Macau for Backpackers


St Pauls Church, Macau

Where is Macau?
Macau is a Chinese territory near Hong Kong, composed of a peninsula and two small islands connected by bridges. It was Portuguese for about 400-years – the first and last foreign colony in China. The only place in China proper-gambling is allowed.

I’ve enjoyed the food, drink and Mediterranean aura there for over 20-years, before the Portuguese handover.

Macau Accommodation
Macau Hotel Backpacker’s accommodation used to be under US$10 a night. Now, finding a budget hotel is akin to getting a cut-price lobster dinner in London.

Since casino revenue exceeded four-times Las Vegas and Chinese mainlanders are allowed in their millions, the cheapest rooms are over US$60. Despite a clamp down on gambling government money.

Nevertheless, real bargains can be had online for plush 4-star hotels’ for around HK$800 off peak – about 1/3 walk in price.

Cheap Rooms
Backpackers have a harder time. With the cheaper rooms less value, grubby, with beds as hard as wooden doors. However, although a little more than Hong Kong’s Chung King Mansions, they’re easy to find in the right area.

Travessa Do Mastro - MacauAt the ferry terminal, collect a map and ask questions at the Tourist Information Office. Then backpackers should take a taxi (about HK$25 – use Hong Kong money) to the main square, called Senado Square, pronounced ‘San Marlo’. Walk five-minutes further down the main road and take a lane on the left called Travessa Do Mastro. Around there are the cheapest lodgings.

Van Va Hotel, Cheap Macau HotelThe backpacker’s favourite is Van Va Hospedaria, up the steps from a doorway along a traditional street, left off Travessa Do Mastro. Bring your own towel or buy a cheap one in a supermarket. There’s a few similar hotels nearby.

Is It Worth It?
If you’re calling on Hong Kong, don’t miss Macau. Its different! Even a day-trip is worthwhile – the ferries are 24/7, taking just over an hour and about HK$175 each way.

You can also do a three-way thing: Hong Kong, Macau, and Zhuhai, mainland China. It’s just a short walk across the border from Macau to Zhuhai and high-speed trains connect to Guangzhou South Station.

Must See
Rua Da Felicidade, MacauGold shops and banks are everywhere, but there’s much heritage to explore. A short walk from the main square brings you to the Ruins of St Paul’s – what’s left of a 17th-century Portuguese cathedral, dramatically perched at the top of so-European steps.

Other sights not to miss are the Fort, built in 1626 – just behind St Paul’s (take the escalators up and walk down), and the 150-year old Guia Fort & Lighthouse.

Macau Food
Alies Curry House, MacauMacau is famous for its egg custard tarts, made from Portuguese pastry and served hot. Intruded by an Englishman, Andrew Stow in 1989 in a Coloane Village, but now available everywhere. A few years ago they were just HK$4 each, but now sell for $9.

Most restaurants serve a combination of Portuguese and Cantonese food. Best bargains are away from the main square. My favourite is Ali Curry House, opposite the tower, Avenida da Republica no 4-K. Great open-air location with fantastic quality Portuguese food and good wine, not just curries.


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