Even if you are familiar with the area of Macao you may not know its official currency is the pataca. You’ll learn a lot more about this currency here, and the area that uses it.
The pataca is represented by the ISO code MOP. The currency is pegged to the Hong Kong dollar but not on a 1:1 basis. There are 100 avo in every pataca, while ten avo subunits are known as a ho. Therefore there are ten ho in every pataca. However you won’t see any coins denominated as ho; it is merely a term that applies to ten of the smaller units.
There are four coins that are regularly in use in the area of Macao. These are the 10 and 50 avos coins, along with the one and five pataca coins. The currency is represented by a dollar sign that is usually preceded by the ISO code, so you will usually see MOP$ before a price. There are three other coins in circulation but they are not commonly used anymore. These are the 20 avos coin and the two and 10 pataca coins.
There are six banknotes currently in circulation in the area, all of which are quite frequently seen. These are the 10, 20, 50, 100, 500 and 1,000 pataca banknotes.
This particular currency has quite a history. The first instance of it coming into use was over a century ago in 1894. However it was not brought in as an official currency at this point; instead it was only present as a unit in terms of accounting. Other currencies were used in Macao instead. It would not be until 1906 that the first banknotes were brought out for use in the area. When this occurred every other form of currency was made against the law to use. It would be almost another 50 years before the first pataca coins were brought into circulation.
Incidentally, while the pataca is pegged to the value of the Hong Kong dollar, this has not always been the case. Furthermore the value of the association has sometimes changed as well. The current rate has been in force since 1983 but there were a number of changes in the late-Seventies as well. Indeed the relationship with the Hong Kong dollar only occurred from 1977 onwards. Before this the currency was pegged to the value of the Portuguese escudo, and before that in the late-1800s it was pegged to the Mexican peso.
As you might guess from a currency you may not have heard of before, the Macanese pataca is almost impossible to find outside of Macao itself. Furthermore it is worth remembering you should exchange any remaining pataca you might have on your person prior to leaving Macao. It is unlikely you’d be able to exchange it anywhere else outside of the region.
Your best bet for getting hold of the local currency once you arrive in Macao is to exchange some traveller’s cheques. You can get these before leaving home, but do make sure you opt to have them denominated in a popular currency. The US dollar is appropriate as is the euro, and the British pound is also ideal. If you get your traveller’s cheques in any of these currencies you shouldn’t be hit with additional charges when you cash them.
You’ll also be able to find cash machines in Macao that will provide another means by which to get hold of patacas. This is handy if you need a little extra cash to get by with. You might also use your credit card while out shopping or enjoying any of the services or facilities available in Macao. Of course in this case you’d want to find out what the charges are for withdrawing cash in a foreign country first. Make sure you contact your card provider prior to going on holiday to check this out.
It is also interesting to note that you might be able to pay in Hong Kong dollars in some establishments in Macao. As such you can take some of this currency with you if you’d like some cash in your pocket as soon as you arrive.
This is easy enough if you have access to a currency converter. The ISO code, MOP, makes the pataca easy enough to find on any converter. Some might not have it among their selection but if not you can keep looking until you find one that has. You can then see how far your own currency will go when swapping it for the Macanese pataca. Remember though that exchange rate charges are likely to be applied when you use a bureau de change for traveller’s cheques or when you get cash via a cash machine, so bear this in mind too.
If you wish to find out anything else about travelling to Macao it is a good idea to get the most up-to-date information you possibly can. This is easily done when you are able to visit the UK government website for such advice. They regularly check and update pertinent travel information where necessary, and they have a set page for information on Macao. This can be viewed at https://www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice/macao.
Macao is for the most part quite a safe place to be in. The usual advice regarding your personal safety would apply however, in terms of being sensible about your safety.
While some countries do have higher levels of major crime, this thankfully does not apply to Macao. However there are pickpockets and other petty criminals who tend to frequent some areas more than others, so it is wise to be careful of these. It can be a good idea to rent a hotel room that provides a safe, since this means you won’t have to take any more valuables with you each day than is necessary. You can also be sure they will be safe and sound back in your room.
Try and keep the amount of cash you have to a minimum, and make sure you take care when withdrawing money from cash machines. Take good care of your credit cards too, and make sure you divide your money between pockets if you can. Don’t keep any bags open or easy to snatch, even when you are sitting down or taking a break. Really, the usual sensible rules will ensure you are much safer from the potential danger of pickpockets than you might otherwise be.
Macao is formally known as an administrative region of China. Hong Kong is also known as such, which is one of the reasons why Macao’s currency is tied to that used in Hong Kong. It has its own airport but as you can imagine, as this is not a country in its own right, it does not have a separate capital city. Indeed, the whole area is little more than about 12 square miles in size and is referred to as a city in itself.
Despite its size there is plenty to see and do in Macao. For example, Macau Tower is well worth a look (Macao is also written as Macau but the two are the same place). The tower has a number of observation decks that provide the perfect opportunity to look down over the city so you can appreciate its layout. You can pop into the observation lounge while you are up there to grab a refreshing drink and spend some extended time gazing out of the time – if your stomach will let you! For the braver among you, there is the chance to head for the Adventure Deck. As the name suggests you have the option to try a skywalk experience outside (safely harnessed in, of course) or you can try the Tower Climb right to the peak of the antenna.
A more sedate experience back on terra firma is to witness the ruins of St Paul’s. These are quite spectacular especially in good weather when the ruins stand out starkly against the backdrop of the sky. All that remains of what was once a spectacular building is its façade, which is in remarkably good order. There is a set of steps that approaches the façade, which survived a devastating fire in the mid-1800s. The church itself was built in the early-1600s so what remains today is still very important.
Elsewhere Senado Square is also well worth a look. The square is famous for its two-tone wavy-patterned floor, which looks quite spectacular against the appealing buildings on either side. The floor itself is formed from mosaics and is actually very modern, dating only from the 1990s. Some of these are pastel in colour, making the square rather appealing in many ways. This is a popular spot for tourists to visit and is one of four in the whole of Macao, so you may wish to visit them all. It is part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site that encompasses the centre of Macao itself.
As you can see, while Macao is very small in comparison with the rest of China, it certainly packs a lot into its available space. We have touched on a mere few attractions that are available here, and there are many others you may also wish to see. Where would you head for first if you decided to go to Macao?