I had a 4-day layover in Hong Kong after coming back from my most recent trip to Southeast Asia. I planned 3 days in Hong Kong but due to flight times, actually ended up having 4. So, I figured I may as well try somewhere new and spend 1 day in Macau.
A day trip to Macau from Hong Kong is easy, fun, and a popular thing to do. So if you too find yourself with some extra time, or just want to explore Asia’s version of Las Vegas, then this post is for you. Here’s my suggestions on how to spend 1 day in Macau.
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Why Spend 1 Day in Macau?
I’ll be honest; I found Macau to be kind of weird. It was an odd mix of colonial buildings and skyscrapers and crazy casinos that looked like they came off the Vegas strip. It didn’t really feel like a real city to me, more like some kind of crazy amusement park that was made to entertain visitors. However, the wackiness of this destination is what makes it fun to explore. While I wouldn’t want to spend long here, I highly recommend planning a day trip to Macau from Hong Kong if you have the time.
Hong Kong to Macau Ferry
Getting from Hong Kong to Macau is actually really easy. There are regular ferries that go back and forth between the two and the trip only lasts about an hour. The ships are fairly comfortable with seats for everyone, though the crossing can be a bit rough so if you are someone who gets seasick, or motion sick, then take some anti-nausea medicine ahead of time.
You can catch the ferry from Hong Kong at the Shun Tak Centre on Kong Kong Island or the China Ferry Terminal in Kowloon. I got the ferry from the Kowloon Terminal, however the ferries are more regular from Hong Kong Island (every 15 minutes from Shun Tak vs every 30 minutes from Kowloon Terminal).
The destination in Macau will be either downtown Macau (The Outer Terminal) or the Cotai Strip. The Coitai Strip is where you will find most of the casinos versus downtown Macau is better for those looking to explore the Portuguese parts of Macau. I recommend you use downtown Macau as your start/finish point since it has the most frequent service.
Tickets for these routes can be purchased at the ferry terminal ahead of time. You have until 30 minutes before the boat’s departure to purchase a ticket. No advance reservations are necessary.
If you don’t love the idea of taking a ferry between Hong Kong and Macau you can also take a bus.
How to Get Around Macau in 1 Day
Once you arrive in Macau, you’re going to want to figure out a way to get around. Like Hong Kong, it’s pretty spread out so don’t think you can just rely on your feet.
The best way to figure out how to get around will depend on what you want to see and do. If you are just interested in the historic area with the Portuguese influence, then you can use the local bus. There is an information center in the ferry terminal who will be happy to help you figure out routes and bus numbers.
If you want to see as much as possible for your day trip from Hong Kong to Macau, then consider taking a hop on hop off bus. It’s an easy way to see the main stops and attractions, without having to worry about getting lost or doing any navigating. You can get your ticket here.
It’s also worth noting that a lot of hotels and casinos have free shuttle buses. The best part? You don’t need to be a guest of the hotel to use them. I took advantage of this during my visit to explore the flashy casinos and hotels in Cotoi. Since the properties are so big it’s hard to walk to them all, but there are shuttles between them that anyone can get on. You can also take these free shuttle buses to the city centre, and to the Outer Harbour Ferry Terminal.
Of course, you can also use taxis and uber. Ubers are especially handy for those who don’t have a lot of cash on them.
The Best Things to do in Macau for 1 Day
As mentioned earlier, the main attractions in Macau vary between Portuguese heritage and flashy casinos. It’s a bit of an odd mix, but there’s definitely lots to see and do. I recommend the adding the following to your list if you are visiting Macau as a day trip from Hong Kong.
Visit the Ruins of St. Pauls
The Ruins of St. Paul’s are probably Macau’s best-known landmark. The ruins date back to the 1600s when it was once a Roman Catholic Church known as ‘The Vatican of the Far East’. Today, these ruins are perhaps the most photographed part of the city and a must see.
