Before you start planning a trip to Hong Kong and Macau please check for visa requirements. Here’s a little background to understand why. Although Hong Kong and Macau both officially belong to China, they are quite different from mainland China. Hong Kong was a British colony until 1997 and Macau was a Portugal territory until 1999. Hong Kong is now a Special Administrative Region of China and Macau is an autonomous territory. They have their own currency (Hong Kong dollar– HKD and Macanese Pataca– MOP). They have separate immigration policies, passports, and legal systems. They even have their own flags. You can use HKD in most parts of Macau and but MOP isn’t accepted anywhere in Hong Kong. Cantonese and English are spoken fluently by the locals in most parts of the places.
I suggest you plan your trip to Hong Kong anytime between October to December because rainfall is relatively less during this time. Hong Kong, in general, has very unpredictable weather and has an average of 100 rainy days a year.
How safe is Hong Kong and Macau?
Hong Kong and Macau are safe cities. They are safe even for solo travelers during the night if you are walking around the areas frequented by tourists. Here’s the thing, common sense is important, no place is 100% safe. Don’t leave your belongings unattended and please follow the rules. Be aware of scammers when you’re shopping in Hong Kong. Especially, while buying electronic goods, a lot of fake products are sold by shop owners in places like Nathan road.
- Taking the airport express – The airport express is the best option to easily commute from the airport to Hong Kong Island and Kowloon in less than 30mins. You can buy tickets from the airport soon after you finish with customs and immigration. However, to avoid standing in a line you can purchase it online from Klook. Tickets bought online cost 30% cheaper as well. A round trip ticket will cost less than USD 20.
- Airport shuttle – shared airport shuttle will cost less than USD 30 this is a good option if your accommodation isn’t close to the MRT or if you’re a solo traveler.
- Private shuttle – If you want to take a car instead of public transport then the cheapest private shuttle when booked online with Viator will cost less than USD 50.
- My suggestion – Buy an Airport Express Travel Pass. Because during your 3 day trip the pass will allow you one or two single way trips via the airport express and unlimited use of light rail, MRT and MRT Bus. The pass will cost between HKD 250 to HKD 350. Children below 12 years get a 50% discount. Image – www.mtr.com.hk
Geographically Hong Kong has four parts to it:
- Hong Kong Island – which is the central area. It is home to the famous Victoria peak and a number of affordable guesthouses.
- Kowloon – Here you will find markets, museums, and affordable guesthouses.
- New Territories – Here you have wetland parks and temples.
- Outlying Islands – Lantau is one among the many outlying islands. You have the Hong Kong international airport here, the famous NongPing village (Big Buddha and PO Lin Monastery) and Disneyland.
Hong Kong’s MRT system is very good and tourist-friendly. I strongly recommend you to download the MRTAPP. It has a map and all the information you need to use the public transport system. I also recommend you to buy an Octopus Card. This is a prepaid card used to travel on buses and MRT, it makes life easy. It costs about HKD 100 for adults. Otherwise, you will need to buy a ticket for single rides using the machine at the train station.
The Macau international airport is situated on the Taipa Island. Macau is a one-hour ferry ride away from Hong Kong so it’s a shame if you visit one place and don’t visit the other. My itinerary will have you flying into Hong Kong and then exit from Macau. You can do this the other way around as well. In Macau you have travel options that are similar to Hong Kong’s to commute to and from the airport but they barely cost anything.
Free airport shuttle – In the parking lot close to the north exit of the airport, you will find free airport buses which will take about 20mins to reach the city. These run from 11am to 9pm.
Public bus – The fare works out within MOP 7 and you can find the schedule here.
You board these buses through the front door and exit through the rear door. With MacauPass public bus fares are cheaper, you can also pay by dropping coins into the box near the driver. However, keep in mind that they have a strict no change policy.
Image – www.macau-airport.com
Free hotel shuttle – Luxury hotels like City of dreams and others provide free shuttle services to get to the hotel or the city center. You can board one even if you don’t have a hotel reservation or don’t have plans to stay in those hotels and hop off in the city.
Taxi services – It’s a good idea to take a taxi if the part of the city you’re visiting isn’t easily accessible by bus. The fare from the airport to the city is anywhere between MOP 80 to MOP 100.
Macau has 4 districts:
Macau Peninsula – it’s the most popular tourist place with many historical spots.
Coloane Island – less developed compared to other areas, you will find old temples, beaches and hiking trails here.
Taipa Island – Macau international airport is located here and it’s largely a residential area.
Cotai Strip – This is a reclaimed land between Coloane Island and Taipa where you find hotels and gaming places.
Most of the interesting places to visit in Macau is in walking distance from one another. We have the popular Macau harbors where you will also find Senado Square and A-MA Temple. But if you’re keen on using transport options, then I recommend you to use the free shuttle buses provided by luxury hotels. You can find schedules of these on the hotel websites. Apart from free shuttle, you have the public buses which will not only take you from one place to another in Macau but also to Taipa and Coloane. The public bus fare is anywhere between MOP 3.5 TO MOP 7 depending on where you intend to go.
Using the public bus services can be a bit confusing especially because of the Portuguese street names, but not to worry, you can download the Macaumap app. It has a map and listing of buses. You can verify this information on google maps if you look for the nearest bus station on it.
There is also the open-top sightseeing buses which take you around 16 key tourist attractions in Macau. It operates from 9:30am to 4:30pm. One day unlimited pass will cost about 130 HKD which can be booked online via Klook.
