What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you hear about Macau? Did you say a bird? Actually, that would be a Macaw but that’s not what I’m talking about here. I’m talking about a beautiful little place in China, which is also the gambling capital of the world.
Wait, what? Isn’t that Las Vegas? Sorry to disappoint you, but it isn’t. You may be surprised to know that this tiny region generates 3X as much gambling revenue than Vegas. And some of the casinos in Macau, although less in number, are the biggest ones in the world.
However, this place has a lot more to offer besides the casinos and the gambling. And that’s exactly what I’m going to talk about. By the time you’re done reading this, you’ll know the best things to do in Macau, on a budget. But first, where exactly is it located?
Where Is Macau?
Macau is an autonomous region of the People’s Republic of China. On the map, you can find it towards the south of China, nestled between the Pearl River estuary on the south and east. Once an overseas Portuguese territory, it now represents a perfect amalgamation of the traditional and the modern.
How To Reach Macau?
If you’re traveling to Macau from Hong Kong, the best way to get there is via the Fast Ferry. It takes about an hour to reach. We took the TurboJET, but there are other ferry services as well. All of them depart from the Hong Kong Macau Ferry Terminal in Sheung Wan. If you don’t have enough time on your hands, you can even visit Macau on a day trip from Hong Kong.
Pro Tip: Book your Ferry tickets a few months in advance to get some good discounts.
How to Explore Macau on a Budget?
Once in Macau, you can easily avail the free shuttle buses waiting at the Macau Ferry Terminal to take you to your hotel. Some of these shuttle buses run from one hotel to another.
These can help you save some money and travel to the other hotels and casinos. So that you can put your money to better use (arguably of course) 😊
Public buses in Macau are cheap and easily available and you can look up bus numbers and routes on Google Maps.
Pro Tip: Make sure to keep the exact fare ready as most buses do not provide any change.
Where to Stay in Macau on a Budget?
We had booked our stay at the Harbourview Hotel at Macau’s Fisherman’s Wharf. I would strongly recommend this hotel as it offers all the amenities of a 5-star hotel at an extremely affordable price.
Things to Do in Macau
1. The Fisherman’s Wharf
One of the top things to do in Macau is to visit the Fisherman’s Wharf, located at Macau’s outer harbor. It is the largest leisure and themed entertainment complex in Macau. It houses multiple hotels & casinos in European-themed architecture.
There is a marina here, along with many options for dining, shopping, and entertainment. It creates a unique experience for tourists from around the world.
The Sands is located right opposite to the Harbourview Hotel. There are regular free shuttle buses leaving from there to The Venetian and The Parisian. From these hotels, there are shuttles connecting you to almost all the major hotels and casinos on the strip.
What to pack for a 2 day trip to Macau? Check out this guide to packing light.
2. Venetian Macau
Visiting The Venetian is certainly one of the top things to do in Macau. Catch one of the free shuttle buses and make your way over for a little gambling action. If you’re like us though – exploring Macau on a budget – satiate yourself just by taking a tour of this grand casino. Trust me, you won’t be disappointed.
Keep in mind that you cannot take photos inside the casinos. Also, unlike the casinos in Las Vegas, smoking on the floor is prohibited. There are separate smoking rooms inside the casinos.
The Venetian in Macau is very much similar to the one in Vegas. It even has a replica of the Grand Canal inside where you can take a Gondola ride for a price. There’s also a food court here – perfect for people exploring Macau on a budget.
3. A-Ma Temple
Our first day in Macau was spent wandering between the Fisherman’s Wharf and The Venetian. We started our sightseeing the next day with a trip to the UNESCO World Heritage-listed A-Ma Temple.
The A-Ma temple is considered to be the settlement’s namesake. It was built in 1488 and is one of the oldest temples in Macau. According to folklore, the first Portuguese sailors landed in Macau on the coast just outside this temple.
On asking the name of the place, the natives had replied: “Maa-gok” or “A-maa-gok” meaning – “The Pavilion of the Mother”. From then on, the Portuguese named the peninsula, “Macau”. The temple contains an ancient complex, profound and rich in Chinese culture.
Throughout the temple complex, you can see various inscriptions and poems carved on the rock surfaces. Devotees burn a lot of incense here to pay homage and pray for good fortune.
4. Senado Square
Take one of the public buses from the A-Ma Temple and make your way over to Senado Square – one of the most popular Macau attractions. Senado Square is a part of the UNESCO Historic Center of Macau world heritage site. Due to the Iberian influence, the architecture here has a complete European feel.
Pro Tip: There are several shops at Senado Square that sell delicious Macanese delicacies. Don’t forget to sample some of them while you’re here. My favorite was the Portuguese Egg Tart!
5. St. Dominic’s Church
St. Dominic’s Church is located right at the center of Senado Square. It was built in 1587 by three priests of Spanish-Dominican origin. The church is dedicated to the worship of “Our Lady of the Rosary”.
6. The Ruins Of St. Paul’s
The Ruins of St. Paul’s are just a little way up ahead from here and is one of the most iconic Macau attractions. In fact, this needs to be one of the topmost on your things to do in Macau list. The front facade and stone stairs are the only things that remain of the church.
7. Na Tcha Temple
Just behind the Ruins of St. Paul is the Na Tcha Temple. This temple was built in 1888. It is dedicated to Na Tcha – a legendary deity who resembles a kid but possesses magical powers.
The temple’s existence so close to the Ruins of St. Paul’s is a testament to the rich and diverse culture of Macau.
Other Macau Attractions
Your trip to Macau won’t be complete without a bit of casino hopping. After all, it’s one of the top things to do in Macau.
So, don’t forget to visit some of the grandest ones – The Parisian, Sands, Wynn, MGM Grand, Galaxy, and Grand Lisboa to name a few. Of course, if you’re exploring Macau on a budget, restrict yourself to just seeing the sights – which are marvelous, to say the least.
If you have more time on your hands, do plan on visiting the Taipa Village. It offers an array of authentic Macanese retail and dining concepts to choose from.
We spent two days in Macau – enough to satiate our needs of experiencing the diverse cultures of Macau on a budget and tasting some delightful Macanese delicacies.
For some more Ideas on things to do in Macau, check out this Travel Guide to Macau.
Also, don’t forget to check out these amazing beaches in Macau if you have more time.
I hope this guide comes in handy whenever you plan your trip to Macau. So, when are you planning to visit?
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