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"Aomen" redirects here. For the island in the Pacific Ocean, see Aomen (Bikini Atoll).
For a topic outline on this subject, see List of basic Macau topics. For other uses, see Macau (disambiguation).
Macau Special Administrative Region of the People's Republic of China[1]

Região Administrativa Especial de Macau da República Popular da China
Flag Emblem
AnthemMarch of the Volunteers
Official language(s) Chinese, Portuguese[2]
Demonym Macanese
 -  Chief Executive Fernando Chui Sai On
 -  President of the
Court of Final Appeal
Sam Hou Fai
 -  President of the
Legislative Assembly
Lau Cheok Va
Legislature Legislative Assembly
 -  Portugal-administered trading post 1557 
 -  Portuguese colony 1 December 1887 
 -  Transfer of sovereignty to the PRC
20 December 1999 
 -  Total 29.2 km2 (224th)
11.27 sq mi 
 -  Water (%) 0
 -  2009 (4th qtr) estimate 542,200[3] (165th)
 -  2000 census 431,000 
 -  Density 18,568/km2 (1st)
48,092/sq mi
GDP (PPP) 2006 estimate
 -  Total US$17,600 m (99th)
GDP (nominal) 2007 estimate
 -  Total US$15,997 m (94th)
 -  Per capita US$36,357[4] 
HDI (2004) 0.909[5] (high) (28th)
Currency Macanese pataca (MOP$) (MOP)
Time zone MST (UTC+8)
 -  Summer (DST) not observed (UTC)
Drives on the left
Internet TLD .mo
Calling code +853

Coordinates: 22°10′00″N 113°33′00″E / 22.1666667°N 113.55°E / 22.1666667; 113.55 The Macau Special Administrative Region (simplified Chinese: 澳门特别行政区traditional Chinese: 澳門特別行政區pinyin: Àomén Tèbié XíngzhèngqūCantonese Yale: Oumun Dakbit Hangjeng Keui; Portuguese: Região Administrativa Especial de Macau), commonly known as Macau or Macao (pronounced /məˈkaʊ/, simplified Chinese: 澳门traditional Chinese: 澳門Mandarin Pinyin: ÀoménJyutping: ou3 mun4), is one of the two special administrative regions of the People's Republic of China; the other is Hong Kong. Macau lies on the western side of the Pearl River Delta, bordering Guangdong province in the north and facing the South China Sea in the east and south.[6] The territory has thriving industries such as textiles, electronics and toys, and a notable tourist industry.

Macau was a Portuguese colony and both the first and last European one in China.[7][8] Portuguese traders first settled in Macau in the 16th century and subsequently administered the region until the handover on 20 December 1999. The Sino-Portuguese Joint Declaration and the Basic Law of Macau stipulate that Macau operates with a high degree of autonomy until at least 2049, fifty years after the transfer.[9]

Under the policy of "one country, two systems", the Central People's Government is responsible for the territory's defense and foreign affairs, while Macau maintains its own legal system, police force, monetary system, customs policy, immigration policy, and delegates to international organisations and events.[9][10]



Before the Portuguese settlement in the early 16th century, Macau was known as Haojing (Oyster Mirror) or Jinghai (Mirror Sea).[11] The name Macau is thought to be derived from the A-Ma Temple (simplified Chinese: 妈阁庙traditional Chinese: 媽閣廟pinyin: Māgé Miào; Jyutping: Maa1 Gok3 Miu6), a temple built in 1448 dedicated to Matsu — the goddess of seafarers and fishermen. It is said that when the Portuguese sailors landed at the coast just outside the temple and asked the name of the place, the natives replied "媽閣" (simplified Chinese: 妈阁Mandarin Pinyin: MāgéJyutping: "Maa1 Gok3"). The Portuguese then named the peninsula "Macau".[12] The present Chinese name 澳門 (simplified Chinese: 澳门Mandarin Pinyin: ÀoménJyutping: Ou3 Mun4) means "Inlet Gates".


The history of Macau is traced back to the Qin Dynasty (221–206 BC), when the region now called Macau came under the jurisdiction of Panyu county, in Nanhai prefecture (present day Guangdong).[11] The first recorded inhabitants of the area were people seeking refuge in Macau from invading Mongols during the Southern Song Dynasty.[13] Under the Ming Dynasty (1368–1644 AD), fishermen migrated to Macau from Guangdong and Fujian provinces.

Macau did not develop as a major settlement until the Portuguese arrived in the 16th century.[14] In 1535, Portuguese traders obtained the rights to anchor ships in Macau's harbours and to carry out trading activities, though not the right to stay onshore.[15] Around 1552–1553, they obtained temporary permission to erect storage sheds onshore, in order to dry out goods drenched by sea water;[16] they soon built rudimentary stone houses around the area now called Nam Van. In 1557, the Portuguese established a permanent settlement in Macau, paying an annual rent of 500 taels of silver.[16]

Ruins of St. Paul's Cathedral, by George Chinnery (1774–1852). The cathedral was built in 1602 and destroyed by fire in 1835. Only the southern stone façade remains today.
Macau, ca. 1870

As more Portuguese settled in Macau to engage in trading, they made demands for self-administration; but this was not achieved until the 1840s.[17] In 1576, Pope Gregory XIII established the Roman Catholic Diocese of Macau.[18] In 1583, the Portuguese in Macau were permitted to form a Senate to handle various issues concerning their social and economic affairs under strict supervision of the Chinese authority,[19] but there was no transfer of sovereignty.[13] Macau prospered as a port but was the target of repeated failed attempts[20] by the Dutch to conquer it in the 17th century.

Following the Opium War (1839–42), Portugal occupied Taipa and Coloane in 1851 and 1864 respectively. In December the 1st, 1887, the Qing and Sino-Portuguese governments signed the Treaty of Amity and Commerce, under which China ceded the right of "perpetual occupation and government of Macau by Portugal" in compliance with the statements of the Protocol of Lisbon. In return, Macao Government would cooperate with Hong Kong's smuggle of Indian opium and China would be able to increase profits through customs taxes. Portugal was also obliged "never to alienate Macao without previous agreement with China", therefore ensuring that negotiation between Portugal and France (regarding a possible exchange of Macao and Guinea with the French Congo) or with other countries would not go forward - so that the British commercial interests would be secured; Macao officially became a territory under Portuguese administration.[13]

In 1928, after the Qing Dynasty had been overthrown following the Xinhai Revolution, the Kuomintang (KMT) government officially notified Portugal that it was abrogating the Treaty of Amity and Commerce[21]; the two powers signed a new Sino-Portuguese Friendship and Trade Treaty in place of the abrogated treaty. Making only a few provisions concerning tariff principles and matters relating to business affairs, the new treaty did not alter the sovereignty of Macau and Portuguese government of Macau remained unchanged.[22]

After the establishment of the People's Republic of China in 1949, the Beijing government declared the Sino-Portuguese Treaty of Amity and Commerce to be invalid as an “unequal treaty” imposed by foreigners on China. However, Beijing was not ready to settle the treaty question, leaving the maintenance of “the status quo” until a more appropriate time.[23]

Influenced by the Cultural Revolution in mainland China and by general dissatisfaction with Portuguese government, riots broke out in Macau in 1966. In the most serious, the so-called 12-3 incident, 6 people were killed and more than 200 people were injured.[24][25] On 28 January 1967, the Portuguese government issued a formal apology.

Shortly after the overthrow of the Salazar dictatorship in 1974 in Lisbon, the new Portuguese government determined it would relinquish all its overseas possessions. In 1976, Lisbon redefined Macau as a "Chinese territory under Portuguese administration" and granted it a large measure of administrative, financial, and economic autonomy. Three years later, Portugal and China agreed to regard Macau as "a Chinese territory under (temporary) Portuguese administration".[13][26] The Chinese and Portuguese governments commenced negotiations on the question of Macau in June 1986. The two signed a Sino-Portuguese Joint Declaration the next year, making Macau a special administrative region (SAR) of China.[27] The Chinese government assumed formal sovereignty over Macau on 20 December 1999.[28]

Government and politics

Headquarters of the Government of Macau, previously the Governor's House until 1999.
Office building of the Legislative Assembly of Macau.

The Sino-Portuguese Joint Declaration and the Basic Law, Macau's constitution promulgated by China's National People's Congress in 1993, specify that Macau's social and economic system, lifestyle, rights, and freedoms are to remain unchanged for at least 50 years after the transfer of sovereignty to China in 1999.[9] Under the principle of "one country, two systems", Macau enjoys a high degree of autonomy in all areas except in defence and foreign affairs.[9] Macau officials, rather than PRC officials, run Macau through the exercise of separate executive, legislative, and judicial powers, as well as the right to final adjudication.[29] Macau maintains its own separate currency, customs territory, immigration and border controls, and police force.[30][31]

The government in Macau is headed by the chief executive, who is appointed by the central government upon the recommendation of an election committee, whose three hundred members are nominated by corporate and community bodies. The recommendation is made by an election within the committee.[32] The chief executive's cabinet is made up of five policy secretaries and is advised by the Executive Council that has between seven and eleven members.[33] Edmund Ho Hau Wah, a community leader and former banker, is the first chief executive of the Macau SAR, replacing General Vasco Rocha Vieira at midnight on December 20, 1999. Ho is currently serving his second term of office.[34] The chief executive and the cabinet have their offices in the Macau Government Headquarters, located in the former area of the St. Lawrence Parish.

