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Lorela U. Sandoval, Contributor
 
April 09, 2010

Travel Tipid Tips: A Budget Guide to Hong Kong, Macau, and Guangdong

Traveling on a tight purse? Check out this tried and tested guide to exploring and enjoying these 3 destinations in China without breaking your budget. By Lorela U. Sandoval
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Hong Kong skyline

For some, the best of travels and adventures are spontaneous and unmapped, completely allowing them to traverse uncharted territories, embrace the richness of a new culture, and unearth the awesomeness of even the most eccentric things. A lot of us have to deal with limited funds, though, which factors in considerably when we make our travel plans.

We all know international travel can be very expensive, more so if you indulge in five-star hotel accommodations or expensive gustatory treats in fine-dining restaurants. But worry not—if you’re not the stick-in-the mud kind of traveler and are up for just about anything, international travel is within reasonable reach so long as you’re open to finding alternative ways to lessen the expenses while appreciating the experience all the same.

A trip to Macau, Hong Kong, and Guangdong, China in one vacation is possible for anyone—even those on a tight budget. Understand, however, that Hong Kong and Macau are both Special Administrative Regions (SAR) of the People’s Republic of China. As such, each has its own high degree of autonomy, which menas they have their own laws, border controls (take note, as you’ll need separate visas for each SAR), and currency. To simplify things, you can use online currency converters to calculate your budget in Hong Kong dollars (HKD), Macau Patacas (MOP), or Chinese yuan (CNY).

Here’s a tried and tested guide for travelers with a shoestring budget.


TRANSPORTATION: PHILIPPINES–MACAU–HONG KONG–GUANGDONG

Your first problem is how to get there. We recommend going to Macau first, then using it as a jump-off point for going to Hong Kong and Guangdong.


The Ruins of St. Paul's, one of Macau's most famous landmarks

Philippines to Macau

Take discounted or low-fare travel deals from airlines, such as Cebu Pacific Air or Philippine Airlines. Rates go for around P2,000 (or even less if you're lucky) for the one-way fare. Cebu Pacific Air, in particular, is known for its seat sales, and you can sign up to be alerted for these on the airline’s website.


Macau to Hong Kong

Take Macau bus numbers 3, 8, or 10 to the Macau Ferry Terminal—your fare will be around MOP3.20 (P17) per head. From there, book your trip to Hong Kong at the ticketing section. A round trip fare is around MOP270 (P1,500) to MOP300 (P1,690) per head. Rates may vary depending on the date and time of travel. Estimated travel time is one hour, though it may take longer, depending on weather conditions as well.


Macau to Guangdong, China

A day or two before your trip to Guangdong, the border province of Macau to mainland China, seek help from travel agencies or even computer shops in Macau that can prearrange the travel documents for you (try the Chinoy Travel Agency, which you can contact at +8532-893-3864). The visa rate is MOP30 (P170) per head at a minimum of three persons per visa. Then you can take bus numbers 3, 10, 18, 17, or 28c (or ask for other available buses around) that travel to the border—travel time is 20 to 30 minutes. Your English-speaking Chinese travel agent will meet you at Immigration to give you the necessary instructions.


CHEAP OR ALTERNATIVE ACCOMMODATION


Next up: where to stay? This may be even more of a dilemma, especially if you want to time it so you get a good bargain on your transportation.

Low-Budget Lodgings

Unfortunately, the affordable pod or capsule hotels of Japan haven’t reached these areas yet. Macau is famous for being a world-class gambling city, and along with the territory come luxurious hotels and resorts. Don’t let this get you down, as budget inns and guesthouses are just around the bend. For instance, Villa Costa Inn along Tap Seac Road offers a room rate of MOP180 (P1,000) per night. An even cheaper alternative is to consider transient houses with Filipino expats. If you have friends or relatives in Macau, you can ask for help with finding apartments or flats—some owned or rented by Filipino expats–which allow room rental or bed space for Filipino travelers. If you just need a bed and don’t mind other Pinoys sharing the room with you, bed space rental costs around MOP25 (P140) per day, while rooms may be around MOP100 (P560) and up.


Day Trips vs. Staying the Night

When taking a trip to Hong Kong and to the border of Guangdong, you have the option to stay for one day, say, from 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM, for those traveling on budget, or stay overnight for those who can spend more.


