by Alex Kessaram
Australia reminds many things from the Great Barrier Reef, kangaroos, koala bears, dingos, and Sydney, the cultural capital of New South Wales. As for the average backpacker, Australia is a haven filled with hostels and lots to do without spending a lot of money, because let’s face it, the airfare alone is where you will be spending the heavy majority of your money just to get there and back.
But one of the most sought out things to do in Australia and probably high on anyone’s list, is to visit the Great Barrier Reef. But where to even start looking at how to get there, where to stay, or even what to do? There are endless possibilities; the key is to sort out priorities. Australia is definitely a place you can’t visit in just one or two weeks. Cairns (pronounced like “Cannes”, after the French film festival) is a major tourist city with lots of activities that caters to those travelling on a small or medium budget.
The local airport hosts an international terminal and a national terminal, both within walking distance of each other. Local taxi fare can cost around $15AUD depending on the destination within the city, or there is the option of an airport bus transfer, which is about half the price. Cairns can be a very young city, usually catering mostly to families and young backpackers. The best places to stay can depend on the needs. The Youth Hostel Association (or YHA, nationwide organization that oversees a lot of good quality hostels in the country, also has international sister companies), has one here, which can cost around $34AUD a night for a single room. Double occupancy can run up to $54AUD. This is considered to be on the “high” end of hostel prices. Most hostels in this area cost around $15AUD, for example Reef Backpackers. Kitchens and free internet are also included in most of these hostels. Always better to check out the hostel website first.
For the mid-range spender and for families, the Holiday Inn ($150AUD per night) and the Grosvenor Inn, which has self-contained studios and apartment style-living are better.
There is a lot to do other than visiting the Great Barrier Reef in Cairns. If you want to stay on land, check out the artificial lagoon near the pier. It is free to the public, and there is even some sand on one side. There are no natural beaches in Cairns, but you can catch a bus to some beaches in the north. Just be careful of “stinger” season, which runs from October to April.