The legislative organ of the territory is the Legislative Assembly, a 29-member body comprising 12 directly elected members, ten indirectly elected members representing functional constituencies and seven members appointed by the chief executive.[35] Any permanent residents at or over 18 years of age are eligible to vote in direct elections.[36] Indirect election is limited to organizations registered as "corporate voters" and a 300-member election committee drawn from broad regional groupings, municipal organizations, and central government bodies.[37] The original framework of the legal system, based largely on Portuguese law or Portuguese civil law system, was preserved after 1999. The territory has its own independent judicial system with a high court. Judges are selected by a committee and appointed by the chief executive. Foreign judges may serve on the courts.[38]

Macau has a three-tier court system: the Court of the First Instance, the Court of the Second Instance and the Court of Final Appeal.[39] In February 2009, the Legislative Assembly passed a security bill based on the withdrawn security legislation previously introduced in Hong Kong.[40] Democracy advocates feared that the bill's excessively broad scope could lead to abuses, a concern which has been heightened after a number of prominent supporters of democracy in Hong Kong were denied entry into Macau in the run-up to the bill's passage.[41]


The map of Macau, showing Macau Peninsula, Cotai, Taipa and Coloane.
Landscape of Penha Hill in Macau.

Macau is situated 60 kilometres (37 mi) southwest of Hong Kong and 145 kilometres (90 mi) from Guangzhou.[6][42] It consists of the Macau Peninsula itself and the islands of Taipa and Coloane. The peninsula is formed by the Zhujiang (Pearl River) estuary on the east and the Xijiang (West River) on the west.[42] It borders the Zhuhai Special Economic Zone in mainland China. The main border crossing between Macau and China is known as the Portas do Cerco (Barrier Gate) on the Macau side, and the Gongbei Port of Entry on the Zhuhai side.[43]

Macau Peninsula was originally an island, but a connecting sandbar gradually turned into a narrow isthmus, thus changing Macau into a peninsula. Land reclamation in the 17th century transformed Macau into a peninsula with generally flat terrain, though numerous steep hills still mark the original land mass.[42] Alto de Coloane is the highest point in Macau, with an altitude of 170.6 metres (559.7 ft).[6] With a dense urban environment, Macau has no arable land, pastures, forest, or woodland.

Macau has a humid subtropical climate, with average humidity between 75% and 90%.[44] Seasonal climate is greatly influenced by the monsoons, and differences in temperature between summer and winter are marked. The average annual temperature of Macau is 22.3 °C (72.1 °F).[45] July is the warmest month, with average temperature being 28.6 °C (83.5 °F). The coolest month is January, with average temperature 14.5 °C (58.1 °F).[44]

Located in the coastal region of south of China, Macau has ample rainfall, with average annual precipitation being 2,030 millimetres (79.9 in).[46] However, winter is mostly dry due to the monsoon from mainland China. Autumn in Macau, from October to December, is sunny and warm with low humidity. Winter (January to March) is warm and sunny. Humidity starts to increase in spring from April to June, and in summer from July to September, the climate is warm to hot and humid with rain and occasional typhoons.[44]

Climate data for Macau
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Average high °C (°F) 17.7
Average low °C (°F) 12.2
Precipitation mm (inches) 32.4
Sunshine hours 132.4 81.8 75.9 87.8 138.4 168.2 226.2 194.7 182.2 195 177.6 167.6 1,828
% Humidity 74.3 80.6 84.9 86.2 85.6 84.4 82.2 82.5 79 73.4 69.3 68.8 79.3
Avg. precipitation days 6 10 12 12 15 17 16 16 13 7 5 4 133
Source: WMO - Macau[47] 2007-11-12 & Macao Meteorological and Geophysical Bureau[48]


Employed population by
occupation 2007[49]
Occupation no.
Senior officials/managers 14.6
Professionals 9.9
Technicians 28.1
Clerks 83.7
Service & sale workers 63.2
Workers in agriculture/fishery 0.8
Craft & similar workers 33.7
Nightview of Macau Tower, a communication and entertainment tower that has various restaurants, theaters, shopping malls and a variety of adventurous activities.
The central business district of Macau. The building shown is the BNU tower.

Macau's economy is based largely on tourism. Other chief economic activities in Macau are export-geared textile and garment manufacturing, banking and other financial services.[50] The clothing industry has provided about three quarters of export earnings, and the gaming, tourism and hospitality industry is estimated to contribute more than 50% of Macau's GDP, and 70% of Macau government revenue.[33]

Macau is a founding member of the WTO and has maintained sound economic and trade relations with more than 120 countries and regions, with European Union and Portuguese-speaking countries in particular; Macau is also a member of the IMF.[51] The World Bank classifies Macau as a high income economy[52] and the GDP per capita of the region in 2006 was US$28,436. After the Handover in 1999, there has been a rapid rise in the number of mainland visitors due to China's easing of travel restrictions. Together with the liberalization of Macau's gaming industry in 2001 that induces significant investment inflows, the average growth rate of the economy between 2001 and 2006 was approximately 13.1% annually.[53]

In a World Tourism Organization report of international tourism for 2006, Macau ranked 21st in the number of tourists and 24th in terms of tourism receipts.[54] From 9.1 million visitors in 2000, arrivals to Macau has grown to 18.7 million visitors in 2005 and 22 million visitors in 2006,[55] with over 50% of the arrivals coming from mainland China and another 30% from Hong Kong. Macau is expected to receive between 24 and 25 million visitors in 2007.[56] Since the Handover, Triad underworld violence, a deterring factor for tourists, has virtually disappeared, to the benefit of the tourism sector.[citation needed]

Starting in 1962, the gambling industry had been operated under a government-issued monopoly license by Stanley Ho's Sociedade de Turismo e Diversões de Macau. The monopoly ended in 2002, and several casino owners from Las Vegas attempted to enter the market. With the opening of the Sands Macau,[57] in 2004 and Wynn Macau in 2006,[58] gambling revenues from Macau's casinos were greatly prosperous,[59][60].[61] In 2007, Venetian Macau, at the time the second (now fourth) largest building in the world by floor space, opened its doors to the public, followed by MGM Grand Macau. Numerous other hotel casinos, including Galaxy Cotai Megaresort and Ponte 16, are also to be opened in the near future.

In 2002, the Macau government ended the monopoly system and six casino operating concessions and subconcessions are granted to Sociedade de Turismo e Diversões de Macau, Wynn Resorts, Las Vegas Sands, Galaxy Entertainment Group, the partnership of MGM Mirage and Pansy Ho (daughter of Stanley Ho), and the partnership of Melco and PBL. Today, there are 16 casinos operated by the STDM, and they are still crucial in the casino industry in Macau, but in 2004, the opening of the Sands Macau ushered in the new era.[57][62][63]

Macau is an offshore financial centre, a tax haven, and a free port with no foreign exchange control regimes.[64][65][66] The Monetary Authority of Macau regulates offshore finance,[67] while the Macau Trade and Investment Promotion Institute provides services for investment in Macau.[68] In 2007, Moody's Investors Service upgraded Macau's foreign and local currency government issuer ratings to 'Aa3' from 'A1', citing its government's solid finances as a large net creditor. The rating agency also upgraded Macau's foreign currency bank deposit ceiling to 'Aa3' from 'A1'.[69]

As prescribed by the Macau Basic Law, the government follows the principle of keeping expenditure within the limits of revenues in drawing up its budget, and strive to achieve a fiscal balance, avoid deficits and keep the budget commensurate with the growth rate of its gross domestic product. All the financial revenues of the Macau Special Administrative Region shall be managed and controlled by the Region itself and shall not be handed over to the Central People's Government. The Central People's Government shall not levy any taxes in the Macau Special Administrative Region.[70]


Residents' usual
language spoken at home[71]
Language Percentage of
Cantonese 85.7%
Chinese dialects
Portuguese 0.6%
Mandarin 3.2%
English 1.5%
Others 2.3%
A-Ma Temple, a temple built in 1448 dedicated to the goddess Matsu.
Ruins of St. Paul's, the façade of what was originally the Cathedral of St. Paul built in 1602.

Macau is the most densely populated region in the world, with a population density of 18,428 persons per square kilometre (47,728/sq mi).[72] 95% of Macau's population is Chinese; another 2% is of Portuguese and/or mixed Chinese/Portuguese descent, an ethnic group often referred to as Macanese.[71] According to the 2006 by-census, 47% of the residents were born in mainland China, of whom 74.1% born in Guangdong and 15.2% in Fujian. Meanwhile, 42.5% of the residents were born in Macau, and those born in Hong Kong, the Philippines and Portugal shared 3.7%, 2.0% and 0.3% respectively.[71]

The growth of population in Macau mainly relies on immigrants from mainland China and the influx of overseas workers since its birth rate is one of the lowest in the world.[73] According to a recent survey conducted by the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), Macau is the top country/region for life expectancy at birth with an average of 84.36 years,[74] while its infant mortality rate ranks among the lowest in the world.[75]

Both Chinese (Cantonese) and Portuguese are Macau's official languages.[76] Standard Macanese Portuguese is identical to European Portuguese. Other languages such as Mandarin, English and Hokkien are also spoken by some local communities.[77] The Macanese language, a distinctive creole generally known as Patuá, is still spoken by several dozen Macanese.[78]

Many signs and establishments make use of Chinese and Portuguese names with English becoming commonplace as well.

