This is arguably the best way to get around the Macau Peninsula, which is small, compact and full of things to discover. Many roads are also one way so there is quite a chance that it won’t be slower than to take road transport which may need to make a long loop to reach the destination. Most streets have a pedestrian sidewalk making walking easy, although you will have to fight the crowds going in all directions. Cars are more mindful of pedestrians than in mainland China, but traffic rules are still not very well adhered to, so ensure that you look both ways before crossing and be careful of large vehicles in narrow roadways. In and around the Senado Square, the pavements will be made of hand-laid limestone pieces made into simple designs, something that will surely catch your attention. Macau is also hilly, be prepared to struggle up and down steep lanes and steps.
Especially in the old city, the city streets do not seem to run in any particular pattern and you’ll most likely get lost at some stage, which is part of the fun of exploring Macau.
In the Cotai strip, distances are large but sidewalks are pretty consistently present. It is now fairly easy to walk between the Galaxy, Venetian and City Dreams casinos, and it is easy to walk between Galaxy and Taipa Village. It is more interesting to take a walk after dark to take a glimpse of the casinos’ illuminated façades. Many of the hotels are connected to each other by indoor walkways lined with expensive shops.
Macau and its districts are served by two bus companies – Transportes Urbanos Macau (Transmac) and Sociedade de Transportes Colectivos de Macau (TCM). The bus system in Macau can be difficult to use. It is often difficult to gauge which direction the bus is heading and the routes through the city center are very curvy, often making a long ride out of a short distance. Bus drivers usually only speak Cantonese, very little English or Mandarin and certainly no Portuguese at all. Most bus stops have no English on signs, although you can sometimes figure out the destination from the Portuguese bus stop names. Some bus stops have route descriptions (with a list of stops) on a rotating pole at the stop and a small coloured dot indicates the stop you’re at (including which direction on the route the stop serves). The ferry terminal is “Terminal Maritimo” while other mentions of “Terminal” indicate the terminus (end) of the route. Buses run early morning to late evening, most roughly from 6AM to midnight.
Nevertheless, the websites of both companies list the stops that all their routes make. The TCM site is in Chinese and English, while the Transmac site depicts routes schematically. The tourist information desk at the ferry terminal has free maps with bus routes on them and can provide advice on how to get to a particular destination.
There is a flat fare of MOP6 (2018) for all bus routes. Get your destinations written in Chinese if you need to tell them where you’re going. You should pay the exact fare as drivers do not give change if you overpay. Buses accept Hong Kong coins (but not the MOP10 Hong Kong coin).
Announcements on the bus are made in Cantonese, Portuguese, Mandarin, and something that resembles English (but with most of the stop names in Portuguese). Free WiFi is available on the buses for a limited period of time.
Macau Pass, a stored value card similar to Hong Kong’s Octopus Card system, is now widely used by Macau citizens as it provides discounts on paying bus fare (fares with Macau Pass are MOP3 for regular routes and MOP4 for express routes, with free transfers). However, it’s not worth it for most short-term visitors – distribution points are limited, the minimum value to add when you first get the card is MOP100, and while getting a partial refund is possible, it’s inconvenient. The Macau Pass is also widely accepted as payment in stores.
Scooters are a very economical and fun way to see the sites of Macau, they are also the primary mode of transport for locals due to Macau’s narrow streets and lack of car parking space. Scooters are available for rental from a few dollars. Licenses from most countries covering mopeds or motorcycles are accepted.
BY SHUTTLE BUS:
If you’ve got more time than money on your hands, you can travel around Macau for free simply by hopping on and off the complimentary shuttle buses operated by all major casinos and hotels. Virtually all serve the Terminal Maritimo, with buses every 5 to 10 minutes, while the big boys (Venetian, Wynn, City of Dreams, Galaxy etc.) also shuttle to the Border Gates, the Taipa Ferry Terminal and the airport. The buses to Hotel Lisboa, for example, drop you off just a few blocks from Largo do Senado. Most of the casinos and hotels offer totally free shuttle buses, but some of the casinos on the waterfront of Old Macau- including The Lisboa, Wynn, and MGM- require users to first spend money in their casinos before getting the tickets.
Some free shuttle buses also run between the main hotels on the Cotai Strip, and the larger hotels in the old city. For example, a shuttle bus between Hotel Sintra in old Macau and Studio City or City of Dreams on Taipa. The Sands hotel chain also run a similar service between their hotels on the Cotai Strip (The Venetian, the Parisian, Sands Cotai Central) and the original Sands Hotel in the city. These particular shuttles are often very popular but they run frequently, and it’s unlikely that you will wait for long at any stop.
Taxis are cheap and convenient. Taxi ranks are spread around the city but at peak times you will have to wait a bit for a taxi (you can also hail taxis on the street but it is even harder to find them there). As of 2016 taxi fares start at MOP17. Largo do Senado to the border is about MOP50. The longest possible taxi ride (from the Border Post at the extreme north of Macau to Coloane in the south) would be well under MOP200 unless there are extremely bad traffic jams.
It is a good idea to have difficult destinations, such as small hotels, written in Chinese as many taxi drivers only know Cantonese well. Most know enough English to understand the major attractions and destinations and some of them may speak good Mandarin or English, though it is not wise to count on your luck, and almost none speak Portuguese. Most taxi drivers carry with them a list of casinos and other important places, so in case there’s a communication gap, just look for it on the sunguard of the front passenger seat. Should you leave from a casino/hotel, a bilingual English/Cantonese speaking employee will generally be there to tell the cab driver where you want to go.
Like in Hong Kong, every bag placed in the boot of the taxi will have an additional surcharge.
Many taxi drivers are off duty at Sundays and use their cars privately. Those taxis have a red sign in the front window. Expect some waiting for a free taxi on Sundays.
BY CYCLE RICKSHAW:
As in Hong Kong, cycle rickshaws (triciclo or riquexó) are a dying breed, although a few still lurk around tourist haunts like the ferry terminal and Hotel Lisboa. Prices are negotiable, but a few hours of city touring by triciclo might cost around MOP200.
Car rental is not a popular option in Macau given the territory’s high population density and small size. Avis provides car rental services in Macau and you have the option of renting the car with or without a driver. Roads are generally well maintained and directional signs are in both Chinese and Portuguese. Unlike in mainland China, international driving permits (IDP’s) are accepted in Macau. If you intend to stay in Macau for over 14 days, you need to register your IDP with the police. No registration is necessary for stays under 14 days.
Traffic moves on the left side of the road with most cars being right-hand drive (as in neighbouring Hong Kong).
If you wish to drive in mainland China, your vehicle must have a second set of number plates issued by the Guangdong authorities, and you need to carry an additional Mainland license, as the Chinese government does not recognise Hong Kong, Macau or foreign licenses. You would also need to change sides of the road at the border.
BY LIGHT RAIL:
The Macao Light Rapid Transit opened in December 2019 with a single line connecting Taipa Ferry Terminal and the airport to other parts of Taipa and Cotai. Future lines will connect the rest of the city.
Trains run every 5–10 minutes from 6:30AM to after 11PM.