The Macao Special Administrative Region (MSAR) is a part of China’s territory. It is located on the Southeast coast of China to the west of the Pearl River Delta. Bordering on Guangdong Province, it locates 60km from Hong Kong and 145km from the city of Guangzhou. Local time is eight hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time.
Due to land reclamation along its coastline, Macao has grown in land area from 10.28km2 in the 19th century to 29.2 km2 today, which is equal to one-fortieth of Hong Kong and one twenty-third of Singapore. Macao consists of the Macao peninsula and the two islands of Taipa and Coloane. Three bridges, Nobre de Carvalho Bridge, Friendship Bridge (Ponte da Amizade) and Sai Van Bridge, link the peninsula to Taipa, while the two islands are linked by the six-lane 2.2km Taipa-Coloane Causeway.
The population of Macao is estimated to be 546,200. Population density is 18706/km2, and the northern part of the peninsula is one of the most densely populated areas in the world.
According to the results of the by-census 2006, as at 19 August 2006, 48.8% of the resident population were male and 51.2% were female. In terms of age structure, the youth population aged under 15 shared 15.2% of the total, and 77.7% are aged between 15 and 64. Those aged 65 years and older accounts for 7% of the population. Average life span for both sexes is over 79 years old.
Chinese and Portuguese are the Official languages of Macao, and more than 95% of the population speak Chinese. Portuguese is spoken by about 0.6% and the remainder speak English, Filipino or other languages.
According to the results of the by-census 2006, more than 78% of Macao’s population have been living in the territory for more than 10 years. Meanwhile, 42.5% of the population were born in Macao and 47.1% were born in the Mainland, while 10.4% of residents are from other regions.
Macau located at the west bank of Pearl River Delta in South China, is the intersection of Chinese Mainland and South China Sea. It is also located at the south of tropic of Cancer. The winds directions in winter and summer are opposite. Therefore, Macau is in the monsoon region and from the climate classification is considered mild and rainy in summer. The most comfortable period begins from the middle of October to December.
The winter season in Macau covers the months January and February. The cold air from north Siberia continuously passes through the Mid and South China into Macau region and brings us cold and dry northerly winds. The urban temperature sometimes drops below 10ºC. Therefore, the annual minimum temperature is generally recorded in these two months. When the Precipitation and rainy days are less it is because there is lack of water vapour in the atmosphere.
March and April is the seasonal interchange period. The wind direction along the coastal region of South China is mainly easterly to southeasterly, which will increase the temperature and humidity. Beside some occasional wet weather, fog, drizzle and low visibility days, the weather is mainly fine in spring.
The summer in Macau is longer than the other seasons. Because of hot and wet conditions, the bad weather such as thunderstorm and heavy rain always occur from May to September. Waterspout can be seen occasionally.
Meanwhile from May to October, tropical cyclones occur frequently which make the highest records of precipitation, temperature, rainy days and thunderstorms. As local tropical cyclones number 8 typhoon signal is hoisted the sea and air transports are suspended.
The autumn begins at October, at that time the mainland China becomes cool. The autumn season in Macau is very short, the weather is stable and comfortable with clear sky. It finally returns to the cool and dry November. The cold air from the north will intrude periodically in December.
- Coins: 10, 20 and 50 avos; 1, 2, 5 and 10 Patacas.
- Banknotes: 10, 20, 50, 100, 500 and 1000 Patacas.
By the decision of the Government the Pataca is linked to the Hong Kong dollar (HK$) which is accepted as currency in Macau. The exchange rate is MOP$103.20 = HK$100.00. There is an acceptable variation up to 10%. Roughly 10 Patacas is equivalent to 1 EURO and 8 Patacas is equivalent to 1 US Dollar.
Foreign Currency or travellers’ cheques can be changed in hotels, banks and authorised exchange dealers located all around the city. If the visitor needs to change money outside the usual banking hours, there are 24 hours exchange counters operating in the Macau International Airport (Taipa Island) and in the Lisboa Hotel (Macau).
