What You Need To Know
Macau, also spelled Macao, officially the Macao Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China, is an autonomous territory on the western side of the Pearl River Delta in East Asia. Macau is bordered by the city of Zhuhai in Mainland China to the north and the Pearl River Estuary to the east and south. Hong Kong lies about 64 kilometres (40 mi) to its east across the Delta. With a population of 650,900 living in an area of 30.5 km2 (11.8 sq mi), it is the most densely populated region in the world. Macau was administered by the Portuguese Empire and its inheritor states from the mid-16th century until late 1999, when it constituted the last remaining European colony in Asia. Portuguese traders first settled in Macau in the 1550s. In 1557, Macau was leased to Portugal from Ming China as a trading port. The Portuguese Empire administered the city under Chinese authority and sovereignty until 1887, when Macau, through a mutual agreement between the two countries, became a colony. Sovereignty over Macau was transferred back to China on 20 December 1999. The Joint Declaration on the Question of Macau and Macau Basic Law stipulate that Macau operate with a high degree of autonomy until at least 2049, fifty years after the transfer. Under the policy of “one country, two systems”, the State Council of the People’s Republic of China is responsible for military defense and foreign affairs while Macau maintains its own legal system, public security force, monetary system, customs policy, and immigration policy. Macau participates in international organizations and events that do not require members to possess national sovereignty. Macau is among the world’s richest regions, and as of 2015 its GDP per capita by purchasing power parity is higher than that of any country in the world, according to the World Bank. It became the world’s largest gambling centre in 2006, with the economy heavily dependent on gambling and tourism, as well as manufacturing. According to The World Factbook, Macau has the fourth highest life expectancy in the world. Moreover, it is one of the regions in Asia with a “very high Human Development Index”, ranking 18th in the world as of 2014.
Area: 30.5 km²
Population: Estimate 650,900
The Macao pataca, Macau pataca, or Macanese pataca (Portuguese: Pataca de Macau; Chinese: 澳門圓; ISO 4217 code: MOP) is the currency of Macau. It is subdivided into 100 avos (仙; sin), with 10 avos called ho (毫) in Cantonese. The abbreviation MOP$ is commonly used.
The mixing of the Chinese and Portuguese cultures and religious traditions for more than four centuries has left Macau with an inimitable collection of holidays, festivals and events. The biggest event of the year is the Macau Grand Prix in November, when the main streets in Macau Peninsula are converted to a racetrack bearing similarities with the Monaco Grand Prix. Other annual events include Macau Arts festival in March, the International Fireworks Display Contest in September, the International Music festival in October and/or November, and the Macau International Marathon in December. The Lunar Chinese New Year is the most important traditional festival and celebration normally takes place in late January or early February. The Pou Tai Un Temple in Taipa is the place for the Feast of Tou Tei, the Earth god, in February. The Procession of the Passion of Our Lord is a well-known Roman Catholic rite and journey, which travels from Saint Austin’s Church to the Cathedral, also taking place in February.
Macau’s economy is based largely on tourism. Other chief economic activities in Macau are export-geared textile and garment manufacturing, banking and other financial services. The clothing industry has provided about three quarters of export earnings, and the gaming, tourism and hospitality industry is estimated to contribute more than 50% of Macau’s GDP, and 70% of Macau government revenue. Macau is a founding member of the WTO and has maintained sound economic and trade relations with more than 120 countries and regions, with European Union and Portuguese-speaking countries in particular; Macau is also a member of the IMF. The World Bank classifies Macau as a high income economy and the GDP per capita of the region in 2006 was US$28,436. After the Handover in 1999, there has been a rapid rise in the number of mainland visitors due to China’s easing of travel restrictions. Together with the liberalization of Macau’s gaming industry in 2001 that induces significant investment inflows, the average growth rate of the economy between 2001 and 2006 was approximately 13.1% annually. In a World Tourism Organization report of international tourism for 2006, Macau ranked 21st in the number of tourists and 24th in terms of tourism receipts. From 9.1 million visitors in 2000, arrivals to Macau has grown to 18.7 million visitors in 2005 and 22 million visitors in 2006, with over 50% of the arrivals coming from mainland China and another 30% from Hong Kong.
Government and politics
Macau is served by one major public hospital, the Hospital Conde S. Januário, and one major private hospital, the Hospital Kiang Wu, both located in Macau Peninsula, as well as a university associated hospital called Macau University of Science and Technology Hospital in Cotai. In addition to hospitals, Macau also has numerous health centres providing free basic medical care to residents. Consultation in traditional Chinese medicine is also available. None of the Macau hospitals are independently assessed through international healthcare accreditation. There are no western-style medical schools in Macau, and thus all aspiring physicians in Macau have to obtain their education and qualification elsewhere. Local nurses are trained at the Macau Polytechnic Institute and the Kiang Wu Nursing College. Currently there are no training courses in midwifery in Macau.
