Cali is known as the salsa capital of the world so it was a no brainer that we’d go (we love to dance). Our overnight bus arrives early at 5:30am and there’s a queue of taxis waiting for us. We toss up between walking 2.5km at 5 in the morning or catching a taxi. Another no brainer. Since the taxi is part of a queue at the main bus terminal, we, very stupidly, assume that he’s legit. Nope.

After about 2 minutes I realise that the meter isn’t running and ask him to put it on. He tells me that it’s a set price of 10,000 pesos ($4.50AUD) which is waaaaaay a dollar more than what my hostel advised it should cost. Alas initiates my first ever argument in Spanish. We argue the entire way (the whole 5 minute drive) until we arrive at the hostel and I tell him firmly that I’m not paying a cent over 8,000 pesos. He admits defeat and I realise then that I am so annoying really good at arguing at in Spanish that he couldn’t be bothered asking for the extra $1.

With my first #Spanishargumentwin, we decide to celebrate by going out that night. It’s a Thursday and the salsa clubs are pumpin’ (do people still say that?). In my head our night goes like this: we go to a club, there’s some people there offering classes on basics, we learn a couple of moves and then rock the dance floor all night long. Instead, we walk in and there are maybe 5 people inside and no one is dancing. I look at the time and it’s 9 pm – ummm where is everyone? My bedtime is in 2 hours!! Apparently Colombians people don’t head out that early and I’m just a grandma disguised the body of a 20 something year old.

11pm comes around, the club starts getting busy and we quickly learn that EVERY SINGLE PERSON HERE is a professional salsa dancer. I feel like an audience member at a dance recital, in complete awe of the talent. This is also the first time in my life that I’ve felt intimidated to dance in public. Ludicrous. I drag Daniel up and we try our best to copy the steps but just end up looking a bit like this… I’m the orange guy.

Yeah…we need classes.


The next day I sign us into private classes with Usher Kanelo, a total salsa pro. Now we know that it means when they say ‘the man leads’. We smash out 7 hours of classes in 2 days and this is the result:

Salsa class in Colombia
Meeting Usher for the first time #fangirl

With our semi-decent salsa moves ready to go, we head to Salsa Del Parque (Salsa at the Park) to show ’em what we’re made of. We walk in and immediately feel the bass deep in our chests. A 20 piece live salsa band is on stage. Everyone in the crowd is dancing, laughing and jamming along with their BYO instruments. The music is amplified as hundreds of maracas and bongos are played by the crowd, seamlessly on beat. Why don’t we do this in Australia?!? The vibe is incredible and now I see what people mean when they talk about Colombians. Their passion is infectious.

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As we walk closer we realise that a mere 20m from the stage is a kickboxing match! I guess you get options in Colombia, wanna dance or fight? To add to the super random combo, we find an international tattoo convention on the sideline full of artists from all around South America. It sounds very bizarre but I couldn’t make up this kind of salsa event if I tried. We go for a walk and see pretty much the best thing ever… Harry Potter… aka Daniel Radcliffe…on someone’s arm…

And with a very interesting and random night, our time in Cali is up and we leave as semi-professional salsa dancers, personal acquaintances with Usher and witnesses to the world’s most serious Harry Potter fan.

For a sneak peak of what’s in store during our time in Colombia, check out our Photos to Inspire Wanderlust.

13 thoughts on “Cali: The World’s Salsa Capital

  1. Soraya @ Hello Raya says:

    What an awesome experience to have in Cali! Firstly – cheers to an amazingly good argument won in Spanish! It is one of my pet peeves when taxi drivers don’t turn on the meter then try to cheat you. But wow how cool is Cali! I’d love to learn how to salsa dance in the CAPITAL of salsa! And how cool is that tattoo – although I am not sure about getting that permanently on my skin.

    • La Vida Viva Travel says:

      Haha, thanks! I was pretty proud of myself although my husband was like “it’s just a dollar” – it’s the principal dammit!! Cali was awesome but to be honest, not much outside of the salsa scene. The tattoo was cool but I would neverrrrrrrr get another actor’s face on my body haha!

  2. TravelingMel says:

    I would have though the salsa capitol would be in Argentina. You learn something new every day! And how super random to combine salsa, kickboxing, and tattoo. It makes the dancing seem pretty hard core. Now I want to go and take salsa lessons!

  3. Abigail says:

    That looks like a fun experience to try. I’m not gonna lie – one of the world’s worst dancers! But it’s nice to add some new dance moves to your skill set, right?

    • La Vida Viva Travel says:

      Oh you’d love it! I’d recommend taking a couple of classes in Cali to get used to the style there and then just head out and dance with randoms. I love that the salsa clubs aren’t seedy or creepy, it’s just all about the love of dance!

  4. saraessop says:

    Sounds like you had lots of fun, And congratulations on winning the argument with the taxi driver. I’m always afraid of being ripped off by taxi drivers when travelling in foreign countries because I doubt that I’ll win the argument.

  5. Hendrik says:

    “…a grandma disguised the body of a 20 something year old.” hahaha I laughed hard on this 😀
    Such funny post and I am glad you preferred dancing instead of fighting, since it usually bring more fun.
    About the Salsa I am thinking to tell my wife, because she simply loves to dance Salsa. Pity just that I am so horribly bad in dancing. Anyway – really funny post, always a fun to hear from your latest adventures 🙂

  6. Ticker Eats The Worldt says:

    What a wonderful adventure. Don’t think anyone can claim that they have travelled to a city unless they have had a taxi-argument of some sorts. I’ve had many across the world and sadly unlike you don’t always win. It’s lovely that you got to enjoy Salsa in Cali and the Harry Potter tattoo is quite wicked… the person must have been a true fan.

  7. Only By Land says:

    I was in Cali too and it’s way harder for the man than the woman because we have to be macho and lead. I’m single so didn’t have a partner but found that local girls are very keen to dance with foreigners. It’s just hard not to feel out of place when everyone around is spinning and looking great! I need some lesson with Kanelo!

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