FOOD AND PASALUBONG

Can you survive on street food, fried rice, and noodle–and–dim sum houses? Then you will definitely enjoy the trip without needing a large budget for meals. The Emperor Hotel Casino has noodles for as low as MOP10 (P56) and dim sum at MOP5 (P28). Convenience stores and mini-stops also have affordable microwavable rice meals and other options for food-on-the-go. If you bump into McDonald’s, though, note that most service crews don’t understand a single word of English, so you may need to just point the meal you want. If you don’t want to be too adventurous in your travel diet, you can get Jollibee, KFC, and McDonald’s meals in Hong Kong, while the border gate in Guangdong provides inexpensive Chinese choices.

The Portuguese egg tart, a delicacy from Macau

Along the street of Senado Square, several traditional Chinese delicacies are up for free tasting. One of the most favored pasalubongs is the incredibly lip-smacking Portuguese egg tart that sells for MOP6.50 (P36). You don’t get a free taste of this, though, but the best-baked egg tarts are around the square. Local herbal teas, chocolates, and other homegrown products for pasalubong are also available at grocery stores like SanMui and Royal.

Other pasalubongs are cheap clothes, bags, and shoes. If you’re patient and smart enough to walk around the sidewalks in Macau, you can find pretty cool footwear for as low as MOP20 (P110), shirts or tops at MOP10 (P56), and other surprisingly inexpensive yet trendy grabs. Macau has flea or night markets too, the Red Market being the most famous among them. For postcards and souvenirs in museums, these sell at MOP5 (P28) and up.


PREMIER ATTRACTIONS: MACAU

Bright lights aside, Macau is truly charming, what with its natural sights and manmade attractions. Some attractions would require entrance fees, while others are free to explore.


The Ruins of St. Paul’s

What remains of the first Church and College of the Jesuits in China is the remarkably carved stone façade of St. Paul’s and the museum. The 17th-century church, which was destroyed by fire, is an illustration of the history of Christianity in Asia; it houses Biblical quotations in Japanese and Chinese chrysanthemums as well as bronze statues of the missionary saints. Pinoy expats call it putol.


Mount Fortress and Museum of Macau

Mount Fortress became a useful defense against Dutch attacks in 1624, until it was turned into a governor’s residence. At present, it houses the Museum of Macau. From Mount Fortress, you can also view the bustling skyline of Macau.


Senado Square

The psychedelic waves on the ground created by experts from Portugal and amazing shows of architecture are the very reasons why Senado Square is a hotspot for tourists and locals alike. It’s a favorite hub for various public events and is a darling to most Pinoy expats who just love to gather around and mingle.


Fisherman's Wharf in Macau

Macau Fisherman’s Wharf

This theme park houses retail stores, bars, restaurants, marina, convention, exhibition, and other venues for recreation. The park has three themed sections, namely Dynasty Wharf, East Meets West, and Legend Wharf.


The Venetian Macao-Resort Hotel

Get a feel of Venice right in the heart of Asia’s gambling city. Truly luxurious and gigantic—it’s twice the size of its counterpart in US—the Venetian Macao-Resort Hotel is a timeless favorite because of the gondola rides (imagine the gondoliers singing classical pieces on top of their voices), the amazing line of Baroque architecture to wow the old soul in you, the grand Great Hall, and the universal range of dining and shopping. The Venetian is but a fine illustration of opulence.


Wynn Hotel and Casino

In front of this hotel is a spectacular fountain show that dances along with the music. At the atrium of the hotel is a show for Wynn’s treasure called the “Tree of Prosperity.” The show presents a 65-foot golden tree with a stunning abstract and electronic-engineered display of sorts and more.


Macau Tower Convention and Entertainment Center

This fine example of modern architecture is breathtaking even from afar, but you have to shell out some cash here to enjoy the rides and the famous bungee jump, among other things.


The Bank of China Tower in Hong Kong

PREMIERE ATTRACTIONS: HONG KONG

Hong Kong is lovely in its own right, with its contemporary buildings of glass, marble, and steel. Nevertheless, the accessibility of some of its attractions may be one concern for a budget-traveler, especially if you only have a day visa to explore the city and have to return to Macau at once. Consider taking the bus or the subway, as taxi fares are rather expensive. In Macau, you can simply walk around, or get cheap or free bus rides, and you can just go on counting and visiting its roster of attractions as you go along—this is not as easily done in Hong Kong. Then again, Hong Kong is, foremost, a shopping destination, so you should expect to spend more anyway; plus, there’s an endless array of pasalubong choices goes here.

