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Colombia Nightlife: Bars, Discotecas, Dating Tips

A singer performs inside Prizma, a popular reggaeton club in Medellin.

Colombia nightlife offers something for everyone, from sipping mojitos in the plazas of old Cartagena to dancing the night away in the salsa clubs of Cali.

Every big city features a host of theaters for inexpensive music and dance performances. And the rural pueblos in Colombia offer the opportunity to escape the noise and relax in the country.

 

Colombia Nightlife – How to Party in Colombia

Every Colombian city features a Zona Rosa, or central nightlife district, where you'll find the highest density of bars, discotecas (clubs), and restaurants. In Medellin, it's Parque Lleras.

In Cali, it's La Sexta. The more popular pueblos, such as Guatape and Jardin, can have a surprisingly lively bar scene, usually focused around the central plaza.

Best Colombia Hostels for Nightlife

Medellin

Hostel Rango – Arguably one of the most popular hostels in Medellin. A bit more expensive, a minute's walk from Parque Lleras, but also has nightlife all on its own. Compare on Hostelworld and Hotels Combined.

Lleras Park Hostel – Located in Parque Lleras, the city's famous area for bars and clubs, about $8.00 for a bunk, private rooms available also. Compare prices on Hostelworld and Hotels Combined.

Hostal Lleras Calle 8 – Located just one block from Parque Lleras, dorms from $12.00, and privates rooms available. Compare prices on Hostelworld and Hotels Combined.

Cartagena

Hostel Mamallena – Located in the popular Getsemani district, this hostel is big on 24 hour a/c, it has a great-looking patio and bar on site, free pancake breakfast, dorms from $12.00, private rooms available also. Compare on Hostelworld and Hotels Combined.

Republica Hostel – Located in the old walled city. It has a swimming pool, bar, and patio with great music and great vibes, and breakfast is included. Dorms available from $16.50, private rooms also available. Check availability on Hostelworld.

Bogota

The Cranky Croc –  A favorite spot with backpackers, it has a bar and cafe on site, has lots of social events, and nicely located in the city's La Candelaria district. Dorms from $11.50 a night, privates available. Compare on Hostelworld and Hotels Combined.

Casa Bellvista Hostel – Nightlife surrounds this fun and social hostel, also located in La Candelaria. Split over two buildings located a block from each other, it offers a daily free continental breakfast as well. Both dorms and private rooms available, dorms start at $9.00US a night. Compare on Hostelworld and Hotels Combined.

Calí

Local House Hostel – Offering free breakfast and free salsa lessons, this hostel is super close to “la sexta” party district in Barrio Granada. Dorms from $8.50 a night, private rooms are available as well. Compare on Hostelworld and Hotels Combined.

El Viajero Cali Hostel & Salsa School – Entertainment aplenty on the stage in their bar area, there is an outdoor swimming pool as well. Breakfast is included, and the hostel is located in the San Antonio area, which is the historical center. Dorms from $11, compare on Hostelworld and Hotels Combined.

When to Go Out

Colombia nightlife is pretty quiet Sunday through Wednesday unless you know the right places to go to (ask the locals).

Otherwise, Wednesday and Thursdays offer ladies night at certain discotecas, which can help bring out the locals.

Friday nights are popular. However, Saturday nights are the busiest nights of the week.

Arrive early (before 11 PM) to get a good table at discotecas on the weekends, and avoid any lines at the popular places.

Closing times vary by location. However, most regular bars close by 2 AM, while discotecas stay open until 4 AM. Some late, late-night venues in big cities remain open until dawn.

What to Wear

Dress codes apply to a tiny minority of high-end clubs in the big cities. 99% of the time, you won't need to worry about dressing up for a night of partying.

For both men and women, jeans, t-shirts, and sneakers are fine. Colombian women take great care in their appearance and tend to dress up more than men.

Crossover Clubs

The majority of bars and discotecas in Colombia play what's known as “crossover” music.

This means the DJ's mix up various genres of Latin music, including salsa, merengue, vallenato, reggaeton, bachata, and cumbia.

This can be a little confusing if you're not already familiar with Latin music. However, the variety is appreciated by most Colombians (versus going to an all-reggaeton or all-salsa club).