Banks open normally from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.. Most credit cards are accepted in many hotels, shops and restaurants. There are no restrictions on the amount of currency, which can be brought in or taken out of the territory.
Macao People ruling Macao and A High Degree of Autonomy
The Government of the People’s Republic of China resumed to exercise sovereignty over Macao on 20th December 1999 when the Macao Special Administrative Region (MSAR) was established in accordance with the Article 31 of the Constitution of the People’s Republic of China. In harmony with the principle of “one country, two systems”, the previous capitalist system and way of life shall remain unchanged for 50 years.
The principle of “Macao people ruling Macao” means that the people of Macao govern Macao. The executive organ and the legislature of the Macao Special Administrative Region shall be composed of local residents of Macao. According to the Basic Law, the definition of Macao people refers to the permanent residents of the MSAR, including Chinese, Portuguese and other people who meet the qualifications stipulated in the Basic Law. The Chief Executive, principal officials, members of the Executive Council and the Legislative Assembly, the President of the Court of Final Appeal and the Procurator-General of the MSAR must be permanent residents of the Region. Some of these posts can only be assumed by Chinese citizens who are also permanent residents in Macao.
A high degree of autonomy means that the National People’s Congress (NPC) of China authorises the MSAR to exercise a high degree of autonomy in line with the Basic Law, and the Central People’s Government will not interfere in the affairs that fall within the scope of autonomy of MSAR. The high degree of autonomy to be exercised by MSAR includes the administrative power, legislative power and independent judicial power, which included the power of final adjudication. But a high degree of autonomy does not mean complete autonomy. To safeguard China’s unification and uphold state sovereignty and territorial integrity, the Central People’s Government retains necessary power over MSAR. For instance, the Central People’s Government shall be responsible for the foreign affairs and defense relating to MSAR.
The Government of the Macao Special Administrative Region is the executive authority of the MSAR. The Chief Executive is the head of the Government, and general secretariats, directorates of services, departments and divisions are established in the Government of MSAR.
The principal officials of the Macao Special Administrative Region shall be Chinese citizens who are permanent residents of the Region and have ordinarily resided in Macao for a continuous period of not less than fifteen years.
The Government of MSAR is responsible for formulating and implementing policies; conducting administrative affairs; conducting external affairs as authorised by the Central People’s Government under the Basic Law; drawing up and introducing budgets and final accounts; introducing bills and motions and drafting administrative regulations; and designating officials to sit in on the meetings of the Legislative Assembly to hear opinions or to speak on behalf of the Government.
The Government of MSAR must abide by the law and be accountable to the Legislative Assembly: it shall implement laws passed by the Legislative Assembly and those already in force; it shall present regular policy addresses to the Legislative Assembly; and it shall answer questions raised by members of the Legislative Assembly.
The Chief Executive The Chief Executive is the head of MSAR and is accountable to the Central People's Government and MSAR.
The Chief Executive shall be a Chinese citizen of not less than 40 years of age who is a permanent resident of the Region and has ordinarily resided in Macao for a continuous period of not less than 20 years. The Chief Executive is selected by election or through consultations held locally and is appointed by the Central People's Government. The term of office of the Chief Executive is five years and may serve for not more than two consecutive terms.
The Chief Executive is responsible for leading the Government of MSAR; implementing the Basic Law and other laws which apply in MSAR; signing bills passed by the Legislative Assembly and promulgating laws; signing budgets passed by the Legislative Assembly and report the budgets and final accounts to the Central People’s Government for the record; deciding on government policies and issuing executive orders; formulating the administrative regulations and promulgating them for implementation; nominating and reporting to the Central People’s Government for appointment of the Secretaries, Commissioner Against Corruption, the Commissioner of Audit, the leading members of the Police and the Customs and Excise department, and recommending to the Central People’s Government the removal of the above-mentioned officials; appointing part of the members of the Legislative Assembly; appointing or removing members of the Executive Council; nominating and reporting to the Central People’s Government for appointment of the Procurator-General and recommending to the Central People’s Government the removal of the Procurator-General; appointing or removing presidents and judges of the courts at all levels, procurators, holders of public office and, under certain circumstances, dissolving the Legislative Assembly.
