Tuesday, May 27, 2008

ATM Withdrawal Rates & Tips

ATMs are a low-cost and effective means of obtaining cash while overseas. However, there are some tips to observe:

1) Withdraw Hong Kong dollars.

- You can change them to Macau Patacas at Tai Fung Bank at a favorable rate of HKD$1 = MOP$1.03. For other currencies including Chinese Renminbi, Tai Fung bank will charge you a 1.5% to 2.5% spread (i.e. commission) in its exchange rates.

- If you change more than HKD$10,000 to Macau Patacas at Tai Fung, check if they charge you a "transaction fee". [They don't charge a fee as of 09 APR 2009.]

- If you want to gamble, use Hong Kong dollars as casions don't accept Macau Patacas.

- Don't carry Macau Patacas out of the country. Except for Zhuhai (across the border to China), you will have trouble finding other people to change them.

- If you withdraw from a Hong Kong bank in Macau Patacas, you will be charged the unfavorable rate of HKD$1 = MOP$1.02. The money changer in the airport gives you an even worse deal of HKD$1 = MOP$1.01.

2) HSBC ATMs only supply Hong Kong dollar bills in denominations of HKD$500 (US$64) and HKD$1000 (US$128) pieces. Hence, you cannot physically withdraw amounts smaller than that. Other ATMs probably have similar restrictions.

3) If you are withdrawing using a ATM, debit or credit card marked with "VISA", you can expect to pay about 1.6% before any bank charges. MasterCard probably charges a similar amount. [VISA rates]

4) If your bank charges a flat fee (like most Singapore banks) for withdrawals, you can save much if you plan your spending so that you withdraw a larger amount each time.

- If you are traveling from a country like Singapore where you can get exchange rates as low as 1% commission, then change your money to Hong Kong dollars before you arrive in Macau. Don't underestimate the savings, especially if you are a budget traveler.

- The low commission money changers can be found in Lucky Plaza (near Orchard MRT) and People's Park (near Chinatown MRT). Refer to [Singapore Street Directory]

5) Take note of (4) when you charge to your ATM or credit card. If you spend small amounts of money frequently, you may pay a lot in withdrawal fees.

Oh, by the way, please don't give away your money to the casino. There are better ways to do charity. :)

Monday, January 28, 2008

Macao Ferry Services to Hong Kong

The ferry trip between Macao and Hong Kong takes about 1 hour. Macau residents, seniors (above 60 years old) and children (below 12 years old) may obtain discounts.

The ferry companies have a standby queue. If you arrive early, join the queue. You will have an excellent chance of getting onto the next departing ferry ride.

----- TurboJet ------


Turbojet the most popular ferry company in Macau. Ferries usually depart every 15 minutes from the Hong Kong Macau Ferry Terminal on Hong Kong island. I have heard that some casinos give complimentary tickets to regular customers.

Operating Hours: 4am - 2:30am (next day)

Weekday: HKD$134 - MOP$142
Weekends & Holidays: HKD$146 - MOP$154
Night: HKD$168 - MOP$176
(Rates are given as: HK > Macau - Macau > HK)

----- First Ferry ------


You can travel directly to the Kowloon peninsular in Hong Kong. Ferries usually depart every 30 minutes from the Tsim Sha Tsui China Ferry Terminal.

Operating Hours: 7am - 12 midnight

Weekday: HKD$133 - MOP$140
Weekends & Holidays: HKD$148 - MOP$155
Night: HKD$168 - MOP$175
(Rates are given as: HK > Macau - Macau > HK)

----- CotaiJet ------


CotaiJet has just started operating. (Cotai is the name of island formed from the merger of Coloane and Taipa.) If you are traveling to Taipa or Coloane, you can consider taking this service.

Operating Hours: 7:30am - 5pm

Weekday: HKD$134 - MOP$142
Weekends & Holidays: HKD$146 - MOP$154
Night: Not available yet
(Rates are given as: HK > Macau - Macau > HK)

----- Money Saving Tips ------

1) There are travel agencies operating in Shun Tak Centre that will sell you special tickets. Depending on the shop and time, you can get these tickets for HKD$4 to HKD$13 cheaper than the regular price. Apparently, these are tickets that casinos give to favorite customers. As far as I know, no one will check if your name matches that on the tickets.

2) If you are buying tickets in Macau, you can always pay the ticket price as Macau Patacas even if it is quoted in Hong Kong dollars. This gives you a 3% savings.

3) If you walk a short distance from the Macau Ferry Terminal, you can find the place where the casinos provide Free Bus Services. They stop running at 12 midnight. If you are going to a destination near the casino and do not have much luggage, you can take a free ride. When you reach the casino, you can hop on to another casino bus service to the Chinese border for free too.