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This is an update to the 'What You Need To Know' (2012) Macau Day Trip Thread that will hopefully assist those intending to make day trips from Hong Kong.
Are Day Trips from HK to Macau Advisable?
In the old days, a day trip to Macau was sufficient to see the best of the historic attractions and to have a nice meal. Then it was time to catch a ferry back to Hong Kong. Those days are a thing of the past. With the emergence of gambling and tourism in Macau, there is quite a bit to do and see here now, much more than you can realistically cover in a single day.
This means that you need to do your research prior to making a day trip from Hong Kong to make sure you line up sightseeing and meals that are most interesting to you personally. Alternatively, if you find there is simply too much of interest in Macau or you don’t fancy the amount of travel time required to complete a day trip from Hong Kong, you might want to consider making an overnight or multiple night trip instead.
Below are some general tips for how to plan your Day Trip to Macau
Unfortunately there are not many guidebooks that cover modern Macau sufficiently. As such, TripAdvisor is probably the best source of information currently for planning your day trip to Macau. There are suggested day trip itineraries you on the TripAdvisor Macau forum as well as helpful day trip suggestions, walking tours and guided tour options that you can learn about directly on the Macau Government Tourist Office (MGTO) website.
You can also review the ‘Things to Do’ listings for Macau here at TripAdvisor, allowing you to learn about other attractions available that might not be mentioned suggested day trips and top attraction lists for Macau.
What Currency to Use in Macau (HKD vs. MOP)
You will be happy to know that HKD is widely accepted in Macau and is closely linked to the Macau Patacas (MOP) and is the currency used within casinos in Macau. As such, there is no need to exchange for MOP prior to your trip.
Note that when spending HKD in Macau, you will sometimes be given MOP in change. Do make sure to spend this while in Macau as it can’t be used once you leave.
Further note that you do pay a slight overage by using HKD as it is slightly more valuable than MOP. However, the difference would be lost in foreign exchange if you swapped HKD for MOP so in the end it is a wash. Just use HKD if you have it.
Travel Time between Hong Kong and Macau
You should allow for 5 hours of travel overhead for your day trip to Macau. This will include the time it takes for you to leave your hotel room in Hong Kong until when you arrive in the sightseeing area of Macau (2.5 hours). Once you are ready to return to Hong Kong, plan on spending a similar amount of time (another 2.5 hours). Yes, you can make the journey times in less time if you know the ropes but first time visitors should allow for this much time.
Many recommend leaving your hotel in Hong Kong no later than 45 minutes prior to your ferry departure time. This will allow you plenty of time to find the ferry terminal in Hong Kong, find the ticket booth, pick up your tickets, make your way through HK immigration and find the departure area for your outbound vessel. Ferry journey times are 60-70 minutes depending on sea conditions.
Upon arrival in Macau, immigration clearance can take anything from 5-30 minutes. The process is generally faster these days as they no longer stamp directly in passports but give a print out slip instead. Add an additional 10-20 minutes for transportation time via shuttle, bus or taxi to sightseeing areas in Macau. In the end, this will add up to around 2.5 hours, give or take.
You will be happy to know that ferry service between Hong Kong and Macau is now available 24 hours a day. There are two main ferry companies at present, TurboJet and CotaiJet.
Turbojet provides service every 15 minutes through much of the day with reduced service overnight. They sail from both Hong Kong based ferry terminals, including the Macau Ferry Terminal in Sheung Wan (HK Island) as well as the China Ferry Terminal (TST, Kowloon) but mainly sails to the Outer Harbour Ferry Terminal (Macau peninsula), which is near to the historic city centre. CotaiJet, which mainly serves the Taipa (Cotai Strip) based ferry terminal in Macau and has significantly fewer sailings than TurboJet.
Should you buy ferry tickets to Macau in advance?
In the past, many would have said ‘no need’ but passenger volumes are much higher these days and regular visitors are now seeing ferries sold out at times. During public holidays there are times when ferries are booked up for several hours.
The good news is that ferries leave every 15 minutes from the Macau Ferry Terminal in Sheung Wan and every 30 minutes from the China Ferry Terminal in TST so you have plenty of times to choose from if you decide to go ahead and reserve your ferry tickets in advance.
Free Shuttle Service
Once you arrive in Macau, you will find a host of resort shuttles ready to whisk you away to the various hotel and casino grounds. These are free for you to use and can be a good source of transportations, depending on where you want to go in Macau. You can find out about what resorts offer free shuttle service on their websites or on the TripAdvisor Macau forum.
