Cairns is a beautiful patch of Australia, nestled in Far North Queensland. You'll find everything here! Wildlife, Beaches, Waterfalls, Rainforests, Open Farming Plains, Amazing Local Artisan Markets.... This piece of Australian paradise has everything in one spot! Making it an absolute must-do when visiting the land down under!
But Australia can be expensive. I know, I live here. But it can very easily be done on a budget! Depending on how you like to travel and where you're willing to compromise, Cairns on a budget is just as amazing as any luxury trip.
10 Ways To Do Cairns On A Budget
1. Buy Your Food From Supermarkets
We bought all of our breakfasts and most of our dinners from Woolworths Supermarkets.
We found these 2 Woolworths the most convenient to shop from:
Cairns Woolworths - 103 Abbott St, Cairns City QLD 4870
Smithfield Shopping Centre Woolworths - Captain Cook Highway & Kennedy Highway, Smithfield QLD 4878
Dinner: We grabbed a large mixed salad, a BBQ Chicken and salad dressing - dinner done for 3 nights for 2 people! Costing us around $14 AUD. We pulled up a seat on our balcony, overlooking our pool, surrounded by Palm trees and Lorikeets, lit a candle and voila! A wonderful meal with my love. No need to compromise on romance or luxury.
Breakfast: We bought a box of Nescafe Mocha sachets, a box of Muesli and 2 litres of milk. We had a kettle in our hotel room for our coffees. This lasted us the 7 days and cost us $13 AUD. No need to pay for a 'beach view' tax on our coffees. You could even still have your smashed avo on toast! From the supermarket 2 Avocados and a loaf of bread will cost you $8 AUD, lasting you 2 or 3 breakfast meals. Instagram that in front of your pool and people will never know any better!
Snacks: We bought 2 boxes of muesli bars. 2 bars a day for 7 days cost us $8. We drank water instead of buying soft drink or coffees. Saving us more money and being kinder to our bodies.
Tip: NEVER pay full price. Look for the bright yellow tags in Woolworths for the best specials! Also check the 'no frills' home brand products. A lot of the time these are even cheaper than the specials and the only thing you are compromising is a pretty box.
2. Stay In Accommodation That Has A Kitchenette
Choosing semi self-contained accommodation means you have greater options when on a budget. You can bulk buy and store food and snacks. You then have a proper area and utensils to prepare meals. You'll be in the comfort of your own private room, meaning you can take your time, stay in your PJ's and eat whenever you like.
3. Use Rewards Cards
Travelling Australia usually calls for 4+ weeks. This means you'll be visiting Supermarkets & coffee shops regularly. Grab yourself a FREE rewards card from each major retailer to save you big bucks!
Woolworths rewards regularly has double and triple point bonus offers. We managed to save up $80 worth of rewards leading up to our trip in Cairns. This meant we literally paid $0 for our supermarket shops while we were there.
Major coffee shops such as Gloria Jeans, Muffin Break and even McDonald's McCafe have rewards cards too. Most of the time you'll get your 5th or 10th coffee for free!
McDonalds and Hungry Jacks both have Apps you can also download for free. Whenever you check into a restaurant, you get a lucky dip on a free menu item! Free Food? Umm YES PLEASE!
Frequent Flyer Points can be gained when hiring a car. Most Car hire companies are usually partnered with an airline company. Do some research and see if you can get some extra points towards your next flight!
Velocity points can be gained when filling up with petrol! Use your FlyBuys card, linked to your Velocity Points when filling up at Coles Petrol Stations. This will gain you Velocity points that you can then use on flights!
Save 4c/litre on Petrol by using a Woolworths Everyday Rewards card or Flybuys card. Whenever you spend over $30 at a major supermarket and scan your rewards card, you will have a 4c per litre voucher added. Use these vouchers when filling your car to save around $2 per fill.
4. Budget Airline Flash Sales
Do your research!! Sign up to airline and comparison website email lists to be the first to know about flash sales!
We booked our flights when Jetstar was having a massive 48 hour sale. We scored our flights for 50% off! Meaning Curtis flew for free! Australia's budget airlines include Jetstar, Virgin Australia and Tiger Air.
Compare prices on flights with Skyscanner - The BEST Flight Comparison Site!
5. Compromise The View
Do you really need to see the beach from your room? No. You never NEED that.
Save big bucks by staying in the same hotels but choosing different rooms. We saved hundreds of dollars by staying in a room that was at the back of our hotel, with no view.
What we still had: A balcony, the same size as the beach view rooms and it was quieter! It was the same distance to the pool, restaurants and main attractions.
What we didn't have: A beach view (we still had the beach just as close, as the elevator was in the middle anyway), Noise and disruption at all hours of the day and night from the street, cafes and bars.
Be smart with your compromises.
Find the cheapest Cairns Hotels with HotelsCombined.com
6. Hire A Car Vs. Booking Day Tours
This option requires a bit of work on your part (Sorry! But it'll be well worth it once you're chilling on the beaches having nothing to worry about). It depends on what you want to do, how long you have in Cairns and if money or time is more important to your budget.
We found it was cheaper and more convenient for us to hire a car from the airport. Having the car for the full 7 days gave us freedom and the option of completely free days if we wanted to spend $0. We were able to decide where to go and when without the hassle of being on time for tour groups, buses or schedules.
If not hiring a car, catching a taxi to your hotel and booking a few day trips is cheaper for you, then plan your week that way.
To give you a rough starting point: Each day trip averages between $70-$150 per person, per trip. It only cost us $390 to hire the car + $70 in petrol, for the 7 days.
7. Avoid Shopping
Souvenir and clothes shopping can suck you in and spit out your chewed up wallet faster than any other holiday activity. Find better ways to spend your time. Walk through the rainforest, swim at the beach, explore the main attractions!
If you do need Souvenirs, here's ways I bring home a piece of my adventure:
Photos, videos, napkins, coasters, maps, guides, hand-written notes, tickets, liking companies Facebook and Instagram pages - ALL FOR FREE
8. Travel To Cairns During The Off-Season
Travelling during off-season has been the best choice I've made when making travel plans. It has always saved me money and hassle! This travelling tactic rarely compromises anything. The weather is usually just as nice (even if 'they' say it isn't), the main attractions don't just pack up and leave, so you see all the same stuff (unless it's a travelling circus... then that may call for some better planning), you save money by not paying 'peak season' premiums on hotel rooms, flights and car rentals.
Avoiding the crowds is something I love achieving while travelling. This is another plus of travelling during 'off season'. You'll have better photo ops, tables at restaurants, spots on the beach and more time.
9. Spend Your Day In The Daintree Rainforest Instead Of Visiting Zoos
This saves you major bucks on admission fees and is obviously better from a sustainable, ecological point of view.
You're basically guaranteed to see most animals in the forest, freely, that you would in any of the parks. The rainforest is so untouched and dense, the abundance of wildlife is breathtaking! You won't be disappointed!
I would recommend going on a Daintree river cruise with Solar Whisper Cruises to get the best experience when seeing a Crocodile. This way you are supporting a responsible, eco-friendly tour company and you are guaranteed a sighting of a 'Big Fella'.
10. Do All The Free Activities In Cairns
There's HEAPS you can do in the area for $0!
Have a picnic in the park, head to a beach for a full day, go for walks along the dozens of rainforest boardwalks, head to the pool on the major boardwalk in Cairns City for a free swim + no crocodiles, visit the waterfalls surrounding the area, wander the markets window shopping, do yoga anywhere from a free video on youtube.... Cairns on a budget is easy!
Check out my Ultimate Guide To Cairns for more great ideas!