Getting Around Macau
As noted in the Top 10 Things to Do, the best way to see Macau is on foot. However that probably won’t be possible all the time, so alternative means will sometimes be necessary.
Let’s start with the most deplorable one.
For tourists, the Macau taxi service might give you the most headaches. I’ve definitely had my fair share of problems with them over the years, so much so that I’ve written them off completely. Now I just take the bus everywhere, or do what I probably should have been doing all along, and just walk.
Local residents though are fed up with the situation, and have launched something called Macau Taxi Driver Shame on Facebook. The main problem for them isn’t the lack of taxies, but the amount of dishonest drivers ripping people off. To me it sounds like a case of simple economics, of supply and demand gone all wrong. There aren’t enough taxies, the taxi drivers know this, so they’ve started demanding more money on top of the meter, something called fishing.
A typical example goes like this. You’re lined up outside of MGM Macau and want to go to the Venetian. The typical fare is about $70 MOP, but the driver demands $300 up front, otherwise he won’t take you. And neither will the next one, or the next one, or the next one, because they’re all in it together working the same angle.
This practice seems to be aimed more at mainland Chinese tourists, since the guys driving the cabs themselves are from China and can’t speak English. That often to leads to cabs not even stopping for anyone who looks non Asian, which is seriously frustrating when loads of empty ones just keep passing by.
Another scheme I’ve heard about involves luggage. The cabbie demands you store your bags in the trunk. A couple of intersections later he’s stopped at a light, the trunk is popped, and your luggage is gone. Whenever you can, try to store all of your things in the backseat.
With that being said, I believe the majority of Macau taxi drivers are decent people, especially during the day. At worst you might be taken the scenic route somewhere and have to pay 40 or 50 Mops more than you should, but such is life. Your biggest issue will probably just be just getting one, as during weekends and peak periods, it’s become all but impossible.
Current rules involving fares are as follows:
–Flat fare is $19 for the first 1600 metres, then it’s $2.00 for every 240 metres after that.
–A surcharge of $3 is added for each piece of luggage put in the trunk.
–A surcharge of $2 is added if you make the taxi driver wait.
–When you board a taxi at Macau International Airport, the HKZM Frontier Post, the Taipa Ferry Terminal, the University of Macau or go from Macau to Coloane, there’s a $5 surcharge.
–There’s a $2 surcharge when going from Taipa to Coloane.
Let’s begin by talking about the free buses, the ones provided by the casinos.
Regardless of where you enter Macau, with the exception of the new HKZM Frontier Post, there will be a free shuttle bus waiting for you, ready to whisk you off to one of the city’s 40 casinos. A tremendous resource, especially if you’re looking to save money, just hop on any of these buses to get closer to where you want to go, and then proceed from there. Since these buses only service the casinos however, there are a limited number of destinations you can get to.
If your destination is somewhere near the Outer Harbour Ferry Terminal on the old Macau peninsula, take a Sands Macao or Oceanus bus.
If you want to get to downtown Macau, near the Lisboa or San Ma Lo, there are plenty of options to choose from, including the Wynn, Grand Lisboa, Lisboa, Starworld, and Emperor Palace.
For Macau’s Inner Harbour, look for a Ponte 16 Sofitel bus. That’s the one to take for the Street of Happiness too and all of the small hotels located in that area.
Taipa and Coloane are a little more tricky. For Taipa, try a Venetian or Galaxy bus, with Galaxy probably best. A lot of principal locations in Taipa aren’t that far away from there on foot, including Taipa Village and budget hotels like Grandview and Grand Dragon. For Coloane, the closest you can get is to arrive at Sands Cotai or Studio City first. After that, you’ll have to take a bus or taxi the rest of the way. Unfortunately, there’s just no walking that one, my friends.
Another great way to utilize the free buses is to hop between the old Macau peninsula and the Cotai Strip. Sister casinos all provide routes that link up with each other, so you can get from MGM Macau to MGM Cotai, Wynn Palace to Wynn Macau, and Starworld to Galaxy with no problem. A handy one not many people know about is City of Dreams to Hotel Sintra, which is the one to get if you’re around Senado Square. Should you be by the Macau Ferry Terminal, just head over to the Sands Macao and then take a bus to the Venetian, Parisian, or Sands Cotai. Again, everything is free and no one checks anything.