Most Chinese in Macau are profoundly influenced by their own tradition and culture, of which most take part in Chinese folk religion, of which the faiths of Taoism, Buddhism and Confucianism, form an integral part.[33] Macau has a sizable Christian community; Roman Catholics and Protestants constitute 7% and 2% of the population respectively. In addition, 17% of the population follow original Mahayana Buddhism.[79]

Since Macau has an economy driven by tourism, 14.6% of the workforce is employed in restaurants and hotels, and 10.3% in the gambling industry.[77] With the opening of several casino resorts and other major constructions underway, many sectors reportedly experience a shortage of labor, and the government seeks to import labor from neighboring regions.

The number of imported workers stood at a record high of 98,505 in the second quarter of 2008, representing more than 25% of the labor force in Macau.[80] Some local workers complain about the lack of jobs due to the influx of cheap imported labor. Some also claim that the problem of illegal labor is severe.[81] Another concern is the widening of income inequality in the region. Macau's Gini coefficient, a popular measure of income inequality where a low value indicates a more equal income distribution, rose from 0.43 in 1998 to 0.48 in 2006. It is higher than those of neighboring regions, such as mainland China (0.447), South Korea (0.316) and Singapore (0.425).[82]


The administrative building of the University of Macau, the first modern university in the region.

A fifteen-year free education is currently being offered to residents, that includes a three-year kindergarten, followed by a six-year primary education and a six-year secondary education. The literacy rate of the territory is 93.5%. The illiterates are mainly among the senior residents aged 65 or above; the younger generation, for example the population aged 15–29, has a literacy rate of above 99%.[71] Currently, there is only one school in Macau where Portuguese is the medium of instruction.

Macau does not have its own universal education system; non-tertiary schools follow either the British, the Chinese, or the Portuguese education system. There are currently 10 tertiary educational institutions in the region, four of them being public.[33] In 2006, the Programme for International Student Assessment, a worldwide test of 15-year-old schoolchildren's scholastic performance coordinated by OECD, ranked Macau as the fifth and sixth in science and problem solving respectively.[83] Nevertheless, education levels in Macau are low among high income regions. According to the 2006 by-census, among the resident population aged 14 and above, only 51.8% has a secondary education and 12.6% has a tertiary education.[71]

As prescribed by the Basic Law of Macau Chapter VI Article 121, the Government of Macau shall, on its own, formulate policies on education, including policies regarding the educational system and its administration, the language of instruction, the allocation of funds, the examination system, the recognition of educational qualifications and the system of academic awards so as to promote educational development. The government shall also in accordance with law, gradually institute a compulsory education system. Community organisations and individuals may, in accordance with law, run educational undertakings of various kinds.[70]


Macau is served by one major public hospital, the Hospital Conde S. Januário, and one major private hospital, the Hospital Kiang Wu, both located in Macau Peninsula, as well as a university hospital called Macau University of Science and Technology Hospital in Cotai. In addition to hospitals, Macau also has numerous health centres providing free basic medical care to residents. Consultation in traditional Chinese medicine is also available.[84]

Currently none of the Macau hospitals is independently assessed through international healthcare accreditation. There are no western-style medical schools in Macau and thus all aspiring physicians in Macau have to obtain their education and qualification elsewhere.[33] Local nurses are trained at the Macau Polytechnic Institute and the Kiang Wu Nursing College.[85][86] Currently there are no training courses in midwifery in Macau.

The Health Bureau in Macau is mainly responsible for coordinating the activities between the public and private organisations in the area of public health, and assure the health of citizens through specialised and primary health care services, as well as disease prevention and health promotion.[87] The Macau Centre for Disease Control and Prevention was established in 2001, which monitors the operation of hospitals, health centres, and the blood transfusion centre in Macau. It also handles the organisation of care and prevention of diseases affecting the population, sets guidelines for hospitals and private health care providers, and issues licences.[88]


Trishaw used to be a major public mode of transport in Macau. But now it is only for sightseeing purposes.

In Macau traffic moves on the left. Macau has a well-established public transport network connecting the Macau Peninsula, Cotai, Taipa Island and Coloane Island. Buses and taxis are the major modes of public transport in Macau. Currently two companies, namely Transmac and Transportas Companhia de Macau, operate franchised public bus services in Macau.[89] The trishaw, a hybrid of the tricycle and the rickshaw, is also available, though it is mainly for sightseeing purposes.

The Outer Harbour Ferry Terminal provides cross-border transportation services for passengers travelling between Macau and Hong Kong, while the Yuet Tung Terminal in the Inner Harbour serves those travelling between Macau and cities in mainland China, including Shekou and Shenzhen.[90]

Macau has one active international airport, known as Macau International Airport located at the eastern end of Taipa and neighbouring waters. The airport used to serve as one of the main transient hubs for passengers travelling between China and Taiwan, but now with the introduction of direct flights between those two regions, passenger traffic in this regard has lessened.[91][92] It is the primary hub for Viva Macau and Air Macau. In 2006, the airport handled about 5 million passengers.[93]


The Statue of Guan Yin, a blend between the traditional images of the goddess Guan Yin and Holy Mary.

The mixing of the Chinese and Portuguese cultures and religious traditions for more than four centuries has left Macau with an inimitable collection of holidays, festivals and events. The biggest event of the year is the Macau Grand Prix in November,[94] when the main streets in Macau Peninsula are converted to a racetrack bearing similarities with the Monaco Grand Prix. Other annual events include Macau Arts festival in March,[95] the International Fireworks Display Contest in September,[96] the International Music festival in October and/or November,[97] and the Macau International Marathon in December.[98]

The Lunar Chinese New Year is the most important traditional festival and celebration normally takes place in late January or early February.[99][100] The Pou Tai Un Temple in Taipa is the place for the Feast of Tou Tei, the Earth god, in February. The Procession of the Passion of Our Lord is a well-known Catholic rite and journey, which travels from Igreja de Santo Agostinho to Igreja da Sé Catedral‎, also taking place in February.[42]

A-Ma Temple, which honours the Goddess Matsu, is in full swing in April with many congratulant worshippers during the A-Ma festival. In May it is common to see dancing dragons at the Feast of the Drunken Dragon and twinkling-clean Buddhas at the Feast of the Bathing of Lord Buddha. In Coloane Village, the Taoist god Tam Kong is also honoured on the same day.[42] Dragon Boat festival is brought into play on Nam Van Lake in June and Hungry Ghosts' festival, in late August and/or early September every year. All events and festivities of the year end with Winter Solstice in December.[98]

Local cooking in Macau consists of a blend of Cantonese and Portuguese cuisines.[101] Many unique dishes resulted from the spice blends that the wives of Portuguese sailors used in an attempt to replicate European dishes. Its ingredients and seasonings include those from Europe, South America, Africa, India, and Southeast Asia, as well as local Chinese ingredients.[102] Typically, Macanese food is seasoned with various spices and flavours including turmeric, coconut milk, cinnamon and bacalhau, giving special aromas and tastes.[103] Famous dishes include Galinha à Portuguesa, Galinha à Africana (African chicken), Bacalhau, Macanese Chili Shrimps and stir-fry curry crab. Pork chop bun, ginger milk and Portuguese-style egg tart are also very popular in Macau.[104]

Macau preserves many historical properties in the urban area. The Historic Centre of Macau, which includes some twenty-five historic monuments and public squares, was officially listed as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO on July 15, 2005 during the 29th session of the World Heritage Committee, held in Durban, South Africa.[105]


In Macau one of the most practised sports is Rink Hockey, left by the Portuguese. The national team of Macau is the most powerful of Asia and has many Rink Hockey Asian Championship titles. The last Championship was conquered in Dalian,China, on the 13th Asian Roller hockey Championship.
Macau always participate in the Rink Hockey World Championship in B category.

International relations

Twin towns — Sister cities (友好城市)

Macau is twinned with:

See also



  • Chan, S. S. (2000). The Macau Economy. Publications Centre, University of Macau. ISBN 99937-26-03-6. 
  • Fung, Bong Yin (1999) (in Chinese). Macau: a General Introduction. Joint Publishing (H.K.) Co. Ltd.. ISBN 962-04-1642-2. 
  • Godinho, Jorge (2007). Macau business law and legal system. LexisNexis, Hong Kong. ISBN 9789628937271. 
  • Government Information Bureau (2007). Macau Yearbook 2007. Government Information Bureau of the Macau SAR. ISBN 978-99937-56-09-5. 

