Macau is known as the Las Vegas of China. The city is a Special Administrative Region of China and is the only part of China where you can find casinos. Gambling is illegal under Chinese law, which makes Macau an attractive destination for Chinese citizens, or other (South)East Asians residents, who like to gamble.
As a tourist destination, you can visit the Fisherman’s Wharf, the Macao Museum, and the ruins of St. Paul’s – it is not just casinos and gambling. The Senado Square is a lovely public square for shopping and dining, while the Macau Convention and Entertainment center allows you to have dinner at a higher level, literally.
What you should not gamble with, however, is to roam with your provider. Roaming can be expensive, which is why seasoned travelers prefer to buy a local SIM card for each destination. Travelers visiting Macau can buy local SIM cards, which I will tell you all about in this article.
Telecom Providers in Macau
Macau has 4 telecom providers: CTM, 3 Macau, China Telecom, and SmarTone. CTM seems to be the largest operator in Macau, mainly because the other providers have not reported their numbers. China Telecom used CMDA technology for its cellular services.
It is not important to know what that means. What you should know is that, unless you are with Sprint or Verizon (American providers) or a handful of operators that use CMDA, you would not be able to use a China Telecom SIM card.
Moreover, their 4G/LTE network adheres to the Chinese Government’s censorship (the Great Firewall of China), which makes it an unattractive SIM card provider for travelers. As a result, they will not be discussed in this article.
What SIM card should you buy when visiting Macau? If you want to buy a SIM card in Macau, I would recommend going with CTM or Three Macau because both providers offer many data packages that will fit your needs.
As of 2019, 2G networks have been shut down for domestic use but are still active for roaming partners. This means that you need a phone that can handle at least 3G. If you are looking to use data in Macau, you most likely have a 3G-capable phone already. More than 90% of the population of Macau use 4G/LTE, so they are not missing out on anything. You will not either because 4G/LTE coverage is excellent with all the providers.
Unlike most East Asian countries, you do not have to register yourself when buying a SIM card. In fact, you can buy SIM cards from vending machines if you want to.
Although Macau is part of China, the internet in Macau is not censored like mainland China. As a result, you can access your favorite websites without any issues.
With that out of the way, let’s see what Macau has to offer to us.
Tip: Looking for cheap flights? Book with AirWander and add stopovers! Not in a hurry yet? Set up flight alerts with Airfarewatchdog and get notified when ticket prices for your preferred route(s) drop!
CTM has a monopoly in terms of landline connections. For cellular communications, they compete with 3 Macau and SmarTone. Their 4G/LTE network covers 98% of the population. CTM sells network-specific SIM cards, meaning that you can buy a 3G card, which is a bit cheaper than the 4G SIM card and does not allow you to use CTM’s 4G/LTE network. The 4G card, as the name implies, allows you to use CTM’s 4G/LTE network, which allows higher data speeds.
You can buy CTM SIM cards all over Macau and stores like 7-Eleven and Circle K sell top-up vouchers. Top-up vouchers are sold from 50 MOP to 500 MOP.
The 3G SIM cards come in two versions: one with international calls and roaming for 100 MOP, while the other is for Macau use only for 50 MOP. Several monthly data packs can be added to your 3G SIM card:
- 29 MOP ($3.60): 300 MB and 12 hours on CTM WIFI
- 99 MOP: 1 GB and 28 hours on CTM WIFI
- 169 MOP: 2 GB and 60 hours on CTM WIFI
- 500 MOP: unlimited data and unlimited CTM WIFI
The 4G SIM cards are sold in three variants as well. The first two have the same conditions and prices are the 3G SIM cards, while the other 4G SIM card is called Speedy.
