Most people know Bournemouth for its stunning beaches that stretch 10km, the perfect setting for cycling, swimming, BBQ’s and dog walking. Taking full advantage of this epic coastline is a must for travellers! The best time of year to visit is just before summer, when it’s hot but not yet crowded, packed with students hanging out, having drinks in the sun and playing ball games. There are plenty of places to explore in Bournemouth on a budget, with quirky independent shops, Instagrammable restaurants, buzzing piers and even the chance to grab a surfboard and hit the waves! If you’re visiting in August, don’t miss the famous Bournemouth Air Festival.
We’re Shai and Matt, Hostelworld Student Explorers, and having been at Bournemouth Uni for a few years now, it’s safe to say we’ve spent plenty of time getting to know the city and finding out all the best ways to enjoy it without breaking the bank. This is our guide to Bournemouth on a budget!
Free things to do in Bournemouth
- You should visit the beach in Bournemouth – this 7-mile-long beauty is ranked the best beach in the UK and 6th in Europe. There’s no better freebie than chilling out with a picnic on the powdery sand, which is what makes Bournemouth perfect for a UK summer getaway. Gather your hostel mates and get some beach games going.
- Bournemouth and Boscombe Piers should also be on your itinerary. Bring your camera, as these are the best spots for killer views of the coastline. If you have a bit of cash to spare you can try your hand at flying on PierZip, a 250 metre zipline over the sea. You’ll find it at the end of Bournemouth Pier during the summer. A leap of faith over the ocean will cost you £20 per person. One for the thrill seekers!
- Bournemouth town itself is a fantastic place to explore, with tons of independent shops and eateries. Just outside of the centre are the award-winning Bournemouth Gardens, a beautiful green space that’s perfect for a chilled afternoon reading or sunbathing on the grass. There’s also an aviary in the gardens that houses rescued birds, which is open to the public for free.
- Every year, the gardens and town centre are transformed by the Bournemouth Christmas Market. From Friday 15th November to the 1st January 2020 the town will be lit up and is a festive must if you’re visiting Bournemouth over winter. There’s delicious street food, an ice-skating rink and an alpine lodge to get your fill of mulled wine.
- If you want to get active, cheap surf hire can’t be missed. Surf Steps is a surf shack off Boscombe Pier, offering wetsuit and board hire for £15 an hour. The best spots to surf can be found close to the piers if you’re experienced, or you can enjoy the calm waves just in front of the hire shop if you’re a newbie. A fun bit of exercise and a cheap activity for backpackers or students – what’s not to like?
Best cheap restaurants in Bournemouth
Bournemouth is known to be quite pricey thanks to how many visitors flock down the country to experience our sandy beaches. A dinner night out can get very expensive, very quickly, if you don’t know where to go. Here are our top three places to eat in Bournemouth on a budget:
- If you’re a burger lover then Monty’s Lounge is a must. Located in the centre of town, it’s a family-run burger joint owned by two brothers. Expect a seriously indulgent menu offering a variety of burgers, hot dogs, veggie burgers and legendary specials. Don’t miss ‘The Sinner’, a 6 or 12oz beef burger stacked with hash browns, chicken nuggets, bacon, American cheese, garlic mayo and pork BBQ sauce. With everything reasonably priced, plus 2 for 1 cocktails in happy hour, you can have an absolute feast for £15.
- If burgers aren’t your cup of tea, head to Conto Lounge for a wider range of food that includes a separate vegan menu. With a vintage vibe, chilled atmosphere and a dog-friendly sign on the window, this is the perfect place to grab lunch or for a romantic dinner at night where only candles are used to light the place. If there’s a group of you, swing by on Sunday night to grab a bite to eat from their tapas selection and test your knowledge in their weekly quiz at 8pm for the chance of winning a cash prize.
- If Bournemouth town centre is too busy for your liking, why not take a short stroll down the beach to the next pier. If you’re an early-riser it’s a great place to catch the sunrise. There you’ll find Café Boscanova, an adorable spot offering pancake stacks, veggie and vegan dishes. Best described as a buzzy coffee spot with a bohemian vibe. You should get there early to avoid missing out! This little café fills up very quickly, with locals coming in for their morning coffees, freshly cooked bacon and warm, soft pancakes.
- A bonus restaurant if you fancy splashing a bit more cash is NEO, a fantastic spot for a spendy date. This two-floor restaurant with a terrace overlooking Bournemouth beach has unbeatable views of the sunset. With great views though comes a hefty price, but if you’re crafty and visit during set menu hours you can get a three-course meal for £24. Bougie on a budget! With dishes ranging from banging burgers to a more sophisticated wild mushroom and pine nut linguine, there’s something for everyone.
If there’s something that all students know well it’s nightlife, and in Bournemouth there’s somewhere to go every night. There are tons of bars and clubs, all with a favoured night of the week to visit. If you’re after chilled drinks and date nights Bournemouth also has you covered, with the likes of Turtle Bay, Aruba and Las Iguanas all offering great cocktails and plates to share.
Bournemouth nightlife starts on a Friday at The Old Firestation, a student club with £3 tickets. You do however need a Bournemouth student to accompany you, so you better start making local friends if you want to hang out here. Otherwise for backpackers, Cameo or Halo are your best bets. Entry to Halo for events nights is free before 11 and £8 after. Cameo Friday nights are £2 entry, or £6 for a big nights on Saturdays.
Sunday nights are ruled by Snakebite Sundays at Aussie bar Walkabout, a busy night full of students and locals with a cheap £3 entry price. The rest of the week is a mix of Lost Mondays at Lost Paradise, Toast Tuesdays at Revolution, Student sports night at Cameo on Wednesdays, while Thursdays is back at The Old Firestation. That’s Bournemouth’s full circle of nightlife in a nutshell – each night offers something different for everyone, so try them out and see what you like!
Where to stay in Bournemouth
The town centre is the most convenient location to stay in, close to all the action and only a short walk away from all the bars and a stone’s throw from the beach. Lansdowne is a neighbourhood not too far from the centre, and it’s where most of the town’s students live so you can expect plenty of bargains and local gems.
Of course, the best way to find somewhere to stay on a budget is by choosing a hostel in Bournemouth! Prime Backpackers Bournemouth is only 0.8km from the town centre, with dorm rooms from £20 a night or £51 for a private. It has superb reviews from over 200 guests, with modern facilities, friendly staff and both female only and mixed dorms. It couldn’t be easier to make friends here if you’re travelling solo, as they host loads of fun events including movie nights and games evenings, plus you can bring your own booze!
We hope our local tips have got you ready to enjoy Bournemouth on a budget. If you’ve got anything to add, let us know in the comments below. But most importantly, enjoy exploring our town!
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