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Getting Around In Cairns

Copyright © 4wd Hire ServiceOverall Australia is an easy place to get around. There is an extensive air, train, and road network, with lots of well-organized public transport, and a number of vehicle hire options as well. Keep in mind that Australia is a really big country, if you are spending two weeks here, and try to see everything you might see it all, but it will be out of the window of planes, trains, and automobiles. Also remember that in remote areas the roads can be extremely rough. Try the links below to access the information you need.

Getting to Australia and the Cairns region
Getting from the Airport to your lodging
Getting Around Cairns, Port Douglas and the Beaches
Getting around the state and farther
Renting a vehicle
Buying a vehicle

Getting to Australia and the Cairns region
Most major airlines fly to Australia, the Majority of them flying to Sydney, and a few airlines flying in directly to Cairns. Check with your travel agent or online shop for the ticket you need.

If you land in Sydney recommend that you fly to Cairns, the gateway city to the Great Barrier Reef. Currently both Qantas and Virgin Blue serve Cairns, with a third airline (Australian Airlines) due to start service soon. It is any easy three-hour flight from Sydney to Cairns.

Getting from the Airport to your lodging
This is an easy task. Many lodgings run their own courtesy bus, and will pick you up at the airport. Cairns has an excellent taxi service, and AUD$10 will get you from the airport to town. Port Douglas is 40 minutes north of the airport, but there are several transfer operators that will transfer you, with a typical round trip fare of AUD$55.

Getting Around Cairns, Port Douglas, and the Northern Beaches
No matter where you find yourself staying in the Cairns-Port Douglas region, you usually be within walking distance to your basic needs. Most neighborhoods have a set of small specialty shops. Nearly all dive trip operators will pick you up at y our lodging, and return you there, either as an included service or for a small charge.

Cairns is a bigger town than Port Douglas and the Northern Beaches, it is likely that you will find yourself occasionally using a taxi, bus, lodging courtesy coach, or bicycle to get around. The Northern Beach towns and Port Douglas are smaller, and walking will usually get you anywhere in town you wish to go.

Not sure about where to stay on your visit. Check out our guide to the area beaches and towns to choose the town or beach that suits you best.

Some other ways around town

Sunbus The local bus system is excellent, cheap and will get you anywhere you want to go. Their runs to the Northern beach communities from Cairns are very popular with tourists seeking a bit of sun and sand.

Taxis : Cairns has an excellent taxi service, Black and White Taxis. They are quick to respond to calls, on time for booked pickups, and have very reasonable prices. (If taxi services in our hometown were this good, this author might not own a car.) Call black and white taxis at 013-008 to arrange a pickup.

Cairns to Port Douglas transfers:
Sun Palm Express runs a shuttle between these two cities. It's cheap, just AUD$27.50 one way, especially given the fact that you can schedule pickups and dropoffs where you like, they will even meet you at the airport.

Bicycles The town is flat, with wide streets, and is ideal for biking. Bikes can be rented at several places in town.  If you are staying for longer than a couple of weeks, think about buying a used bike at one of the opportunity or disposal stores in town. It is really easy to sell old clunker bikes. Remember that helmets are required by law, and to purchase a lock and chain of some sort.

We do warn you though, if you are used to driving on the right you will find you instinctive reactions to traffic backwards, be very careful until you get used to it. Bicyclists are not always given the right of way here, so ride defensively.

Getting around the State and Farther.

Qantas Qantas runs the most extensive network of routes to smaller airports throughout Queensland and Australia. As traffic to these areas is limited, flying will be more expensive than other options. Virgin Blue also flies interstate, but just between major cities.

Greyhound Australia Runs a national network of buses. They are clean, well supervised, and a good value. We like the onboard video movies. You can also buy bus passes, similar to a rail pass, that permit more flexible travel.

Coral Coaches Coral Coaches runs a regional bus network using medium sized, extremely durable buses. It is possible to get out to some pretty remote outback towns using Coral Coaches.

Queensland Rail Queensland Rail runs a statewide train network as well as several specialty trains just for tourists, which are listed in our adventure section. If you like travel by train, this just might be the way to go. Generally the rail network runs South along the coast, with lines running west into the outback at several key points along the coast.

Renting a Vehicle
copyright © Sugarland Car Rentals We have rented vehicles of just about every kind in the past ten years, and can recommend renting a car, four-wheel drive or campervan to tour the region. We also urge you select the company you work with carefully, as we have had many mishaps with vehicle rental. Try giving our car rental stories section a look to see what can happen if do not choose a vehicle rental company carefully. We highly recommend the following rental companies, which are outstanding locally owned firms, and will add to this list as we hear good news about other rental firms.

Sugarland Car Rentals Lenore and Greg rent out a fleet of passenger cars of all sizes, plus a few light-duty trucks and four-wheel drives. Their cars are clean, well-serviced and a good value. We have been renting cars from Sugarland with great results for the past four years.

Four Wheel Drive Hire Service The best place to rent the vehicle you are taking outback. They have a wide variety of durable and reliable Toyota four-wheel drives, capable of getting you nearly anywhere. We really find their newest vehicle; a Toyota Landcruiser converted into a campervan. Capable of sleeping two, including all the camping and cooking gear you need, this vehicle provides a great and easy opportunity for visitors to get themselves out into the bush. We have rented vehicles from 4WD Hire Service for over 10 years.

NQ Campervans This company outfits and rents campervans, ranging from simple small converted vans to fairly extensive mobile homes. Many families and couples find traveling this way to be economical and easy. Australian road networks include rest areas where you are allowed to stay for up to three days, along with the more traditional options of campgrounds and caravan parks, there are lots of options on where to stay.

Wicked Campervans We actually do not know this company well, but stumbled on them after we learned the outlandishly painted small vans we saw around town were actually for hire. This company’s concept is to refurbish used Toyota vans, outfit them with sleeping and camping gear, and rent them at a very low price (AUD$38/day). A nationwide network of hubs allows you to take long one-way trips. We missed the hippy era by a few years, and the concept of driving around in a colorful van attracts us. Groovy concept, but not yet tested by us. It might be worth a try if you are traveling on a budget, with lots of time to spare.

Buying a vehicle
If you are spending a couple of months or longer on holiday, you might consider buying a vehicle. If you have some mechanical talent, negotiating skills, and the cash to put up front, this can be a great way to have freedom and save some money. We have purchased vehicles several times, and not had great problems.

Some tips:
You can find vehicles for sale at dealers in nearly every town. Have a look at Cairns Cars Online to get an idea of prices from dealers, or to arrange a purchase in Cairns.

Most travelers tend to buy vehicles from other travelers. These vehicles are usually older and cheaper, and are often outfitted for sleeping, and usually come with camping gear. In Cairns you will find travelers selling their vehicles along the Esplanade. There are usually a dozen or so vehicles for sale here. Local laws prohibit signs selling vehicles, so don’t expect to see any. However, any vehicle parked on the park side of the esplanade, with the door open and someone sitting nearby, is for sale. Prices are usually quite negotiable. We went out recently and interviewed some travelers who were selling their vehicles, check out our traveler's car stories.

Australian law requires a road worthy certificate (RWC), which is needed any time the care is re-registered. An older vehicle with mechanical problems and needing an RWC can be a pretty expensive problem.

Australian cars are re-registered annually If the registration (called "rego" here) expires while you own the car it will cost you a few hundred dollars to renew. A rego needing renewal makes a vehicle more difficult to sell. Be sure to use rego status as a negotiating point when you buy or sell a vehicle.

Vehicle insurance is also required, the minimum coverage is affordable, and can be purchased for terms as short as six months.

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