The following monthly data packs can be added to the regular 4G SIM cards:
- 28 MOP: 200 MB
- 58 MOP: 500 MB
- 98 MOP: 1 GB
The 4G Speedy SIM cards are sold for 100 MOP, which will instantly get you 880 MB, unlimited CTM WIFI, and 480 minutes. These monthly data packages can be added:
- 48 MOP: 880 MB
- 98 MOP: 2 GB
- 218 MOP: 5 GB
- 500 MOP: Unlimited data, although data speed will be throttled to 256 kbps after consuming 10 GB
Lastly, you can buy CTM’s data-only SIM card called Online Everywhere in Macau, which is CTM’s tourist SIM card option. Online Everywhere in Macau cards are sold for 100 MOP (valid for 3 days) or 200 MOP (valid for 7 days). The following Online Everywhere in Macau plans can be added:
- 78 MOP: 2 GB data (throttled to 256 kbps once allowance has been used) for 3 days
- 188 MOP: 4 GB data (throttled to 256 kbps once allowance has been used) for 7 days
Three Macau, just Three from now on, covers more than 95% of the population with its 4G/LTE network. Three SIM cards are sold all over Macau, including authorized resellers, like the vending machines at the border gate or ferry terminal. Convenience stores sell Three cards too.
Recharge vouchers are sold from 50 MOP to 500 MOP. Various SIM cards are sold with many data packages.
The Three 3G SIM cards are sold for 100 MOP and come with unlimited data at 384 kbps (which is annoyingly slow). “High-speed” data at 3G speeds can be added, which are valid for 30 days:
- 68 MOP: 3 GB
- 168 MOP: 8 GB
- 238 MOP: 12 GB
The 4G SIM cards are SIM cards that allow you to roam in Hong Kong as well. They are sold for 50 MOP and 100 MOP. The 50 MOP variant comes with 1 GB high-speed data and 256 kbps after going over your allowance to be used within a day in Macau. The same applies to the 100 MOP variant, although the data can be used for 3 days.
The following data packs can be added. All unlimited data packs come with 1 GB high-speed data. After that, it’s unlimited at 256 kbps:
- 18 MOP: 200 MB in Macau and Hong Kong for 30 days
- 48 MOP: 2 GB in Macau and Hong Kong for 30 days
- 50 MOP: Unlimited data in Macau for 1 day
- 78 MOP: Unlimited data in Macau for 3 days
- 88 MOP: 4 GB in Macau and Hong Kong for 30 days
- 188 MOP: Unlimited data in Macau for 5 days
SmarTone offers various SIM cards, each with their own perks. Just like the other providers, they sell a SIM card for Macau, Hong Kong, and China. However, they are not discussed in this article.
The SmarTone 3-Day pass SIM card costs 100 MOP and comes with 10 MOP in credit. The following plans can be added:
- 38 MOP: Unlimited data (384 kbps) for 1 day
- 38 MOP: 700 MB for 3 days
- 58 MOP: 1.5 GB for 3 days
- 78 MOP: 3 GB for 3 days
- 78 MOP: Unlimited data (384 kbps) for 3 days
You can also buy the SmarTone 30-Day SIM card for 100 MOP that comes with 100 MOP in credit. Two data packs can be added:
- 48 MOP: 450 MB for 30 days
- 98 MOP: Unlimited data (384 kbps) for 30 days
Other Ways to Stay Connected When Traveling in Macau
I have discussed the relevant providers in Macau in this article because using a Macanese SIM card would be much cheaper than roaming with your provider… in most cases. However, buying a local SIM card is not the only way to stay connected in Macau. You can buy an international SIM card, use a mobile hotspot, or use free WIFI connections. Below, I will discuss the alternative options to use your phone in Macau.
Roaming in Macau with Your Provider
Roaming is a term used in wireless telecommunication that indicates a mobile device is outside the range of its home network and has connected to a different, available cell network. Let’s say your provider is MobiCom from Mongolia, then you would be roaming with MobiCom in Macau.
The issue with roaming is that it can be expensive. There have been many horror stories where people had to pay thousands in roaming fees when coming back from their holidays, which is just a shame, in my opinion. However, roaming does not always have to be expensive, especially when visiting a neighboring country.