In Macau, the unit of currency is the pataca, which is currently pegged to the Hong Kong dollar at a rate of HK$1 = MOP1.03. The name pataca is a Portuguese word which was applied to the Mexican dollars that were the main circulating coin in the wider region in the second half of the 19th century. In 1894, the pataca was introduced in both Macau and Portuguese Timor as a unit of account for the Mexican dollar and the other silver dollar coins in circulation. However, the pataca was not the official currency when it was first enacted. In 1901, it was decided to grant the Banco Nacional Ultramarino the exclusive rights to issue banknotes denominated in patacas, and in the year 1906, all foreign coins were outlawed. However, the Chinese were suspicious of these paper patacas, being so accustomed to using silver for barter, and as such, the paper patacas circulated at a discount in relation to the silver dollar coins. In 1935, when China and Hong Kong abandoned the silver standard, the Hong Kong dollar was pegged to sterling at the fixed rate of 1 shilling and 3 pence, whereas the pataca was pegged to the Portuguese escudo at a sterling equivalent rate of only 1 shilling. From 1945 to 1951, fractional coins of the pataca were minted for issue in Portuguese Timor; and, in 1952, similar issues were minted for Macau including an actual pataca coin for the first time.
Most Chinese in Macau are profoundly influenced by their own tradition and culture, of which most take part in Chinese folk religion, in which Taoism and Confucianism are comprehended. According to a survey conducted between 2005, 2007 and 2009, 30% of the population follows folk faiths, 10% are adherents of Buddhism or Taoism, 5% are Christians, and the remaining part do not declare religious affiliation.
In Macau, traffic drives on the left, unlike in either mainland China or Portugal, but like neighbouring Hong Kong. Macau has a well-established public transport network connecting the Macau Peninsula, Cotai, Taipa Island and Coloane Island. Buses and taxis are the major modes of public transport in Macau. Currently three companies – Transmac, Transportas Companhia de Macau and Macau Nova Era de Autocarros Públicos operate franchised public bus services in Macau. The trishaw, a hybrid of the tricycle and the rickshaw, is also available, though it is mainly for sightseeing purposes. The newest public bus operator, Macau Nova Era, previously Reolian Public Transport Co., entered service on 1 August 2011. This new bus operator operates on the existing routes by Transmac and Transportas Companhia de Macau. Free Casino Shuttle Buses are everywhere in Macau. Due to tourism being the main economic industry in Macau a majority of the larger hotels provide free round trip shuttle bus services which cover the major tourist sites including the airport, Outer Harbour Ferry Terminal, Taipa Temporary Ferry Terminal and other sites. Some Larger hotels such as Venetian Hotel and Holiday Inn even provide a free shuttle between them. The frequency for each route is usually 15 minutes. The Outer Harbour Ferry Terminal and the Taipa Temporary Ferry Terminal provides cross-border transportation services for passengers travelling between Macau and Hong Kong, while the Yuet Tung Terminal in the Inner Harbour serves those travelling between Macau and cities in mainland China, including Shekou and Shenzhen. The Macau Light Rapid Transit or Macau LRT also known as Metro Ligeiro de Macau is a mass transit system in Macau under construction. It will serve the Macau Peninsula, Taipa and Cotai, serving major border checkpoints such as the Border Gate, the Outer Harbour Ferry Terminal, the Lotus Bridge Border and the Macau International Airport. It is planned to open in 2019. Macau has one active international airport, known as Macau International Airport located at the eastern end of Taipa and neighbouring waters. The airport used to serve as one of the main transit hubs for passengers travelling between mainland China and Taiwan, but now with the introduction of direct flights between those two regions, passenger traffic in this regard has lessened. It is the primary hub for Air Macau. In 2006, the airport handled about 5 million passengers.
Macau has a humid subtropical climate (Köppen Cwa), with average relative humidity between 75% and 90%. Similar to much of South China, seasonal climate is greatly influenced by the monsoons, and differences in temperature and humidity between summer and winter are noticeable, though not as great as in mainland China. The average annual temperature of Macau is 22.7 °C (72.9 °F). July is the warmest month, the average temperature being 28.9 °C (84.0 °F). The coolest month is January, with a mean temperature of 14.5 °C (58.1 °F). Located on China’s southern coast, Macau has ample rainfall, with average annual precipitation being 2,120 millimetres (83 in). However, winter is mostly dry due to the influence of the vast Siberian High affecting much of East Asia. Autumn in Macau, from October to November, is sunny and still pleasantly warm with lower humidity. Winter (December to early March) is generally mild with temperatures above 13 °C (55 °F) most of the time, although it can drop below 8 °C (46 °F) at times. Humidity starts to increase from late March. Summer is very warm to hot (often rising above 30 °C (86 °F) during the day). The hot weather is often followed by heavy rain, thunderstorms and occasional typhoons.