Chronicles of My Macau-On-A-Budget Trip

My trip to Macau and HongKong last March 28-31 was all about faith and great favor from God.

The moment I got my first ever Starbucks planner (I’m not really a fan but hey! the planner looked cool!), the first thing I scribbled was MACAU TRIP COME WHAT MAY and I put that on the March 24 page. I wrote that by faith. I don’t have much moolah to spend on an out of the country trip that time but still, I firmly believed that God would bless me with that earnest desire of my heart. I also included that Macau trip in my list of faith goals for 2011 alongside Seoul, Korea trip.

Blame all this Asian-travel-dream hang ups to Lee Min Ho and the rest of the Boys Over Flower cuties. I was so gagah over this Koreanovela that I was really in a fine frenzy, desiring to walk on the roads that Jun Pyo walked and have a picture on those places he went to in the said TV series.

Actually, Seoul was really a top priority and if God would let me choose one country to visit this year, without battling an eyelash, I would really answer SEOUL. I only listed Macau just in case the Seoul trip won’t materialize considering the visa application and the airline ticket price. At least Macau is more plausible.

I prayed and prayed for those trips. And on the 5th day of January, God gave the first installment of His answer to my prayer. I thought of checking Cebu Pacific’s website to check if they already have cheapo fare to Seoul or Macau. Thankfully, I saw a promo fare going to Macau. It was only priced at Php3400 roundtrip, all-in. I didn’t know who to invite that time since my sister didn’t have a passport yet and my mom won’t go if we’re not complete. Then I thought of my friend Charity. So I texted her and blessings of all blessings, she answered yes. She even invited her younger sis to join us. Few ayaaans and pilitans, we were able to lure two of our friends, Saldy and Bheck, to join that first out-of-the-country trip. And since we’re already 5 in the group and HongKong is just an hour away from Macau via ferry, we decided to include HK in our itinerary, too.

And we’re all set!

Right after that booking confirmation, I already started looking for budget hotels in Macau and read lots of travel tips on a budget. I listed everything I read online, read reviews and other stuff I need to know about travelling in a foreign land. It was my first ever International trip so I’ve got to be well-prepared.

But here’s the challenge: I didn’t want to spend that much on that international trip since it’s just a leisure and I didn’t have much to spend also so I decided to challenge myself on a P12,000 budget, all-in, for both Macau and HK. I didn’t know then if that was possible but based on my computations prior to the trip, it’s possible if you will not do a lot shoppings and you will only stay in some guesthouses or budget hostels. Since I’m more of a sights-and-scenery person than a shopping freak, I knew than that I could take on the challenge.

Departure from Manila

The completion of God’s answer to my Macau prayer:-)

You need to know that for international flights, there are still some fees you need to pay for at the airport. I listed down the step by step things we did and the fees we paid for at NAIA before we boarded the plane:

1. We went to the Travel Tax Section, presented our IDs and Passports and paid Php1620.

2. We went to the Cebu Pacific Counter and got our boarding pass. Perfumes and all our canned goods baon were in the check-in baggage so we didn’t have problem with our hand-carries.

3. We paid Php750 for the terminal fee.

4. We filled up a form on which country to go to and where to stay and went to the immigration to have our passports stamped.

We left Manila at exactly 7:30pm of March 28 (only few days difference from my original March 24 plan:-)).

Arrival in Macau

We arrived in Macau at 9:30pm of the same date. It was freezing cold when we arrived there. We went to the Immigration Section of Macau International Airport to have our passports stamped. We then got for ourselves Macau maps and guides brochures displayed in the airport so we’ll have an inkling on where to go and what to ride, etc.

The first thing we looked for after we got our bags was the Money Changer. We exchanged our dollars to Macau Pataca which is the currency in Macau. The exchange rate that time was MOP1 = P5.41.