Further reading

  • Cremer (Editor) (1988). Macau: City of Commerce and Culture. Univ of Washington Pr. ISBN 0295966084. 
  • De Pina-Cabral (2002). Between China and Europe - Person, Culture and Emotion in Macau. Berg Publishers. ISBN 0826457495. 
  • Eayrs, James (2003). Macau Foreign Policy and Government Guide. International Business Publications, USA. ISBN 0739764519. 


  1. ^ As reflected in the Chinese text of the Macau emblem, the text of the Macau Basic Law, and the Macau Government Website, the full name of the territory is the Macau Special Administrative Region of the People's Republic of China. Although the convention of "Macau Special Administrative Region" and "Macau" can also be used.
  2. ^ The Macau Basic Law states that the official languages are "Chinese and Portuguese." It does not explicitly specify the standard for "Chinese". While Standard Mandarin and Simplified Chinese characters are used as the spoken and written standards in mainland China, Cantonese and Traditional Chinese characters are the long-established de facto standards in Macau.
  3. ^ "Estimates of population". Statistics and Census Service (DSEC) of the Macau Government. Retrieved 10 November 2009. 
  4. ^ "Gross domestic product (GDP) and per-capita GDP". Statistics and Census Service (DSEC) of the Macau Government. Retrieved 2007-06-03. 
  5. ^ "2007 Macau in Figures". Statistics and Census Service (DSEC) of the Macau Government. Retrieved 2007-06-03. 
  6. ^ a b c Macau Yearbook 2007, 475.
  7. ^ Fung, 5.
  8. ^ "Macau and the end of empire". BBC News. Retrieved 2008-01-07. 
  9. ^ a b c d "Content of Basic Law of Macau". University of Macau. Retrieved 2008-01-07. 
  10. ^ "Joint declaration of the Government of the People's Republic of China and The Government of the Republic of Portugal on the question of Macau". GPB Govt of Macau. Retrieved 2008-01-07. 
  11. ^ a b Macau Yearbook 2007, 517.
  12. ^ Fung, 298.
  13. ^ a b c d "The entry "Macau history" in Macau Encyclopedia" (in Chinese). Macau Foundation. Retrieved 2008-01-02. 
  14. ^ Chan, 3-4.
  15. ^ Fung, 5-6.
  16. ^ a b Fung, 7.
  17. ^ <Historical figures of Macau>, by CCTV.
  18. ^ "The entry "Catholic" in Macau Encyclopedia" (in Chinese). Macau Foundation. Retrieved 2008-01-06. 
  19. ^ <Historical figures of Macau> by CCTV.
  20. ^ History of the Qing (清史稿)
  21. ^ Macau Yearbook 2007, 518.
  22. ^ Fung, 409-410.
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External links

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General information
Special Education and Child Development

Travel guide

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikitravel

Asia : East Asia : China : Macau
Quick Facts
Capital Macau
Government Special Administrative Region of the People's Republic of China
Currency Macau Pataca (MOP), also Hong Kong Dollar (HKD) and Renminbi (RMB) are widely used
Area total: 28.2 km2
water: 0 km2
land: 28.2 km2 (2008, increasing due to land reclamation)
Population 545,674 (July 2008 est.)
Language Portuguese and Chinese (Cantonese) (official languages), Chinese (Mandarin) and English (spoken in tourist areas)
Religion Buddhist 85%, Roman Catholic 5%, none and other 10% (1997 est.)
Electricity 220 V, 50Hz (rounded 3-pin 5A and 15A plug and UK 13A plug)
Calling Code +853
Internet TLD .mo
Time Zone UTC+8
Map of Macau
Map of Macau

Macau (also spelled Macao, 澳門, Ou3 Mun4 in Cantonese, Àomén in Mandarin) [1]) is a Special Administrative Region (SAR) of China. Located across the Pearl River estuary from Hong Kong, until 1999 Macau was an overseas territory of Portugal. The world's most densely populated place to live, Macau is best known as Asia's largest destination for gambling taking in even more revenue than Las Vegas.


Macau was geographically divided into three main regions: a peninsula and two islands. However, reclamation of the area between Taipa and Coloane has created a fourth region of Cotai and resulting in one bigger island with the peninsula.

  • The Macau Peninsula is the northernmost region, connecting to the Chinese mainland. It is the center of most tourist activity and is densely crowded.
  • Taipa (氹仔 Tam Chai) is an island to the south of the peninsula, accessible via three bridges. It is a major residential center and is the location of Macau's International Airport.
  • Coloane (路環 Louwan) is an island further to the south. It is considerably less developed than the other regions due to its mountainous terrain, has two beaches, several hiking trails and a resort. It is also the location of Macau's first golf course, a second one is on the Cotai Strip.
  • Cotai (路氹 Loutam) is a strip of reclaimed land between Coloane and Taipa, with vast new casinos rising up.


As the first and last European colony in China, Macau has more visible colonial history than Hong Kong. Walking through the old city you could convince yourself you were in Europe - if the streets were devoid of people and Chinese-language signage, that is. The Portuguese population continues to maintain a small presence, but most of the population is native Chinese.


Besides the city itself, Macau includes the island with Taipa and Coloane, which are connected by bridges and a causeway. The mainland Chinese city of Zhuhai borders Macau to the North, and the border crossing carries heavy two-way vehicular and pedestrian traffic. The Zhuhai Special Economic Zone extends south to the island of Hengqin, an area west of Taipa, Cotai and Coloane; the Lotus Bridge from Cotai connects to that area. There is significant movement by the local population of both Zhuhai and Macau across the border, making the two feel like twin cities.


In the 16th Century China gave Portugal the right to establish a colony on Macau in exchange for clearing the area of pirates. Macau was the first European settlement in the Far East. It was also the last, when pursuant to an agreement signed by China and Portugal in 1987, Macau became the Macau Special Administrative Region (SAR) of China on 20 December 1999, ending over 400 years of Portuguese administration.

China has promised that, under its "one country, two systems" formula, China's socialist economic system will not be practiced in Macau for at least fifty years after the transfer of sovereignty and that Macau will enjoy a high degree of autonomy in all matters except foreign and defense affairs.

Like the Hong Kong SAR, Macau has its own government, passports, visas, postal system and currency.


A Macao Narrative (ISBN 0195920708) by Austin Coates. Great introduction to Macau's colourful history. You can buy this book at the museum in the Fortaleza do Monte which overlooks the Ruins of St. Paul.

Get in

For many years, the usual way to get to Macau was to fly into Hong Kong and take the ferry across to Macau. Today, Macau is becoming a low-cost airline hub, and some people are flying to Macau to reach Hong Kong.

Most visitors do not need visas, with many nationalities (most Asians, Europeans and North/South Americans) being able to obtain visa-free entry (7 days, 30 days, 90 days, 180 days or 1 year depending on nationality); check with the Macau Tourism Office [2] for details. Hong Kong residents may enter using their Identity Card, and may stay continuously for up to a year. For those requiring a visa, it can either be obtained from a Chinese embassy or consulate or obtained on arrival in Macao (Macao visas are separate from visas valid for travel to Mainland China).

Like Hong Kong, Macau has a separate immigration regime from mainland China and anyone going to Macau from the mainland is deemed to be leaving China. If you want to re-enter China from Macau, you'll have to apply for another Chinese visa unless your earlier one is a multiple entry visa.

By plane

Macau International Airport [3] (MFM) is off the shore of Taipa Island. It has basic facilities and a couple of aerobridges, but it is possible that you will park on the tarmac and take a bus to the terminal.

Macau's home carriers are Air Macau [4] and low-cost competitor Viva Macau [5]. While nowhere nearly as well served as Hong Kong, the airport is popular among low-cost airlines thanks to its low landing fees. Air Asia flies to Macau from Kuala Lumpur, Kota Kinabalu, Kuching, Penang, while Tiger [6] and Jetstar [7] serve Singapore, Cebu pacific[8] and Philipines Airlines serve Manila and Clark, Thai AirAsia flies to Bangkok.

Bus AP1 plies a route between the airport and the Barrier Gate. Its route passes through several points on Taipa Island, and it stops at the ferry terminal on the peninsula on the way. It costs MOP4.20 per passenger, and MOP3.00 per bag. It has limited provision for baggage, and can be very crowded (you may not even get the first bus to arrive). Change at the ferry terminal for other destinations, the frequent number 3 bus runs from the ferry terminal and passes the Lisboa, Landmark Hotel, and Holiday Inn, or catch one of the hotel/casino shuttles which go the ferry terminal. The buses do not give change, but there is a currency exchange just inside the terminal that will change foreign currency into low denomination MOP.

Alternatively, take a metered taxi straight to your destination, but there's a MOP 5 airport surcharge plus MOP 2 for the bridge and MOP 3 per bag. Fares to the city center are around MOP 40-50, the trip taking 15-20 minutes.

If you are bound for Hong Kong, Zhuhai or Shenzhen, you can use the airport's Express Link [9] special bus service to connect directly to the ferry or the Zhuhai border without passing through Macau immigration. However, the bus schedule is limited (11 AM to 6 PM only), which limits the utility somewhat; depending on your flight, if you don't need a visa for Macau, it may well be faster to go through immigration twice. If you have a same-day ticket, you can also use this service in the return direction to transfer directly to the airport.