The Executive Council The Executive Council of MSAR is an organ for assisting the Chief Executive in policy-making. The Executive Council is presided over by the Chief Executive and the meeting of the Executive Council should be held at least once a month. Its members are appointed by the Chief Executive from among the principal officials of the executive authorities, members of the Legislative Assembly and public figures. The Executive Council is composed of seven to eleven persons. The Chief Executive may, as he or she deems necessary, invite other persons concerned to sit in on meetings of the Executive Council.
The Legislature The majority of the members of the Legislative Assembly of MSAR, which is composed of permanent residents of the Region, are elected. The term of office of the Legislative Assembly, except for the first term, is four years.
The first-term Legislative Assembly of the MSAR had 23 members, eight of whom were elected directly, eight indirectly and seven appointed by the Chief Executive. Their term of office expired on 15 October 2001. The second-term Legislative Assembly had 27 members, 10 of whom were elected directly, 10 indirectly and seven appointed by the Chief Executive. Their term expired in 2005. The third and subsequent Legislative Assemblies will have 29 members, 12 of whom will be elected directly, 10 indirectly and seven appointed by the Chief Executive.
The Legislative Assembly has a President and a Vice President who are elected by and from among the members of the Legislative Council. The President and Vice President of the Legislative Assembly are Chinese citizens who are permanent residents of MSAR and have ordinarily resided in Macao for a continuous period of not less than 15 years.
The Legislative Assembly has powers to enact, amend, suspend or repeal laws; to examine and approve budgets introduced by the Government; and to examine the report on audit introduced by the Government.
The Legislative Assembly exercises the powers and functions of deciding on Government motions on taxation and approving debts to be undertaken by the Government, receiving and debating the policy addresses of the Chief Executive and debating any issue concerning the public interests.
Under certain circumstances, the Legislative Assembly may pass a motion to impeach the Chief Executive by a two-thirds majority of all its members and report it to the Central People’s Government for decision.
The Judiciary The courts of the Macao Special Administrative Region exercise judicial power independently. They are subordinated to nothing but the Law and are not subject to any interference. The Macao Special Administrative Region has the Court of First Instance, the Court of Second Instance and the Court of Final Appeal. The power of final adjudication is vested in the Court of Final Appeal of the Macao Special Administrative Region.
With the establishment of the MSAR, two new courts, the Lower Court and Administrative Court, came into being as constituent parts of the Court of First Instance. The Basic Law also permits the Lower Court to form specialised tribunals, as required, and to retain the Examining Magistracy created under the former Portuguese administration. The Examining Magistracy therefore functions as part of the Lower Court.
The Administrative Court has jurisdiction over administrative and tax cases. Appeals against judgments by the Administrative Court can be lodged with an intermediate court.
Judges of all levels of courts in Macao are appointed by the Chief Executive on the recommendation of an independent commission composed of local judges, lawyers and prominent members of the community. The presidents of courts of the Macao Special Administrative Region at all levels shall be chosen from among judges and appointed by the Chief Executive. The President of the Court of Final Appeal must be a Chinese citizen who is a permanent resident of the Region, and the appointment and removal of the President of the Court of Final Appeal shall be reported to the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress for the record.
The Public Prosecutions Office of the Macao Special Administrative Region exercise procuratorial functions independently and free from any interference as vested by law.
Commission Against Corruption The Commission Against Corruption functions independently. The Commissioner Against Corruption shall be appointed by the Central People’s Government on the nomination of the Chief Executive. The Commissioner is accountable to the Chief Executive.