Social Dynamics

Most Colombians go out partying in groups mixed with friends, boyfriends/girlfriends, and family. It's not unusual to see girls out partying with their sisters, cousins, aunts, and moms.

At the start of the night (9 – 11 PM), everyone will be inside the bar or discoteca drinking and talking within their social groups.

As more alcohol is consumed, and the venue fills up, there's a tipping point where more and more people start getting up to dance.

If you get to a club early, don't be surprised if you see everyone sitting around.  

Give it time, and an hour or two later the girls may be dancing on the tables and chairs without abandon.

As a result of the group dynamic, it can be hard for travelers to meet Colombians at bars and clubs.

The best approach is to be friendly and straightforward. The guys should ask a girl to dance or start a casual conversation.

Offer the people at the table next to you shots of Aguardiente to help break the ice. When all else fails, have fun and go with the flow.

Dancing

Dancing is central to the Colombia nightlife experience. To get the most fun out of your nights, take a few salsa lessons ($10 – $12/hour for private lessons).

Colombians are polite, and most will dance with someone when invited (out of proper etiquette).

For the guys, reggaeton music is easy to dance to — ask the woman to dance (Bailamos?).

For foreign women, even if you're used to inviting guys to dance in your home country, it's not normal in Colombia, and the Colombian guys *might* feel uncomfortable if you ask them.

Colombians love to dress up and party for Halloween.

Colombians love to dress up and party for Halloween.

Dating Tips

Colombian Women

Overall, Colombian women have a positive reputation as being very friendly and approachable.

The prettier the girl, the more important it is that you speak Spanish if you expect to talk with her and build rapport.

The most beautiful ones know it and may not have the patience for a foreigner who can't speak the local language.

Unlike in some English-speaking countries, women will more freely give out their phone numbers, which is in no way an assurance that you'll see her again.

The man is expected to initiate calls and texts, at least in the beginning.

Colombian society is still very traditional, and many women are on the lookout for their (foreign) knight in shining armor. Or at least a proper first date (dinner, drinks, dancing, movie), before things get physical.

All men, both Colombian and foreign, should be on high alert for women using them for their money.

Colombian Men

Colombian men are passionate, have an especially macho persona, and are known to be jealous (just like the women).

There's a high degree of infidelity in Colombia (which works both ways).

While foreign women do date (and marry) Colombian men, most foreign women I've talked to are not so interested in the local guys.

Of course, there are always exceptions. 

Sex in Colombia

Most Colombians live with their parents or extended family until they are married.

Unless you're dating a professional, it's unlikely you'll be spending the night at a Colombian man or woman's home.

Out of necessity, love motels are widely available throughout the country and offer privacy and comfort for couples looking for intimacy.

Always use protection. Condoms are available at all pharmacies and drug stores, and even the cheap ones from a bar or discoteca bathroom are better than nothing. If possible, bring your favorites from home as the selection is limited.

You may even want to consider bringing a small sex toy for a lady to make the night unforgettable.

The morning-after pill is available at pharmacies. Abortion is illegal.

In all seriousness, Colombian women are often left to raise children as single parents, supported by their parents and grandparents.

The lack of choice women have to terminate unwanted pregnancies means many of the younger ones get stuck in a generational cycle of poverty.

Be responsible. Don't contribute to this situation. 

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Medellin Travel GuideThe 138-page, all-original Medellín Travel Guide by David Lee is available for Kindle and PDF.

Last Updated on September 7, 2021 by Dave Lee

Mark

Friday 8th of June 2018

Great place to get killed. Snowflakes believe everything they see on tv. Sad really.

Dave

Monday 11th of June 2018

Actually, it's a lot safer than it used to be. I lived in Colombia for 3.5 years, and I know many American friends who are living there by choice.

The fact is there's plenty of senseless (especially gun) violence in my own country, the United States. In the instances I knew about where foreigners were killed in Colombia, it was because they either 1) were involved in sex tourism, or 2) were reported to have resisted being robbed.

The vast majority of foreigners who visit or live in Colombia will be fine. You greatly improve your odds of staying safe by not getting involved with sex tourism, drugs, and in the case of being approached on the street by robbers, not resisting.

