Welcome to Macau, China!
For westerners who want to party and gamble, Las Vegas is the place to go. The glitzy lights, grand casinos, and massive hotels are all part of the atmosphere Vegas is known for. In the East, however, Macau is the mecca of glitz, glamour, and gambling. With over seven times the gambling revenue than Las Vegas, Macau is the ninth-highest recipient of tourism revenue in the world and is home to Michelin Star restaurants, beautiful colonial architecture, and a ton of fun.
Macau might be a haven for tourists, but locals still heavily populate this city-state. Explore Macau’s old colonial past and traditional customs while navigating the neon-lit streets and bright lights of casinos, visiting the city like a worldwide local.
Worldwide Local Tip: Travelers should be aware that Macau is its own city-state, so if you’re making the drive on the 55-KM Hong Kong-Macau bridge, be prepared to encounter some differences. Cantonese is primarily spoken here and the city has its own legal system, and passports and currency are separate from China’s. Due to its high population of foreigners and tourists, the English language can be found in most tourist centric places.
Macau at a Glance: Culture and Glam
Macau’s location is where the east and west meet. Macau was a Portuguese colony until 1999 leading to a ton of interesting places to see, that seamlessly blend European and Chinese cultures together. There are 25 UNESCO World Heritage sites around Macau, including the Church of St. Paul and the beautiful Casa Gardens. Macau’s Historic Center is a perfect place to get a taste of the city’s old colonial past and see landmarks that aren’t casinos. Of course, if you’re looking for glitz and glamour, you’ll find that here too. Check out the famous Macau Tower, and maybe splurge for a meal at its revolving restaurant.
Worldwide Local Tip: Head to the nearby “Street of Happiness.” This area was once the home of the red light district that was filled with places like brothels and opium dens. Since the 90’s it has been given a makeover and now has some great affordable restaurants and quirky second-hand shops. The street was even featured in the film “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.”
Macau is a small place and because it was settled in an era long before cars, the streets get cluttered with traffic rapidly. A worldwide local knows how to get around town the fastest and the most efficiently. If you’re staying in one of Macau’s many casinos, chances are there is a shuttle service that is either free or available for a small fee. Transportation to the historic downtown area is usually available along with shuttles to and from the airport. Public transport is widely available, but because of traffic on the narrow streets, you’ll find yourself sitting on a bus for a while. Uber and other services offered by most of the Macau hotels are your best bet.
Worldwide Local Tip: Because of its colonial past, cars drive on the left hand side here, unlike in mainland China. Be careful when you cross the street, especially in congested areas of the city.
Relax in the Green Belt
In Macau, time often moves pretty fast. This is a place where you can have a lot of fun, hitting the casinos dining at world-class restaurants, and partying in its neon-lit bars. But a worldwide local knows that sometimes you have to slow down, break away from the city, and spend some time with the locals. If you want to take a break from the craziness of the city, head to Coloane. Known as the “green belt”, this part of the city is only a ten-minute ride away from the Cotai Casino Strip. There are several hiking trails, heritage sites, and even a panda pavilion to see and explore.
Worldwide Local Tip: To get a taste of some local history, check out the Coloane Village. This area is unlike anywhere else with its pastel-colored buildings and Portuguese influence on the local architecture and can be found throughout the quaint little waterside area.
Enjoy Your Stay!
Macau is really one of those special places where the east and west meet to become something truly unique. The European flair of the historic center is intermingled with the Cantonese styling of the traditional streets, and to top it all off, the massive and bright casinos add to the modern skyline. A worldwide local knows when a city has a special flair, and Macau is definitely one of those cities!