Just because I’m trying to compile reports of all the border crossings I’ve done doesn’t mean I should ignore crossing into a new country by ferry. Indeed I once worked on ferries, even having to be part of the Passport Checking procedure at Jersey and Guernsey, so my interest in ‘water borders’ has always been high, ever since boarding the Larne (Northern Ireland) to Stranraer (Scotland) ferry in my childhood.
One of my most recent water border crossings was from Hong Kong to Macao. I thought it would be a good one to write about it, given that I get a lot of questions on the border and visa rules and regulations between China, Hong Kong, Tibet, Taiwan and Macao.
To start with – to understand the system, try and always imagine or believe that you need a visa and passport for everywhere. I do this, it means I will always check first. Essentially the five countries I named above are all separate, at least for visa entry. I’m judging this (and all of these borders) on whether or not you need a passport to pass between them. Incidentally I also class England, Northern Ireland, Wales and Scotland as four separate countries despite the fact that no Passport Control exists internally between them.
How do you get from Hong Kong to Macao by ferry? It’s easy. There are a few options, but the two main options are:
1. Direct ferry from Tsim Sha Tsui, Kowloon, HONG KONG to MACAO
2. Direct ferry from Sheung Wan (near Central), Hong Kong Island, HONG KONG to MACAO
For the benefit of this post (and since it’s the route I took) we are heading on the Kowloon to Macao route. The ferry leaves from the west side of Tsim Sha Tsui, from the ferry terminal on the far side of Canton Road. It’s easy to find, check out the map on this link: First Ferry Service HK to Macao. Once you get to Canton Road, head to China HK City – it’s actually quite odd looking. Something like a mix between a shopping centre, an airport and an immigration checkpoint. Once inside head for the ticket booths on the upper levels. Although all the ticket desks in Tsim Sha Tsui are very much geared at a Chinese audience, most of the staff will speak English there. But seriously all you really need to know is:
– how much does the ferry cost?
– when does it leave?
– where does it leave from?
– what documents do I need?
A bit of advice here is SHOP AROUND before you buy your ticket. Since there are a few companies that run hourly boats to Macao, you may save a few Hong Kong Dollars by shopping around. I went in June 2012 and a single trip was 186 Hong Kong Dollars. It was flexible in that I could leave on any of their boats that day before 10 pm, but you really don’t need to have the flexible ticket option, UNLESS you are pushed for time.
Once you buy your ticket, simply follow the signs for Macao Ferry. Please note that Macao is also spelt Macau. Kowloon is also often shortened to Kwln.
Now, I would advise you to leave at least half an hour for immigration just in case. I was through in about 10 minutes. But maybe I wasn’t there at peak time. It was early afternoon on a saturday. The queues will be quicker if you are Chinese or a Hong Kong or Macao Resident. I actually have a valid Hong Kong ID card, so I can also go through the faster lane. Fill in your form, show your passport and you will get a Hong Kong exit stamp.
Once you are through that bit, find your correct departure gate and wait for your ferry. There are plenty of shops selling food and drink before Immigration, after Immigration and if you really need it, on the ferry. Boarding the ferry is smooth and enjoyable. Take your time, enjoy the views, take some photos and get ready for a water border crossing!
The ferry trip takes almost exactly an hour. This is a fast and efficient service and most of the companies run ferries that take an hour or so. Our seats were allocated. You really can relax and sleep if you want.
Arrival in Macao is just as smooth and delightful as the departure from Hong Kong. I’m doing World Borders and there will be some tricky ones. I’d rank this one as one of the easier ones.
To get into Macao, you should fill in an immigration form (do it on the ferry) and join the passport queue once inside the arrival building. Again, China, Hong Kong and Macao passports will be in the faster lane. On my UK passport, it took 20 minutes or so. No problems at all and I got a whopping 180 DAY stay allowance!! Yes, you can legally stay for 6 months as a tourist in Macao on a UK or Ireland passport. Quite a surprise for myself. Mind you, if you did stay that long, you’d need to be working somehow as otherwise you’ll blow your entire lifetime earnings in the countless Casinos!
Once you’re in Macao – go and see it – another amazing mini country! Top sights are the Macao Tower, Casino Lisboa, St. Paul’s Ruins, Fortress View and the Venetian in Taipa. The old style Portuguese Colonial Streets are also amazing to walk around.
Final bit of advice – on arrival in Macau be sure to check out the numerous FREE buses direct to the Casinos. You don’t have to be a customer there or a guest in the hotels to use the buses (they don’t check).
My video on how to get from HONG KONG to MACAU by ferry: