A Travel Price Comparison for Australia Cairns vs. Brisbane for Vacations, Tours, and Honeymoons

Should you visit Cairns or Brisbane?

Should I visit Cairns or Brisbane? This is a common question asked by many travelers. By figuring out which city is more affordable, you'll understand where you can get more bang for your buck. So, let's dive into the data, which all comes from actual travelers.

Cairns

Most travelers go to Cairns specifically to visit Great Barrier Reef. The city itself is surprisingly large and cosmopolitan with a population of approximately 140,000. The city's economy is almost exclusively based on tourism, although you will find some jobs centered around agriculture, or more specifically sugar cane, bananas, coffee, tea, wine, and some tropical fruits. The city itself is surrounded by rainforest and makes a great base for exploring Kuranda, with the Barron Gorge National Park and the Daintree offering a quieter tropical getaway than Cairns.

Brisbane

Although Brisbane is often overlooked as a travel destination in Australia, it is the capital of the state of Queensland, and is the third largest city in Australia. It's a very young and vibrant city with an active nightlife and a relaxed and welcoming atmosphere. It's a modern and economically thriving city and, if you do have time to visit, it actually has a lot to offer travelers. It has some beautiful scenery, a wonderful warm climate all year long, and is actually one of the fastest growing cities in Australia.

Which city is cheaper, Brisbane or Cairns?

These are the overall average travel costs for the two destinations.

The average daily cost (per person) in Cairns is $83, while the average daily cost in Brisbane is $116. These costs include accommodation (assuming double occupancy, so the traveler is sharing the room), food, transportation, and entertainment. While every person is different, these costs are an average of past travelers in each city. Below is a breakdown of travel costs for Cairns and Brisbane in more detail.



Accommodation

An average hotel room with basic furnishings costs about $76 in Cairns For the most convenient locations and nicer amenities you can expect to pay a bit more.

Double occupancy rooms typically run around $144 in Brisbane For nicer amenities and a premiere location, you can expect to pay a bit more.


  • Accommodation Hotel or hostel for one person
    Cairns $38
    Brisbane $72
  • Accommodation Typical double-occupancy room
    Cairns $76
    Brisbane $144

Food

Food in Cairns costs travelers about $25 per day on average. Restaurants can vary significantly in price, so choose wisely if you're trying to save money. Fast food and street stalls are typically your cheapest options, which sit down restaurants can be significantly more expensive.

On average, meal and food prices in Brisbane cost around $27 per person, per day. While this price can vary widely by location, the type of restaurant, and the amount of food ordered, a typical meal often costs around $11.


  • Food Meals for one day
    Cairns $25
    Brisbane $27

Food Tours and Cooking Classes in Cairns

For Cairns, here are some samples of tours and activities related to meals and dining experiences:

  • Guided Twilight Tour of the Aquarium with Dinner: $90
  • Cairns Aquarium by Twilight with 3 Course Dinner: $99
  • Afternoon Tour with Evening Dinner Cruise: $134
  • Small-Group Afternoon Cairns City Tour with Harbour Dinner Cruise: $154

Typical Food prices in Brisbane

Here are some examples of typical meal expenses from previous travelers to Brisbane:


  • Hamburger Lunch
    $5.77
  • Cup of Coffee
    $2.16
  • Chinese Food Lunch
    $9.01
  • Ice cream
    $3.96
  • Japanese Meal
    $15
  • Smoothie
    $4.68
  • Japanese Soup
    $8.29
  • Coffee & Muffin
    $5.04
  • Morning Mint Tea
    $2.52
  • Veggie Burger & Chips
    $10
  • Bread
    $1.87

Food Tours and Cooking Classes in Brisbane

For Brisbane, here are some samples of tours and activities related to meals and dining experiences:

  • Guided Food Tour with Coffee and Wine Tastings: $184
  • Brisbane Food Tour: A Taste of Queensland: $202
  • 3-Course Progressive Dinner Experience in Brisbane: $237
  • Queensland Food Tour: Farm-to-Table Indulgence: $375

Local Transportation

Cairns's transportation costs can vary by the type of transport chosen by visitors. Naturally, taxis and private drivers cost much more than public transportation options. On average, visitors spend $11 per person, per day on transportation in Cairns.