Joseph Foster

Friday 28th of October 2016

Netflix true crime series Narcos spurs huge demand for Colombian women.

Produced by Netflix, the show "Narcos" takes on the infamous Medellin drug cartel which follows the rise and fall of Colombian kingpin Pablo Escobar and the Drug Enforcement Agency agents hunting him. The story is told largely from the points of view of Escobar (Brazilian actor Wagner Moura) and U.S. DEA Agent Steve Murphy (Boyd Holbrook), on opposite sides of what would become an all-out war.

Many critics of true crime dramas have always complained they are promoting crime and violence by glorification, an unintended consequence of American entertainment industries. These shows can have other interesting consequences.  The Foreign Bride industry has seen a huge spike in demand for Colombian women. This can be viewed as positive or negative, depending on social perspective.

Foreign Brides, sometimes referred to as "mail order brides", a term the industry completely rejects, have become a billion dollar a year business.  According to industry leaders, Colombia represented only about 3% of the market three years ago.  Since the popularity of Narcos, many companies have seen near tenfold increases in men seeking Colombian wives.

A Foreign Affair (AFA), a company that helps men find women through international tours, says tours to Colombia are now selling out. AFA arranges group tours where 10 to 20 men travel together to Medellin, Cartagena or Barranquilla. During the tour, they attend arranged Social events where the men meet hundreds of beautiful Colombian women looking for marriage. Women can also place their profiles on the AFA web site, in the hopes of finding a husband.

Kenneth Agee, the marketing director for AFA says, "Because of the show we are doubling our tours to Medellin for next year. Narcos has brought a lot of attention to the intense beauty of Colombian women.  Although the show is often very violent, the women of Colombia come across as very family oriented and loyal. These values seem harder and harder to find in this world. I would have to agree, because of the interest in Narcos, we even added an excursion to where Pablo's self-built prison was located, in the hills overlooking Medellin.

The crowning of 2015 Miss Universe Paulina Vega put Barranquilla, Colombia on the map. Barranquilla now has recognition for being home to some of the most beautiful and talented women in the world. Not only is Miss Universe from here, Grammy Award winning pop singer Shakira, and actress Sofia Vergara also call Barranquilla home.  Vergara stars on the ABC series Modern Family as Gloria Delgado-Pritchett. She's been nominated for 4 Golden Globe Awards, 4 Prime time Emmy Awards, and 7 Screen Actors Guild Awards, all stemming from this role. In 2014, she was ranked as the 32nd Most Powerful Woman in the world by Forbes.

David from Mesa AZ says he met more qualified women in one week than he has during the last 10 years. In 2010, Lisa Ling and the Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN) filmed a one hour show on the AFA tour called "Online Brides - Our America with Lisa Ling."  Even Lisa Ling was surprised by the beauty and sincerity of the women from Barranquilla.

Janet Davis, head of a women's rights group says "AFA is just taking advantage of women from these third world countries. This is no different than Pablo trafficking in narcotics, but these companies traffic women." Proponents refer to a Report (INTERNATIONAL MATCHMAKING ORGANIZATIONS: A REPORT TO CONGRESS) that these marriages have much lower divorce rates and abuse rates compared to traditional domestic marriages. This data makes international dating similar to a woman in the US joining eHarmony to look for a husband.

23-year-old Viviana, from Cartagena, says "I come to these events because I know the men attending are serious about marriage, they are faithful and are good to family. For Colombian women, it is the most important thing, good husband and good family.

Kenneth says, "It has not been all rosy. Narcos has brought us some problems. In Cartagena, we have several Penthouses we rent out.  One was originally owned by "Don Diego" head of the Norte Del Velle Drug Cartel, the other by Pablo's people. Over the past year, the properties have been tracked down by individuals thinking they will find large qualities of cash hidden, thus we sometimes find holes all over the walls after a tenant leaves.

For Narcos fans, those who love the gangster genre, or just those who just like seeing beautiful Latin women, there's good news; Netflix's has confirmed Season 3 and 4.

guy

Thursday 4th of May 2017

ya and now lonely planet named it #2 travel destination for 2017, very trendy place to go at the moment