Connections to mainland China are astonishingly limited, with service only to Shanghai and Beijing (as of 2009). It is usually cheaper to fly to Zhuhai and cross the border by land as flights between Macau and the mainland are considered to be international flights.

See also Discount airlines in Asia.

By helicopter

The Sky Shuttle [10] helicopter service operates every 15-30 minutes between Macau's Terminal Maritimo and the Hong Kong-Macau Ferry Pier in Hong Kong, as well as five times a day to/from Shenzhen airport. The trip takes just 16 minutes, but weekday/weekend tickets cost a whopping HK$2200/2400 one-way.

By boat

This is still the main way in which most visitors get to Macau. The main ferry terminal in Macau is the Macau Ferry Terminal (Terminal Maritimo) at the Outer Harbour (Porto Exterior). This is a busy terminal handling most of the sea traffic between Macau and Hong Kong as well as the Chinese ports of Shekou and Shenzhen International Airport. Getting there/away: Buses 1A, 3, 3A, 10, 10A, 10B, 12, 28A, 28B, 28BX, 32 and AP1 run from the ferry terminal. The bus stop is on the main road to the right as you walk out of the building. Pick up a free bus schedule in the tourist information centre in the building. If you are heading straight to a casino or hotel, most of these establishments provide free shuttle buses. They gather to the left of the terminal building; step out of the arrival-level of the building and turn left.

There is a lesser known ferry terminal in Macau, located at Pier No. 11 at the Inner Harbour. This is a new ferry terminal building after its former Pier 14 site was given to developers by the Macau Government. It is very near to the Macau city centre and can be easily reached on foot. This terminal mostly services boats to Shenzhen, Jiangmen and Wanzai across the Inner Harbour in Zhuhai, China.

A third temporary ferry service serves Taipa, Cotai and Coloane connecting to Hong Kong. The Taipa Temporary Ferry Terminal is adjacent the Ponte da Amizade Friendship Bridge on Estrada de Pac On, and is served by bus AP1 from the city to the airport, but not the other way around (unless you go around the entire loop). There is also a free shuttle bus to the Venetian. A larger permanent ferry terminal is being constructed between the temporary terminal and the Macau International Airport, scheduled for completion in 2010.

From Hong Kong

A TurboJET catamaran docked at Terminal Maritimo
A TurboJET catamaran docked at Terminal Maritimo

Ferries to Macau operate from several points in Hong Kong, including the Hong Kong International Airport where you can bypass Hong Kong Immigration and transfer directly into a ferry to Macau.

  • Macau-Hong Kong Island: Ferries from Hong Kong's Macau Ferry Terminal in Sheung Wan on Hong Kong Island operate 24 hours a day at frequencies of every 15-30 minutes by day and every hour at night. In Macau, they dock at the Macau Maritime Ferry Terminal. The cheapest one-way ticket from Hong Kong is HK$142 (HK$20 extra per bag for luggage) and the trip takes one hour. You can buy tickets online in advance to ensure you secure the sailing you want at busy times. Weekend fares are more expensive. Ferries are operated by TurboJet [11] (Tel: +853-7907039 in Macau, +852-28593333 in Hong Kong). Another frequent ferry service is operated by Cotai Jet [12] directly to Taipa from Hong Kong, and there are free shuttle buses to The Venetian from the Ferry Terminal, for quick and easy access to Taipa & Coloane.
  • Macau-Kowloon: You can also get ferries from the China (HK) Ferry Terminal on Canton Road, Tsim Sha Tsui in Kowloon, Hong Kong. Ferries are less frequent compared with services from Hong Kong Island, running every 30 min from 7 AM until 10:30 PM. Fares start at HK$133 and the trip takes about 90 minutes. The ferry operator is New World First Ferries [13] (Tel: +852-21318181).
  • Macau-Hong Kong International Airport: There are also ferries from Hong Kong International Airport to Macau. These are less frequent but they allow you to bypass Hong Kong immigration and customs by transferring directly to the ferry in the airport's transfers hall. If purchasing a ticket online in advance, your airline may be able to check your luggage all the way to Macau for you. You board the ferry at the airport SkyPier. Fares start at HK$180 and services are operated by TurboJet Sea Express [14].

The price of ferry tickets differ based on the time and day of the week of the ride. Ferry departures at night (between 6 PM and 6 AM) and on weekends are more expensive.

Especially at the HK Macau Ferry Terminal, keep an eye out for ticket touts. Some offices here resell legit bulk tickets at a small discount, but an altogether slimier species sells unused tickets for ferries that are about to leave — you may catch them if you run, but will be out of luck (and money) if you don't. A few touts even pose as "inspectors" and, with practiced sleight of hand, swap your ticket. Don't let anybody not in uniform take your ticket!

From mainland China

Several ferry companies run to Macau from Chinese mainland ports including, Shekou (in Shenzhen) and Fu Yong Ferry Terminal (next to Shenzhen Airport).

  • Macau-Fu Yong (Shenzhen Airport): TurboJet [15] (Tel: +853-7907039 in Macau, +86-755-27776818 in Shenzhen) runs several ferries daily between the Macau Ferry Terminal (Outer Harbour) and the Fu Yong Ferry Terminal. Journey time about one hour. Fares start at MOP$171. There are shuttle buses connecting the Fu Yong Ferry Terminal with Shenzhen Airport.
  • Macau-Shekou (Shenzhen): Yuet Tung Shipping Co (Tel: +853-28574478) runs a ferry service departing from the Macau Inner Harbour Terminal at Pier 14 on Rua das Lorchas (near intersection with Av Almeida Ribeiro) at 10:00, 14:00, 17:30 and 20:15. Tickets cost MOP$129 for adults and MOP$78 for children. From Shekou, boats leave at 08:15, 11:45, 15:45 and 18:30. Journey takes about one hour and twenty minutes.
  • Macau-Jiangmen: CKS [16] has a daily connection with Jiangmen from the Macau Inner Harbour Terminal at Pier 14 on Rua das Lorchas.
  • Macau-Wanzai (Zhuhai): Yuet Tung Shipping Co runs boats between the Macau Inner Harbour Terminal at Pier 14 on Rua das Lorchas, and the Wanzai Customs Port in Wanzai, Zhuhai. Journey time is about 30 minutes and the fare is MOP$12.50. Boats start a 08:00 and end at about 16:00. You can catch connecting buses to Gongbei and other places in Zhuhai from Wanzai.

A more frequent and cheaper option is to catch a ferry to/from Zhuhai's Jiuzhou Port, which is only a few kilometers from the Macau-Zhuhai border. Take a short taxi ride (10 RMB) or a No. 4 bus from the border crossing to the ferry terminal. The bus ride should be included in your ferry ticket. Ferries from Shenzhen Shekou port to Zhuhai run every 30 minutes and cost 80 RMB.

By car

There are two vehicular entry points into Macau from China. They are the Portas do Cerco (關閘 Guan Chap in Cantonese, Guanzha in Mandarin) at the extreme north of Macau Peninsula which connects you to Gongbei in Zhuhai, and the Lotus Bridge (officially the Cotai Frontier Checkpoint) which links the Cotai Strip with the Wanzai district of Zhuhai.

You can only enter if your vehicle (cars only, no motorcycles) has both Macau and mainland China number plates and the driver carries both Macau and China driver's licenses. Note that you have to switch sides of the road; mainland China drives on the right, Macau on the left.

  • Portas do Cerco: This is the usual entry point into Macau from Zhuhai and is very busy. It is open from 07:00 to 24:00. The crossing will bring you directly into Gongbei in Zhuhai. Getting there/away: The best way to approach the crossing from anywhere in Macau is to use Avenida Norte de Hipodromo which continues as Avenida da Ponte da Amizade, or Avenida Comendador Ho Yin from the western part of the peninsula. Please see Zhuhai section on details to get to the Chinese side of the border.
  • Lotus Bridge: Much quieter than the Portas do Cerco, this crossing involves you driving over the Lotus Bridge over the narrow channel between Cotai and Hengqin Island in China. The crossing is open from 09:00 to 20:00. Getting there/away: The Cotai frontier checkpoint can be accessed via the Taipa-Coloane Istmus Road (still known as the Taipa-Coloane Causeway) and turn off at the Flor de Lotus roundabout about halfway between Taipa and Coloane.

By bus

You can take the coach from Guangzhou. The trip takes about 2 hours and cost around RMB70.

There is also a direct coach from Shenzhen airport and also Shenzhen long distance bus station. The trip from Shenzhen is about 3 hours.

There is also a direct coach from Dongguan city (in Guangdong province) to Macau Airport. The trip takes about 3 hours and cost around RMB100.

You can also get a bus from either place to Gongbei bus station in Zhuhai. That puts you right across the street from the border facilities so you can walk to Macau (see next section). This can save you a bit of money; the bus is about the same price either way, but food and hotels are cheaper in Zhuhai.

