Macau might be the world’s most successful casino city, but that doesn’t mean that a trip there needs to cost high-roller money. There’s just as much to see and and do outside of the casinos for a relative bargain. Here’s how to play your cards right in Macau on a budget.
Historic Centre of Macau
Macau’s historic city centre is like one giant outdoor museum. It was inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2005 and includes over 30 places of interest, many of which are free to visit. Most of these attractions represent the mix of Chinese and Portuguese cultures that have distinguished Macau as a truly unique city where East meets West.
On your must-visit list should be Macau’s most famous landmark, the majestic Ruins of St. Paul’s. There’s also Macau’s colourful town square, Senado Square, which features wavy Portuguese-style tiled paving and beautiful colonial-era neoclassical buildings. Both of these attractions are free to visit, along with dozens of others in the surrounding areas.
Macau is home to numerous museums that shed light on its fascinating history and culture. Among those that offer free admission are the Macau Grand Prix Museum, the Wine Museum and the beautiful Taipa House Museum. The Macau Museum, which is the largest in the city, is also free to visitors on the 15th of every month. Otherwise a nominal entrance fee of MOP$15 (US$1.85) is charged.
Macau Museum, 112 Praceta do Museu de Macau, Macau, +853 2835 7911
Macau’s oldest and most famous temple was built in 1488, during the Ming Dynasty, and is dedicated to the Chinese sea goddess, Mazu. The temple is very photogenic and consists of beautiful prayers halls, archways and pavilions dedicated to the worship of Taoist, Buddhist and folk deities. Admission is free here, but you will find donation boxes about the premises.
A-Ma Temple, Largo da Barra, Macau, +853 2836 6866
Explore Macau’s “Green Lung”
Outside of the casino area, you may be surprised to discover that Macau is home to a number of beaches, hiking trails, parks and nature trails that are free to explore. The majority of these recreation areas are on the south side of Coloane Island, which has earned itself the nickname “Green Lung” for its rolling hills and sylvan forests.
The 8km-long Coloane Hiking Trail is one of the more popular trails, which takes hikers to the summit of Macau’s highest point (Alto de Coloane) where you can enjoy panoramic views looking out to the South China Sea. Coloane is also home to Macau’s black sand beach, “Hac Sa Beach”, and the neighbouring Cheoc Van Beach.
If you’re on a budget, Macau’s famous street food is a great place to start. Affordable, delicious and even recommended by the Michelin Guide, street eats in Macau can be found all over the city. The pork chop bun, known as “the Macanese version of a hamburger”, is a signature speciality to try, along with the Macau Portuguese Egg Tart from Lord Stow’s Bakery. Local bakeries like Koi Kei Bakery and Choi Heong Yuen sell all manner of local treats and offer free samples, too. The majority of street food retailers can be found in the streets just below the Ruins of St. Paul’s.
If you’re looking for a cheap place to rest your head without any frills, then this reasonable hostel-style accommodation might serve purpose for a night or two. It benefits from being located close to the city centre and is a good value budget guesthouse. It’s also something of a local landmark, having been established almost a century ago.
Sanva Hotel, 65-67 R. da Felicidade, Macau, +853 2857 3701
Holiday Inn Macao
The Holiday Inn Macao is a great budget hotel located in the heart of Cotai and close to all the attractions and restaurants along the Cotai Strip. With 1,224 rooms (including 65 suites) there’s plenty of availability at the Holiday Inn, and it’s very reasonably priced. Rooms are clean, nicely presented, with floor-to-ceiling windows and basic amenities. If you’re looking for somewhere clean, comfortable and affordable to stay, then this is your best bet.