How to Get from Cairns Airport to Cairns City in 2022

People think about three main things when working out how to get from Cairns Airport to Cairns City: what’s easiest, what’s cheapest and what’s fastest. No matter which transport option you choose, you can normally only achieve one or two of these factors.

If you’re looking for transfers from Cairns Airport there are plenty of ways to get into Cairns city. These options include: shared airport transfers, private airport transfers, taxis, Uber, hotel shuttle services and car hire. There are no train services from Cairns airport and the closest bus stop is a 10-15 minute walk away.

Cairns Waterfront
Cairns Waterfront

We’ll be looking at the pros and cons of each of the available Cairns airport transport options, as well as estimated costs and the estimated time to get into the CBD area. By giving you information on convenience, cost and speed, we’ll help you decide which transport choice is right for you.

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How far is Cairns Airport from the City Centre

Cairns Airport is 5.8 kilometres (3.6 miles) north of the centre of Cairns. The map below shows you how to travel from Cairns Airport into the CBD.

Which transport option is right for you

In the comparison table below, we’ve provided some costs and estimated transfer times for each of the main transport options. For the two Cairns airport transfer choices (private transfers and shared airport transfers) we’ve given actual costs as at July 2022. For taxis, Uber and car hire we’ve provided estimated costs, as there are a wide range of factors that can affect the final cost.

Transfer Option

Cost per Adult

Cost for 2 adults & 2 Kids (under 11)

Approximate Transfer Time

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Shared Airport Transfers

A$ 18 per adult (age 12+)


A$ 54

(A$ 9 for  3-11 year olds)

15-20 minutes (inc. dropping-off other passengers)


Private Airport Transfers

A$ 78 (for up to 3 people)

A$ 107 (for 4-7 people)

10 minutes

Taxi

A$ 20 to A$30 (up to 3 people)


Need Maxi Taxi

10 minutes + wait time for taxi

Uber

A$ 20 to A$30 (Uber X)

Need Uber XL

10 minutes + wait time for Uber

In the rest of this article, we have provided you with more detailed information for each of the main transport choices. In addition to the transport options in the comparison table, we’ve included two other options. The first is to use a Hotel Shuttle Service if it’s available for your accommodation. The second option is to hire a car.

We believe that shared airport transfers provide the best combination of convenience, cost and speed.

Shared Airport Transfers

Shared airport transfers are a very convenient and cost-effective option to get from Cairns Airport to Cairns CBD. Because everything is organised in advance, you’ll have one less thing to think about on arrival which helps reduce stress.

We recommend the Cairns Airport shuttle bus service available through Get Your Guide. It’s a highly rated airport transfer service that’s received heaps of positive reviews. The cost for the service is A$ 18 per adult (age 12 and up) and A$ 9 per child (age 3-11). The fixed price is also an advantage over services like taxis.

On your arrival in Cairns, you will be greeted by your airport concierge or driver and then you’ll be guided to your waiting vehicle. You can then sit back, relax and enjoy the drive to your accommodation. From Cairns Airport to city centre, the journey time will be about 15-20 minutes.

Using a shared airport transfer service is just as convenient as organising a private transfer in that you can organise both in advance. It is also one of the cheapest options (depending on your group size) and is the cheapest for a single traveller.

The downside is it’s a little slower than other transfer options as you may have to wait for other people that you’ll be travelling with before leaving the airport and also the extra time taken dropping off other people to their accommodation.

Click here to book a shared airport transfer from Cairns Airport through Get Your Guide.

Private Transfers Cairns

Organising a private airport transfer from Cairns Airport to Cairns city is the most convenient, most relaxing and quickest choice to get to Cairns CBD as the vehicle is exclusively for your group.

It is also the easiest option on arrival because you organise everything in advance translating into less stress on arrival. Other benefits are that private airports transfers have a fixed price. Drivers also monitor flight times and can adjust pick-up times if there are flight changes.

You organise a private transfer before arriving in Cairns using a company such as Get Your Guide. They offer a highly regarded transfer service with an overall customer rating of 4.7 out of 5. With this service, you are greeted at the airport by a concierge or driver, they look after your luggage and you follow them to their vehicle and then they drive you to your accommodation. The total journey time will be about 10 minutes depending on the location of your accommodation and the level of traffic.

For these benefits, you’ll generally pay a small premium compared to the cost of other transfer options. Through Get Your Guide, it will cost $78 for up to 3 people, or $107 for between 4-7 people. Sometimes, private transfers can also be the cheapest option. For example, with a large group of 7 people the per person cost works out to be just over A$ 15 per person.

Private transfers are the easiest choice and also the fastest choice to get to Cairns city. It’s a smooth and efficient service that will have you relaxing and unwinding the fastest of all the transfer options. However, you’ll normally pay a little more (depending on group size) for these extra benefits when compared to other transport choices.

