Macau City Lights

10 things you may not have known about Macao

1. Population

Despite the 1999 handover to mainland China, Macao remains independent as a Special Administrative Region with no visa required by Australian passport holders holidaying there for up to 30 days.

2. Currency

Macao continues to have its own currency – MOP (Pataca) – which is linked to the Hong Kong dollar (almost on parity). When exchanging money visitors have the choice of converting their Australian dollars into MOP or Hong Kong dollars as both are accepted throughout Macao. However, MOP will not be accepted in nearby Hong Kong.

3. Pandas

It’s difficult to pass up the appeal of the Big Apple’s skyline on one side and the towering Statue of Liberty on the other. In New York, most big ships will pull into the Manhattan Cruise Terminal in the neighbourhood’s west, meaning it’s just a short skip and jump to the heart of the city. Others will leave you at the Brooklyn Cruise Terminal, right across from Governors Island.

4. Population

With a permanent population of more than 600,000 with many more thousand international guests on working visas, compact Macao is among the world’s most densely populated centres.

5. A-Ma Temple

If you’re looking for an alternative to the bustling craze of Rio de Janeiro, Salvador, just a little further up the coast, is a brilliant cruise stop. Once you get past the more modern aspects of the city’s buildings, you’ll find that Portuguese colonial history is rich here, and the city acts as a wonderful gateway to the Bay of All Saints and the Bahia region in general.

6. Dom Pedro V Theatre

Built in 1860, the Dom Pedro V Theatre was the first European-style theatre in China and remains a cultural landmark in Macao.

7. The 007 Connection

English author and creator of the international spy 007 (James Bond),  Ian Fleming, spent much time in Macao in the late 1950s, residing – and writing – inside the nine-storey “skyscraper” the Central Hotel, which still stands today in its colourful shade of green. He was compiling information for his book Thrilling Cities.


8. Coloane Island

Sleepy Coloane Island, now connected by landfill to Macao’s other island, Taipa, was so deserted in the 19th Century that it acted as a perfect hideaway for pirates. Today, its laidback nature and beaches are a haven for tourists and famous for its freshly baked Lord Stow’s egg tarts.


9. The Fortress

Macao’s fortress was attacked by Dutch invaders in 1622, but a motley assortment of defenders–Jesuits, African slaves, Portuguese soldiers—prevented the invasion when a sharpshooting priest landed a lucky shot in the invaders gunpowder supply. A spectacular explosion followed, and nobody dared to assault the fortress again.

10. Grand Prix

Unlike other Grand Prix motor racing events, the Macau Grand Prix features Formula Three cars and not Formula One on its road circuit, yet it has attracted some of the world’s best budding drivers, including a young Ayrton Senna, Michael Schumacher ad David Coulthard. Since the first race meeting in 1954, Australian Vern Schuppan won the race twice while Bathurst champion Kevin Barlett took the title once.