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Entry Requirements

Entry procedures into Macau are very simple. If you are American, Canadian, Australian, or New Zealander, you do not need a visa for Macau for stays of up to 30 days -- all you need is your passport. Residents of the United Kingdom and Ireland can stay up to 90 days without a visa.

Currency

Macau's currency is the pataca, composed of 100 avos. Coins come in 10, 20, and 50 avos and 1, 2, and 5 patacas. Banknotes are issued for 10, 20, 50, 100, 500, and 1,000 patacas. Even though the pataca (ptc; also referred to as MOP$) is Macau's official currency, you can use your Hong Kong dollars everywhere, even on buses and for taxis (though you are likely to receive change in patacas). The pataca is pegged to the Hong Kong dollar at the rate of MOP$103.20=HK$100; however, on the street and in hotels and shops, the Macau pataca and Hong Kong dollar are treated as having equal value. I suppose, therefore, that you could save a minuscule amount by exchanging your money for patacas, but I rarely have done so and don't consider it worth the hassle for short stays in Macau. You may wish to exchange a small amount -- say, HK$20, but keep in mind that the pataca is not accepted in Hong Kong. If you do exchange U.S. dollars or U.K. pounds (which you can do at banks, generally open weekdays 9am-5pm; at hotels; or at ATMs throughout the city), you'll receive approximately MOP$8 for each US$1, or MOP$15.4 for each £1. You can find money exchange counters at seemingly every corner, plus exchange counters at the airport and Hotel Lisboa are open 24 hours. The bank will give you a better exchange rate but exchange counters usually don't charge a commission.

In addition, most Macau hotels and their restaurants, as well as restaurants catering largely to tourists, list room rates and menu items in Hong Kong dollars. For the sake of simplicity, the hotel rates given later are quoted in HK$, but this could just as well read "patacas." Outside of hotels, restaurants are more likely to give prices in MOP$, but sometimes they use HK$, too. Attractions, however, always use patacas. To mirror the most common pricing practices in Macau, I use HK$ for hotels but patacas (MOP$) for restaurants and attractions listed later. ATMs are located at the ferry terminal, airport, and throughout the city and accept American Express, MasterCard, Visa, and cards operating on the PLUS and Cirrus systems.

Car Races & Fireworks -- The Heat Is On!

Of Macau's several annual events, none are as popular or draw as many crowds as the Macau Grand Prix, held the last weekend in November, and the Macau International Fireworks Display Contest, held every Saturday in September.

The Macau Grand Prix, first staged in 1954, features motorcycle and Formula Three races, and attracts drivers from all over the world. Very similar to the famous circuit in Monaco, the 6.2km (3 3/4-mile) Guia Circuit, which snakes through town near the ferry terminal and is lined with grandstands along the way, includes the winding roads of Guia Hill, hard corners around the waterfront, and the straightaway along the Outer Harbour. Champion drivers can complete a lap in as little as 2 minutes, 20 seconds. Tickets for stands during the 2 practice days cost MOP$50 each day, while race-day tickets range from MOP$200 for standing room on the first day of races to MOP$900 for the best seats the second day. For ticket inquiries, call tel. 853/2879 62268 or visit www.macau.grandprix.gov.mo. Note that ferry tickets and hotel accommodations in Macau are tight during the races.

Macau's other major competition, the Macau International Fireworks Display Contest, has a more universal appeal with its dazzling displays of fireworks spread over Saturday nights in September. Established in 1989, it is now the world's biggest fireworks contest, with more than 100 international teams competing. Displays are judged using criteria such as the height reached by the fireworks, the explosive bang and spread of each firework, color and variety, and the overall choreographic effect of each display. Best viewing spot: along the waterfront near Macau Tower.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.