How Safe Is Cairns for Travel?

Updated On December 22, 2023
Cairns, Australia
Safety Index:
61
* Based on Research & Crime Data
User Sentiment:
100
* Rated 100 / 100 based on 1 user reviews.

Cairns is situated on the beautiful Australian coast and receives significant sunshine each year, making it an ideal vacation destination.

With a population of 170,000, Cairns has grown an average of 1% over the past five years and is the 5th most populous Queensland city and 15th in the country.

The city was founded by Sir William Wellington Cairns in 1876 after finding gold in the Hodgkinson River.

The city has experienced 31,700 reported offenses, a few hundred above average, making it the lowest-ranked city among all Queensland divisions.

This statistic is misleading, considering the bulk of incidences were non-violent, such as property damage, unlawful entry, fraud, theft, and drugs.

Regardless of the offense type, it’s essential always to be aware of your surroundings when visiting the city and never flash valuables.

Keep reading to learn more about the warnings and dangers, safest and least safe destinations to visit, safety types, and other helpful information about Cairns!

Warnings & Dangers in Cairns

Overall Risk

OVERALL RISK: MEDIUM

Cairns is decently safe if you remain vigilant and use common sense. This includes not wandering dark streets and alleys alone at night, ensuring your car and accommodation are locked, and keeping an eye on your belongings. If you're returning to your hotel late at night, choose ride-sharing or a taxi.

Transport & Taxis Risk

TRANSPORT & TAXIS RISK: LOW

Mass transit and taxis are safe and convenient methods of exploring the city and the surrounding area if you don't rent a car. Although few incidences occur on the bus, keeping an eye on your belongings is still important, especially in crowded areas and routes. Also, you can arrange a taxi through your hotel to ensure it's licensed or use a ride-sharing service.

Pickpockets Risk

PICKPOCKETS RISK: LOW

Luckily, pickpocketing is not an issue in Cairns, but minor thefts occasionally occur on mass transit, in major markets, train stations, and other busy places. Always keep an eye on your belongings and don't transport significant sums of cash; only take out what you need for the day.

Natural Disasters Risk

NATURAL DISASTERS RISK: MEDIUM

Given its coastline location, cyclones are a regular occurrence, so it's best to be prepared if you're going during the active season. Also, since it's on the Pacific Rim, earthquakes are common throughout the year, as are floods and fires. Always pay attention to the weather reports before heading out for the day and respect the warnings from the local government.

Mugging Risk

MUGGING RISK: MEDIUM

Although violent crimes are rare in Cairns, they occur due to drug-related offenses. Tourists aren't typically the target of these criminals but can sometimes get into the situation. If attacked, always give criminals what they want as material possessions that can be replaced. After the attack, report the situation to the nearest police station.

Terrorism Risk

TERRORISM RISK: LOW

Australia rarely has terrorist attacks, warnings, or other related incidents since the country has protective measures in case of an issue. Terrorism risk is very low in Cairns, as the focus would be on larger cities like Melbourne and Sydney. In any case, it's always best to avoid protests and demonstrations that could become violent quickly.

Scams Risk

SCAMS RISK: MEDIUM

Certain fraud types, like tourist electronic and card scams, are common in Cairns. Therefore, if you're visiting a local attraction, ensure you purchase entrance fees and tours from licensed and trusted local operators. Also, avoid street distractors who work in pairs to empty your pockets while conversing. Fraud is one of the leading occurrences in 2023 over violent crime, so it's important to be prepared and aware if someone is being overly nice and friendly.

Women Travelers Risk

WOMEN TRAVELERS RISK: LOW

Tap Water Risk

TAP WATER RISK: LOW

Cairns has some of the best tap water in Australia. Although the water may taste slightly different than what you're used to at home, it's only processed and is perfectly safe for consumption. The water is sourced from crystal clear rainforest creeks and brought to a water treatment facility for processing. If you're still concerned about the water, all stores offer an endless supply of bottled water.