The Commission Against Corruption is responsible for tackling corruption and fraud. It investigates, in accordance with the law, corruption and fraud among civil servants and among individuals involved in voter registration and elections. It also promotes the protection of human rights, freedoms, legal guarantees, and legitimate rights and interests, as well as ensuring the justice, legitimacy and efficiency of public administration.
Commission of Audit The Commission of Audit has been set up in accordance with the Basic Law. It functions independently and is not subject to interference. The Commissioner of Audit is accountable to the Chief Executive.
The main responsibilities of the Commission of Audit are to monitor the implementation of the MSAR Government budget, to conduct a “value-for-money” assessment on the subject of audit, and to monitor the expenditure management, efficiency and cost-effectiveness of the Government.
Unitary Police Services The Unitary Police Service is responsible for the coordination of the MSAR’s security affairs. It commands and leads police units that now include the Public Security Police and Judiciary Police.
The Commissioner General of the Unitary Police Services, who is one of the principal officials of the MSAR Government in accordance with the Basic Law, was appointed by the Central People’s Government in November 2000 and assumed position in September 2001.
Macao Customs Services The Macao Customs Services, established in 2001, is responsible for the task of monitoring outbound trade activities and protection of industrial and Intellectual properties that used to be executed jointly by the Economic Services and the Marine and Customs Police. The Director General of the Customs Services, which is one of the principal officials of the MSAR, was appointed by the Central People’s Government in July 2000 and assumed position in September 2001.
Post & Telecommunications
Telephone Service Local calls in Macau are free of charge when made from a private phone. When using a public phone, they cost MOP$1.00. Phone cards can be purchased for MOP$50.00, MOP$100.00 or MOP$150.00 and they can be used as well as coins in public phones located all around the city and the islands. In the busiest areas there are also credit card phones. If you would like to use your mobile phone while in Macau, please contact the information services, dialing 1000(CTM), 1118(Hutchison Telecom), 1628(SmarTone) or 1888(China Telecom (Macau) Co., Ltd.). Besides, Hutchison Telecom Network is now providing the Mobile Tour Guide Service. Visitors can listen to the voice information service by dialing the Spot Code #83.
Postal Service Macau provides a very efficient and reliable Post office service with the head office in the Senado Square. It's open from 9:00 am to 6:00 pm (Monday to Friday), and on Saturday from 9:00 am to 1:00 pm (Tel: 853-2832 3666). It provides postal service and express mailing to destinations worldwide. There are post offices throughout the city, too. You can safely send letters, post cards or packages to anywhere in the world by normal or express mail (ask for information directly at the post office counters regarding costs and time). The Macau Postal Services have over 30 automatic vending machines in different parts of the city. Most hotels offer postal facilities for guests' letters and packages, and a packing service.
Philately For some years Macau has been issuing stamps of which are favorite items for collectors. The stamps are famous for their originality with specific themes related with characteristics of the city, particularly portraying point of convergence between east and west. The following series of stamps have been praised by all philatelists: "Chinese Zodiac", "Literature and Famous Personalities", " Legends and Myths", "Classified Patrimony", "Science and Technology" and "Macau Arts", among others.
In order to satisfy the continuous growing demand of stamps, the Macau Postal Services has recently opened philately shop near St. Paul's Ruins, an important historical monument of Macau, to facilitate the acquisition of stamps by collectors and tourists. The Macau Postal Services also provides philately counters in all post offices.
Internet Facilities Internet facilities are available at Central Library of Macau and some of its branches. You may also find several cyber-cafés all over the city.
Macao has a population of about 500,000 only, yet this small city plays host to more than 20 million visitors in recent years. Since Tourism is the backbone of Macao’s Economy, the Government of the Macao Special Administrative Region (MSAR) clearly regards the gaming and tourist industries as the “head” and the service industry as the “body”, with other industries developing in parallel.
