If you have always wanted to head out to adventure and travel, you might be worried that you don't have enough money to go to the places that you want to see most. Many people talk themselves out of going on adventures around the world because they are worried about saving money. Thankfully, you can head to Cairns on a budget with ease, and these money-saving tips will make it simple for you to justify and plan a trip to see the Great Barrier Reef and places like North Queensland.
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Cheap places to stay in Cairns
Knowing where to stay is half the battle when you are planning a trip on a budget. The neighborhoods of Cairns are varied, so it's good to do a little research before you commit to a location. If you want to be near the Cairns Aquarium or have plans to spend half a day at a place like Palm Cove, you might choose a hotel or hostel near these locations to make things as simple as possible. Finding budget-friendly accommodation is one of the best Cairns travel tips to save money since your hotel is often one of the largest travel expenses. Here are a few options to get you started:
This lovely hostel is a fun place to mingle and meet new people, and it has a huge pool as well. The rooms start at just $40 a night here, and there is access to two bars included with your stay. Many of the Great Barrier Reef cruises leave from this area of the city, and you can keep your Cairns cost down by choosing this location if you plan to go scuba diving or head to the Cairns Lagoon. Breakfast is included with your stay, as is free wi-fi.
Palm Royale Cairns
Hotel rooms at this location are just $66 a night, and there are two huge pools to enjoy here, as well as a tropical garden and free wi-fi. This affordable hotel is located right by the Cairns Aquarium and the Botanic Gardens and is within walking distance of some options for public transit. There is also air conditioning in the rooms, which can be a big plus depending on the season that you visit.
Global Backpackers Cairns
This is the place to pick for a hostel with a sea view and many amenities. Rooms start at $50 a night here, and you will be within walking distance of many of the best things to do in the area. Besides views of the Coral Sea, you will be within walking distance of the Cairns Esplanade Lagoon here, and it is easy to get to this spot from the Cairns Airport as well. This hotel offers air conditioning and free wi-fi, and you will be close to some of the best Cairns tours.
Cheap things to do in Cairns
Barron Gorge National Park
It is actually free to visit Barron Gorge National Park, and there are so many things to do here. You will love your ride on the Kuranda Scenic Railway if you choose to splurge on this form of travel, or you can head to the area without spending quite this much. The park has miles of hiking trails, swimming holes, and more to enjoy. This is an adventure that can keep you busy all day long, and it is great for all ages.
Great Barrier Reef
Most people head to Cairns just to see the Great Barrier Reef. There are all kinds of tours and experiences that you can enjoy at the Great Barrier Reef, and these are offered at a variety of price points as well. Snorkeling the reef will cost about $50 a person if you take a guided tour, and scuba diving at the Great Barrier Reef is slightly more expensive than this. There are half-day trips that can take you all over the area of the reef, or you might have the budget to take a flight over the reef. No matter what your budget is, the Great Barrier Reef is within reach, even if you have to save money while you are traveling.
Cairns Botanic Gardens
The Cairns Botanic Gardens are free, but there are collection boxes scattered throughout the park if you want to help keep the gardens alive and well. This is a place to see all the tropical diversity of Cairns, and you can learn about unique fruit trees like Mangosteen or enjoy visiting the exotic palms area of the park. Just like the Great Barrier Reef, this is a place that many people want to visit when they come to Cairns on a budget. If you are in the heart of the city center, the botanic gardens are really close and much easier to access than the Great Barrier Reef, which can recommend them as well.
Cheap places to eat in Cairns
Eating out can really add up when you are traveling, but there are lots of affordable eateries in Cairns for those on a budget. Cairns also has a lively street food scene, which presents options for convenient varied cuisine to eat on the go. Plus, the price points are usually quite affordable.
IMM THAI CAFE
This location is well-known by locals for being affordable, especially if you get a noodle bowl or a soup dish. You can have a full meal here for less than $10, and you might want to get a takeaway order to bring back to your hotel room if you are in the mood to save even more money. The beef tendon soup is a local favorite, but the menu is extensive and varied, so anyone can find something they will love to order.