Many providers offer roaming plans. Some allow you to roam for free in Macau, while others would offer you a roaming bundle with a set number of minutes, SMS, and data. Finally, several operators let you use your plan’s allowance for a daily fee.
As you can see, there are many options out there, so be sure to explore the roaming options your provider has. Conveniently for you, I have reviewed the roaming options of many providers (and many more to come) and discussed everything you need to know about roaming with your provider. If you are lucky, you may not even have to buy a SIM card in Macau and can roam for free there.
No idea how roaming works? I made this comprehensive guide about what roaming is and how it works. It is worth the read – promised!
One thing I would not recommend doing is to Roam As You Go. Just like prepaid cards where you can buy bundles or Pay As You Go (as in, charged per minute, SMS, or MB), Roaming As You Go can be insanely expensive (that is how people get expensive roaming bills). So far, there are a handful of providers I have reviewed that offer affordable Roam As You Go rates. But generally, avoid it. Get a roaming plan if you can or buy a SIM in Macau.
Using an International SIM Card in Macau
International SIM cards are cards that have been made for travelers so that they do not have to deal with roaming costs.
The number of international SIM card providers is too many to count, but international SIM cards give you the same convenience as roaming with your provider. A few providers I know are OneSimCard and SimOptions.
They allow people to call you at one number instead of five in case you are exploring multiple countries in one trip. Moreover, you do not have to deal with multiple SIM cards you will never use again. In short, international SIM cards have been made for the international traveler in mind.
Although this sounds fabulous, international SIM cards are much more expensive than local SIM cards in Macau. Some international SIM card providers charge ridiculous fees (sometimes, even more than roaming with your provider), while others offer awful service. It is, therefore, important to go with a reputable company so that you do not have to deal with surprised when traveling around the world.
On the other hand, international SIM cards are appealing to those who travel frequently or are visiting multiple destinations in one trip. Many countries in East Asia require you to register before you can use a SIM card, which can be a hassle for some. Additionally, the language barrier may be off-putting to some travelers, which is why an international SIM card can be handy. You order it before you depart and can use it in various destinations.
My recommendation, however, is to get a local SIM card if you are only visiting one destination. If you are visiting multiple ones, an international SIM card could be handy. If you want to learn more about international SIM cards, check out my international SIM card comparison article, where I analyze 10 international SIM card providers so that you do not have to.
Using Portable Hotspots (Pocket WIFI) in Macau
Portable hotspots, also referred to mobile hotspots or pocket WIFI, are routers small enough to bring with you everywhere you go. They are portable, battery-powered wireless routers that allow you to connect your phone, laptop, or tablet without needing multiple SIM cards for those devices to be connected to the internet. They are compact and lightweight so that you take them along with you whenever you need internet access on the go.
Just like with the number of international SIM card providers, there are so many mobile hotspots out there that it is challenging to keep track of them all. Skyroam and Vision Global Wireless are reputable pocket WIFI providers. You can get a discount if you rent a router through Skyroam by using coupon code PHONETRAVELWIZ. Cellular access with Skyroam starts at $8 a day while using a Vision Global device starts at $2 a day. Both services cover more than 130 destinations around the world.
The first time I used a portable hotspot was when I was in Bangkok, Thailand, with my dad. He uses the Dutch telecom provider called KPN, which does not let you roam for free in Thailand. I was with 3 Denmark (3 Danmark), which also did not allow me to roam for free. The router was offered for free by our Airbnb host. Let me tell you how convenient that thing was!
I do not remember the exact brand router we used, but we could connect our phones to it, explore Bangkok, and upload highlights of our trip on Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram, and WhatsApp without the need of connecting to unsecure and slow connections in Thailand.
That is why I often recommend those who are traveling in groups or with families to consider getting a pocket WIFI device so that each individual does not need to buy a local SIM card and data packages. In some countries, the cost of getting a local SIM card or packages is so low that it is not even worth getting a mobile hotspot. In others, it could save you money.