On foot

You can cross from mainland China to Macau on foot at the Portas do Cerco (Barrier Gate) crossings at the extreme north of Macau Peninsula. In fact, thousands of Macau and Chinese citizens do it daily, making it an horrendously busy crossing. Depending on the time and day of the week, expect long waits to get processed. The crossing on the Chinese side is called Gongbei in Zhuhai. Getting there/away: The massive underground Portas do Cerco bus terminal is beneath the pretty garden in front of the border checkpoint plaza. You'll be able to find buses to most parts of Macau, including Taipa, Coloane and the Cotai Strip from here. From downtown Macau by taxi, the border is about 10 minutes and MOP$30. See Zhuhai page for details to get to Gongbei crossing.

As most people crossing the Barrier Gate are either mainland or Macau residents, foreign passport holders may get a short queue at the Zhuhai immigration clearance as they do not pass through the same counters as Chinese nationals. However, Macau's immigration divides entrants only into Macau residents and visitors, without further differentiation, and foreigners have to queue with an overwhelming number of mainland residents.

There are money changers at the Barrier Gate that give very good rates so you can change your money into RMB before crossing the customs.

Although you are not allowed to walk on the Lotus Bridge between Wanzai in Zhuhai and Cotai, you can board a bus to cross it.

Get around

On foot

This is arguably the best way to get around the Macau Peninsula, which is small, compact and full of things to discover. Many roads are also one way so there is quite a chance that it won't be slower than to take road transport which make need to make a long loop to reach the destination. Most streets have a pedestrian sidewalk making walking easy, although you will have to fight the crowds going in all directions. Traffic rules are not very well adhered to, so ensure that you look both ways before crossing. In and around the Senado Square, the pavements will be made of hand-laid limestone pieces made into simple designs, something that will surely catch your attention. Macau is also hilly, be prepared to struggle up and down steep lanes and steps.

Especially in the old city, the city streets do not seem to run in any particular pattern and you'll most likely get lost at some stage, which is part of the fun of exploring Macau.

Don't bother trying to get around the Cotai area on foot though, as the huge long streets with nothing much on them except the outside edge of new hotels and giant building sites will eat up time you could better spend elsewhere in Macau.

By bus

Macau and its districts are served by two bus companies - Transportes Urbanos Macau (Transmac) [17] and Sociedade de Transportes Colectivos de Macau (TCM) [18]. Both bus systems can be difficult to use. It is often difficult to gauge which direction the bus is heading and the routes through the city center are very curvy, making a long ride out of a short distance. Bus drivers usually only speak Cantonese, very little English or Mandarin and certainly no Portuguese at all. Most bus stops contain no English, although you can sometimes figure out the destination from Portuguese words.

There is a flat fare of MOP$3.20 for rides within the Macau Peninsula, MOP$4.20 between the Peninsular and Taipa, MOP$5.00 between the Peninsula and Coloane village; and MOP$6.40 between the Peninsula and Hác Sá (Coloane). But like the buses in Hong Kong, your fare goes according to the bus stop you board, not by the length of the journey. Fare are displayed next to the fare box, so get your destinations written in Chinese if you need to tell them where you're going. You need the exact fare as drivers do not give change and there is no debit card system used extensively in Hong Kong. Buses accept Hong Kong coins except the $10 Hong Kong coin.

Please see the Macau Peninsula page for bus routes which serve the district, and the Taipa, Coloane and Cotai pages for routes connecting these districts with the Peninsula.

By shuttle bus

If you've got more time than money on your hands, you can travel around Macau for free simply by hopping on and off the complimentary shuttle buses operated by all major casinos and hotels. Virtually all serve the Terminal Maritimo, with buses every 10 to 30 minutes, while the big boys (Venetian, Wynn, City of Dreams, etc) also shuttle to the Barrier Gate, the Taipa Ferry Terminal and the airport. The buses to Hotel Lisboa, for example, drop you off just a few blocks from Largo do Senado. Shuttles operate in both directions and absolutely no questions are asked; if anything, the casinos employ a small army of touts to guide you on board!

By taxi

Taxis are affordable. Starting from September 2008, taxi fares start at MOP$13. Largo do Senado to the border is about MOP$40. The longest possible taxi ride (from the Border Post at the extreme north of Macau to Coloane in the south) would be well under MOP$200.

It is a good idea to have your destination written in Chinese as most taxi drivers do not speak anything but Cantonese. Some of them may speak a little Mandarin or English, though it is not wise to count on your luck, and almost none speak Portuguese. Most taxi drivers carry with them a list of casinos and other important places, so in case there's a communication gap, just look for it on the sunguard of the front passenger seat.

Like in Hong Kong, every bag placed in the boot of the taxi will have an additional surcharge.

Many taxi drivers are off duty at Sundays and use their cars privately. Those taxis have a red sign in the front window. Expect some waiting for a free taxi on Sundays.

Triciclo cycle-rickshaws
Triciclo cycle-rickshaws

As in Hong Kong, cycle rickshaws (triciclo or riquexó) are a dying breed, although a few still lurk around tourist haunts like the ferry terminal and Hotel Lisboa. Prices are negotiable, but a few hours of city touring by triciclo might cost around 200 MOP.

By car

Car rental is not a popular option in Macau given the territory's small size. Avis [19] provides car rental services in Macau and you have the option of renting the car with or without a driver. Roads are generally well maintained and directional signs are in both Chinese and Portuguese. Unlike in mainland China, international driving permits (IDP's) are accepted in Macau, and traffic moves on the left side of the road with most cars being right-hand drive (largely due to influences from neighbouring Hong Kong).

If you wish to drive a mainland China, your vehicle must have a second set of number plates issued by the Guangdong authorities, and you would need to carry an additional Chinese license. You would also need to change sides of the road at the border.

Vong or Wong?

One of the oddities of Macau is that some Cantonese names and words that are pronounced with what in English is a "W" sound, and that in Hong Kong are transliterated with a "W", are transliterated with a "V" instead, such as in Cheoc Van (which in Hong Kong would be Cheok Wan). This can also be seen in the surname Vong (in Hong Kong Wong). No doubt Portuguese pronunciation has had an influence on this choice of transliteration. To complicate things further, this has not been done consistently so there are both Vongs and Wongs in Macau - both written with the same Chinese character.

Cantonese is the most commonly spoken language of Macau (88%, 2001 census). Mandarin is also spoken by a significant number, especially by the educated and those working in the tourism industry. While most locals can comprehend Mandarin to a certain degree, many are not fluent in it and do not feel comfortable speaking it.

English is spoken, especially by people in the tourism business. Nearly all museums and casinos have some staff with excellent English. So do many hotels, shops and restaurants, especially the up-market ones. However, English is not as widespread as in Hong Kong, and you will encounter plenty of people with little or no English (in fact, according to the 2001 census about half the population don't speak anything but Cantonese). This includes many taxi drivers and bus drivers, so be sure to have your hotel name in Chinese with you if you travel on your own, and have a good bus route map.

Speakers of Portuguese won't find it very useful when talking to local residents (in the 2001 census, less than 1% of the population indicated it as their "usual language"), but it helps a lot in understanding place names and signs. Knowing any Romance language (French, Spanish or Italian) helps some.

All official signs in Macau are in both traditional Chinese and Portuguese. Note that under the "one country two systems" policy, like Hong Kong, Macau continues to use traditional Chinese characters and not the simplified Chinese characters used in mainland China.

Statue in front of Sao Paulo Cathedral
Statue in front of Sao Paulo Cathedral
Penha Church
Penha Church

Although best known for gambling, Macau is extremely rich in attractions and oozing with atmosphere, thanks to hundreds of years of fusion between European and Chinese cultures.

Macau is a fascinating place to just walk around as the place is packed with churches, temples, fortresses and other old buildings bearing an interesting mix of Portuguese and Chinese characteristics. Besides buildings, there are also hundreds of narrow alleyways forming a maze in the old part of Macau where the people of Macau carry out businesses and work. If the sheer density of humans get to you, take a break and enjoy several pretty gardens or head to the island.

One of the interesting things to see in Macau is a statue of the Bodhisatta Avalokitesvara (known as 觀音 kwoon yam in Cantonese) located next to the sea near the Sands Casino and MGM Grand. Despite being a Chinese deity, the statue is distinctly European in design and resembles the statues of the Virgin Mary you can find in Europe.

And if history is not your thing, there is the Macau Tower of awesome views and adventure sports, or Fisherman's Wharf to enjoy some theme-park activities and shopping.

You'll find most of the attractions in Macau Peninsula, but Taipa and Coloane, each with a pretty village, also draw hordes of visitors. Visit the Cotai reclaimed land area to see its transformation into the "Las Vegas Strip of the East". The Venetian is the most famous with its Venice-styled shopping mall with rivers running through, and is also currently the largest casino in the world.


A large section of Macau Peninsula has been designated a Unesco World Heritage site and 25 buildings and sites within the area have been deemed to have cultural and historic significance. The sites are listed in the Macau Peninsula page. One of the best ways to cover the sights is to do the Macau Heritage Walk circuit.

Taipa Village and Coloane Village, previously inhabited by fishermen, are also interesting with their colonial-era shops and houses along narrow lanes.


