One unexpected cause of sickness in Macau is the extreme temperature change between 35Â°C 95Â°F humid summer weather outdoors and 18Â°C 65Â°F air-conditioned buildings. Some people experience cold symptoms after moving between the two extremes often; it is not unusual to wear a sweater or covering to stay warm indoors, and it is therefore usually good advice to carry a long-sleeve item of clothing when expecting to visit air-conditioned places for extended periods of time.
Whilst tap water is technically safe to drink taste aside, most locals boil or filter their water or buy inexpensive bottled water which you are also recommended to do so.
Because of the region's history battling SARS as well as later dealing with avian flu (H5N1), good personal hygiene is strongly advisable.
There have been some cases of Dengue fever in recent years. The government has pro-actively sprayed insecticide in areas where there is the potential of mosquito breeding, so this risk is largely contained. However it is best to avoid being bitten by using mosquito repellent and/or wearing long clothing, especially at dusk.
Macau's international dialing prefix is 853.
The tourist information offices on Largo do Senado and at the jetfoil terminal have maps, information on museums and events, helpful English-speaking staff, and at the Largo do Senado office free Internet access. You may have to queue for the Internet, since there are only a few machines.
Chinoy Express, Rua De Mercadores. A cheap and fast internet cafe $5/hr right near Rua De Felicidade. Serves cheap snacks and right across the road is a Filipino bakery with cheap and tasty breads and very large bottles of San Miguel $6.
Vong or Wong?
One of the oddities of Macau is that some Cantonese names and words that are pronounced with what in English is a "W" sound, and that in Hong Kong are transliterated with a "W", are transliterated with a "V" instead, such as in Cheoc Van which in Hong Kong would be Chuk Wan. This can also be seen in the surname Vong in Hong Kong Wong. No doubt Portuguese pronunciation has had an influence on this choice of transliteration. To complicate things further, this has not been done consistently so there are both Vongs and Wongs in Macau - both written with the same Chinese character.
Macau's official languages are Cantonese and Portuguese.
Cantonese is the most commonly spoken language of Macau 88%, 2001 census. Mandarin is not widely spoken, though most locals are able to comprehend it to some degree. Staff working at major hotels and tourist attractions will usually be reasonably competent in Mandarin.
English is spoken by most front-line staff in the tourism industry. Nearly all museums and casinos have some staff with excellent English, as do many hotels, shops and restaurants, especially the up-market ones. However, English is not as widely spoken as in Hong Kong, so outside the main tourist areas, especially in establishments catering to the average working class, you will find that most people are not conversant in English. This includes most bus and taxi drivers, so be sure to have staff from your hotel write down the names of your destinations in Chinese to show the taxi driver, and get your hotel's business card in case you get lost. If you have to ask someone on the street of directions in English, your best bet is to approach a young adult who is likely to be a college student or having graduated from it which is not difficult to find given the fact that more and more young people in Macau are now entering universities.
Speakers of Portuguese won't find it very useful when talking to local residents as it is no longer compulsory in schools, but it helps a lot in understanding place names and signs. As Portuguese continues to be an official language of the SAR, government offices are required by law to have Portuguese-speaking staff on duty.
All official signs in Macau are bilingual in traditional Chinese and Portuguese. Note that under the "one country two systems" policy, Macau continues to use traditional Chinese characters and not the simplified Chinese characters used in Mainland China.
There is a risk of typhoons, mainly between July and September. A system of typhoon warnings is in place that are issued by the Macao Meteorological and Geophysical Bureau (http://www.smg.gov.mo/) and are broadcast widely on television and radio:
The typhoon warning system is basically a copy of the system used in Hong Kong.
Number 1tropical cyclone is within 800 km of Macau
Number 3tropical cyclone is likely to bring winds of 41-62 km/h to Macau, with gusts of 110 km/h usually issued when the typhoon is within 300 km of Macau
Number 8tropical cyclone is nearing Macau, bringing with it winds of 63-117 km/h, and gusts of up to 180 km/h
Number 9the centre of the tropical cyclone is approaching Macau and it is expected that Macau will be severely affected
Number 10the centre of the tropical cyclone will hit Macau directly, with mean wind speed over 118 km/h and intense gusts
During a number 8, 9 or 10 typhoon everything in Macau shuts down. People stay home and it is not advisable to venture outside as there is the risk of injury or worse from flying debris.
It should be pointed out that compared to many other cities in the world, Macau is relatively safe to travel. The standard of living of the local Macau residents is general good one of the best in Asia. In addition, as a city geared towards tourism, the Macau government is keen to "clean up" the city and its image. For example, the police in Macau is now seen by the public as more effective than it used to be.
The following points should be noted when you travel to Macau.
You should beware of pickpockets, especially in crowded areas like tourist attractions and the border stations. Keep your valuables somewhere safe. Pickpockets usually come in a group and use one person to distract people while the others work.
Be wary of harassment from street prostitutes and hawkers handing out leaflets/flyers. Among the more insistent flyer flingers are Falun Gong, a religious/political organisation. If you do take one of their flyers which is sometimes the easiest way to get rid of them and you are going to mainland China, be sure dispose of it before crossing the border. The organisation is illegal in China and being caught "smuggling" some of their propaganda would be a major hassle.
Recently a scam involving mainland Chinese visitors asking for money has become widespread, mainly in downtown Macau. These people, who are usually properly dressed, claim to have lost their wallet and not to have eaten the whole day, asking for $20-30 to buy some food. The police have issued warnings in the local media not to give money to these people.
In the mid-90s, Macau had some vicious gang wars among the triads, mobsters with automatic weapons. Macau police had the situation partly under control by the time the Chinese took over in 1999. The current government seems to have it entirely under control; there has been no sign of open mob conflict in this century. The triads usually don't bother ordinary people, so the advice is not to mess with them such as by borrowing money from loan sharks and then failing to repay it, and they won't mess with you!
After arriving in Macau at the ferry terminal, beware of touts offering cheap rides into town. If you accept their offers, expect to be taken first to shops, which offer the touts commission. If you stand your ground and refuse to enter these promoted shops, you could be turfed out somewhere in the territory, and not where you would like to be. Stay safe, and take time to find out suitable public transport routes, or take a proper taxi.