When it’s time to leave Macau and get to Gongbei or the airport or wherever, the buses also run free in that direction too from every single big name casino hotel.
I enjoy the Macau bus system because the buses are clean, cheap and run quite often. Your biggest difficulty will be understanding the routes because a lot of them refer to streets, apartment complexes or gardens that you (and I!) have never heard of. To make matters worse, everything is written in Portuguese and Chinese. But don’t let that dissuade you! Look, Macau is so small that all you need to do is get in the general vicinity of your destination, and then you should be close enough to walk the rest of the way. When I’m on the old Macau peninsula staring at the litany of stops in two languages I don’t understand, I just stick to these basic guidelines:
–If I want to get to A Ma Temple, or that general area, I just look for anything that says “Barra”, or of course, “A Ma Temple”.
–If I want to get to the Inner Harbour, like somewhere around the Sofitel, I look for “Ponte Cais 14”, “Praca Ponte Horta”, or “Alm.Sergio/Mercado.”
–If I want to get anywhere central, like San Ma Lo or Senado Square, I look for “Almeida Ribeiro” or “Lisboa.”
–If I want to get to Mong Ha Hill, or North of the city, I look for “Horta E Costa.”
For first timers to Macau or people who aren’t very familiar with the city, I don’t recommend going all cavalier and doing something like this. Your best bet would be to plan in advance and know precisely which buses to take, where to get them and where to get off. For help with that, just ask a question in the Comments sections below. Alternatively, major bus routes are listed on every free Macau map, so maybe you can work it out yourself after you’ve arrived.
Keep in mind that bus drivers only accept exact change, so have your coins ready. The standard rate city wide for all fares is $6, regardless of distance.
Getting To and From Macau
This one is pretty self-explanatory. Get on the plane, get off the plane, hopefully it’s landed in Macau.
If airfare is too expensive to fly to and from Macau direct, you could possibly consider using Zhuhai, Shenzhen, or Guangzhou instead. While prices will probably be cheaper, this also requires the extra hassle of applying for a Chinese tourist visa.
If you land in Hong Kong, you can take a ferry directly from Hong Kong International Airport and pick your luggage up only after having arrived in Macau. You also avoid having to clear Hong Kong immigration. This same service is also available going from Macau to Hong Kong International Airport, with TurboJet and CotaiJet both offering routes.
The “Titan of Trip Advisor” and fellow Macau enthusiast Brad Reynolds wrote a great piece on Facebook about how the whole procedure works, which I’ve linked here: HKG SkyPier to/from Macau.
If you’re coming or going by helicopter, just get your personal assistant to work those details out for you.
Macau has ferry routes linking 3 cities: Hong Kong, Shenzhen, and Guangzhou.
Both Macau Ferry Terminal and Taipa Ferry Terminal have a ton of ferries that service the China Ferry Terminal in Kowloon, the Hong Kong-Macau Ferry Terminal in Sheung Wan, and Hong Kong International Airport.
Prices range from $150 to $200 for tickets depending on when you sail, with weekday tickets cheapest ($153), weekend prices in the middle ($180) and nighttime ferries the most expensive ($200). Generally speaking, there are usually more than 4 ferries an hour leaving in both directions during the day, and about one per hour from midnight to 6 am. The whole trip takes about 60 minutes and tickets can usually be purchased on the spot without much difficulty.
For an idea of sailing schedules, here are links to the three principal ferry operators’ websites.
Chu Kong Passenger Transport: www.cksp.com.hk/en
Turbojet mainly handles the Shenzhen routes, which service both She Kou and Shenzhen International Airport.
There are 15 ferries a day on the She Kou line and 9 that go between Macau and the airport. Cheapest tickets cost $235.
I’ve never heard of anyone taking a ferry to and from Guangzhou, but apparently there are two ferries a day in both directions, 10:45 am and 4:15 pm from Macau, and 9:00 am and 2:30 pm from Guangzhou. Tickets cost $180. For more information, please visit the Turbojet website here: Turbojet.
Kee Kwan Motor Road company offers bus service between Macau and large cities in Guangdong Province. Their telephone number is (853) 2893 3888.
I almost think bus service isn’t worth mentioning. If you’re going to mainland China, cross the border into Zhuhai and get on the high speed train to Guangzhou. From Guangzhou take another high speed train to wherever you need to go. Buses are becoming obsolete in China now that the fast train network has become so comprehensive.