Getting to Macau from Hong Kong or Kowloon is a ferry ride of at least an hour's duration. Taking a helicopter is the faster, more expensive alternative – it only takes fifteen minutes -- and the view, undoubtedly, is breathtaking. But if you're holidaying in Hong Kong, Macau makes a very interesting day trip or one pleasant extension of your holiday. And the ferry ride is, in itself, part of the experience.
Image courtesy of Wikitravel
In Hong Kong,Turbojet ferries run from Shun Tak in Sheung Wan every fifteen minutes from seven in the morning until midnight. Trips are never full as Turbojet makes additional journeys during peak times to cope with the demand. In Kowloon, First Ferry operates ferries from the China Ferry Terminal in Tsim Sha Tsui every half an hour from seven in the morning until midnight. First Ferry does not currently make additional trips and ferries from Kowloon, therefore, can be busier than Turbojet ferries from Hong Kong. Sky Shuttle Helicopters uses the heliport in Shun Tak in Hong Kong to provide scheduled services that operate from nine in the morning to eleven at night. Flights leave every half an hour or more frequently on public holidays and other designated holidays.
One way economy ferry fare is around $19 Australian dollars, one way first class fare is double the amount. There are also VIP cabin options, which can accommodate up to six people and cost an average of around $180 Australian dollars. One way chopper fare is around $480 Australian dollars. Ferry tickets from Hong Kong or Kowloon can be booked at least an hour before departure. It is advisable to purchase a return fare and pre-book your return travel from Macau, especially on weekends, when the wait in the Macau terminal may take longer than on weekdays. The economy cabin is comfortable and clean, and on any normal day, has plenty of seats to choose from. Upgrading to first class is hardly necessary.
Image courtesy of Turbojet
Although Macau and Hong Kong are both Chinese SARs (Special Administrative Region), treat it as if you were travelling between two different countries. You will need your passport and you need to allot a minimum of one hour to go through immigration and customs. The usual immigration and customs clearance procedures apply: completing forms, going through baggage check and getting your passport stamped. Visa requirements, both for Hong Kong and Macau, vary depending on nationality. It is imperative to check your own particular visa requirements and have the correct visas before leaving your own country.
Macau has its own currency, the Macanese pataca, which has the same value as the Hong Kong dollar. It is not necessary to have patacas before going to Macau as the Hong Kong dollar is accepted widely. Change is always given in patacas, however.
The Taipa Ferry Terminal in Macau is a good place to centre all your local travelling. Major casinos and hotels operate complimentary shuttle buses that come and go from the ferry terminal every few minutes.They take passengers from the ferry terminal to the hotel and back, as well as to stops in between. The really big casino hotels, such as Wynn and Venetian, also shuttle to the airport and the border gate between mainland China and Macau.
The public bus system in Macau may be hard to use for non-Cantonese speakers. Signs are in Chinese and bus drivers speak mainly Cantonese. If you know where you're heading, it is a good idea to have the directions written in Chinese to show the driver. Bus stop names are sometimes discernible through their Portuguese names, but don't rely on it solely. Exact fare is also required on public buses in Macau as drivers don't provide change. Or get hold of a Macaupass, which is similar to Hong Kong's Octopus travel card, a debit card system that also provides discounted fares. And then there are the usual taxis and not-so-usual rickshaws. Hiring a car is not advisable due to Macau's small size and population density. A better alternative is to hire a scooter, which is perfect for Macau's narrow roads and is more suited to its limited amount of car parking space.