Safest Places to Visit in Cairns

The safest destinations in Cairns are all in the suburbs and include Freshwater, Smithfield, Palm Cove, Redlynch, and Trinity Beach.

If you’re going to Cairns to visit the Daintree Rainforest or Great Barrier Reef, then it’s crucial to go with an experienced guide to ensure you’re safe from the local wildlife.

Otherwise, these are incredibly safe local attractions that are easily accessible from Cairns and the surrounding area.

Other safe locations include the multiple lookouts that allow you to soak up the scenery, including Devil’s Pool, Crystal Cascades, Glacier Rock, Nudey Beach, White Rock, The Edge, and Campbells and McArthur lookouts.

These local spots offer beautiful views, but some require a hike, which is generally safe for beginners.

As with any location, bring plenty of water, register with the local ranger’s office, and be alert for wildlife.

Places to Avoid in Cairns

Although Cairns has plenty to offer tourists and is generally a safe place to live, some locations should be avoided based on crime pockets.

According to police statistics, the majority of crimes occur in the city center and Esplanade, which is likely due to the higher population density compared to other areas of the city.

Also, the western suburbs, including Manoora, Mooroobool, and Manunda, have higher-than-average rates of assault.

Additionally, wandering, hiking, or camping in the wilderness is not advisable if you’re inexperienced.

Hikers and campers always go missing once they get out of the city center, so it’s best to go in a group or have an experienced guide to escort you into the Bush.

Safety Tips for Traveling to Cairns

Cairns is a fantastic destination to see Australian wildlife and soak up the sun, but it’s essential to follow these safety tips when visiting:

  1. Be Aware of Your Belongings. Never leave your belongings unattended when traveling on mass transit or in busy public places, as anyone can walk by and scoop them up. This is especially important in Cairns’ city center, where most crimes occur. Also, always keep your wallet and phone in your front pocket, especially in crowded public places.
  2. Be Aware of Your Surroundings. If you’re alone and traveling to bars or staying out late at night, never wander down dark alleys or other areas of Cairns. Many criminals are opportunistic, and these poorly lit areas are the ideal to rob mug, or assault unsuspecting tourists. Also, trust your instinct when in certain areas, and if it doesn’t feel right, leave promptly.
  3. Don’t Hang Towels on Balcony Railings. Hanging towels on the balcony railing at your accommodation indicates to perpetrators that a tourist is occupying the room, and they will know exactly where to look.
  4. Prepare for the Outback. Understanding the scale of Australia’s Outback can be difficult for the unprepared. This massive landscape covers thousands of miles with few villages or towns in between. Therefore, if you’re planning a road trip from Cairns, take precautions, including provisions that can last several days.
  5. Read Local Warnings. Always check with your local state department to ensure traveling to Cairns is safe at that moment. As an added measure, it’s best to check with the local police and Australian government to understand the latest threats further.
  6. Refuse Drinks You Don’t See Being Made. Drugging and robberies occur occasionally, so if a bartender offers you a drink but makes it out of sight, then refuse it since you don’t know what was mixed in. Only accept drinks you’ve watched them make.
  7. Stay Away from Demonstrations. Demonstrations and protests around Cairns occur for various reasons, so it’s always better to steer clear as they can become violent instantly. Remember, this isn’t your city, country, or fight, so let others handle this while you enjoy your vacation.
  8. Swim Between the Yellow and Red Flags. The yellow and red flags indicated where it was safe to swim on Cairns beaches and where the lifeguard was on duty. Also, before traveling to the beach, listen to any local warnings and notice the signs upon arrival. If you’re unclear about the rules or safety for that day, ask a lifeguard if it’s safe. A yellow flag warns of potentially dangerous conditions, while a red flag indicates closed beaches.
  9. Take Precautions While Hiking. If you’re planning a bushwalk from Cairns, a little planning can go a long way. Ensure you are on a clear route and check in with the local ranger’s station so they are aware of your plans. If you go missing, they will know where to search. Also, avoid hiking on sweltering days and take sturdy shoes, a good map, insect repellent, water, and sun protection.
  10. Wear Sunscreen. One of the simplest and most overlooked safety tips is to wear sunscreen, as the sun can be powerful in Cairns. Residents and visitors are advised to wear SPF 30 or higher to protect their skin from harmful rays. In addition to wearing sunscreen, always bring plenty of bottled water to remain hydrated.

