If you have previously explored Guangzhou (see 5 Spectacular Things to Do in Guangzhou and 5 More Things to Do in Guangzhou), Macau is a worthy side trip between sessions of the China Import and Export Commodities Fair. If you time your travel to avoid the busiest border crossing times, the trip takes about 4 hours from your hotel in Guangzhou to your hotel in Macau.
If you are planning to exit and re-enter mainland China, make sure that you get a multiple-entry visa! Macau is a Special Administrative Region (SAR) of the People’s Republic of China. It has a separate visa and entry administration. US citizens may travel to Macao visa-free for a short visit or tourism.
Traveling to Macau by train is very easy. To avoid the reportedly very long afternoon lines at the Gongbei Port land crossing (up to 2 hours to exit China and enter Macau), we rose early and took the subway to Guangzhou South Train Station. The subway ride from our location (Yuexiu Park Station) takes about 40 minutes.
Guangzhou South Railway Station is huge. After arriving, follow the signs to Ticket Counter 3.
The signs will lead you outside – simply follow the other people! Purchase tickets to Zhuhai Train Station. Do not pick a time too soon for your departure. There are many trains making the journey and, if you do not give yourself time to get through security and to find the correct platform, you may miss your train. Our train platform was changed after purchasing our ticket, and we had to rush in order to catch it!
A terrific site for information is China Highlights. We found the link for train times very useful. While you can purchase the tickets online, we chose to be flexible and purchase second class tickets at the station (70 CNY/ 11 USD each).
The comfortable high-speed train takes about 1 hour to make the journey to Zhuhai. After arriving and exiting the train station, follow the people and signs to the border crossing. The morning immigration process was painless and it took us less than 20 minutes to exit China through the Gongbei Port and to enter Macau through the Portas do Cerco.
After exiting Portas do Cerco, turn left and take one of the free shuttle buses to your casino of choice!
On our previous visit it to Macau (see Hong Kong and Macau, China), we chose to stay on the Macau Peninsula and did not even visit the glitzy Cotai Strip. Home of the world’s largest casino (The Venetian Macao), the Cotai Strip is reclaimed land that connects what used to be two separate islands: Taipa and Coloane. We chose to stay directly across from the Venetian and Parisian in the Sands Cotai Central Holiday Inn (140 USD/night).
The Sands Cotai Central has 2 casinos with over 17,000 square meters of gaming space. While you don’t need to leave in order to stay entertained, it is conveniently connected by air-conditioned walkways to the Venetian and Parisian.
We arrived early for check-in, so we dropped our bags and spent the morning playing in the casino before having a very nice lunch at the large food court. We checked into our room at 2 PM, showered, rested for a while, and then headed back to the casino!
In the evening, we took the free shuttle bus from the City of Dreams (next door to our hotel) to the Peninsula to visit Senado Square and eat delicious Macau pork chop buns. The bus ride takes 10-15 minutes and drops you near the Grand Emperor Hotel. The walk from the bus stop to Senado Square is about 10 minutes.
The shuttle hours are 10:30 AM – 11 PM. It is a very convenient way to visit the historical sites and casinos on the Peninsula.
Hiking Coloane Trail – We were excited to rise early for an energizing hike on the Coloane Trail. The 8100 meter trail is Macau’s longest hiking trail. To get to the trail, we walked next door to the public bus stop in front of City of Dreams and took bus 25 to Seac Pai Van Park bus stop. The bus stop is in front of the A-Ma ornamental entrance gate. Seac Pai Van Park is open from 8:00 AM – 6:00 PM and is home to the famous Macao Giant Panda Pavilion.
Other buses that go to the park are: 15, 21A, 25, 26, 26A, 50, and N3. Collect coins if you plan on utilizing public buses; you will need exact change. Look at the signposts located at the bus stops to know how much the fare will be. You can explore the most current bus routes at the Transportation Bureau website.
Rather than walking up the road to the trailhead, we walked into Seac Pai Van Park and found a trail that intersects the Coloane Trail.
It is easy to customize the length and difficulty of your hike utilizing the informative trail maps that are located in the park and along the easy-to-follow trails.
The trails offer great views. While they are not overly difficult, they do have steep sections that are great exercise.
A highlight of the hike was visiting A-Ma Cultural Village near the north summit. The main attraction, Tin Hau Temple, is stunningly detailed and one of the most beautiful temples that we have ever visited. Note that it is often confused with Macau’s oldest temple built in 1763 that is also located in Coloane and goes by the same name, Tin Hau Temple.
There is a free shuttle bus that goes between the parking lot near A-Ma ornamental entrance gate and the temple. This is an option to keep in mind if you just want to visit the temple, start your hike at the top, or you are exhausted from your hike up and would prefer to ride back down!
After visiting the temple, we walked a short distance uphill to see the 20 meter tall, white jade A-Ma goddess statue. According to legend, the goddess protected fisherman and merchants who sailed to Macau. When the Portuguese settled on the island, they called the land “Macau”, meaning the “port of A-Ma”.
After viewing the statue, we headed back down the mountain toward Seac Pai Van Park and the Macao Giant Panda Pavilion.
Macao Giant Panda Pavilion (10 HKD / 1.25 USD each) – The pavilion is closed on Mondays (closed on the following day instead if a public holiday falls on Monday). There are six one hour viewing sessions: 10 AM, 11 AM, 12 PM, 2 PM, 3 PM, 4 PM (Last entry is 4:45 PM).
We visited the Panda Pavilion at 2 PM after having lunch at the food stand in the park. The pandas are hilarious and very cute. We especially enjoyed watching the antics of the two mischievous panda cubs with their mother.
