How High Is the Cost of Living in Macau and What to Expect

Travelling is an exhilarating experience and going to a foreign country can already have you be fully preoccupied with the ton of things you’d want to do and try. Now imagine than combining one hobby of yours with another one in the form of gambling? Well, the former Portuguese colony of Macau is among the most famous casino destinations on the planet and is even dubbed as the Las Vegas of the East. Before you pack your suitcases and head to the airport, we want to talk a bit about the cost of living in Macau and just how expensive it will be for you in case you want to walk down the Cotai Strip and try one of the 38 casinos built around it.
Historic Centre of Macau Share on Pinterest

Brief History of Macau

Macau is one of two special autonomous regions in China, the other one being Hong Kong. It has been such for more than 2 decades now. Its history spans back to more than 4000 BC. This is when the first human settlements were dated back to. But its true development did not happen until the Portuguese arrived in the 16th century. It grew fast and throughout the centuries it established itself as a very strategic city and port.

It remained under their jurisdiction until 1974. At that time, following the events of the Carnation Revolution that shook Portugal, the country abandoned the colonial regime and relinquished Macau as part of the process. In 1999 the territory was officially given back to mainland China with full autonomy as part of the transfer agreement. To this day, Portugal’s presence is very strongly felt in the architecture of most of the old buildings. Even the street signs are written in Portuguese, as well.

What Led to the High Living Cost in Macau?

Due to the Western centuries-long influence, you will find modern-day Macau to be a bustling melting pot of cultures and traditions. The liberalisation of the casino industry in particular in the early 2000s led to a significant increase in the foreign investments which gave birth to the new era of economic development that shaped the region into what it is today. The tiny island packs a big punch and nowadays it is the most densely populated region in the world. Moreover, it is estimated that by this year, Macau is to surpass Qatar and reach the highest per capita income worldwide.

The Venetian Resort and Casino in Macau

The tourism sector is pouring bucketloads of cash in Macau’s treasury and much of it is thanks to its status as the gambling capital of the world. The 38 currently-operational casinos create an industry seven times bigger than the one in Las Vegas. In fact, you will find some of the world’s largest casinos right in Macau. Throw in the historical centre, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, as well as the strong multiculturalism factor, and you’ve got yourself a destination that should be on any gamblers bucket list. But how is the living cost in Macau and how deep your pockets should be?

Macau Living Cost Overview

A country with such a thriving casino scene and worldwide popularity is not going to be the cheapest destination and all of these factors are influencing the living cost in Macau. Overall Macau isn’t as expensive as neighbouring Hong Kong or Singapore, but for the general Asian standards, the prices are significantly high. In the following excerpt tables, we will compare the Macau cost of living with those of another popular gambling destination, as well as an Asian metropolis and a tourism jewel. All data is courtesy to Numbeo and its extensive information on cost of living Macau included.

Service/Product Macau Las Vegas
Meal at an Inexpensive Restaurant £4.56 £11.52
Domestic Beer £2.40 £4.61
Cappuccino £3.03 £3.18
A Pack of Cigarettes £4.80 £6.14
A Monthly Pass for Public Transport £26.86 £49.93
Monthly Gym Subscription Fee £89.53 £19.61
Monthly Rent for a 1 Bedroom Apartment in Centre £978.39 £869.62
Monthly Rent for a 1 Bedroom Apartment Outside of the Centre £803.33 £750.13
Taxi Start at a Normal Tariff £1.82 £2.69
Taxi 1 km at a Normal Tariff £0.96 £1.32
Monthly salary on Average After Tax £1768.53 £2710.81

As you can see, the Macau living cost is not as cheap compared to the one of what many perceive as the true gambling capital of the world. In fact, when you factor in the considerably lower average salary and higher rent, transport, and fitness fee, some might consider Las Vegas to be cheaper because these are things that eat up a big chunk of one’s budget. Even some of the products you’ll find at a local supermarket are more expensive in the Asian casino magnet compared to its American counterpart. How would the prices in Kuala Lumpur fare to the cost of living in Macau though? Let’s take a look at the overview below:

Service/Product Macau Kuala Lumpur
Meal at an Inexpensive Restaurant £4.56 £2.24
Domestic Beer £2.40 £2.79
Cappuccino £3.03 £2.16
A Pack of Cigarettes £4.80 £3.24
A Monthly Pass for Public Transport £26.86 £18.63
Monthly Gym Subscription Fee £89.53 £32.14
Monthly Rent for a 1 Bedroom Apartment in Centre £978.39 £406.74
Monthly Rent for a 1 Bedroom Apartment Outside of the Centre £803.33 £232.66
Taxi Start at a Normal Tariff £1.82 £0.56
Taxi 1 km at a Normal Tariff £0.96 £0.37
Monthly salary on Average After Tax £1768.53 £772.30

The data clearly indicates that Kuala Lumpur, albeit the smaller salary, is maintaining a cheaper lifestyle, which some might consider high for the local standards on the flipside. These numbers only go to show that the cost of living in Macau is quite high and you should be prepared to spend quite the amount of quids if you want to properly enjoy the city, not to mention its world-famous casino scene.

Gambling Fun on the Casino Floor

Tips for Gamblers on a Budget

Depending on your budget, if you decide to visit Macau and try your luck at one of its brick-and-mortar casinos, there is a way to not overspend and go back home broke afterwards. These are just a few tips of ours that will help you survive the high cost of living in Macau.

  • Rent Outside of the Touristy Areas – Macau is a safe city, therefore you shouldn’t feel worried about renting a room or a flat away from the Cotai Strip. You can always save on accommodation and have more to spend on the casino floor or other social activities afterwards. You can also have a look at AirBnB’s best Macau rentals for more suggestions of places and neighbourhoods.
  • Eat Locally – Fancy 5-star restaurants are nice, however, if you want to truly blend in with the local population, visit all the small restaurants and street food stalls, where all the locals go, and quite frankly, the food is pretty delicious. That is how you will enrich your experience even more, and save more dimes for other fun things to do. Not to mention you will be left with more for your favourite casino games.
  • Control How Much You Spend – Probably the most important, should you wish for the high Macau living cost not to ruin you. When you visit a casino, always gamble with measure and set yourself a limit you wouldn’t want to cross. Shopping is most certainly included here, as well.

Follow these rules if on a budget and you will see that you can end up having the time of your life, regardless of the cost of living Macau has established. Not having any budget would certainly make the trip even more unforgettable as it is the case with any other destination you would visit. Macau is a fantastic city full of life, lights, and vibrant energy. Its overabundance of culture and casino fun is something that no one should really ever miss out on when visiting. You can also take a look at the possibilities that online casinos in Hong Kong can grant you.

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