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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.

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