It was fascinating how the pandas prepare a bundle of bamboo leaves in their mouths and then hold it in their fist while they eat it.
After viewing the pandas, we explored the rest of the park before walking to the condos across the street to find a grocery store. There is a very nice ParknShop grocery store where food and drinks cost 1/5 the cost of the same items at the casino. We purchased snacks and drinks before catching the bus back to our hotel.
In the evening, we walked to the Parisian Theatre to watch the fantastic and exciting show, La Parisienne Cabaret Francais (132 HKD / 17 USD each). The show runs from March 16 – June 17. Ticket prices are listed at 188 MOP (HKD), but we were able to get a discount by simply walking to the concierge and asking. To see what shows are available during your visit, check out Cotai Ticketing.
Hiking Grand Taipa Trail – The 4000 meter Grande Taipa Hiking Trail is within easy walking distance of the Cotai Strip. We simply walked north to the pedestrian circle – the Rotunda do Istmo. From the circle, we walked toward the inclined elevator that is easily visible in the distance. The elevator is free and takes you to the hiking trail and observation deck.
From the observation deck you have views of the Rotunda do Istmo and Cotai Strip.
After enjoying the views, we started our hike toward the the highest point in Taipa, which is 159 meters above sea level.
The hiking is good exercise and very convenient to the Cotai Strip, but it is not as high quality or challenging as the Coloane Trail.
After our quick hike, we took the inclined elevator back down and walked toward Taipa Village. Our first stop was at the Taipa Houses, a museum comprised of five distinctive Portuguese green houses built in 1921. The houses have been trasformed into the “Macanese Living Museum”, the “Exhibitions Gallery”, the “Creative Casa”, the “Nostalgic House” and the “House for Receptions”.
Taipa Village – We continued our walk by heading to the historic cobblestone food street, Rue de Cunha. This area reminds us very much of Senado Square, and we had a great time wandering around and eating several meals!
Macau Jockey Club Horse Racing (free entry to the public stands) – To get to the track, we crossed the street and caught Bus 26 in front of the Parisian. Having enjoyed the high energy and enthusiasm of Hong Kong’s horse racing (see Hong Kong – Hiking and Horse Racing!), we were excited to see what Macau had to offer. Unfortunately, there were very few people at the track. I guess with so many other options for losing money without stepping out of your hotel, horse racing is not very popular. We bet on one race, won a Win and Place, cashed our ticket, and decided to leave.
We walked to a bus stop across the street and jumped on the first bus headed to the Peninsula. We visited Senado Square and had egg tarts before spending the evening at our favorite casino in Macau – Casino Lisboa. To return to our hotel, we simply took the free City of Dreams shuttle bus.
We slept in and enjoyed our hotel room before checking out and taking the hotel shuttle back to the border. Immigration once again went quickly. Purchasing train tickets, on the other hand, took over half an hour! The line was very long and did not seem to move. To get the earliest available train, we had to purchase standing tickets. Since they cost the same as tickets with seats (70 CNY/ 11 USD each), you should book ahead if securing a seat for the 1 hour train ride is important.
Make sure you get into the correct line for purchasing your train tickets; they do not all sell tickets to the same destinations. We saw many frustrated and angry people who had to start all over again.
We had a fantastic time in Macau. Our time went very quickly, and the amount of time was just about perfect. Any less and we would have been left wanting more, any more and we may have grown bored. My favorite activities were hiking the Coloane Trail and getting to see the Giant Pandas.
Currency: HKD vs MOP – We purchased HKD before we left to go to China. We chose HKD over MOP because, even though you lose value paying with HKD vs MOP in Macau, the casino gambling at the Sands Cotai is in HKD. In addition, after the trip it is much easier to sell remaining HKD than MOP. The small percentage lost making purchases can be negated on any leftover money that must be exchanged. Do the math and see which option works best for your trip.
- Time of Year: April 2018
- Length of Stay: 4 Days, 3 Nights
- Total Trip Cost – 2 People: 652 USD*
- Cost Per Day / Per Person: 163 USD*
- Visa Information: China Embassy
*Excluded from the cost analysis:
- International Airfare – International airfare is not included because fares vary depending on your starting location. Internal flights are included.
- Travel Health Insurance – Travel health insurance is not included because we have an international policy.
GPS Coordinates: Day 1 Day 2 Day 3
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Hotel Buses at Portas do Cerco @ 22.215785,113.550606
Holiday Inn Cotai @ 22.147102,113.565115
The Venetian Macau @ 22.148169,113.562960
City of Dreams @ 22.149274,113.564371
Senado Square @ 22.193533,113.539759
Seac Pai Van Park Bus Stop @ 22.125093,113.554965
Seac Pai Van Park @ 22.125886,113.557230
A-Ma Cultural Village @ 22.122619,113.563358
A-ma Statue @ 22.123714,113.564067
Macao Giant Panda Pavilion @ 22.126504,113.558782
Rotunda do Istmo @ 22.150602,113.564233
Inclined Elevator @ 22.154679,113.561514
Start of Hike @ 22.155610,113.561974
Taipa Houses Museum @ 22.154099,113.560332
Taipa Village @ 22.153342,113.557126
Porto Portuguese Restaurant @ 22.153235,113.556905
Macau Jockey Club Taipa Racecourse @ 22.156482,113.548677
Grand Lisboa Casino @ 22.190214,113.543395
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You can copy and paste the latitude and longitude into Google Earth, your browser, or into your GPS.
*Disclaimer- ALWAYS verify locations, transportation routes, GPS coordinates, etc. Errors are made, routes changed, sometimes we are just plain wrong. No one knows what you like more than you. If the trip is worth doing, it is worth doing right! Do your homework.