From about 10 p.m. onwards, many of Peru's bars begin to empty as the locals head to nearby discos and nightclubs, commonly known as discotecas. There are few things that Peruvians enjoy more than dancing the night away, so Peru's nightclub culture is predictably vibrant.
Types of Discos and Nightclubs in Peru
Peruvian discos come in all shapes and sizes, from snug venues with intimate dance floors to sprawling spaces hosting an ocean of bobbing heads. A degree of social hierarchy tends to set some venues apart from others, with supposedly sophisticated establishments charging higher entrance fees to keep out the rabble. Drinks are also more expensive in exclusive nightclubs, so you’ll need more cash in your pocket to keep up with the crowd of wealthy middleclass Peruvians.
If exclusivity doesn’t appeal, you’ll often find a friendlier, more vibrant atmosphere in the cheaper venues. They can be hectic places, especially when you’re trying to find a path to the bar through the throng of dancers, but you can normally find some space along the fringes of the dance floor. Safety can be an issue in some of the cheaper discos, so it’s a good idea to go as a group, ideally with a trustworthy local or two.
Entrance fees vary depending on the type of venue. Cheaper discos are sometimes free to enter or have nominal entrance fees starting at around US$1.50 to $2.00 (more for special occasions). Trendy nightclubs range from $4.00 upwards -- sometimes a lot more, especially in cities like Lima, Cusco and Arequipa. In order to attract more male revelers (and therefore sell more beer), many discos allow women to enter free of charge.
You might need to show some form of ID before entering a disco or club, especially if you look under 18. Many bars and discos, however, are not too strict when it comes to the legal drinking age in Peru.
Music in Peru’s Discos
You’ll hear an eclectic mix of tracks in Peru’s discotecas, unless the venue (or the night) has a specific theme. There are many regional varieties of music, but the big three, those that you’ll hear throughout Peru, are:
- Cumbia: A style of music of Colombian origin, popular throughout much of South America
- Salsa: The pulse of many Latin dance clubs
- Reggaeton: An energetic mix of hip hop, rap and reggae
You’re also likely to hear a spattering of international techno, pop and rock mixed in with the Latin rhythms. Peruvians are incredibly retro when it comes to British and US rock music, with pre-1990s power ballads and soft rock somehow staying in fashion.
Disco Dancing in Peru
If you normally shy away from dancing, especially dancing with a partner, a trip to Peru is a good time to shed your inhibitions. In fact, you probably won’t have much choice -- no matter how hard you resist, you’ll be on the dance floor eventually.
Of the three popular musical styles, salsa demands the most technical ability. Unless you’re a naturally gifted dancer, it might take a while to learn the basics. The rhythmically challenged may need a few private lessons before attempting salsa in public. Cumbia isn’t too difficult; the foot movements are reasonably simple, you just need to develop an authentic Latin hip wiggle (perhaps easier said than done).
Reggaeton is similar to hip hop, so it’s all about the attitude. It’s a freestyle dance, but you’ll certainly need to shed your inhibitions -- the dancing style is outwardly sexual in nature, with plenty of bumping and grinding.
Peruvian Strippers and Stage Participation
Male strippers and scantily clad female dancers (bailarinas) often take to the stage in regular Peruvian discotecas. There’s no nudity involved, but the sight of oiled-up males gyrating in G-strings and attractive ladies dancing in bikinis is quite an eye-opener, especially when you’re not expecting it.
Members of the public are sometimes coaxed onto the stage to take part in impromptu dance competitions. These tend to involve single women trying to outdo each other on the reggaeton raunchiness scale, and male members of the audience strutting around and whipping off their T-shirts. If you want to join in, be sure you know what you’re getting yourself into -- once you set foot on that stage, there’s no going back.