Yes, Macau is a part of China, but the story is much more complicated than that.
Just like Hong Kong, Macau has its own currency, issues their own passports and abides by a different legal system than the rest of China. Take one look at their flags and the difference is apparent. The striking red commonly associated with Communist rule is replaced by a soothing green that dominates the landscape.
Until 1999, Macau was one of Portugal’s last surviving colonies. First settled in the year 1557, Macau was a popular trading post used by priests who were traveling to Asia on religious expeditions to convert locals to Christianity. This 500-year period of Portuguese rule has left a distinctly unique and lasting impression of Lisbon-inspired architecture and a culture referred to as Macanese.
The city was given back to China in 1999 under the same ‘one country, two systems’ policy that gave Hong Kong back to China in 1997. Under this agreement, Portugal and China agreed to give Macau its own immigration, monetary and legal systems. The agreement also stipulates that China is not to interfere with Macau’s way of life until 2049, however China is still responsible for the foreign affairs and defense of the independent city-state.
What happens in Macau past 2049 is the subject of much debate. The majority would prefer to remain a special administrative region, but no definitive positions have yet been taken by Beijing.
Key Facts About Macau
The official languages of Hong Kong are Chinese (Cantonese) and Portuguese, not Mandarin.
The official name of Macau is the Macau Special Administrative Region.
The local currency is called the Macanese Pataca. Although the RMB (Chinese Rembini) is not accepted, most businesses do accept the Hong Kong Dollar.
Most local Macau citizens don’t speak Mandarin.
Chinese visas do not grant access to Macau nor vice versa. Chinese citizens will need a visa, but EU, Australian, American and Canadian citizens do not, so long as the trip is short. Fortunately for all, visas are easily obtainable on arrival at the ferry ports.