In Hong Kong, you can freely look up to the so-called pure geometry of Bank of China Tower and the renowned Exchange Square. There are, of course, other popular attractions like Hong Kong Disneyland and Ocean Park, but these require whopping entrance fees, so if you want to go to these theme parks, it’s a good idea to budget for it before you even get on the plane. Another free popular sight is The Peak, which gives tourists a panoramic view of the city’s gleaming skyline and is best visited at night. You can visit a couple or even more of these places in a day if you want a marathon tour.


PREMIERE ATTRACTIONS: GUANGDONG

You may be tempted to move beyond the border province of Guangdong, China—the formal checkpoint for travelers—because of all the tempting stores inside the border that sell cheap electronic gadgets, clothes, and bags. It’s easy to become occupied wading through sales and discounted items for pasalubong—and before you know it, your visa for the day is about to expire and haven’t explored much yet. (Yes, we count ourselves among the shopping victims of Guangdong.)

To go the sightseeing route, though, the Barrier Gate is a definite must-see. Built in 1870, the gate, which separates Macau from Guangdong Province, is a tourist attraction in itself.  You can see an inscription of the quotation from Portuguese poet Camoes on the top most portion of the gate.

The trick to exploring beyond the border into the Special Economic Zone called Zhuhai in Guangdong and other neighboring provinces in China, is to stay at least one night. If you do choose to do this, however, be sure to prearrange it with your travel agent in Macau.


The Macau Tower at night

This travel guide may not be for everyone. Some travelers will want to experience the glitz of the rich and famous and are ready to spend more. Budget travelers, however, will appreciate the option to spend less and still enjoy the experience of something new and the high of traveling. If the latter description sounds like you, you can even find more ways to budget on your trip by checking out FN’s tipid tips for cheap vacation thrills. Whichever the case, it’s always good to know that you have the option to travel even when your budget is tight.


(Photos by Lorela U. Sandoval)

 

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  • mariaburton Apr 09 2010 @ 10:54pm Report Abuse
       
    thanks for posting this... i'll be on a solo backpacking trip to hongkong-macau this August and this will be a very big help.
    Last modified A long time ago
  • MChristine519 Apr 10 2010 @ 01:53am Report Abuse
       
    To save on transportation when in Macau, take advantage of the shuttle buses that the casinos have..its free.. =) We actually took one from Macau's ferry to the Venetian hotel and then left our bags in the concierge while we roam around the hotel..
    Last modified Apr 12 2010 @ 10:18am
  • dijo Apr 10 2010 @ 11:44am Report Abuse
       
    thanks for this tips! me and my friends will be bound to MACAU and HK on Sept!
    Last modified A long time ago
  • Lourdes Espanol Apr 10 2010 @ 03:07pm Report Abuse
       
    Great tips for someone like me who hasn't traveled to these places yet.
    Last modified A long time ago
  • Melanie Esponilla Apr 11 2010 @ 04:47am Report Abuse
       
    wow!this is great! i want to go to hongkong before the year ends or early next year.this is so helpful!
    Last modified A long time ago
  • mary ann Apr 11 2010 @ 10:48am Report Abuse
       
    I want to go to HK! Thanks for this article! Very helpful and informative!
    Last modified A long time ago
  • Van Apr 11 2010 @ 12:26pm Report Abuse
       
    this is a great guide :) would love visit the church ruins in macau soon. maybe you can do a feature budget in singapore too :)
    Last modified A long time ago
  • michelle Apr 11 2010 @ 01:21pm Report Abuse
       
    thanks for posting this! i've bookmarked this page already for my macau trip in the future! :)
    Last modified A long time ago
  • marchineness09 Apr 11 2010 @ 03:47pm Report Abuse
       
    This is so great. The instructions here are very precise. I will definitely follow these.
    Last modified A long time ago
  • zyramae_12 Apr 11 2010 @ 09:37pm Report Abuse
       
    my sister's prof. have tried this one and she is really satisfy for her break.. Imagine 3 in 1. I love to go to Macau..
    Last modified A long time ago
  • Cathrina Lim Apr 12 2010 @ 09:50am Report Abuse
       
    May I also add a helpful and saving tip when in Macau and Hong Kong? Take advantage of the free shuttles these places offer. Almost all hotels in Macau, specially the big hotels, offer free shuttles to their hotels. Most of these hotels are close to tourist spots so it will save you money if you take shuttle buses from the ferry/airport to these hotels and nearby tourist spots. You can hop from one shuttle bus to the other so don't afraid to hop in!