Public Bus Service
There are a handful of useful bus routes (3, 3A, 10, 10A - MOP 3.2), which make pick up right outside the main Macau Ferry Terminal, making stops near Senado Square. These can be a useful means of transportation if you are comfortable using the local buses and have some spare change with you.
Unfortunately, bus transportation from the Taipa Ferry Terminal in Macau are not as helpful due to the long travel times required to reach the many of the sightseeing areas of Macau. As such, if you are sailing into the Taipa based ferry terminal, you best bet will probably be to use the free shuttle services or a taxi if you can find one.
If you want to learn more about bus routes in Macau, visit the TripAdvisor Macau forum and ask. Experts and local residents are always happy to help explain which routes make most sense to use during your day trip to Macau. You should also make sure to pick up the Macau map at the MGTO office after arriving in Macau. These maps include important bus stops and respective bus numbers that you might be able to use.
Sadly, taxi service has become rather unreliable in recent years due to the huge number of visitors in Macau. In short, there simply aren’t enough available taxis, resulting in long waits at times. This can be a real problem for those planning day trips, who might need taxi service to get from one point to another in Macau.
The good news is that there seem to always be a few taxis available outside the Outer Harbour Ferry Terminal. However, this is not the case outside the Taipa Ferry Terminal and visitors should be prepared to wait for service if they sail here. Similarly, it can be difficult finding an available taxi in Macau these days, especially in the evening hours after work when local residents have need for them as well.
UNESCO World Heritage Attractions
Sightseeing in Macau first includes the UNESCO World Heritage area known as the Historic City Centre of Macau. The area includes over 30 buildings, squares and areas that can be visited and enjoyed in Macau. To explore all thoroughly or leisurely, you will need 1-2 days. However, there are highlight attractions, which can be seen in much shorter amounts of time.
UNESCO World Heritage Highlights
Senado Square & Leal Senado Building
St. Dominic's Church
Ruins of St. Paul
Mount Fortress (Macau Museum inside)
St. Augustine's Church
St. Lawrence's Church
Guia Hill attractions
Casinos, Gambling and Entertainment
The next major sightseeing category is that of the large hotel/casino resorts which have sprung up during the past decade. These provide gambling first but also some forms of family and family-friendly entertainment. In coming years, we expect to many more attractions in this area as Macau begins to diversity into a well-rounded tourist destination.
Macau Casinos – Penninsula
Macau Casinos - Cotai Strip*
Venetian Macau Resort
Sands Cotai Central
City of Dreams
*Many new properties to open in 2015-2017
More Sightseeing Options & More information
There are additional museums, activity venues, historic squares, parks, monuments, villages and even outdoor areas that you might want to consider during your Macau day-trip. All can be researched on the TripAdvisor Macau forum, Things to do listings and the Macau Government Tourist Office (MGTO) website.
There is also a helpful 'What's On Macau' online publication which tells about free concerts, events, parades, festivals and feature activities that are taking place each month. This is freely available online and at the ferry terminals when you arrive.
Macau's Best Museums
Maritime Museum of Macau
Macau Science Centre
Grand Prix Museum
Macau Museum of Art (MAM)
Taipa Houses Museum
Macau's Best Other Attractions
House of Dancing Water show
Lou Lim Ieok Garden
Giant Panda Pavilion
Wynn Performing Lakes
Venetian Canals and Gondola Ride
Other Neat Areas of Macau to Visit
St. Lazarus District & Tap Seac Square
Rua da Felicidade (Red Street)
Rua d. S. Paulo (Food Street)
Rua do Cunha (Food Street - Taipa)
There is very good food and dining scene in Macau so you will be spoilt for choice when making a day trip only. Below is a list of some food and dining options you might want to consider.
Macau Specialty Foods
Lord Stow's (Coloane village and Venetian Hotel)
Margaret's Cafe e Nata (Macau city centre)
Koi Kei Bakery (throughout Macau)
Choi Heong Yuen (throughout Macau)
Tai Lei Loi Kei for pork chop buns.
Portuguese & Macanese Restaurants
Nga Tim Cafe
Michellin and Fine Dining in Macau
The Eight (Cantonese)
Zi Yat Heen (Cantonese)
Robuchon au Dome (French)
Vida Rica (Contemporary)
The Tasting Room (Contemporary)
Other neat places to eat or drink
Macau Soul (wine bar & lounge)
Il Teatro (Italian)
IFT Educational Restaurant
Terra Coffee House
More important information regarding sightseeing, transportation and logistics for making day trips to Macau can be found on the Macau Government Tourist Office (MGTO) website.
Hong Kong and Macau Weather can be found on the Hong Kong Observatory website or the Macau Observatory (SMG) website for weather updates which may impact your day trip to Macau.