Getting Around

Because the peninsula is only 9.3 sq. km (about 3 1/2 sq. miles), you can walk to most of the major sights (be sure to get a free map from MGTO). If you get tired, you can always jump into one of the licensed metered taxis, all painted black and beige and quite inexpensive. To overcome the language barrier, MGTO has supplied most taxis with a destination guide listing most destinations in both English and Chinese. The charge is MOP$13 at flag fall for the first 1.6km (1 mile) and then MOP$1.50 for each subsequent 230m (754 ft.). A taxi from the peninsula all the way to Hac Sa Beach on Colôane Island costs about MOP$90. Luggage costs MOP$3 per piece, and there's a surcharge of MOP$5 if you board a taxi at the airport. There's also a MOP$5 surcharge if you take a taxi from Macau peninsula to Colôane, or MOP$2 if you travel between Taipa and Colôane; there is no surcharge, however, for the return journey to Macau. To order a taxi by phone, call tel. 853/2893 9939 or 853/2851 9519.

Public buses run daily 7am to midnight, with fares costing MOP$3.20 for travel within the Macau peninsula, MOP$4.20 for travel to Taipa, and MOP$5 to MOP$6.40 for travel to Colôane. Bus nos. 3, 3A, 10, and 10A travel from the ferry terminal past the Lisboa Hotel to the main street, Avenida Almeida Ribeiro, in the city center and then continue to the Inner Harbour. Buses going to Taipa and Colôane islands stop for passengers at the bus stop in front of the Hotel Lisboa, located on the mainland near the Macau-Taipa Bridge. Bus nos. 11, 21A, 25, 26A, 28A, 33, MT1, and MT2, as well as the airport bus no. AP1, travel between Macau and Taipa or Cotai; bus nos. 21A, 25, and 26A continue onward to Colôane. The MGTO has a free map with bus routes.

For my hotel recommendations, I provide a list of buses that travel only from the Macau Ferry Terminal to each individual hotel (most likely you'll be able to take the free shuttle bus), but for restaurants and attractions, I list all the buses from throughout the city that travel to each destination.

Incidentally, you might come across people offering rides in a pedicab, a tricycle with seating for two passengers. As late as the early 1980s, this used to be one of the most common forms of transportation in Macau for the locals. But increased traffic and rising affluence have rendered pedicabs almost obsolete, and I suppose they will eventually vanish from the city scene much like the Hong Kong rickshaw. Today, pedicab drivers vie mostly for the tourist dollar, charging about MOP$150 for an hour of sightseeing, but keep in mind that there are many hilly sights you can't see by pedicab. The most popular route is along the Praia Grande Bay around the tip of the peninsula, and back via Rue do Almirante Sergio. Be sure to settle on the fare, the route, and the length of the journey before climbing in. You'll find them parked outside the Hotel Lisboa and downtown tourist sites.

City Layout

Macau comprises a small peninsula and Taipa and Colôane, two former islands that are now merged due to a massive land reclamation called Cotai and are linked to the mainland by bridges. The peninsula -- referred to simply as Macau -- is where you'll find the city of Macau, as well as the main ferry terminal and most hotels, shops, and attractions. The Macau Ferry Terminal is located on what is called the Outer Harbour, which faces Taipa and connects to the South China Sea. On the opposite side of the peninsula is the Inner Harbour, which faces China. Although I used to love the Outer Harbour for its dreamy view of boats plying the Pearl River waterway and the tree-shaded Avenida da Republica, which ran along the waterfront, land reclamation (including new highways, high-rises, the Macau Tower, megacasinos, hotels, and Fisherman's Wharf) has rendered the Outer Harbour a horror zone. I advise fleeing this side of the peninsula as hastily as possible for downtown and the more colorful Inner Harbour. Walking along the Inner Harbour from Avenida Almeida Ribeiro to the Maritime Museum, you will see an unchanged Macau, with decaying buildings, small family businesses, and, occasionally, fish laid out on sidewalks to dry. The side streets on either side of Almeida Ribeiro and running downhill from the ruins of St. Paul's are also gold mines for atmosphere. In the evening, however, you may want to return to the Outer Harbour, where Macau's nightlife district, called the Docks, spreads along the waterfront near the Statue of Kun Iam.

Near the middle of the peninsula is Guia Hill, the highest natural point of Macau. Because of its strategic location, a fort was constructed atop the hill in the 1630s, followed in 1865 by a lighthouse, the first of its kind on the China coast. Also on the grounds of Guia Fortress are a small chapel, a tourist information counter, and a jogging path, complete with exercise stations, circling the top of the hill. Although there's not much to do on Guia Hill, it does provide a good overview of Macau. You can reach it by taking bus nos. 2, 9, 12, 17, 18, 28C, or 32 to Flora Garden and then boarding what must be the world's shortest ropeway to the top of the hill.

Connecting the two harbors is Macau's main road, Avenida Almeida Ribeiro (nicknamed San Ma Lo by locals), remarkably with only a few traffic lights despite nightmarish traffic. About halfway down its length is the attractive Senado Square (Largo do Senado), Macau's main plaza. Lined with colonial-style buildings painted in hues of yellows and pinks, it is paved in a wavy pattern of black and white tiles, which lead from the square through the neighborhood and to the ruins of St. Paul's Church crowning the crest of a hill. On the other side of the square is Leal Senado, Macau's most outstanding example of Portuguese colonial architecture. Radiating from Avenida Almeida Ribeiro is old Macau, a fascinating warren of narrow streets, street markets, open-fronted family shops, and a cacophony of sounds, sights, and smells.

Taipa, closest to the mainland and connected by three bridges, has witnessed a construction boom over the past decades, with the addition of high-rise apartments and Macau's airport. In its midst, now enveloped by surrounding development, is the picturesque Taipa Village with its many restaurants. Connected to Taipa by reclaimed land (called Cotai) is Colôane, largely undeveloped and the site of Macau's best beaches. Although Taipa and Colôane are still referred to as individual islands, in reality Cotai is so extensive (5.8 sq. km/more than 2 sq. miles) that the two are now one fused island. Cotai is being developed as a resort and entertainment destination, with the Venetian Macao-Resort-Hotel as the biggest player. Once completed, which is still several years down the road, Cotai will boast more than a half-dozen resorts, convention space, and a light rail that will whisk visitors from the airport through downtown Macau to the Border Gate with China by 2014.

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.