Good thing about Macau is that there are lots of Pinoys there. In the airport alone, we saw two Filipino already working in Macau airport. You can easily spot a Filipino in the sea of Chinitos and Chinitas because Filipinos are naturally smiling and warm people. The Filipino guy helped us on which bus to ride to get to Avenida de Almeida Ribeiro.

In Macau, their main means of transportation are buses. They have a specific bus number for each route and the fares ranges from MOP 3.20 to 4.20. They also have taxi cabs and flag down rate is MOP 13. I, however, read in a blog post that it’s expensive to ride a cab when you’re from the airport or if you have luggages since aside from the metered fare, you will have to pay MOP 3 per luggage.

We actually had a hard time discerning which bus to take since we don’t know how to read Chinese characters and whenever we tried to ask the Macau people also waiting for the bus, they would just look at us and would make signs that they don’t understand English. So we were left to figure out for ourselves which bus to take. When the freezing weather already got on our nerves, we decided to just ride whatever bus will pass our way. Good thing the bus that came (Bus 10A) will also pass by the bus station where we could ride another bus that will take us to the place near Senado Square.

From the bus station near the Ferry Terminal and Grand Prix, we rode another bus (which I forgot the number but I think it’s Bus 18) that took us to the route near Senado Square. We only knew where to got off through the help of the three Filipinos who were also riding the bus with us. And in the quiet streets of Macau that night, the loud screeches of our luggages were heard.

We walked and walked until we finally found that street where Pastileria de Koi Kei is situated. Since I’d already searched for some prominent places and landmarks in Macau online, I knew then that we could find some cheapo inns in that place. Thankfully, we were able to find Villa Universal. It’s just beside Hotel Ko Wah which is a more famous hostel in the place. I would love to stay in Hotel Ko Wah but we got a much better deal at Villa Universal. We got a room that could fit all 5 of us for only MOP 350/night. That’s actually a good deal considering the place is nice and clean and they even have free wi-fi (which we never got to use) and complimentary toothpastes, toothbrushes, towels, and hot water.

Bheck and I weren’t yet sleepy so we decided to go around the area and look for mineral water. We chanced upon a convenience store near Ponte 16 were I also got to taste the heavenly Cadbury Bubbly Mint-flavor for only MOP5. I didn’t bother converting the currencies for I knew that I’ll just be upset with the amount. All I knew then was that I had MOP 800 that time and it won’t hurt if I’ll buy that Cadbury Bubbly. I decided to split my money in two so i’ll have equal amount to spend in Macau and HongKong.

Going Around Macau

The next day, we woke up early so we could tour the most of the city. We had our breakfast in the hostel first courtesy of our baons: bread, reno liver spread, Century Tuna, Nescafe 3-in-1 coffee, Lemon Square Cheese Cake and Fudgee Bar.

Our attempt to have a sari-sari store in Macau:-)

We first dropped by Pastileria Koi Kei which is just across Villa Universal. I had my first free-loader moment there. I had a free taste of the famous beef jerky and it was sooo yummy.

We then went to Senado Square and dropped by St.Dominic Church. Another great thing about Macau’s that you can go to various tourist spots just by walking. Plus the weather was good and cold so we didn’t bother walking around the city. We then went to St. Paul Ruins where we had some photo sessions and some free taste of almond cookies and beef jerky along the way.

Senado Square at Night

St. Dominic Church

St. Paul Ruins

We also went to Museo de Macau which is just a stone’s throw away from St. Paul Ruins.

The Macao Museum is a space dedicated to the history and culture of Macao. Here, we saw a rickshaw which used to be the main means of transportation in Macau.

We decided to buy some pasalubongs at Ching Chong Fong which is located along Rua dos Ervanários and Rua de Nossa Senhora do Amparo near St. Paul Ruins. We got captivated by the cute smile of the Chinese saleslady who charmed us with her flair to speak few Tagalog words such as bili ka na, ganda, masarap, and mura lang. Plus, she let us have more free tastes of the beef jerky:-) We got almond cookies (4 pcs for MOP 50), egg roll (MOP 25), Beef jerky (MOP 48 for 1 kilo), peanut brittle  (4 pcs for MOP 50).