    In Hong Kong, if you took the Airport Express Train to get to the city (Kowloon or Central station), they also offer free shuttle bus that drops you off at key hotels. This will save you time and energy in walking to your hotel when you get-off the train station. You may check the list of hotels where the shuttle buses stop at http://www.mtr.com.hk/eng/airport_express/complom_free_bus.html



    Hope this helps!
    Last modified A long time ago
  • Aihz Apr 12 2010 @ 12:26pm Report Abuse
       
    my sibs and i went just recently on an HK/Macau shopping tour.. id like to recommend these two places you girls should not miss



    Hongkong >> Citygate Outlet (Tung Chung MTR) a mall filled with factory outlets of brands such as burberry, coach, esprit, mango, nike, guess, body shop, crocs, and so much more..



    Macau >> City of Dreams Casino.. they have this extremely amazing Free 30min show at The Bubble (dome shaped theatre)
    Last modified A long time ago
  • pinkpie Apr 13 2010 @ 01:00am Report Abuse
       
    Wow! I appreciate this tips! We are planning to visit Hongkong this year but no date yet.
    Last modified A long time ago
  • Madonna C. de Luna Apr 13 2010 @ 08:18pm Report Abuse
       
    very informative.. i am planning to visit hongkong and macau next month
    Last modified A long time ago
  • April Apr 14 2010 @ 11:59am Report Abuse
       
    this is cool! will be going to HK/Macau this May 11-14 with the whole family...i'm more interested in knowing where to shop there coz we were able to book a package tour with Disney Trip :D
    Last modified A long time ago
  • january Apr 22 2010 @ 02:07pm Report Abuse
       
    Thank you for sharing this DIY tour! I hope to visit again soon and try the Hongkong-Guangdong trip.
    Last modified A long time ago
  • dgrachee Apr 27 2010 @ 09:31pm Report Abuse
       
    this is a good post. i am really considering to go backpacking to Macau before I end my single life. this will help me plan ahead
    Last modified A long time ago
  • Woman of Action Jul 28 2010 @ 09:41am Report Abuse
       
    Thank you so much for sharing this.



    This would be really helpful!
    Last modified A long time ago
  • Jehnavi Oct 29 2010 @ 01:46pm Report Abuse
       
    Thanks for great post.

    http://www.financemetrics.com/tips-on-budgeting/
    Last modified A long time ago
  • Sandy Miguel Mar 28 2011 @ 04:58am Report Abuse
       
    Thank you so much for these tips. I'd be traveling to Macau with my relatives in November.
    Last modified A long time ago
  • phillip Jun 20 2011 @ 07:32pm Report Abuse
       
    Wow!! this is really very helpful to me. I will be in Macau June 24 to July 27 2011. I will in on a solo backpacking trip.hehehe.How can I travel to Guangdong? I guess it needs visa right? My itinerary I will be arrive June 24 at 4m in Macau.. then on 25th tour around Macau. 26th for day tour in HK.. then 27th at 4pm flying back to manila. Any suggestions, so that I can visit Guangdong.. Please help me..
    Last modified A long time ago
  • Aielzer Feb 25 2012 @ 01:40am Report Abuse
       
    Hi there,

    Do you know a place where we can stay in Macau? good for 2 people, we are looking for a room. :)

    Hope you can help us.

    Thanks,
    AIlene
  • Kath Sabino Sep 16 2012 @ 09:51pm Report Abuse
       
    Im a from Philippines. I am planning to visit my friend in macau and stay there for 29 days. I have a valid passport already. What should I do to easily enter Macau? Is it possible for me to enter Hong Kong after my 29th day in Macau? What does each immigration ask from me?
  • ytel Nov 12 2012 @ 11:32am Report Abuse
       
    Hi,,, i m planning to go to Macau this January and one of my dillema is the accommodation, i have read that you stay in Villa Costa Inn. I have tried searching the internet to see their rates if they have website but i failed since i cannot find any. PLease help me contact them? Do you still have their numbers or contacts. You may send me through my email if it is too much of you... ill be waiting.

  • Abigail101 Dec 10 2012 @ 11:51am Report Abuse
       
    Travelling between Hong Kong, Macau and Guangdong, you can find train/bus/ferry schedules here on http://prdguide.com/
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