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Cairns Travel Tips - Helpful hints and advice on local destination information

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The main thing to bear in mind when approaching a stay in Cairns is the heat and humidity. This is a very steamy part of the world and the most frequent cause of discomfort and distress is unfamiliarity or lack of preparation for extreme temperatures. Also, be sure to avoid swimming in the waters directly off Cairns as crocodiles swim in the wild here. Tourist traps are another concern, and most visitors should try to book well in advance for all trips to the Great Barrier Reef.

Customs and etiquette

Cairns is a tropical, tourist town and visitors on holiday and locals from inland who earn a living in the tourist industry combine for an atmosphere that is always casual. Even five-star hotels encourage shorts and t-shirts but swimwear is discouraged away from the beach.

Australians are quite laid back and enjoy life in a tolerant and progressive culture. The huge mix of cultures in Cairns, however, means that cultures from all over the world need to be respected to avoid misunderstandings and confrontations. Visitors from all parts of the world should feel comfortable in Cairns.

Money

The currency of Cairns is the Australian dollar (AUD). Denominations of 100, 50, 20, 10 and 5 are brightly colored plastic notes, while the AUD$2 and AUD$1 are gold coins.

Tipping is the norm in a city like Cairns due to tourism, and bills at restaurants or bars can generally be rounded up to the nearest zero, for example, a café bill for AUD$36 can be paid with two twenty dollar notes left on the table or bill plate. ATMs are plentiful in all areas of Cairns and Great Barrier Reef trips are fully catered and no cash is required.

Weather

Cairns swelters and sweats through a year round tropical climate that is marked by extremely high humidity and temperatures that hover around 90 degrees Fahrenheit every day of the year. A wet season during December to April often brings tropical monsoons which dump liters of rain and occasionally cause enormous damage. 

The Australian sun is hot and harsh. Ultra-violet rays here are stronger than in other parts of the world and sunburn can strike unprotected skin with five minutes of first exposure. Sunscreen and hats should always be worn, even on overcast days when refracted sun rays are actually stronger and more potent than they are during sunny times. 

Transportation

Taxi cabs are the main form of transportation all over Cairns. At Cairns International Airport (CNS), taxi ranks are always stacked with vehicles and the journey into downtown takes around 15 minutes. Taxis are metered and the currency all over Cairns is of course the Australian dollar. Bargaining is not the norm. 

There are no suburban trains in Cairns but a public bus network exists. Standard cross town journeys cost around AUD$2. For ferry and other boat journeys to the Great Barrier Reef, visitors can walk or take a taxi to the main pier where bookings can be made on the spot. All hotels will organize tours and all transport, and transfers. 

Fast facts

Population: 125,000
Spoken languages: English
Phone/calling code: +61