Macau has several museums. The "Macau Museum Pass", which gives discounted entry to most of these, is currently off the market. The main museums, such as the Macau Museum, are in Macau Peninsula although there are two museums on Taipa - the Museum of Taipa and Coloane History and Taipa Houses Museum.

From left to right: the venerable Lisboa with brash upstarts Wynn and MGM Grand
From left to right: the venerable Lisboa with brash upstarts Wynn and MGM Grand

Gambling is Macau's biggest industry and busloads arrive daily from mainland China to try their luck. In addition, many Hong Kongers arrive on weekends with the same aim. For many years, the Casino Lisboa was the most famous and a landmark well known to people outside Macau, but it is being eclipsed by Sands Casino which opened in 2004. Nevertheless, the original Casino Lisboa is still worth a visit as its halls contain many original antiques on display from the private collection of gambling tycoon Stanley Ho.

Most casinos are located along the waterfront on the southern side of Macau Peninsula. North of the Lisboa is a strip with many smaller casinos, a number of hotels and bars, and quite a few restaurants. This can be one of the more interesting areas of Macau; among other things it has quite a good Indian restaurant and several Portuguese ones. However, parts of it are also fairly sleazy, with lots of hookers and touts, so some caution is in order. New casinos have also opened in the area called NAPE south of Avenida de Amizade, including Wynn Macau and Sands Macau.

All this is going to be overtaken by the new development on the Cotai Strip, which is being made into "The Las Vegas Strip of the East". The biggest casino in the world, Venetian Macao, opened its doors in August 2007 and the not-much-smaller City of Dreams followed in 2009, with many more still to come. There are also several casinos on Taipa, including the Crown Macau.

There are ATMs available at either casino as well as forex facilities to change your money. Gamblers are required to be at least 18 years of age to be allowed to play. Interestingly, local civil servants are not allowed to enter the casinos with the exception of the first three days of the Chinese new year.

For the full listing of casinos, see the respective district pages.

Greyhound racing

Another popular form of gambling in Macau is greyhound racing, where people bet on dogs in the same way that many people in other countries bet on horses. The minimum bet is 10 patacas and payouts can be made in both Macanese Patacas and Hong Kong Dollars.

Go Karting

There is a go-kart track on the southern end of Cotai.

Adventure Activities

At a height of 233m, the bungy jump from Macau tower, maintained and operated by A. J. Hackett is the highest in the world. Along with the bungy, one can also try the Sky jump, that is somewhat like a jump but is more protected and doesn't involve a free fall, and a sky walk, that is a protected on a platform running around the circumference of the floor. Bouldering and sport climbing activities are also conducted at the tower's base. See the Macau Peninsula page for details.


Macau's two beaches - Hac Sa (黑沙 - black sand) and Cheoc Van (竹灣 - bamboo bay) - are located on the southern side of Coloane island. They are very popular and are frequented by locals and visitors, especially at the weekend.

Besides beaches, there are several public swimming pools all over Macau. All high-end hotels also have swimming pools.


There are opportunities for hiking and cycling on the relatively rural islands of Taipa and Coloane.


There is a bowling centre of international standard which was constructed in 2005 for the East Asian Games at the Macau Dome (澳門蛋) in Cotai area. There is also a bowling alley in Macau near the Camoes Garden/Protestant cemetery.

Soulless shopping in the city center
Soulless shopping in the city center

The currency of Macau is the pataca (MOP), which is divided into 100 avos. There are about 8 patacas to the US dollar.

The pataca is pegged to the Hong Kong dollar (HKD). Hong Kong dollars are accepted by most businesses on a 1:1 basis, but most businesses will endeavour to give you change in HKD if you pay in HKD, if they have them. Occasionally, however, a business might give change in Pataca notes and HKD coins or the other way around The HK$10 coin may not be accepted because of numerous recent forgeries. Chinese Yuan (RMB/CNY) are also accepted in some areas and can easily be changed for either Hong Kong dollars or patacas. In casinos, the Hong Kong dollar is the preferred currency, and gamers with patacas may actually be required to exchange to Hong Kong dollars (or HKD-denominated casino chips) before playing.

Getting money is quite easy as there are banks and ATMs on nearly every street. Holders of a debit card on the international networks will have no issues withdrawing money. Holders of Chinese Union Pay cards will not have trouble either withdrawing local currency from their RMB denominated accounts. ATMs usually dispense in MOP (100 and 500 bills) and HKD (100 and 500 as well) and some will also dispense in CNY.

Changing your currency into patacas outside of Macau is impossible and pointless. Change enough Hong Kong dollars to tide you over, and then change the rest into patacas after arriving. The money changers at the Barrier Gate provide good exchange rates, and you can also change the Hong Kong dollars you are holding into Patacas.

On the other hand, try not to leave Macau with a lot of patacas. Unlike the Hong Kong dollar, they are quite hard to exchange in most countries. Even if you try to exchange them in Hong Kong, money changers may charge high commission thus giving you fewer HKDs than for what the MOP is worth.

Visa and MasterCard credit cards are widely accepted in major restaurants, stores and the ferry terminal but some merchants may require a token minimum purchase amount, usually MOP 100.

Tipping is generally not practised in Macau, though bellhops may expect about 10 patacas or so for carrying your bags. In full service restaurants, a service charge is usually imposed and that is taken to be the tip. However, you should know that the 10% service charge does not go to the actual people who served you, rather it is used by the owners to pay the salaries of said employees. If you wish to give a tip, you should give it in cash directly to the person you wish to reward for their good service. Taxi drivers also do not expect tips, and would return exact change, or round it in your favour if they can't be bothered to dig for change.


Quite frankly, the shopping options in Macau don't hold a candle to Hong Kong. While the newer megacasinos have introduced Macau to the joys of sterile franchise-filled malls, the city center streets around the older casinos are still a bizarre monoculture of ridiculously expensive watch, jewelry and Chinese medicine shops (with an emphasis on herbal Viagra-type cures), all aimed squarely at liberating lucky gamblers from their winnings. Finding tasteful souvenirs can thus be surprisingly challenging, although the touristy streets between Largo do Senado and the ruins of St. Paul's do have a scattering of antique shops.

Bargaining in the small shops can be done, but usually working on the principle of the shopkeeper quoting a price, the buyer making "hmmm" sounds and the shopkeeper lowering the price a bit. A full-fledged haggling match is quite rare, as most antique shops sell precisely the same thing at precisely the same prices.

Pastéis de nata
Pastéis de nata
Pato de cabidela
Pato de cabidela

Macau is famous for excellent restaurants, unique cuisine and mellow bars. Above all, the city is famous for two cuisines: Portuguese and Macanese.

Portuguese food (cozinha portuguesa), brought in by its Portuguese colonizers, is hearty, salty, straighforward fare. While many restaurants claim to serve the stuff, fully authentic fare is mostly limited to a few high-end restaurants, especially the cluster at the southwestern tip of the Peninsula. Typical Portuguese dishes include:

  • pato de cabidela (bloody duck), a stew of chicken with blood and herbs, served with rice; sounds and looks somewhat scary, but it's excellent when well done
  • bacalhau (salted cod), traditionally served with potatoes and veggies
  • caldo verde, a soup of potato, chopped kale and chourico sausage
  • feijoada (kidney-bean stew), a Brazilian staple common in Macau as well
  • pastéis de nata (egg tarts), crispy and flaky on the outside and soft and sweet on the inside

Macanese food (comida de Macau) was created when Portuguese and Chinese influences were mixed together with spices brought from Africa and South-East Asia by traders, and many restaurants advertising "Portuguese" food in fact serve up mostly Macanese dishes. Seafood and barbecue specialist Fernando's on Tapa's Hac Sa Beach is probably the best-known Macanese restaurant.

  • Almond cookies. Dry Chinese-style cookies flavoured with almond. Macau's top souvenir, they're compact, durable and hence sold pretty much everywhere.
  • 'Galinha à africana (African chicken). Barbequed chicken coated in spicy piri-piri sauce.
  • 'Galinha à portuguesa (Portuguese chicken). Chicken in a coconutty curry; despite the name, this is not a Portuguese dish at all, but a purely Macanese invention.
  • Pork chop bun. The Macanese version of a hamburger, the name pretty much says it all: it's a slice of freshly fried pork (often with a few chunks of bone left) with a dash of pepper placed inside a freshly baked bun.

All that said, the food of choice in Macau is still pure Cantonese, and a few aficionados even claim that the dim sum and seafood here beat Hong Kong. The streets of central Macau are littered with simple eateries offering rice and noodle dishes for under 30 MOP (although menus are often only in Chinese), while every casino hotel worth its salt has a fancy Cantonese seafood restaurant where you can blow away your gambling winnings on abalone and shark's fin soup.

The greatest concentration of restaurants in Macau is in the Peninsula, where they are scattered throughout the district. Taipa is now a major destination for those going for Portuguese and Macanese food and there are many famous restaurants on the island. There are several restaurants in Coloane, which is also home to the famous Lord Stow's Bakery, which popularized the Macanese egg tart.Yummy!


