Wide world of travellers
Backpackers to Cairns come from countries as diverse as the United States of America, Germany and Korea. There is an established tourism industry developed just for Backpackers in the Cairns region, particularly in areas like the Daintree and Mission Beach.
Casual: Life is casual in Cairns and it's usual to see people wearing not much more than swimming costumes in the city's streets.
Shopping: Most Backpackers in Cairns stock up in local supermarkets before heading further north to places like the Daintree; food stuffs are much cheaper in the city.
Online: Staying touch via the internet is an important part of the Backpacker culture. Most hostels provide internet computer terminals as well as internet cafes around the city of Cairns.
The Cairns region is a major destination for backpackers from around the world. As the gateway to the Great Barrier Reef and the Daintree rainforest, Cairns is an excellent spot for adventure travellers to base themselves. Cairns is the starting point for extended travel in the region including trips to the Daintree Rainforest and Cape York, the Atherton Tableland and Mission Beach area. As a popular tourism destination, there are a range Cairns backpacker accommodation options and Cairns backpacker tours available in the region.
What to bring
Cairns is a relatively informal city with T-shirts, shorts, swimming costumes and thongs (flip-flops) making up the bulk of outfits for men and women. Although the temperature does drop during winter, visitors generally find they can continue to wear shorts during the day, only slipping into jeans and jumpers once the sun goes down.
As a major Australian city, shoppers can find just about anything they wish for. There are numerous specialty grocery stores and medical services catering for Japanese and Korean-speaking travellers, and those interested in dive courses, will able to find a course in just about any language.
Medications can differ from country to country so it’s worth bringing a good supply with you or, if planning to remain in Australia for a longer period of time, make sure your doctor provides you with the medical name of your medication rather than the marketing name.
How long you should spend in the Cairns region?
At the bare minimum, travellers should plan to spend at least three weeks in the Cairns region. If you are planning on doing a dive course, another week or two can be easily tacked on to your visit.
Many Cairns backpackers spend months in the area heading to the Daintree rainforest and Cape York for camping, hiking and beaches or spending weeks at a time on the Great Barrier Reef, either working with dive boats or simply
There are some fruit-picking opportunities south of Cairns in the Mission Beach, Tully and Innisfail areas and on the Atherton Tableland during the season.
>> Go to Cairns Backpackers Visas & Work for more information
The Australian dollar (AUD) is a decimal currency broken down into $100, $50, $20, $10 and $5 notes; and $2, $1, 50c, 20c, 10c and 5c coins. Visitors can easily access cash overseas via credit cards and Cirrus cards used at ATMs (automatic teller machines).
All credit cards are accepted but Visa and Mastercard are the most popular, with American Express and Diners less so. Credit cards are necessary to hire a car and are generally expected at all hotels for in-room charges.
Cash and Travellers Cheques are easily exchanged at almost every bank and there are established exchange bureaus in all major centres.
Remote and regional areas like the Daintree and Cape York are more likely to prefer cash, especially in small towns. Small shops and stores, particularly craft and arts shops in places like the Atherton Tableland, also prefer cash.
Tipping is not mandatory in Australia. However if you have experienced particularly good service it is greatly appreciated, particularly in the hospitality sector.
GST – goods and services tax – is included in most bills and will be itemised on your receipt. All prices displayed such as on menus and tour brochures will include GST.
There are a number of mobile phone providers in Australia with Telstra, Optus, Vodafone and Virgin Mobile being the most popular. Almost all global roaming systems are supported locally but can be expensive.
The best way to access reasonable mobile communication is to pick up a pre-paid SIM card to be used in your own phone or a pre-paid package that includes a basic mobile phone, these can cost as little as $100. There are mobile phone stores in all major and regional centres. In the Cairns region, mobile phones can be bought from some supermarkets, however larger choice and better deals are available at the specialist providers. In Cairns Central Shopping Centre, there are outlets for Telstra, Optus and Vodafone.
All major regional centres have access to the internet and more and more remote areas are able to access via various wireless systems and Bluetooth. There are internet cafes in all centres offering a variety of services for various prices. Most operate broadband connections. In Cairns, there is a strip of internet venues on Abbott St between Shields St and Aplin St. An increasing number of internet spots are located on Shields St heading west to City Place (Lake St mall area). All hotels and hostels also provide internet access but the prices can be higher than those at the internet cafes. In other towns in the regions, you can generally find at least one internet café, although in more remote regions like Daintree and Cape York and in Outback areas of the Atherton Tableland, this is less likely except at hotels, hostels and some caravan parks. If you are planning to spend a great deal of time in these areas and have your own laptop computer with you, it is worth investing in a remote access device available from Telstra or Optus.
Travel and Health Insurance
Australia offers high quality medical treatment, particularly in the Emergency Services sector but the Public Health sector can be overcrowded. Private Health and Travel insurance ensures that visitors get the best of care as quickly as possible.
Stingers … swimming in the ocean
As a tropical coastal city, there are times when it is best to avoid swimming in the ocean due to marine stingers. Visitors need to remember that at certain times of the year you can only swim in the stinger nets at beaches in the Cairns region. Stingers are dangerous jellyfish that migrate to the Tropical North Queensland coast between November and May. Their stings - particularly those of the box jellyfish (Chironex fleckerii) - can lead to heart failure and possible death. Small Irukandji jellyfish also are potentially deadly, with symptoms including muscle cramps, vomiting and hypertension. During the stinger season, it’s advisable to buy a lycra “stinger suit” if you’re going to swim at the beach a lot. This garment is a skin-tight, full body suit made of stretch lycra that protects the wearer from jellyfish tentacles. Cairns beaches are all monitored before and during the stinger season and nets are placed at major beaches in the area. It’s safe to swim at the outer reef and the islands during the stinger season, although Irukandji occasionally are present offshore.
Although the aim for many backpackers in Cairns is to get a tan during their stay, skin cancer is a real concern for visitors. Australia has the highest rate of skin cancer in the world, with skin cancers contributing to 80 per cent of all new cancers diagnosed every year in the country. Research has shown that sun exposure during youth increases the risk of developing melanoma and other skin cancers later in life.
Visiting Aboriginal communities
Cairns backpackers wishing to visit Aboriginal communities need to plan in advance and inquire at regional information centres as to whether written permits or oral permission is necessary for particular communities. Most communities in the region welcome visitors but it pays to be polite and inquiries will be answered.
See also:>> Cairns Backpackers Accommodation
>> Cairns Backpackers Visas & Work
>> Cairns Backpacking Around