I recently wrote an article analyzing the 7 Best Mobile Hotspots for Travelers like yourself, which should be an interesting read if pocket WIFI is something you are considering. I do reviews of individual devices every now and then, so check out my mobile hotspot category to stay up to date.
Connecting to Free WIFI Networks in Macau
Finally, we have the most cost-effective way to stay connected in Macau, which is using free WIFI networks.
Using WIFI networks should not cost you any money (unless you are connecting to premium hotspots), which is why it is a popular option for travelers. Go to a local café, buy a coffee, connect to their WIFI, and post your pictures to Facebook or Instagram. Straightforward, right? Well, let’s see if that is indeed the case.
First, you need to find hotspots. In some regions, they are readily available. In others, you cannot find any, require you to give your personal details (for commercial purposes), are restricted for those who are a subscriber of an operator’s (for example, CTM offers WIFI access to its subscribers – non-subscribers cannot use these hotspots, it seems), or are so slow that you wished you never connected to them.
In the case of Macau, you can find many hotspots called WiFI Go. It is a government-run WIFI program with more than 200 hotspots around the city. Some hotspots are secured while others are not.
Public WIFI hotspots are unsecure. They are a prime target for hackers to steal your data and use it for illicit purposes. That is I use, and would recommend you to start using, a Virtual Private Network (VPN) if you connect to a public hotspot. What a VPN does is creating an encrypted tunnel between your device and the hotspot so that your data will stay private. I use NordVPN, and you can get up to 70% off when you get a NordVPN subscription. Get your subscription now or learn more about NordVPN.
The Best Way to Stay Connected When Traveling in Macau
Getting a SIM card from CTM or Three would do you well when considering a Macanese SIM card. Be sure to explore the roaming options your provider offers you, as they may offer free or cheap roaming bundles.
You could also consider getting an international SIM card or using a portable hotspot. International SIM cards are attractive for those visiting multiple destinations at once or within a year. Portable hotspots will be useful when traveling with multiple people so that not each individual has to get a SIM card but can use the hotspot.
Visiting other countries in East Asia? Check out my East Asian SIM card buying guide, covering other East Asia countries, such as China, Hong Kong, Japan, Mongolia, South Korea, and Taiwan. Going to other places around the world? Then you should also check out my sim card buying guides for other destinations around the world.
What is next?
Looking for the best companies and gadgets to enhance your travel experience? Check out my resource page for the best companies to use when you travel! Save money on plane tickets, bus rides, cruises, and accommodation. Besides that, I also list services and items I use to make my life easier – and I believe they will help you too!
Book Your Flight for Macau
It is time to book your flight. Find cheap flights with AirWander so that you can add free or cheap stopovers in destinations you have not considered yet before going to Macau. If you are not ready to take off yet, set up flight alerts with Airfarewatchdog, and they will notify you once ticket prices to Macau drop.
Book Your Accommodation for Macau
I am a huge fan of Airbnb because it allows me to live with a local or get a local place for myself. Staying in someone’s house or apartment feels much different than being in a ho(s)tel, especially in Macau. At least, that is how I see it. Moreover, Airbnb can often be much cheaper than staying in a hotel.
Get Your Travel Insurance for Macau
You will regret not having travel insurance once you actually need it and “forgot” to get it. Nowadays, travel insurance is cheap and comprehensive unlike back in the days. World Nomads is by far the best travel insurance for adventurous travelers like yourself. You can even get insured WHILE already traveling in Macau, which is not something many insurance companies allow you to do.
Get a Travel Debit Card
Travel Cheques are outdated. Paying with your credit card or debit card can be expensive because of all the exchange commissions banks charge you. TransferWise allows you to convert your main currency to the currency of your destination for a small fee (up to 8 times less than with your bank!) Getting a Transferwise Borderless account is FREE, so you will get an instant return on your investment.
Enjoy your trip!