Reasonably priced Portuguese wine is widely available. A glass in a restaurant is around MOP 20, while bottles start from under MOP 100, and a crisp glass of vinho verde ("green wine", but actually just a young white) goes very well with salty Macanese food. As elsewhere in China, though, locals tend to prefer cognacs and whisky. Macau Beer is passable and widely available.

Nightlife in Macau runs the gamut, with most casinos and hotels operating nightclubs. For locals, though, the main form of entertainment is "saunas", which are thinly disguised brothels (prostitution is legal in Macau) and can be found in virtually every hotel, particularly on the Peninsula.


The bulk of Macau's hotels are on the Peninsula although are also many options, including high-end ones, on Taipa and increasingly, the Cotai Strip as that area challenges to become Macau's premier casino area. Coloane, which offers fewer and much quieter options, has accommodation ranging from the famous Pousada de Coloane to Macau's two beach-side youth hostels.

Hotel rates are most expensive on Friday and Saturday nights, because demand are higher with many Hong Kong residents coming to Macau to gamble over the weekend. Try to make a booking through a travel agent, even if for the same day, as the rates can be substantially lower than walk-in rates. If you are coming from Hong Kong, book through an agent at the Shun Tak ferry pier for the best deals. Getting a package deal including return ferry tickets gives you the best price.

In the Inner Harbour area, many of the pensions and two star hotels are also the place of business for many of the mainland PRC prostitutes that work in Macau, and most hotel "saunas" are in fact thinly disguised brothels.

Hotel listings are in the individual district pages. Budget accommodation is one that carries a 2-star rating or below, a mid-range place has a 3-star rating, and a splurge place has a 4-star rating or above.


Macau has 12 tertiary education institutions. Besides some smaller and more specialized schools (Security Forces School, Tourism School, European Studies Institute, etc), the ones of importance are:

  • University of Macau [20]. The oldest and most popular university, established in 1981 (then under the name University of East Asia). Offers degree programmes in a wide variety of fields at all levels, including pre-university courses, bachelors, masters and doctorate degrees. The majority of degrees are taught in English, except education and law which are taught in a choice of either Chinese (Cantonese) or Portuguese.
  • Macau University of Science and Technology [21]. Established after the 1999 handover of Macau to China, courses are mainly taught in Chinese (Mandarin) by professors from the mainland, and a significant portion of its student population draws from the mainland too.
  • Macau Polytechnic Institute [22]. A spin-off of the former University of East Asia, it was established in 1991 to provide practice-oriented education and training mainly to the local population.
  • Macau Inter-University Institute [23]. Established in 1996, it originally only offered postgraduate education, but since 2005 also offers undergraduate degree courses, and since 2006 pre-university courses, mainly in the humanities.


Non-residents who wish to take up employment in Macau need to obtain a valid work permit and are then issued the so-called Blue Card (officially called Non-Resident Worker's Permit). The process takes approximately a month to receive a work permit, at which time employment may begin, and another 1-2 months to receive the Blue Card.

As illegal employment has over the past decades been a problem plaguing Macau, the authorities do crack down severely on any offenders (both worker and employer) caught. Visitors are therefore advised not to engage in illegal employment.

Stay safe

Severe weather

There is a risk of typhoons, mainly between July and September. A system of typhoon warnings is in place that are issued by the Macao Meteorological and Geophysical Bureau [24] and are broadcast widely on television and radio:

The typhoon warning system is basically a copy of the system used in Hong Kong.

  • Number 1: tropical cyclone is within 800 km of Macau
  • Number 3: tropical cyclone is likely to bring winds of 41-62 km/h to Macau, with gusts of 110 km/h (usually issued when the typhoon is within 300 km of Macau)
  • Number 8: tropical cyclone is nearing Macau, bringing with it winds of 63-117 km/h, and gusts of up to 180 km/h
  • Number 9: the centre of the tropical cyclone is approaching Macau and it is expected that Macau will be severely affected
  • Number 10: the centre of the tropical cyclone will hit Macau directly, with mean wind speed over 118 km/h and intense gusts

During a number 8, 9 or 10 typhoon everything in Macau shuts down (all schools, all government departments, and the large majority of work places and shops). People stay home and it is not advisable to venture outside as there is the risk of injury or worse from flying debris.

  • You should beware of pickpockets, especially in crowded areas like tourist attractions and the border stations. Keep your valuables somewhere safe. Pickpockets usually come in a group and use one person to distract people while the others work.
  • Be wary of harassment from street prostitutes and hawkers handing out leaflets/flyers. Among the more insistent flyer flingers are Falun Gong, a religious/political organisation. If you do take one of their flyers (which is sometimes the easiest way to get rid of them) and you are going to mainland China, be sure dispose of it before crossing the border. The organisation is illegal in China and being caught "smuggling" some of their propaganda would be a major hassle.
  • Recently a scam involving mainland Chinese visitors asking for money has become widespread, mainly in downtown Macau. These people, who are usually properly dressed, claim to have lost their wallet and not to have eaten the whole day, asking for MOP20-30 to buy some food. The police have issued warnings in the local media not to give money to these people.
  • In the mid-90s, Macau had some vicious gang wars among the triads, mobsters with automatic weapons. Macau police had the situation partly under control by the time the Chinese took over in 1999. The current government seems to have it entirely under control; there has been no sign of open mob conflict in this century. The triads usually don't bother ordinary people, so the advice is not to mess with them (such as by borrowing money from loan sharks and then failing to repay it), and they won't mess with you!

Stay healthy

One unexpected cause of sickness in Macau is the extreme temperature change between 35°C (95°F) humid summer weather outdoors and 18°C (65°F) air-conditioned buildings. Some people experience cold symptoms after moving between the two extremes often; it is not unusual to wear a sweater or covering to stay warm indoors, and it is therefore usually good advice to carry a long-sleeve item of clothing when expecting to visit air-conditioned places for extended periods of time.

Whilst tap water is technically safe to drink (taste aside), most locals boil or filter their water or buy inexpensive bottled water which you are also recommended to do so.

Because of recent concerns about SARS and the threat of Avian Flu, good personal hygiene is strongly advisable. Wash hands before eating and after returning from public areas to your place of accommodation.

There have been some cases of Dengue fever in recent years. The government has pro-actively sprayed insecticide in areas where there is the potential of mosquito breeding, so this risk is largely contained. However it is best to avoid being bitten by using mosquito repellent and/or wearing long clothing, especially at dusk.

When eating sea-food make sure the food is properly cooked as you may otherwise end up with an upset stomach or worse.


Most Macau people are quite friendly but may be shy when approached by foreigners as only a small minority of locals speak English well enough to communicate.

When visiting Chinese temples basic respect should be shown, but taking photos is usually allowed and you don't need to ask for permission as long as there isn't a no-photography sign posted.


The tourist information offices on Largo do Senado and at the jetfoil terminal have maps, information on museums and events, helpful English-speaking staff, and at the Largo do Senado office free Internet access. You may have to queue for the Internet, since there are only a few machines.

Chinoy Express, Rua De Mercadores. A cheap and fast internet cafe (5MOP/hr) right near Rua De Felicidade. Serves cheap snacks and right across the road is a Filipino Bakery with cheap and tasty breads and very cheap large bottles of San Miguel (6MOP)

Mobile phones

Macau has excellent mobile phone coverage. Macau has both GSM 900/1800 and 3G 2100 networks. Check with your operator.

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Up to date as of January 15, 2010

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary



Wikipedia has an article on:



Alternative spellings

Proper noun




  1. A city just west of Hong Kong, a highly autonomous special region of China, previously under Portuguese control.

Derived terms



  • (region in China): Aomen (especially in the Chinese media)


  • Anagrams of aacmu
  • cauma

Simple English

Macao Special Administrative Region of the People's Republic of China

Região Administrativa Especial de Macau da República Popular da China

Official flag
National information
National motto: n/a
National anthem: n/a
About the people
Official languages: Portuguese, Chinese (Mandarin and Cantonese
Population: (# of people)
  - Total: 451,000 (ranked 162)
  - Density: 16,521 per km²
Geography / Places
[[Image:|250px|none|country map]] Here is the country on a map.
Capital city: n/a
Largest city: n/a
  - Total: 27.3 (ranked 191)
  - Water:n/a km² (0%)
Politics / Government
Established: December 20, 1999
Leaders: Chief Executive: Edmund Ho Hau-wah
Economy / Money
(Name of money)
Pataca (MOP)
International information
Time zone: +8
Telephone dialing code: +853
Internet domain: .mo

The Macao Special Administrative Region of the People's Republic of China (Macau or Macao, Pinyin: Aomen, Cantonese: Ou Mun) is one of the two Special Administrative Regions in China. (The other one is Hong Kong). Macau is a small city in the southern coast in China. It consists of Macau Peninsula (Aomen Bandao), Taipa Island (Dangzai Dao), Coloane Island (Luhuan Dao) and Cotai (Ludangcheng), the new reclaimed land between Taipa and Coloane.

Beforehand, Macao was a colony of Portugal. Today, Macao mostly lives from offshore gambling. They make some money from exporting clothing.

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