Explore Mount Fortress
Located right beside the ruins of St. Paul’s, Mount Fortress is another great place to stop, explore, and take some photos. Originally, this structure was used to fend off a Dutch invasion in 1622. Today, it serves as one of the best view points of the city. You can also check out the Macao Museum inside which offers visitors a peek into Macau’s history and culture.
Take in the Views (and even Bungee Jump) from Macau Tower
The Macau Tower is also known as the World’s Most Extreme Tower thanks to the fact that it also serves as a place to bungee jump. In fact, at 233m high, the Macau Tower is the world’s highest bungee jump. So, if you are up for one hell of an adrenaline rush, it might be worth adding this bucket list-worthy item to your list of things to do in Macau.
Not keen on bungee jumping? Don’t worry, you can still visit the Macau Tower to take in the views!
People Watch in Senado Square
Senado Square is the main town square in the historic part of Macau. It’s busy with plenty of shops, restaurants, and cafes making it a good place to take a break and grab a cold drink or a bite to eat. It’s a pedestrian only zone surrounded by a number of beautiful buildings and monuments.
Try a Famous Egg Tart
Portugal is famous for its egg tarts and since Macau was once a Portuguese colony, it makes sense that these tasty sweets made their way to Macau as well. The egg tart has become a food icon of Macau and is a must try. That being said, some places make them better than others. Top picks for the best egg tarts in Macau include: Lord Stow’s Bakery, Koi Kei Bakery, and Margaret’s Café e Nata.
Wander Through Taipa Village
Taipa Village is where you can get a real feel for ‘old Macau’. It’s a popular place to photograph thanks to the colourful houses and buildings that line the streets, but there are also some museums in this area along with some great foodie spots. Head to Rua do Cunha, Macao’s ‘Eat Street’, for a midday meal.
Test Your Luck at a Casino
Macau is known as the ‘Las Vegas of the East’, so it would really be a shame to do a day trip to Macau without checking out at least one of the properties. Personally, I’m not a gambler (I have zero luck) so I didn’t risk any money, but I did check out a couple of the big hotel and casino properties which was still fun. Try the Venetian Casino Resort or the City of Dreams, Macau.
Want to Stay the Night in Macau?
I chose to just visit Macau from Hong Kong as a day trip, however if you want you can spend a night or two. It might be a good idea if you are into gambling and casinos, because nighttime is when this aspect of Macau really comes to life.
Need a place to stay? Try:
Oh, and if you do stay the night then consider getting tickets to the House of Dancing Water at the City of Dreams. It’s known to be ‘the largest water extravaganza’ in the world.
Final Tips for 1 Day in Macau
Planning a day trip from Hong Kong to Macau is easy, but there are a few things you do need to keep in mind for your 1 day in Macau.
The first thing to note is that Macau has a different currency than Hong Kong. Now, Hong Kong dollars are frequently accepted in Macau, but the exchange rate isn’t great. It might be worth it to exchange a bit of cash ahead of time so that you can have local currency for little things like bus fare or money for food and drink. Credit cards are also widely accepted.
Secondly, you will need your passport to travel between Hong Kong and Macau, so don’t forget it!
Finally, while most visitors do not need a visa to visit Macau, some do. So, take a look ahead of time and make sure you are good to just arrive and don’t need to arrange anything beforehand.
Macau is a fun but quirky place, and although I have no need to go back, I definitely recommend a day trip from Hong Kong to Macau if you have the time. You don’t need a ton of time here, my 1 day Macau itinerary will show you the highlights.
A Note on Travel Insurance in Macau
Please, do NOT travel without travel insurance! I’ve had to rely on mine multiple times. While the cost may seem annoying and better spent elsewhere, trust me when I say you’ll be sorry if you don’t have it. For just a couple bucks a day, you can save yourself a whole lot of stress and money. I like to recommend SafetyWing for travel medical insurance as they are one of the most affordable options I’ve found, plus, they are who I use and I have had great experiences with them. Learn more about the importance of travel insurance here.