With the pretty Chinese saleslady:-)

We were already feeling hungry after that pasalubong shopping so we decided to look for fancy restaurants along the area. We then chanced upon Ristorante Cafe Vitoria. We ordered for minced beef with rice (MOP 25), fried rice with beef (MOP 25), seafood with fried rice (MOP 30), and chicken with rice (MOP 25). The food were good enough and they’re all in big servings. It’s advisable to just order one dish for two persons.

After we dropped off our pasalubongs in the hostel, we then went to Grand Lisboa Hotel to have some sightseeing and hoping to have a free bus ride going to The Venetian. Unfortunately, the Grand Lisboa’s bus was only for hotel guests and those who played the games in their casino. So we left the hotel and just decided to ride a bus going to The Venetian. We didn’t know which bus will pass by The Venetian but the barker in the station told us to ride Bus 10. When we tried to tell the driver to drop us at The Venetian, the driver shook his head and pointed us the Barrier Gate on the map we showed him. We didn’t know where’s that but we just followed suit.

It was a long bus ride. I think we were able to tour the whole city because of that ‘bus ride mistake.’ The driver didn’t ask for additional fare, though. We really had fun in that long bus ride even if we didn’t know where we were heading that time. It was a fun and unforgettable experience.

We finally got off at the Barrier Gate where hotel buses were parked waiting for hotel guests and visitors who would want to play in their casinos. I immediately looked for The Venetian’s bus. Delightedly, The Venetian was still there waiting for other riders.

And finally, my most awaited Macau moment: The Venetian!

It’s a bit overacting I know, but the moment I stepped inside The Venetian, I could literally feel my heart would want to melt. Blame it on my Jun Pyo addiction again. I was in super high spirits that time because I felt in one with Jun Pyo for I was already walking on the floor where Jun Pyo walked during the BOF shoot at The Venetian. Alright, I’m such a fan!

This was where Jun Pyo broke up with Jandi:-)

That completed my Feeling-JunPyo’s-Jandi-in-Macau rage:-)

After The Venetian, we went to the City of Dreams hotel where we also got to have a view of the Hard Rock Hotel. We then rode the free shuttle ride going to Macau Tower. At the tower, we only got to see the second floor since you have to pay MOP 80/person if you want to go to Level 58 Observation Lounge and Level 61 which is the Observation Desk.

We capped off that first night in Macau by going to Grand Emperor Hotel to supposedly have a taste of their noodles which I read in some blog posts was only for MOP 10. However, according to the waiter in the hotel, they’re no longer selling that noodles so we went to Senado Square and looked for a place to eat. We chanced upon Macau Recipes Cafe which is located on the second floor of a building where McDonald’s is. They’re already near closing when we got in but they still accommodated us. Since we were craving for noodles, we ordered for stewed beef noodles which was priced at MOP 20 and curry beef noodles priced at MOP 23. Bheck ordered for fried rice with chicken pineapple for MOP 35, while Justine ordered for braised rice with porkchop for MOP 38.

That Macau Recipes Cafe experience was another funny one. Since they’re already near closing, the staff were already leaving one by one. We were only left with the one who took our order and the other one from the counter. Then the other lady closed some lights. We were feeling a bit jittery since we thought that the ladies will actually leave us there, so we hurriedly finished our food. Then the lady who took our order got our payments, closed all the lights, left all the stuff we used in eating on the table, and joined us in the elevator. We were all laughing inside the elevator and even the two Macau Recipes Cafe ladies were also laughing as if they could understand what we’re talking about.