In February 2009, Macao’s tourist arrivals and non-resident arrivals totalled 2.25 million, and visitor arrivals were 1,652,377, down by 17.3% compared with February 2008.
As of the year-end of 2008, there were 17,490 hotel rooms. The hotel occupancy rate in December was 79%, a decrease of 4.1% over the same period in 2007.
Each visitor stayed for 1.1 nights in Macao on average in the fourth quarter of 2008. Each visitor spent MOP1,788 (USD223.5) on average, an increase of 4% comparing the last quarter, and visitors from Mainland China topped the chart with an average spending of MOP4,103 (USD512.9).
Rich Tourism Resources Macao enjoys rich tourism resources with its centuries-old tradition as a meeting point of cultures and unique existence of gaming entertainment.
Macao has been dubbed the ‘Monte Carlo of the Orient’ since gaming has long been an important part of the tourism industry. Tourists are the main customers for the many casinos located in the peninsula of peninsula Macao and Taipa.
The MSAR liberalised the gaming industry in 2001 and granted concessions to three gaming operators with vast experience in different modes of gaming and entertainment operations. Thus, Macao would be able to diversify the industry, making it a truly delightful part of Macao’s tourism experience.
A Variety of Attractions Other than historic architectures, Macao also offers a variety of sightseeing experience to tourists and its residents, such as the Macao Museum, which focuses on the history of the city, and other theme museums like the Grand Prix Museum, the Wine Museum and the Maritime Museum. The Macao Museum of Art and the Macao Cultural Centre also bring a variety of exhibitions and performances to residents and tourists.
Other tourist attractions include the Statue of the Goddess A-Ma located on the highest point on Coloane Island, the Statue of the Goddess Kun Iam out of the Outer Harbour and the Cyber Fountain on Nam Van Lake.
Mixed-Culture Charm Despite being a small city, Macao has been one of the most important hubs for Eastern and Western cultures for the last four centuries. Now Macao's architectures, religious rituals, customs and cuisines reflect Macao's unique cultural heritage.
Macao’s famous historic architectures -- landmarks such as the Ruins of St. Paul Church, Fortress Hill and A-Ma Temple, and other centuries-old churches and temples -- have charmed visitors from all over the world.
Not only are these architectural heritages treasures of Macao, but they are also proof of a cultural merge that have made the world what it is today. With the support of the Central Government in the process of application, “The Historic Centre of Macao” was inscribed on UNESCO’s prestigious World Heritage List at the 29th Session of the World Heritage Committee in July 2005.
“The Historic Centre of Macao” incorporated a total of 25 historic monuments and sites, such as the A-Ma Temple and the Ruins of St. Paul Church, and many old buildings and squares.
Facilitated Individual Travel Scheme Since China has resumed its exercise of sovereignty over Macao, visiting Macao becomes more and more appealing to its compatriots. In early 2002, the Mainland authorities relaxed restrictions to allow residents to visit Hong Kong and Macao in tour groups.
From 28 July 2003, residents of certain Mainland provinces and cities have also been allowed to visit the two cities as individual travellers under the Facilitated Individual Travel Scheme. At first people benefited from the scheme are only limited to residents in four cities in Guangdong Province, namely Zhongshan, Jiangmen, Foshan and Dongguan. Later, the scheme’s coverage gradually expanded to Beijing, Shanghai, the entire Guangdong Province and dozens of cities in other provinces. It is expected that the scheme would continue to expand and include more cities and provinces. As a result, Macao is looking forward to receiving an increasing number of visitors from the Mainland China.
Cuisines and Events Macao’s unique mix of cultures and customs is definitely reflected in the form of culinary fusion. Macanese food, which is a fusion of Portuguese, African, Southeast Asian and Chinese cooking, has begun to gain international recognition after being enjoyed by locals for decades.
Throughout the year, Macao stages various international events such as the Macao International Music Festival, Macao Arts Festival, Macau Grand Prix and the International Fireworks Festival.