You can use also Taxi services in the city, but I’m not too sure about the fare.
Recommended places to stay in Honk Kong and Macau
In Hong Kong–
Luxury: Butterfly on Prat, Hotel Pottinger, Grand Hyatt, The Luxe Manor, and the Kowloon Shangri-La.
Mid-range cost: Hotel Jen, Citadines on Ashley road, Cue Hotel, Lee garden guesthouse, and Airbnb is an option.
Budget: New reliance Inn, Guangdong Guest House, Central Mini Hotel, Check INN, JJ Hotel, and Rainbow Lodge.
Luxury: city of dreams, Grandview Hotel Macau, and Fu Hua Hotel.
Mid-range cost: Ole Tai Sam Un Hotel, Hotel Sintra, Hotel Royal Macau, and Emperor Hotel.
Budget: Hou Kong Hotel, The Holiday Hotel, and Macau Masters Hotel.
3 Days in Honk Kong
Day 1: Lantau island
If you arrive in Hong Kong early morning, then you can store your luggage for a good 5 hour in the airport storage facilities for a minimum fee. Take a tour of the famous NongPing village (Big Buddha and PO Lin Monastery) and Tai-0 fishing village. I spotted pink dolphins here while we on a boating tour so I highly recommend you visit this charming and friendly village.
You can take a bus to Tung Chung Station from there Ngong Ping Cable Car ride to (you can buy tickets to the cable car ride along with guided tour packages that cover the NongPing and Tai-0) to Ngong Ping Village. A bus from here takes you Tai-O.
The top attractions here are the Tian Tan Buddha, PO Lin Monastery, The Wisdom Steps, walking and exploring NongPing and Tai-0 villages. You can grab lunch after touring the Monastery or once you get back to the airport. Within 5 hours your tour of Lantau island is over and you can go back to the airport to collect your luggage. You can then take a free shuttle or airport express Hong Kong island or Kowloon depending on where your stay is booked.
Check in to your hotel by 3:30pm, freshen up and rest for an hour or two and then step out to explore the night markets or take the evening harbor cruise. Which is a relaxing 45 min long ride, giving you plenty of time to take in the iconic skyline of Hong Kong. You can also find a place to see the symphony of lights.
Day 2: Hong Kong Island
If you didn’t do the night cruise then you can start your day with a ferry ride across the Victoria harbor. This breathtaking ride will cost less than HKD 5 and you can get a view of the skyscrapers sitting next to the colonial buildings with a backdrop of the green mountains.
Next, you take a tram ride to the Victoria peak to get a whole different jaw-dropping view of the majestic skyline aligned with the water body.
You can spend the rest of the day exploring the Kowloon bustling markets, including the ladies’ market on Tung Choi Street.
Day 3: Kowloon
In Kowloon, you can take a short hike to the Lion’s rock, visit the beautiful gardens of the Kowloon Nunnery and gorgeous Chi Lin Nunnery.
Make time to taste some authentic Cantonese dim sum at Tim Ho Wan.
One Day in Macau
Day 4: Day trip to Macau
One whole day is enough to explore Macau, Las Vegas of Asia. There are a bunch of things you can do here:
- Self-guided walking tours, you can find a guide here.
- Must see places are, The ruins of St Pauls, Macau harbor, dancing fountains at Wynn casinos, the old Taipa village, the Venetian Hotel, the replica of the Colosseum at Fisherman’s Wharf and the Macau Museum.
Important Travel Tips
- You can find the visa-related information at the Immigration Department of Hong Kong.
- International Debit or Credit Cards are always handy to have one when you don’t find time to exchange currency.
- Normally airport shuttles wait only for 10 mins and cab drivers don’t wait beyond 15mins. So, don’t be late.
- Don’t rely on taxis all the time, the drivers choose passengers as they please and pick passenger who is going to a location of their choice.
- Shop Smartly, there are many scammers targeting tourists.
- You will enjoy shopping in Causeway Bay, Hong Kong.
- Purchase an Octopus card, saves you a lot of time.
- Hong Kong island to Kowloon traffic is high during nights. So, plan to start early.
- Always carry an umbrella, the weather in Hong Kong is unpredictable and it just rains a lot there.
- The Best time to visit Hong Kong and Macau is between October to February.
- You find free Wi-Fi in hotels, café, restaurants and even on the MTR. Yet, if you prefer to buy a local SIM with unlimited data, then you can buy one for less than $10 in the airport or here
- Places you can avoid and not miss anything – Kwai Fong, overrated place and a crowded street where food and drinks are overpriced. Avenue of Stars – extremely crowded, too many people trying to click selfies with the famous bronze Bruce Lee statue. There’s nothing more to this place.
- You will find a lot of money exchange places and ATMs concentrated around Tsim Sha Tsui and the central district. Some reputed ones are Berlin Company Exchange and Pacific Exchange at Chungking Mansions. Reputed money exchange companies in Macau are Soi Cheong Money Changer and P&W Casa de Cambio.
Commuting between Hong Kong and Macau – One-hour Ferry ride.
CotaiJet and TurboJet are the two ferry companies that commute between Hong Kong and Macau. You can board these from two places in Hong Kong, which are the China Ferry Terminal or from the Hong Kong Macau Ferry Terminal. In Macau, you can board the ferries from Taipa Terminal or from the Macau Outer Harbour Ferry Terminal. There’s also a bus to Macau that goes from Hong Kong via Seabridge.
*You will need an extra day or swap one of the days if you want to experience the Disney land.
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