Should you visit Darwin or Cairns?
If you're trying to decide where to visit between Darwin or Cairns, this travel cost comparison can help. The overall cost of travel is usually a consideration when deciding where to go next, and the cost comparison below can help you decide based on the average prices from other travelers along with your own travel budget.
Darwin is a tropical city set against the Timor Sea in north central Australia. It is also the capital city of the Northern Territory. Despite being a relatively small city, Darwin is very diverse with residents from all over the world. The city itself has a very relaxed vibe with plenty to do. Visitors can enjoy everything from traditionally Asian style markets to culturally diverse events such as concerts, festivals or art shows.
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.
Which city is cheaper, Cairns or Darwin?
These are the overall average travel costs for the two destinations.
The average daily cost (per person) in Darwin is $105, while the average daily cost in Cairns is $79. 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 Darwin and Cairns in more detail.
A hotel room in Darwin is about $118 This assumes double occupancy and modest accommodations.
An average hotel room with basic furnishings costs about $64 in Cairns For the most convenient locations and nicer amenities you can expect to pay a bit more.
Food in Darwin costs travelers about $35 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.
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.
Meals for one day
Food Tours and Cooking Classes in Cairns
For Cairns, here are some samples of tours and activities related to meals and dining experiences:
Spirit of Dinner Cruise:
Cairns Aquarium by Twilight with 3 Course Dinner:
Small-Group Afternoon Cairns City Tour with Harbour Dinner Cruise:
The average price of local transportation around Darwin is $11 per person, per day. As this average includes both taxis and public transport, keep in mind that the prices of private drivers and taxis are significantly more expensive than public 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 $8.60 per person, per day on transportation in Cairns.
Typical Local Transportation prices in Darwin
Below are a few samples from actual travelers for transportation costs in Darwin:
Shuttle to Train Station
Hired Cars and Shuttles in Darwin
Some specific examples of transportation prices in Darwin:
Wildman Fishing Tours - Fishing + Scenic Flight Transfer:
Private Departure Transfer: Hotel to Darwin Airport:
Private Arrival Transfer: Darwin Airport to Hotel:
Hired Cars and Shuttles in Cairns
Also for Cairns, here are a few examples of actual transportation services:
Airport Transfers between Cairns Airport and Cairns City:
Express Private Transfer from Cairns Airport to Cairns City:
Port Douglas Transfers from Cairns:
Airport Transfer - Cairns City To Airport:
Luxury Van, Private Transfer, Cairns City - Cairns Airport:
Luxury Van, Private Transfer, Cairns Airport -Trinity Beach.:
Cairns Airport transfer to Cairns City:
Luxury Van, Private Transfer, Cairns Airport - Palm Cove.:
Premium Van, Private Transfer, Cairns City - Cairns Airport:
Premium Van, Private Transfer, Cairns Airport - Trinity Beach:
Cairns Airport (CNS) Departure Transfer (Cairns Hotels to Cairns CNS Airport):
Port Douglas Transfers between Cairns Airport & Port Douglas (Private Chauffeur):
Darwin's costs for entertainment, tickets, attractions, and tours will often cost around $15 per person, per day. This cost can vary widely by the type of activity, however, as this includes admission tickets, day tours, museums, and other things to do.
Sightseeing, admission tickets, things to do, and other entertainment expenses in Cairns can vary widely by price. On average, visitors spend around $38 per person, per day on entertainment and sightseeing here.
Tours and Activities in Darwin
Some specific costs of activities, tours, and entrance tickets for Darwin are as follows:
1-Day Wetlands + Wildlife Adventure:
1-Day Wildlife Park + Berry Springs experience:
11-day Darwin to Cairns tour:
2-Day Kakadu and Arnhem Land Tour from Darwin:
3-Day Kakadu & Litchfield 4WD Glamping Tour:
3-Day Kakadu National Park and Arnhem Land Explorer Tour from Darwin:
4-Day Kakadu, Katherine & Litchfield 4WD Glamping Tour:
5 Day Kakadu National Park and Arnhem Land Tour:
9 Day Darwin to Broome Adventure:
9-Day Kimberley Offroad Adventure from Darwin to Broome:
Adelaide River Jumping Crocodile Cruise with Roundtrip Helicopter from Darwin:
Arnhem Land Injalak Hill Full-Day Tour from Darwin:
Typical Entertainment prices in Cairns
Below are a few sample prices from actual travelers for Cairns's activities, tours, and tickets:
Tours and Activities in Cairns
For Cairns, here are a few prices for actual activities, tours, and tickets provided by various companies:
Cairns Zoom & Wildlife Dome Entry Ticket:
Cairns Self-Guided Audio Tour:
Cairns Aquarium Admission Ticket:
Paronella Park Ticket:
Cairns 90-Minute Sunset Cruise with Welcome Drink:
Cairns 2-Hour Harbor Cruise with Afternoon Tea:
From Kuranda Scenic Railway Train Tickets:
Paronella Park and Mamu Tropical Skywalk Ticket Combo:
Half-Day Rainforest River Tubing Adventure:
City Sunset Bike Tour:
Kuranda: 1-Hour Rainforest ATV Tour:
Fitzroy Island Full-Day Adventure Tour from Cairns:
The average person spends about $12 on alcoholic beverages in Darwin per day. The more you spend on alcohol, the more fun you might be having despite your higher budget.
Typically, people visiting Cairns spend on average $8.50 on alcoholic beverages per person, per day.
Typical Alcohol prices in Darwin
Here are a few samples of the prices for alcohol and nightlife in Darwin from other travelers:
Evening at a Bar
Glass of Wine
Sample the Local Flavors in Darwin
Also in Darwin, these are the prices for nightlife and alcohol related activities from various tour providers:
Heli Pub Crawl – 4 Pubs:
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:
When we compare the travel costs of actual travelers between Darwin and Cairns, we can see that Darwin 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 Darwin would naturally cost you much more money, so you would probably want to keep your budget a little tighter in Darwin than you might in Cairns.
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