Labelled the ‘Las Vegas’ of the East, Macau has long boasted economic prosper and high-life credentials. Upon deeper investigation though, guests in serviced apartments soon realise there is more to Macau that its gambling reputation.
Macau’s true announcement to the world came in the sixteenth century, following Portuguese colonisation. Considering Macau is also known as the ‘Gateway of the Bay’, the intentions of the Portuguese were obvious. Establishing beneficial trade connections was always the priority since first arriving in 1513. No-one suspected though the Portuguese would dominate the land for the next four hundred years, essentially creating a second home. The Chinese finally acknowledged Portuguese rule over Macau in 1887. Centuries passed by, leaving the region significantly more populous (many refugees) and increasingly vulnerable to overseas interference. The Portuguese lost their ability to manage the region, and the Sino-Portuguese Pact (1986), announced that Macau would become a Chinese Special Administrative Region. The pact still today grants Macau a ‘high degree of autonomy’, functioning as ‘one country, two systems’.
Macau is a Special Administrative Region of China, based on the southern coast. Despite essentially being an independent city-state, Macau has its own currency, passports, flag and legal system. Despite seemingly having its own identity, ninety-five per cent of the approximately 630,000 population is Chinese. They inhabit a total landmass of only eleven square miles. The region is also part of the hugely urbanised Pearl River Delta, home to over one hundred million people. Despite only covering 1% of Chinese land, the zone is one of the most successful economic hubs worldwide. Macau, therefore, replicates the Delta’s economic performance, aspiring to encourage more than the thirty million arrivals who already visit the region annually. With such
Central to the Macanese economy is tourism and gambling industries, with the latter thriving consistently since the 1850s.
Macau is actually the only region in China where gambling is legal, so casinos here were bound to be fuelled by gambling enthusiasts. In fact, gaming-related taxes account for 75% of Macau’s total government revenue. Despite profiting from being one of the world’s largest gaming and gambling hubs, the country now focuses on diversifying its economy to other sectors. There is also a dependence on mainland China’s economy and aid, which could be considered either beneficial or risky for Macau’s future.
In terms of investment and business travel, Macau has several incentives. According to the 2018 index of economic freedom, the region ranks above world and regional averages. Macau is lucky to be at the heart of one of the continent’s most dynamic zones, the Pearl River Delta. As a whole, the Delta incredibly has a GDP of around $1.2 trillion, more than countries such as Indonesia. Not only does it boast investment advantages, but also attracts a large tourist and consumer market. Traders have free access to the port, and infrastructural projects are underway to make visiting Macau increasingly more comfortable. Construction of new casinos, airport extensions and serviced apartments are enabling both simple business and leisurely travel to Macau.
Holders of valid passports from eighty-one different countries are eligible for visa-free entry to Macau. The maximum stay period ranges from one year to fourteen days depending on residency. For instance, United Kingdom citizens can stay visa-free for six months, whilst Americans, Australians and Canadians are only can stay for thirty days in Macau. Be aware too that the region has its own immigration regulations, meaning transiting to China will have different regulations. For more specific information and requirements, visit www.chinahighlights.com/macau/visa.htm.
Upon arrival to Macau, many expats opt to drive across the region. Car hire is relatively straightforward, and arrivals only need their license converted at a local police station before being eligible to drive in Macau. Before setting off though, remember that driving is on the left. The dense population can make driving congested though, which may make taxi travel a little more convenient. The fixed rate for Macanese taxis is MOP$20 per mile. The Macau Taxi Fare app is popular amongst tourists, as Uber does not function in Macau. Alternatively, you would most likely be able to easily book a taxi through your city apartment.
Consider too that officially, Macau’s currency is the Macanese Pataca (MOP), even though the most circulated currency in the region is the Hong Kong Dollar (HKD). Their exchange rates have been pegged since the 1970s, meaning both are eligible for use all over Macau. For both Pataca and Hong Kong Dollar exchange rates, visit www.xe.com.
Macau hosts a great mixture of both urbanity and remembrance of their colonial past, which accommodates to the interests of many visiting the region. Perhaps the city’s most popular historical site is the ruins of St Paul’s Church in central Macau. The Portuguese dedicated the seventeenth-century church to the saint before it was largely burnt down by a fire in 1835. This structure is just west of the Fortaleza do Monte, Macau’s historical military centre. The fort forms part of the ‘Historic Centre of Macau’ alongside the Museum of Macau, the primary hub for Macanese history. Also part of the Historic centre World Heritage Site is the fully functioning Senado Square. Despite the neo-classical buildings that mould the square, the landmark has been the urban centre of Macau for centuries. The Square is a great example of how, despite spreading urbanity, Macau still remembers its fascinating past.
Serviced accommodation in Macau also allows visitors easy access to all the city’s colourful, modernised features. Vibrant casinos are obviously numerous in Macau. There are over forty casinos in the region, including the world’s largest, the Venetian Macao. The casino offers a truly exclusive experience, swanking an array of high-end shops, boutiques, restaurants, as well as amazing entertainment at almost every turn. If you had not already guessed, Macau is a destination of luxury. This is most exemplified by the world’s largest Skytop Wave Pool coupled with a 350-ton white sand beach on the Galaxy Macau rooftop. The astonishing attractions are endless here, but for a view of it all, be sure to climb the Macau Tower. Dominating the city’s skyline, the tower can be the perfect place for reflection on a successful, but relaxing business venture to Macau.
Whatever the intentions are for a trip to Macau, visitors can be sure that there is something to appeal to all. Whether its business travel, cultural exploration, or a fondness for casinos, Macau’s corporate accommodation grants internationals free will to all the region has to offer.
Air travel in and out of Macau is facilitated by Macau’s only airport, situated at the north-eastern corner of the Taipa island.
There are eight bus routes which service routes to-and-from Macau's airport throughout the rest of the Taipa island. Shuttle buses are also convenient for travel to your serviced apartment. A free shuttle bus service runs from the airport to the Venetian Macau casino. The Macau ferry terminal is also just a ten-minute drive from the airport, enabling high-speed travel across the Pearl River region.
This metro is currently under construction, scheduled to open in 2020. It will serve the region’s airport, ferry terminal and several major checkpoints.
The companies TCM (www.tcm.com.mo) and Transmac are responsible for almost all bus travel throughout Macau. A typical fare is MOP$6, and buses run between 6am and little after midnight. Services are frequent and popular, considering there are no railway services in Macau.
For those travelling solely or long distances via buses, purchasing a Macau pass is not a bad idea. Passengers holding a pass are entitled to discounts, which can be useful when using buses often.