Click here to book a private airport transfer from Cairns Airport through Get Your Guide.

Taxi

Another good transfer option is to take a taxi from Cairns airport to the city centre. The taxi provider in Cairns is Cairns Taxis. Their taxi fleet has a mix of vehicle types including maxi taxis. The smaller vehicles are for up to 3-4 people and the maxi taxis are for 5 to 10 people. However, if you have a lot of luggage, the smaller vehicles may only be OK for to 2-3 people at most before you should consider using a maxi taxi.

The benefit of using a taxi is that it will get you to your accommodation quickly (about 10 minutes) but you may have to allow some time waiting for a taxi at the taxi rank or have to compete for taxis against other people during peak periods. Both the domestic and international terminals have a sheltered 24/7 taxi rank at the front of each terminal building.

Approach to Cairns Airport
Approach to Cairns Airport

Another benefit of using a taxi is that it is theoretically one of the cheaper options. However, unlike private or shared airport transfers it is not a fixed up-front cost.

In the comparison table above we’ve estimated that a normal-sized taxi will cost A$20 to $30. However, the cost can vary quite a bit due to factors such as when you are travelling and the distance of the journey. Extra costs can also apply if you are travelling in a larger vehicle (such as a people mover or maxi taxi) or a luxury vehicle. What you think is a cheap option may end up costing you more than a fixed priced option like shared airport transfer.

Another downside to using a taxi is that unless you’ve travelled light, you’ll have to lug your heavy suitcases to the taxi rank.

Uber

Booking an Uber is pretty similar to booking a taxi in many respects but you also have access to the extra user-friendly app features such as driver profile information.

When using Uber to get from Cairns Airport to Cairns City you have a few choices of vehicles based on the number of people in your group. Uber X takes up to up to 3 people, Uber XL takes up to 5 people and there is also the choice of Uber Comfort. As with taxis, if you have a lot of luggage and more than a couple of people in your group you may want to consider booking a larger Uber vehicle.

There are dedicated ride-share pick-up areas at both the Cairns Domestic and Cairns International Terminals. Look for the ride share pick-up signs outside the terminals. Once you’ve requested an Uber ride, you’ll also get directions to the ride-share zone through the Uber app. Your driver’s name, license plate and vehicle colour will also be shown within the app.

Cairns Airport
Cairns Airport Sign

In our comparison table, you’ll see that the cost of using the ride share service Uber is about the same as the cost of using a taxi. Also, as with taxis the actual cost of an Uber ride can vary quite a lot. However, you can request an upfront fare so that you will know the exact cost of the trip which reduces some of the price uncertainty.

Remember that with Uber, you’ll also have to lug your suitcases and other luggage to the ride-share zone.

Hotel Shuttle Service

Some hotels in Cairns offer complimentary pick-ups from Cairns airport so it’s always worthwhile checking with your accommodation provider whether they offer such a service. When liaising with your hotel, also ask how the service operates. For example, it may run to a regular schedule (which could mean you are waiting for some time) or they might be able to be booked specifically for your arrival. Some hotel shuttle services may also operate for limited hours in the day.

Depending on how the hotel’s shuttle service operates it may prove to be a cost-effective and sensible choice. However, if the hotel shuttle is neither flexible nor convenient, look at another option to get from Cairns airport into the city.

Cairns Waterfront and CBD
Cairns Waterfront and CBD

Cairns Car Hire

If you’re staying in the heart of Cairns with ready access to all the attractions you want to enjoy, hiring a car may not make much sense. However, if you’re wanting maximum flexibility, not wanting to participate in group tours and are intending to explore the area around Cairns, hire cars are the way to go. Check in advance, but many accommodation providers in Cairns will have car parking available.

Since COVID-19 hit, car rental prices are still quite high. Expect to pay in the range of A$200 per day for a smaller hire car.

At Cairns Airport, there is a wide range of hire car options for both domestic and international travellers. Many major car hire companies are located at Cairns Airport and have counters in the arrivals area of both the Domestic and International terminals.

To find the best car hire option, check out the Discover Cars comparison site. You can either book through Discover Cars, or use the information to click on the individual car hire companies below to finalise your booking. If you book with these companies using one of our links we receive a small commission at no extra cost to you.

How to get from Cairns Airport to Cairns City
How to get from Cairns Airport to Cairns City

Join the Great Barrier Reef Travel Planning Facebook Group

Check out our Great Barrier Reef Travel Planning Facebook Group – you are welcome to join and it is a great resource to enable you to ask questions about your Great Barrier Reef trip, including gateway towns and what to do on land!

Great Barrier Reef Travel Planning Facebook Group - Website Version

Disclaimer: This article contains affiliate links. If you book after clicking on one of these links then we may receive a small commission at no extra cost to you.

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