How to Prepare for Life as An Expat in Macau

March 22, 2018
How to Prepare for Life as An Expat in Macau


Looking for a change of pace in your everyday life? If you want to super-charge your lifestyle, there are few better places to live on this planet than the vibrant Chinese city of Macau. This special administrative region of the People’s Republic of China is some 60km south-west of Hong Kong. It is a former Portuguese colony, having been used as a vital trade hub by the Portuguese for several centuries. In 1999, Portugal handed back sovereignty to the Republic of China. The city boasts the most densely populated region on the planet, with over 650,000 people crammed into an area of just 11.8 square miles.

How to Prepare for Life as An Expat in Macau

As the island was Asia’s last remaining European colony, you can expect a real melting pot of cultures here. It’s an enchanting mix of East meets West. Although 95% of the city’s residents are Chinese, you’ll find the city’s street signs in Portuguese, as well as majestic colonial architecture and bustling side streets specializing in great-value Portuguese fare. The urban center of the city is Senado Square, which is characterized by a stunning fountain and the surrounding mosaic-style flooring that’s a feast for the eyes. So, if you’re thinking of moving to Macau as an expat, here are some of the main aspects to consider about Macanese life.

Subtropical climate

Macau’s climate is equally as subtropical as nearby Hong Kong. The summer months can be a real struggle, with temperatures over 35 degrees Celsius and humidity approaching 100%. The hot weather brings with it plenty of inclement weather, with short, sharp thunderstorms and sometimes typhoons. The autumn is the best time of the year in Macau when the weather is far more temperate and comfortable to get out and about in.

Real estate

How to Prepare for Life as An Expat in Macau

If you’re thinking of purchasing a new home in Macau, you’ll almost certainly require deep pockets. Although buying real estate is largely straightforward, it’s incredibly expensive – and we really do mean expensive. Typical one-bedroom properties in Macau have been known to sell for upwards of $1 million, while three-bedroom properties fetch as much as $2 million in some areas. A quick glance at Global Property Guide’s overview of Macau demonstrates the city’s property boom since 2009, with homes experiencing a quintupling of property values. There is one way you can buy property on the cheap and that’s if you’re prepared to live on the fourth floor of any tower block. Chinese and Macanese people are exceptionally superstitious and the word four, pronounced ‘sei’, is almost identical to the word meaning death. Properties on the fourth floor can be snapped up for somewhat less than any other abode. Alternatively, expats tend to rent rooms or share with friends to keep a lid on overheads.


The level of health care in Macau is comparable to that in Hong Kong and further west. The vast majority of medical staff speak fluent English and there are hospitals that cater for all types of injuries and illnesses. If you take out health insurance before moving to Macau, make sure your policy is valid at the Macanese or Hong Kong hospitals and clinics. Most centers accept credit cards as a form of payment for health care.

Jobs and taxation

How to Prepare for Life as An Expat in Macau

It’s important to take into consideration the prospect of language barriers. Since over 5% of the city’s population speak Portuguese, it’s a good idea to learn a little of the language before making the move so that you can cover both bases. If you don’t have time, don’t panic. It is very easy to pick up quick, casual work in the city’s booming tourism industry. Betway says that Macau rivals Las Vegas in 2018 as the world’s best gambling destination. The Cotai Strip is the location of Australian icon, James Packer’s City of Dreams casino and today there are 38 casino resorts in operation. The largest of which is the Venetian Macao, whose 3,000 hotel rooms and 550,000 sq ft of gaming space make it the seventh-biggest building on the planet in terms of floor area.

In Macau, all full-time employees are required to have a blue card. There are two types of work permits on the island: a non-permanent skilled or non-skilled resident’s card and an occasional worker’s card. Skilled workers are required to have relevant academic qualifications specific to their job, such as teaching English as a foreign language. Meanwhile, employers have a quota for non-skilled, non-resident worker vacancies. Under Administrative Regulation 17/2004, a non-resident can work in Macau without a work permit if a Macanese company enters into an arrangement with a company based overseas to offer occasional or specific services, up to a maximum of 45 days in every six months.

Overall cost of living

How to Prepare for Life as An Expat in Macau

On the whole, the cost of living in Macau is not quite as high as Hong Kong. However, it’s still regarded as an expensive place to live in the context of elsewhere in Asia, from Chiang Mai to Manilla. If you have a career in a good profession, or a sizeable bank account already, you can thrive in Macau. Although plenty of luxury boutiques line the streets, Macau’s shopping malls and local markets offer plenty of opportunities to pick up a bargain. The Cotai Strip is the gaming capital of the Orient but, elsewhere, you have plenty of time to soak up your surroundings and enjoy life in Asia at your own pace.

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