
Denmark
No
Yes
AC
New
Yes
Finland
No
Yes
AC
New
Yes
Germany
No
Yes
AC
New
Yes
India
Yes
No
Both
Mixed
No
Lithuania
No
Yes
AC
Old
No
Macau
No
Yes
AC
Mixed
Yes
Malaysia
No
Yes
AC
New
Yes
Norway
No
Yes
AC
New
Yes
Singapore
No
Yes
AC
New
Yes
Srilanka
?
No
Both
Old
No
Sweden
No
Yes
AC
New
Yes
Switzerland
No
Yes
AC
New
Yes
Lithuania has what is known as Bus Trams- they have regular bus tyres but are powered by an overhead power line.(first photo in this post)

Additional Facilities

Country
ETA display at bus stand?
AC Bus stand?
Dedicated bus lanes?
Bus to airport?
Kiosks to buy tickets?
Australia
?
No
No
Yes
Yes
Chile
?
No
No
?
?
Denmark
Yes
No
No
Yes
Yes
Finland
?
No
No
Yes
Yes
Germany
Yes
No
No
?
Yes
India
No
No*6
No
Yes
No
Lithuania
No
No
No
Yes
No
Macau
No
No
No
Yes
No
Malaysia
No
No
No
Yes
No
Norway
Yes
No
No
Yes
Yes
Singapore
No
No
No
Yes
No
Srilanka
No
No
No
?
No
Sweden
?
No
No
?
No
Switzerland
?
No
No
?
Yes
*6: Some Indian cities had one or two AC bus stands which were more a publicity stunt than standard solution. Also in India buses are operated by each state, hence rules, facilities etc can differ from state to state.
A red bus in Srilanka
I didn’t have the need/opportunity to try buses in following countries.
     Hong Kong, Thailand, USA, Belgium, Netherlands
Have used metro in most of above cities but not buses. I find Metro systems are relatively easier to understand than bus network


How is the bus service in your country? Or the countries you have been to? Anything out of ordinary or anything interesting you would like to share? Please comment.

Indian Bloggers Disclaimer: All information as experienced by this blogger during his visit to respective countries. Technology, process and rules change over time and it is possible that some of the pointers have have changed. Use your discretion.

Similar: Kochi airport to city- buses and other budget options * Smart folding seats in Srilanka buses * Lockers in Canberra bus terminal * Copenhagen to Berlin by bus * Melbourne to Sydney- Bus vs flight- which is better? *