Brisbane's transportation costs can vary by the type of transport chosen by visitors. Naturally, taxis and private drivers cost much more than public transportation options. On average, visitors spend $15 per person, per day on transportation in Brisbane.


  • Local Transportation Taxis, local buses, subway, etc.
    Cairns $11
    Brisbane $15

Hired Cars and Shuttles in Cairns

Also for Cairns, here are a few examples of actual transportation services:

  • Cairns to Mission Beach Private Transfer: $303
  • Cairns to Port Douglas Private Transfer: $252
  • Premium Van, Private Transfer, Cairns Airport - Port Douglas.: $244
  • Luxury Van, Private Transfer, Cairns Airport - Port Douglas.: $171
  • Corporate Bus, Private Transfer, Cairns Airport - Palm Cove: $171
  • Premium, private bus transfer. Cairns City - Cairns Airport.: $135
  • Premium Van, Private Transfer, Cairns Airport - Palm Cove.: $125
  • Port Douglas Transfers between Cairns Airport & Port Douglas (Private Chauffeur): $118
  • Cairns Airport (CNS) Departure Transfer (Cairns Hotels to Cairns CNS Airport): $112
  • Premium Van, Private Transfer, Cairns Airport - Trinity Beach: $107
  • Premium Van, Private Transfer, Cairns City - Cairns Airport: $89
  • Luxury Van, Private Transfer, Cairns Airport - Palm Cove.: $89

Typical Local Transportation prices in Brisbane

Here are some examples of typical transportation prices from actual travelers in Brisbane:


  • Airtrain to the City
    $11
  • Go Card
    $18

Hired Cars and Shuttles in Brisbane

Also for Brisbane, here are a few examples of actual transportation services:

  • Sunshine Coast Airport Arrival transfer to Hotels: $14
  • Sirromet Winery All inclusive Lunch @ Lurleens, Tour, Tastings and Transfers: $158
  • Private Transfer: Brisbane to Brisbane Airport (BNE): $98
  • Private Transfer from Brisbane Airport to Noosa for 1 to 7 people: $352
  • Private Departure Transfer: Hotel to Brisbane Airport: $40
  • Private Brisbane City Transfer to Gold Coast 7am-6pm: $89
  • Private Brisbane Airport Arrival Transfer to Gold Coast: $177
  • Private Arrival Transfer: Brisbane Airport to Hotel: $40
  • Private Airport Transfer: Brisbane Airport (BNE) to Brisbane: $98
  • Private Airport Transfer from Brisbane Airport (BNE) to South Gold Coast 1-6 pax: $132
  • Private Airport Transfer from Brisbane Airport (BNE) to North Gold Coast 1-6 pax: $107
  • Private 24 Seat Mini Bus CBD to Brisbane Airport Transfer: $205

Is it cheaper to fly into Cairns or Brisbane?

Prices for flights to both Brisbane and Cairns change regularly based on dates and travel demand. We suggest you find the best prices for your next trip on Kayak, because you can compare the cost of flights across multiple airlines for your prefered dates.





Entertainment

Sightseeing, admission tickets, things to do, and other entertainment expenses in Cairns can vary widely by price. On average, visitors spend around $33 per person, per day on entertainment and sightseeing here.

Sightseeing, admission tickets, things to do, and other entertainment expenses in Brisbane can vary widely by price. On average, visitors spend around $21 per person, per day on entertainment and sightseeing here.