Nakakahiya naman kila ate, kumain pa kasi kami. Ayan tuloy na-late sila ng uwi. Hindi na tuloy nahugasan yung pinagkainan namin:-)

Second Day in Macau: Prelude to HongKong Experience

The next day, we woke up again early enough so we could still tour some scenic spots in Macau which are worth visiting according to the posts I read online. Our first stop on that second that was the Macau’s Fisherman’s Wharf.

It was such a beautiful, beautiful place. If only I could put in my luggage all the wonderful places in Macau and bring it in the Philippines, I would definitely bring home Macau Fisherman’s Wharf. I love the facades of the buildings, the chic-ness of the place and the feeling like as if you were instantly brought to some European country with those brick roads and all. This was my top favorite in all the Macau spots I visited.

We would love to visit Lou Kau Mansion, the Guia Fortress and Lighthouse, the A-Ma Temple, the Sam Kai Vu Kun Temple, the Mandarin House, and still many other famous spots in Macau but we were already short of time. We needed to pack our bags and head on to the Ferry Terminal which will then take us to HongKong.

Before we went back to the hostel, there’s still one remarkable thing about Macau that I’ve yet to try and I won’t leave that place without experiencing that: the Portugese Egg Tart!

So we headed to Senado Square again and went back to the street going to St. Paul Ruins and had a taste of the yummy egg tart (MOP 5) at Tea Plus. This was actually where Jandi and Jihoo brought egg tart in BOF:-) I also had some ice cream which was also tasty enough:-)

After that delicious egg tart experience, we headed back to Villa Universal, packed our stuff and left the place. But before that, God gave us another blessing: the old man gave us MOP 50 when I returned to him the room key. I think it’s some sort of key deposit, but we didn’t expect that so it was really a blessing. Now we have money to pay the cab fare:-)

Macau’s really a lovely place. I love the simplicity of the place. I love the weather when we got there. I love that it’s just like Philippines because I could see a lot of Filipinos everywhere in the place. I love the scenic spots. I love that it’s like a mini-Europe in Asia. i love that I felt so close to Jun Pyo when I first stepped my feet on its ground. I just love everything about this place.

Expenditures in Macau:

Hotel – MOP 140

Food: MOP  45 (we had lots of baons so we didn’t spend much on food)

Cadbury Bubbly : MOP 15

Bottled water: MOP 20

Pasalubong: MOP 200

Fares: approx. MOP 20

Total: MOP 440

Macau Pataca

Next stop: HongKong

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24 thoughts on “Chronicles of My Macau-On-A-Budget Trip

  1. Hello. I was looking for articles on Macau when I stumbled on your blog. My sisters and I are going to Macau this November and your post is very helpful. I see that you stayed at Villa Universal. I’d like to know if the rooms are okay and clean and decent enough. How did you make a reservation? We’re arriving there on a Friday evening and I’m not quite sure if there are any vacancies. I want to reserve and although they have phone and fax numbers available, I can’t find them in any of the booking sites.

    Thank so much and I hope to read more of your travels! Cheers!

    Clarisse. 🙂

    • Hi! Thanks for dropping by:-)

      depends on your standards of ‘clean and okay’ rooms, but for me Villa Universal’s rooms are good enough for me. The bed sheets and the pillow cases are clean and their bathrooms has hot/cold shower. They even have complimentary towels, toothbrush, and toothpaste–though we didn’t use them:-)

      As far as I know, they have many rooms in Villa Universal and during weekdays, they aren’t on high occupancy. When we went there, we just walked in and asked if they have vacant rooms. If ever they don’t have, you can try other guesthouses just around the vicinity:-) Although Villa Universal has the best price for me:-) You can even haggle with the Chinese guy in the reception desk:-)

      I hope you’ll have a wonderful stay in Macau:-)

  2. Hi. Thanks for the reply. I guess we can just walk-in. Hope that November isn’t peak season in Macau.

    Anyway, thanks again for the tips! 🙂 If you finally get the chance to go to South Korea, I would love to read about it too! 🙂