So... How Safe Is Cairns Really?

Despite the beautiful coastline and tourist sights, Cairns doesn’t have the best reputation in the country for being the safest city.

The crime index is high due to property damage and drug-related incidences.

However, walking in well-lit areas is generally considered safe, so you should still visit.

Just be aware of your surroundings and belongings, don’t venture down any dark streets alone, and use your instincts.

Also, leave the car locked and in well-guarded parking lots without any valuables in sight.

Furthermore, illegal drugs in Australia can cost significant fines, including jail time, and dealing with drug deals can be highly dangerous.

In addition to criminal danger in the area, be aware of wildlife if you venture out into the wilderness or ocean.

Australia is one of the most dangerous destinations on Earth for different species of harmful animals.

None of this is meant to scare you if you’re planning a visit, as Carins is a beautiful destination; you just need to be vigilant for criminals and wildlife.

Overall, Australia consistently ranks as one of the safest places on Earth, so you likely won’t have any issues when traveling to this gem of a destination.

How Does Cairns Compare?

CitySafety Index
Cairns61
Sydney80
Melbourne80
Canberra88
Gold Coast69
Adelaide88
Brisbane90
Sofia (Bulgaria)73
Siem Reap (Cambodia)63
Phnom Penh (Cambodia)61
Niagara Falls (Canada)87
Calgary (Canada)82
Vancouver (Canada)82

Useful Information

Visas

Visas

The Australian government has a universal visa regime, which means not all non-citizens must have a visa to enter the country. For those countries that require a visa, it's critical to apply online before traveling to the country, as the local government doesn't issue arrival visas.

Currency

Currency

The Australian dollar is the currency within the country and has a '$' designation with an AUD code. To distinguish it from other dollar currencies, you may see the currency listed as AU$ or A$, but most just show the '$' symbol. The Australian dollar is divided into 100 cents.

Weather

Weather

The best time to visit Cairns is between May and October, their winter, since the country sits south of the equator. The average temperatures in the city vary greatly, with humidity in the area for half of the year. Luckily, the other half of the year has lower temperatures with low precipitation.

Airports

Airports

Cairns Airport is a leading regional and international hub serving the city and surrounding areas. Major Australian airlines include Virgin Australia, Jetstar, Qantas, Airnorth, and Bonza. Most international airlines are from Southeast Asia, including Singapore Airlines, Oktedi, and PNG Air.

Travel Insurance

Travel Insurance

Although travel insurance isn't required to be accepted into Australia, experts highly recommend this coverage for health insurance if an issue arises with your flights, baggage, or hotel. Having peace of mind that you're protected in the event of a delay or other problem is worth the cost, especially in such an unpredictable world.

Click here to get an offer for travel insurance

Cairns Weather Averages (Temperatures)

Jan 28° C
Feb 28° C
Mar 27° C
Apr 26° C
May 24° C
Jun 22° C
Jul 22° C
Aug 22° C
Sep 24° C
Oct 25° C
Nov 27° C
Dec 27° C
Choose Temperature Unit

Average High/Low Temperature

Temperature / MonthJanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDec
High
°C
313130292726262628293131
Low
°C
242423222018171719212223
High
°F
888886848179797982848888
Low
°F
757573726864636366707273

Australia - Safety by City

CitySafety Index
Adelaide88
Brisbane90
Cairns61
Canberra88
Darwin70
Gold Coast69
Hobart90
Melbourne80
Perth85
Sydney80
Townsville77
Wollongong55

Where to Next?

1 Review on Cairns

  1. B
    Bob Ross says:

    Its safe sure there are a few bad people but overall growing up here and being raised from here it is absolutely safe, the Great Barrier Reef is very nice

Cairns Rated 5 / 5 based on 1 user reviews.

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