General Info about Cairns, Australia

The currency used is the Australian dollar (AUD) which is made up of 100 cents. Notes are in denominations of $5, $10, $20, $50 and $100 and the coins in use are 5c, 10c, 20c, 50c, $1 and $2.

Because Cairns has a tropical climate there are really only two seasons, the wet and the dry. The dry season runs from June to October and the wet from November to May. It never really gets cold and even during the wet season the rain usually drains away in a couple of hours. So, for most of the year the weather in Cairns is perfect with blue skies and mild breezes to ensure that it never becomes unbearably hot making it one of the country’s most popular destinations.

Time Zone
Cairns is ten hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time.

Opening Hours
While many shops in the city now trade on Sundays, the general opening hours of most shops are between 8.00am and 9.00pm from Monday to Friday and from 8.00am until 5.30pm on Saturdays. Those that do open on Sundays usually do so between 1.00pm and 8.00pm. Some of the bigger shopping centres such as The Pier open even later as do convenience stores in the area. Office hours are normally from 8.30am until 5.00pm from Monday to Friday.

Electricity in Australia is 220-240V.

Last year a 10% Goods and Services Tax (GST) was introduced in Australia and this applies to most products and services. Under the Tourist Refund Scheme, however, visitors can claim a tax refund on any purchases which cost over AU$300, were bought in the same shop and which were purchased within the last month of your stay in the country. To avail of this service you need to hand in your receipt at customs and your refund will be paid there and then.

Visa Requirements
All visitors to Australia need a passport and a visa. Those from New Zealand are issued a visa on arrival; all other visitors must obtain one in advance. There are several different types of visa depending on the reason for visiting, but most holiday visitors will need a standard tourist visa. To apply for a visa you’ll need an application form, available from Australian diplomatic missions overseas and many travel agents. There’s a US$33 fee for a three-month stay and you’ll have to provide your passport and a passport photo with your application. Visitors between the ages of 18 and 30 from Britain, Ireland, Canada, Holland, Malta, South Korea and Japan may be eligible for a working holiday visa. You can work either full-time or part-time for as much of the year that you want, but you can’t work for the same employer for more than 3 months.

Tourist Office
The main tourist office in Cairns is the Tropical North Queensland Information Centre and it is located at 51 The Espalande. It is open daily between 8.30am and 5.30pm. You will also find tourist information at the Community Information Service in the Tropical Arcade which is situated off Shields Street. This is also open daily until 5.30pm.

Currency Exchange
Changing both foreign currency or traveller’s cheques is not problem in Cairns and can be carried out in any one of the city’s number of banks. Normal opening hours are between 9.30am and 4.00pm from Monday to Thursday and they open until 5.00pm on Fridays. You will also find foreign exchange bureaus at the airport and scattered throughout the city centre, particularly around the intersection of Shields and Abbot streets. These usually have more extensive opening hours but their commission is higher and the rates they offer are usually not as impressive.

All major credit cards are also widely accepted and if you have the PIN you can also use these to receive cash in compatible bank machines. The same applies to bankcards which are members of any of the international banking networks including Cirrus and Plus.

The country code for Australia is 61 and the area code for Cairns is 07. Dial this number first if calling from outside Queensland and omit the 0 if calling from overseas. Local calls from public phones cost 40c for an unlimited amount of time. You can make local calls from Telstra payphone booths and also from the gold and blue phones found in many shops and hotels. Long-distance calls can be made from almost any public phone. Many public phones accept Telstra Phonecards which come in $5, $10, $20 and $50 denominations and are available from retail outlets which display the Phonecard logo. Otherwise you can use coins of 10 cents and upwards. Long-distance calls are charged according to distance and rates vary depending on what time you call. The lowest rates are currently at weekends and after 8pm during the week.

Post Office
The main post office in Cairns is located at 13 Grafton Street opposite the Cairns Convention Centre. It is open between 8.30 and 5.00pm from Monday to Friday. There is also a branch situated upstairs in the Orchid Plaza on Lake Street which opens on Saturday mornings.

In Australia tipping is not compulsory as it is in America and some parts of Europe. It is considered as a ‘thank you’ for good service rather than an obligation. If you decide to tip the amount should be in accordance with how good you felt the service was. Ten percent of the bill is considered reasonable.

Public Holidays
It is worth noting what the public holidays are before you travel to a country as the majority of businesses, banks and shops usually shut for the day. In Australia they occur on January 1st, January 26th,Good Friday, Easter Monday, April 25th, June 12th, December 25th and December 26th. It is a good idea to check the particular area too as certain towns and cities also shut down during special events.

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