Why Nightlife in Latin America Sometimes Sucks

It was rough. Well, that would be an understatement. My buddy and I had been rolling around Zona Colonial in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. It was a Saturday night and we were looking to party.

Being our second week in the country, we were just walking around the area and checking out any bar or club we heard music from. After a half dozen attempts, we didn’t find anything that looked half decent.

Then we turned the corner to see a line. A line filled with good looking Dominican women dressed to kill. We immediately hopped in line.

Our hopes were high seeing the stunners outside while hearing the blaring reggaeton inside. Could this be the best Santo Domingo nightlife spot around?

Sadly, it wasn’t. The night was brutal. The spot was filled with upper-class Dominicans standing around tables in huge groups.

My buddy and I posted up at the bar. We grabbed a few beers and glanced around the room. No one was mingling. All the conversations were happening within their groups.

No puedo conquistar esta noche ;(

Hell, no one was even dancing. A bar in the Dominican Republic where no one dances? That ain’t right! Still, the night was young and we’d already downed a few too many beers.

It was time to socialize. Being the gregarious gringos we were, the plan was simple. Make some friends and hit on some women. Nothing too complex.

I tried chatting up a girl that came to the bar. She looked at me like a was a leper before moving to a different part of the bar. She didn’t even use words when responding to me. Just an eye roll before getting as far away from me as possible. Painful.

The night didn’t get better from there. No one in this club wanted to chat with the gringos. Dominicans are known for being friendly, but this place was high-end and snobby as hell.

At one point, my buddy and I got separated. After a few unsuccessful attempts to mingle solo, I found him tonguing down a girl that could only be described as big boned.

She was literally the fattest girl in the bar. Hell, she might have been one of the fatter girls in the whole country.

And she was the only person in that snobby ass club that would even have a conversation with us…

While bumping rhythms, delicious rum, and good looking Latinas come to mind when talking about nightlife in Latin America, the reality is it can sometimes suck.


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Why Nightlife in Latin America Sometimes Sucks

The tale above illustrates some of the varied problems with partying in Latin America. While I fancy myself a connoisseur of nightlife in Latin America, it can be damn difficult to find a good spot to party in many cities throughout the region.

Here’s why:

  • Big Groups

People tend to go out in big groups when partying in Latin America. While certain cities are exceptions to the rule, things just aren’t like the United States.

In the U.S., you might roll to the bar with a few buddies and plan to meet up with friends or meet some chicks while there.

In Latin America, people often go out in groups of 5-8 people. They’ve typically known each other for years or maybe work together.

While you think of the bar or club as a place to mingle with others, many a Latino views a night out as time to spend with close friends, family, and co-workers.

Personally, I hate this. Why do I want to go pay for overpriced drinks to have conversations with people I actually like? We can do that anywhere and sober.

If I’m flushing money down the toilet on overpriced liquor, I’m only doing so because I need the excitement of meeting new people. I want to flirt with some women and make bad life choices – not listen to gossip about people from my high school or co-workers.

  • Too Many Tables

As most people go out in big groups while partying in Latin America, many bars cater to their clientele. This means bars and clubs are filled with tables.

It’s common to see a massive bar and dancefloor completely covered with tables on a Saturday night. Instead of socializing and mingling with others, people buy a bottle of liquor and stand around their table all damn night.

The music blares and you have half-hearted conversations by yelling into someone’s ear. Dancing is secondary unless you’re with the girlfriend and a whole lot of posing occurs.

These days I legitimately won’t pay cover before going into a new place – unless they let me view the bar before paying. Why? Because I know the bar will suck if I walk in and it’s filled with tables from front to back.

Typical club set up in Latin America.

  • The Danger Issue

Many places in Latin America are quite dangerous. In fact, somewhere like 42 out of the most 50 dangerous cities in the world reside in Latin America (Source). Common sense tells us that a majority of crimes are committed at night.

Thus, nightlife in Latin America is hindered by the looming danger. Like previously mentioned, people tend to go out in big groups.

Women also rarely go out alone. Most girls prefer or their families force them to go out with a brother, cousin, or male co-worker when they want to party. Again, leading to large groups at the bar.

But that’s not the only way danger plays a role. People are also more wary of strangers. At night in many Latin American cities, everyone is a threat – unless your group knows them.

So, people are naturally more closed off. This factor is more pronounced in some areas than others. For example, I’d say the nightlife in Cali, Colombia has been hindered by this factor for years.

  • Working Women

Due to the disparity between rich and poor in many Latin American countries, you’ll also find a lot more girls turn to sex tourism to make ends meet. This means you’re more likely to run into a girl who is working at the bar.

If a girl goes out alone in Latin America, you can almost guarantee she’s working. Even girls out with only one other friend are often “prepagos” in places like Colombia or the Dominican Republic.

While you can avoid this pretty easily in most places by simply going to the right venues, it ruins the night when you’ve chatted and danced with a girl for an hour or two – only to find out she’s a hooker at the end of the night.

Cities Where Nightlife in Latin America Doesn’t Suck

Now, this article might be depressing but fear not. There are tons of places in Latin America where the nightlife is bumping and traveling gringos can have a damn good time.

You just have to know where to look.

Certain cities offer better nightlife than others, especially for gringos used to partying in the Western world.

If you like to party, I recommend places like:

  • Bogota
  • Lima
  • Santo Domingo
  • Mexico City
  • Playa del Carmen
  • Rio de Janiero

In all of these cities, you can escape the woes of nightlife in Latin America – while still enjoying most of the benefits.

Why? Because big cities allow people to get away from their high school friends and mingle with new people. As you may have noticed, most of the cities on that list are some of the biggest in Latin America – sans Playa del Carmen.

Personally, I’ve found the nightlife in Bogota, Colombia and Lima, Peru to be absolutely spectacular. If you speak a little Spanish and like to party, these are two cities I’d start in.

Nightlife in Latin America Sometimes Sucks?

There’s no doubt nightlife in Latin America can sometimes suck. The big groups, tables, and working women can ruin a big night out before it even started.

Luckily, it doesn’t have to be that way. By traveling to big cities and selecting the right venues, you can find some of the best rumba in the world throughout Latin America. I certainly have!

P.S: Learning a little Spanish makes it much easier to enjoy a little rumba in Latin America. Click here to check out the best place to start learning!
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Jake D

Travel junkie turned blogger. Location independent. From the Midwest, but often based in Latin America. Big on beaches, rumba, and rum. Addicted to the gym. Committed to showing a different style of travel - one that involves actually interacting with locals and exploring different cultures.

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