  • Entertainment Entrance tickets, shows, etc.
    Cairns $33
    Brisbane $21
Typical Entertainment prices in Cairns

Below are a few sample prices from actual travelers for Cairns's activities, tours, and tickets:


  • Scuba Diving
    $40

Tours and Activities in Cairns

For Cairns, here are a few prices for actual activities, tours, and tickets provided by various companies:

  • 14-Day Cape York Camping Tour: $2,350
  • 2 Day Reef & Rainforest Adventure: $619
  • 2-Day Cape Tribulation and Daintree Rainforest Tour from Cairns /Port Douglas: $221
  • 2-Day Green Island Cruise and Kuranda Day Trip: $316
  • Aboriginal Cultural Daintree Rainforest Tour from Cairns or Port Douglas: $210
  • Atherton Tablelands Waterfalls and Rainforest Day Tour Departing Cairns: $95
  • Barron Gorge and Kuranda National Park Half Day Rainforest and Waterfall 4WD Tour from Cairns: $124
  • Cairns 4WD Waterfall and Rainforest Tour Including Kuranda Scenic Railway or Skyrail Rainforest Cableway: $166
  • Cairns Adventure Package- 4 tours in 3 days!: $325
  • Cairns Aquarium Admission Ticket: $35
  • Cairns Aquarium Family Tickets: $104
  • Cairns Aquarium General Admission Ticket: $32

Typical Entertainment prices in Brisbane

For Brisbane, here are some examples of average entertainment and activity prices from previous travelers:


  • Concert Tickets
    $14

Tours and Activities in Brisbane

Also, here are some specific examples of entertainment, tickets, and activities for Brisbane.

  • 4-Day Jewels of the Outback Gemstone Hunting Tour from Brisbane: $1,577
  • 5-Day Cunnamulla Outback Wildlife Backpacking Tour from Brisbane: $948
  • 5-Day Outback Farm and Wildlife Experience from Brisbane: $1,936
  • Bay Island Tour - Scenic Flight: $271
  • Best Of Brisbane Day Tour incl. Lone Pine - Half Day Private Customised tour: $197
  • Boutique Brisbane to Cairns Australian east coast tour - 8 Day small group: $2,689
  • Brisbane Day in the Country Full-Day Small-Group Tour with Lunch: $249
  • Brisbane Like a Local: Customized Guided Tour: $35
  • Brisbane River Cruise and Koala Sanctuary Visit: $61
  • Brisbane to Moreton Island Return Ferry & Adventure Day Pass: $86
  • Full-Day Byron Bay Tour: $289
  • Guided River Kayak Tour: $47

Alcohol

Typically, people visiting Cairns spend on average $12 on alcoholic beverages per person, per day.

Alcoholic beverages can often be a significant portion of a traveler's budget, and the costs can vary greatly from person to person. In Brisbane, the average amount that a visitor spends on alcoholic beverages per day is $44.


  • Alcohol Drinks for one day
    Cairns $12
    Brisbane $44

Sample the Local Flavors in Cairns

Here are a few nightlife and alcohol tours and activities from local tour providers in Cairns:

  • Tablelands Food & Wine Tour: $233

Typical Alcohol prices in Brisbane

Below are a few samples from actual travelers for alcohol and nightlife costs in Brisbane:


  • Evening at the Bar
    $11
  • Sixpack of Beer
    $10
  • Guiness Beer
    $6.13
  • Sixpack of Beer
    $9.36

Sample the Local Flavors in Brisbane

Here are a few nightlife and alcohol tours and activities from local tour providers in Brisbane:

  • Deluxe Wine Tasting Tour Mt Tamborine Includes 2 course Lunch: $94
  • Morning or Afternoon Brisbane Half-Day Brewery Tour: $111
  • Mt Tamborine Wine Tour: $119
  • Brisbane Half-Day Private Brewery Tour: $119
  • Hinterland Heritage Wine Tour: $119
  • Northern Rivers food & Wine Tour from Brisbane: $119
  • Two Day xxxx Brewery and Tamborine Winery Tour: $198
  • Private Full Day Wine Tour from Brisbane to Tamborine Mountain: $474


When we compare the travel costs of actual travelers between Cairns and Brisbane, we can see that Brisbane is more expensive. And not only is Cairns much less expensive, but it is actually a significantly cheaper destination. So, traveling to Cairns would let you spend less money overall. Or, you could decide to spend more money in Cairns and be able to afford a more luxurious travel style by staying in nicer hotels, eating at more expensive restaurants, taking tours, and experiencing more activities. The same level of travel in Brisbane would naturally cost you much more money, so you would probably want to keep your budget a little tighter in Brisbane than you might in Cairns.

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Cairns vs. Brisbane Travel Comparison

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