    • Actually, I think the main reason why Macau has high occupancy on weekends is because of the gamblers who came in from nearby countries just to play casino. And of course, they would rather stay in a hotel most of the time than in a guesthouse so I think there won’t be any problem as regards to occupancy rate:-) Plus, they really have lots of guesthouses in nearby streets:-)

      Seoul! Whew! I hope I could go there next year:-)

      Thanks again for taking time to read my post:-)

  3. Thank you for blogging about your Macau Trip. We also would love to stay at Villa Universal on Sept. 7 but couldn’t find a way to book for rooms. Travelling w/ us is a friend who’s 4months preggy, I hope walking wouldn’t be a problem in finding where Rua de Felicidade is. We’ll be arriving in Macau at 9-10pm from the airport. I guess we’ll just have to take the cab instead. 🙂

    • Hello!

      Thanks for dropping by. Actually, there’s no online booking for Villa Universal. You can just do walk in. Just ask the cab driver to bring you to Avenida de Almeida Ribeiro. before you reach Ponte 16 hotel, you just look for the street on the left side where Pastillera Koi Kei is (it’s in Rua De Felicidade). Go straight ahead that street and you can already see Villa Universal.

      You can actually take a bus but since you have a preggy companion, it’s best to just ride a cab.

      Happy trip!

    • Hi! Thanks for dropping by☺

      Regarding my HK trip: it was also on a very tight budget. We just walked in at Chun King Mansion and there we found lots of guesthouses there which offer a minimum of HKD250/night/room. The room that we got was okay. There’s a bathroom in the room and a flat TV with three beds since we were 5 in the group. They charged us HKD350/room/night. ChunKing Mansion is located along Nathan Road in Tsim Sha Tsui, Kowloon, Hongkong.

  4. Your blog was very helpful. Been researching about Macau for the whole week and so far, yours was the most informative. I will be going to Macau on May 2012 with my husband to tour and attend a wedding. I would like to try Villa Universal. Do you still know their contact info? By the way, did you spend all the Php12,000 that you brought?

    • Hi!

      Thanks a lot for dropping by:-) Glad that this post was helpful to you:-)

      Regarding Villa Universal, they don’t actually have contact details posted on the net. I remembered the old man manning the frontdesk during the time we checked in only used a cellphone to call his colleague who knows how to speak in English. I’m not sure if they have telephone. But dont worry ’cause the place is easy to find. If you’re coming from Senado Square, just walk towards the road going to Ponte 16, but before you reach Ponte 16, you will turb left to a street where Pastilera de Koi Kei is located. There you can find at the corner and in front of Pastilera, Villa 7 Universal. It’s right beside hotel kow wah:-)

      As for the budget, i only spent roughly 6k in macau and that’s already including my fare since we got it for a promo price of p3600 roundtrip. The total money i spent for the entire trip–including HK and all travel taxes—was only around P12k- P13k:/)

      Hope this helps:-)

  5. We stayed at Villa Universal our first night. We had some sort of misunderstanding with the old man. He pretends to know very little English. We just changed a few pataca at the airport, enough to cover the cab ride to Villa Universal but not much else. The old man had already written our bill for the first night MOP 480! (rates change and this was just around midnight, after labor day 2012). He wanted us to pay before we occupied the room. I said we didn’t have enough pataca. He wanted us to pay in dollars which we refused because of low exchange rate at the hotel. It was just my husband and me, there were no currency changers at midnight. He was cursing me in Chinese as I wanted to go already and not take the room. Finally, my husband offered to just leave our passports at the desk as security. The old man agreed. We had a fitful night’s rest. The next day, the hotel owner and not the old man was there. We paid in pataca after changing our dollars at a bank. The bitch owner, 40 plus year old winner, couldn’t wait to be paid. She said, “Alright, give me my money” while snapping her fingers. We moved to San Va hotel, a dump compared to Villa Universal but the man was kind compared to the animals at Villa Universal . Hot water was readily available anytime of the day plus it was way cheaper than the highway robbery rates at Villa Universal. We checked out other 2-star hotels of Villa Universal’s calibre. The rates ranged only MOP 400 for double room and the desk people were not as rude as those at Villa Universal. I wouldn’t recommend V.U. to anybody.