The satay is excellent here, and they also offer delicious drinks and desserts. This is a place that can be perfect for lunch or dinner, and you can eat really well for under $15 a person. The service is prompt, and the food is great. Portion sizes are quite large as well, making this a good bet for those with lots of mouths to feed while traveling.
Waffle On Cairns
Who doesn't love a big, hearty breakfast? Head here for delicious pancakes and crepes as well as generous sides. The portions are huge here, and the prices are excellent. Food specials are not uncommon here either, so you might be able to combine order types and save even more money.
Cheap bars in Cairns
The Downunder Bar
Head to this cute little bar for a free pool, drinks under $3, and a limited food menu. This place is one of the best locations for a night out if you are on a budget since you can often find drinks specials and food specials on offer as well. Since there are lots of fun things to do while you hang out, you can easily spend the whole night here without feeling like you have to move on to another location to keep the good times rolling.
The Benson Restaurant and Bar
Hotel bars can be some of the most affordable places to have drinks when you travel. This adorable little bar offers cozy seating, prompt service, and drinks specials almost every day. Sip on wine or enjoy $5 cocktails and even cheaper beer. This is a great perk if you have chosen to stay at The Benson Hotel as well since you will have access to this little bar right inside your temporary home.
The beer here is really cheap, and there are wings on the menu as well as other kinds of classic bar snacks. The service is really friendly here, and you can sit inside or outside depending on the weather. Choose from a wide array of pints, or head here for a mixed drink and to chat with the other travelers that have come to Cairns with you.
Bonus budget tips for Cairns
The Cairns Lagoon is free to access, and it is one of the only swimmable locations in the city due to jellyfish. Make sure to bring a book and a towel and park yourself in the sun for some quiet time here. This is like heading to the beach but so much more convenient, and it can be a good way to catch up on rest and relaxation during a busy trip.
Palm Cove is another great beach location that is about 20 minutes outside the city. If you have been craving some soft sand and a beach lounger, you just need to pay for transportation to this lovely place. You can spend a day here relaxing in the sun or just head out for a few hours and then go back to your other planned adventures in Cairns itself.
If you have the time and money to visit the Wet Tropics Rainforest, this is a UNESCO world heritage site that is as special as the Great Barrier Reef. You will have to drive to get out to this location, but you can stop to see the sites and take pictures along the way. The Millaa Millaa Waterfall is the primary attraction along the way, but there are other cool things to do and see as you make your way to the rainforest. Your costs will mostly be confined to food and water for the trip.
Cook your own meals
As mentioned in the hotel section of this guide, there are lots of ways to save money on your trip just by choosing the right place to stay. Many hostels will offer shared kitchen space where you can store food or cook for yourself. If you want to have a peaceful night where you don't eat out, you can simply head to the supermarket and get some food to cook up or grab some takeaway and sit down in the TV lounge to enjoy a meal that is laid back and affordable.
Look for adventure deals
For those who want to do things like whitewater rafting or tubing, there are actually ways to make sure that this experience is available to you during your trip. Contact various companies to check their prices and take advantage of tourism-supported specials that can crop up from time to time for these activities. There are also lots of different tour companies that offer these kinds of day trips, so you might just need to do some research to find one that you can afford.
If you are going to visit Cairns for an extended period of time or you have kids with you while you are traveling, free things to do in Cairns will be an important component of your itinerary to keep everyone entertained. There are actually lots of fun things to do that do not require that you spend a dime, and you will be able to fill up spaces in your travel schedule with more fun.
Visiting Cairns is not impossible, even on a strict budget. With easy access to the entire tropical North Queensland area as well as lush rainforest and cool things like the Great Barrier Reef, there's never a dull moment here. Make sure that you take advantage of all of the tips in this guide so that you have money left over to splurge on the important things that you'll remember for a lifetime.