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 live music and dance performances.
And the rural pueblos in Colombia offer the opportunity to escape the noise and relax.
Colombia Nightlife – How to Party in Colombia
Each Colombian city features a Zona Rosa, or central nightlife district, where you'll find the highest density of bars, discotecas (clubs), and restaurants. If it's your first time in a city, they're the best place to start your night.
The center of Medellin's nightlife is Parque Lleras in El Poblado. And 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
Hostel Rango – Arguably one of the most popular hostels in Medellin. A bit more expensive, a minute's walk from Parque Lleras, but it also has nightlife all on its own.
Hostal Lleras Calle 8 – Located just one block from Parque Lleras, dorms for $12 and private rooms are available.
Hostel Mamallena – Located in the Getsemani district, this hostel is big on 24-hour air conditioning. It has a great-looking patio and a bar on-site, free pancake breakfast, dorms from $12, and private rooms available.
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 are available from $16, and private rooms are also available.
The Cranky Croc – A favorite spot with backpackers, it has a bar and cafe on site, lots of social events, and is nicely located in the city's La Candelaria district. Dorms from $11 a night, privates available.
Casa Bellvista Hostel – Nightlife surrounds this fun and social hostel in La Candelaria.
Split over two buildings located a block from each other, it offers a daily complimentary continental breakfast. Dorms and private rooms are available, starting at $9 a night.
Local House Hostel – Offering complimentary breakfast and free salsa lessons, this hostel is close to the La Sexta party district in Barrio Granada.
Dorms from $8.50 a night, and private rooms are also available.
El Viajero Cali Hostel & Salsa School – This is a great place to base yourself. There's an on-site salsa school, entertainment on a stage in their bar area, and an outdoor swimming pool.
Breakfast is included, and the hostel is located in the historical center of San Antonio. Dorms from $11.
When to Go Out
Colombia nightlife is pretty quiet Sunday through Wednesday unless you know the best areas to go (ask the locals for the latest hotspots).
Otherwise, Wednesdays and Thursdays offer ladies' nights at certain discotecas, which can help bring out the local people.
Friday nights are popular. And like much of Latin America, Saturday nights are the busiest.
Arrive early at the best bars and discotecas (before 11 PM) to get a good table and avoid any lines to get in.
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 bars and clubs in big cities, such as Envy Rooftop bar at the Charlee Hotel in Medellin (gorgeous views).
99% of the time, you won't need to worry about dressing up for a night of partying.
Jeans, t-shirts, and sneakers are typically fine. Colombian women take great care of their appearance and tend to dress up more than men.
Lots of bars and discotecas in Colombia play what's known as “crossover” music. This means the DJs mix up various genres of Latin music, including salsa, merengue, vallenato, reggaeton, bachata, and cumbia.
This can be a little confusing if you're unfamiliar with Latin music. However, the variety is appreciated by most Colombians (versus going to an all-reggaeton or all-salsa club).
If a bar or discoteca features a live band, like Trilogia in Medellin, they'll usually have a DJ play crossover music between sets.
If you're into EDM, know that larger cities like Medellin, Bogota, and Cali also have electronic music clubs where you can get your fix.
Many Colombians go partying in groups with friends, boyfriends/girlfriends, and family. It's not unusual to see women drinking 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; an hour or two later, you may see women dance on the tables and chairs. Who needs a dance floor?
As a result of the group dynamic, it can be challenging for travelers to meet Colombians at bars and the best clubs.
The best approach is to be friendly and straightforward. The guys can ask women to dance or start casual conversations. If you can speak Spanish, it's helpful.
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 is central to the Colombian nightlife experience. Take a few salsa lessons to get the most fun out of your nights ($10 – $12/hour for private dance classes).
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 a woman to dance (Bailamos?).
For foreign women, even if you're used to inviting guys to dance in your home country, it's not customary in Colombia. The Colombian guys might be caught off guard if you ask them.
Related: Nightlife in Ecuador
Overall, Colombian women have a positive reputation as being very friendly and approachable.
The prettier the woman, the more important it is to speak Spanish if you expect to talk with her and build rapport.
The most beautiful ones know it and may not be patient with foreigners who can't speak the local language.
Unlike in some English-speaking countries, women will give out their phone numbers more freely, 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 patriarchal, and many women are on the lookout for their knight in shining armor. Or at least a proper first date (dinner, drinks, dancing, movie) before things get physical.
Colombian men are passionate, have an incredibly macho persona, and are known to be jealous.
Colombia has a high degree of infidelity (which works both ways).
While foreign women date (and marry) Colombian men, most foreign women I've talked to are not interested in 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 spend 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 seeking intimacy.
Condoms are available at all pharmacies and drug stores. 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.
In all seriousness, many Colombian women are left to raise children as single parents, supported by their parents and grandparents, and this contributes to a generational cycle of poverty.
There's a lot of fun once you get the hang of Colombia's nightlife. Be safe and have fun!
The 138-page, all-original Medellín Travel Guide by David Lee is available for Kindle and PDF.
Last Updated on January 21, 2023 by Dave Lee
Dave is the Founder and Editor in Chief of Go Backpacking and Feastio. He's been to 66 countries and lived in Colombia and Peru. Read the full story of how he became a travel blogger.
Friday 8th of June 2018
Great place to get killed. Snowflakes believe everything they see on tv. Sad really.
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.
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.
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