    • Hi Jen-jen!

      I’m so sorry to hear that you didnt have a good experience at Villa Universal. When we went there the old man who doesn’t really speak and only understand very few English was the one who accommodated us and we had to talk to the lady owner on the phone as she could speak and understand English.

  6. Hi! Do you have photos of Villa U? We’re bound for Macau on December 1-4. Our flight arrives at 930PM. Do you think they will allow late check-ins? Thanks for the blog! Very informative! 

    • Hi Jill:-)

      Thanks for visiting my blog:-) I think I have very few photos of Villa Universal. Could I just email them to you?

      Regarding your question whether they’re accepting late check-ins, yes they do. During our visit there, we arrived in Villa around 10pm and they still accepted us:-)

      Thank you and hope you’ll have a happy trip in Macau:-)

      Apple

    • Hi Jasmin!

      Thank you for visiting my page. I would love to post about my HK trip as well but I don’t have the abundance of time right now. But if you have questions about cheap HK trip, perhaps you could ping me with that question and I’ll reply with hopefully a useful answer for your trip:-)

      Apple

  7. Hello.

    Your blog was truly a big help for me. My boyfriend and I will going to visit Macau by next year and Im looking for budget inns. Do you have any pictures of Villa Universal? To be honest, we are just 23 years of age, this would be our first time to travel and Im very much afraid to be treated in bad manners like what happened to the other traveler. That’s the reason why as early as now, Im reading all travel tips in Macau and Hong Kong.

    • Hi Nica:-)

      Thanks for dropping by my blog:-) I don’t have photos of the whole place na eh pero I could assure you that the place is okay:-) It’s a simple but clean hostel in Macau. Do take note lang that they’re not quite good in conversing in English and the old man at the reception when we arrived doesn’t speak English at all and he had to call his daughter pa to talk to us in English. They’re not as hospitable as the Filipinos but it’s okay. They’re not just confident in speaking in English, I suppose.

  8. Thanks for the reply. =) Im a little bit scared but I guess we really need to take chances and as you mentioned there were lots of budget inns on that particular street. Our trip would be for 9 days and we are going to stay for just one night in Macau since that our arrival time there would be at 9:30, the following morning would be ( I think) the only day that we can walk around in Macau because basically our trip would be in HK since my auntie is living there. One more thing, how much budget do you think we need to have for 9 days? 🙂 I already “bookmark” this page so that I can take a look anytime for my review. Hihihi. =)))

    • Hello again Nica:-)

      Don’t be afraid to travel on your own:-) It is one great adventure you will never ever forget for as long as you live. Whatver may happen there, the good or the not-so-good stuff, will all be part of your travel diary:-) Just enjoy and seize the moment while you’re there:-)

      As for the budget, when I went to Macau (2 nights) and HK (1night), I only spent roughly P12000-14000 for the entire trip, including fare and airport fees. I am not a big spender when traveling and I always go for the adventure and experience than comfort so I really look for budget accommodations. As for food, our meal there only amounted to HKD 3- HKD6 per meal. I guess for 9 days an estimate budget of P20000 for both of you is already enough:-)

      Thanks for bookmarking my page:-)

  9. I always go for the adventure and experience than comfort – I love that! :)) ❤ Thank you so much for all the ideas and guidelines. You are truly a big help!!! God Bless. Sorry Im kinda stalking your page. Hihihi. Very helpful. Thanks again. =))

    Nica. 🙂

  10. Hi Apple:

    This blog made me more excited for my Macau trip on Sept! Thank you. But, how about your HK trip? want to know more about it 🙂

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