Tired of your local nightclub? Bored of trekking to the same venue every Saturday night? Then try one of these awesome experiences from Make The Most Of Your Time On Earth, as witnessed by Rough Guides writers all over the world.
Techno and turbo-folk: having a blast in Belgrade
Belgrade has every right to proclaim itself the good-time capital of Eastern Europe. As good a place as any to start is Strahinjića bana, known as “Silicone Valley” thanks to the number of surgically enhanced women who parade up and down here. You can get the evening going with a glass of hoppy Nikšićko beer or a shot of Šlivjovica (a ferocious plum brandy) in one of the many über-hip bars packed cheek-by-jowl along this fantastically lively street. From here it’s time to hit Andergraund, a venerable techno joint located in the vast catacombs beneath the Kalemegdan citadel.
To experience a different side to Belgrade’s nightlife, head down to the banks of the Danube and Sava rivers which are lined with a multitude of river rafts (splavovi), housing restaurants, bars and discos. These places can get seriously boisterous, but are popular with devotees of Serbia’s infamous turbo-folk music, a brilliantly kitsch hybrid of traditional folk and electronic pop. If this type of music presses your buttons – and it is worth experiencing at least once – you can also check out one of the city’s several folkotekes, discos specializing in turbo-folk.
Andergraund is at Pariski 1a (daily 10am–4am). Strahinjiča bana, Obiličev venac and Njegoševa ulica offer the greatest concentration of bars and cafés.
Nightclubbing back in the (old) USSR, Moldova
Hemmed in between Romania and Ukraine, tiny Moldova has not gained a great reputation as an oasis of hedonism over the years. And arriving in temperatures of -20°C in Chisinau, the capital city of this landlocked nation, it appeared from the miles of unspeakably bleak Soviet-era tenement buildings, driving snow and belching car exhausts, that the closest I was going to get to excess was necking a glass or two of vodka from under my hotel bed sheets.
This fear was only confirmed when my cab driver told me that the best place in town on a Monday was the Military Pub. The first inkling that my night in the “Pub” was going to be an interesting one was the huge Soviet-era army tank slap-bang in the middle of the dancefloor. A giant portrait of Lenin hung above the DJ-booth tank. Sandbags were lying everywhere. The atmosphere was raucous but friendly – and there wasn’t an army uniform in sight.
Every few minutes, a huge bell hanging above the bar would be rung vigorously by one of the grinning staff, the signal for an urgently frugging dancer to be dragged off the floor and plonked on top of the bar where he or she would be forced to down a dark green-coloured shot of a local spirit that seemed to give everyone who drank it the sudden urge to take all their clothes off and run outside.
The Military Pub is at No.7, Kiev Street (nightly until 6am).
Getting down to business in Conakry, Guinea
Nights out on the town in Conakry are all about moving your body to Guinean music – soft lilting tunes that explode into gorgeous, grooving dance workouts melding Caribbean zouk and African mbalax, infused with the region’s trademark trebly electric guitar.
To start, escape downtown Ville and explore some of the low-key spots north on the peninsula. KSK in Ratoma is a large, blingy disco run by a group of Liberian refugees and a super spot to start a party. Next, in Coléah, try Petit Paris – a crowded, sweaty and very local little boîte that gets packed with svelte Guinean twenty-somethings, the occasional foreigner and a coterie of prostitutes checking themselves out in the mirrors. Nearby here is La Paillote, Guinea’s most vibrant venue during the Sekou Touré era and now exuding no small amount of nostalgia, with members of former star orchestras hanging out during the week in the early evening; you can be sure of meeting old band members telling stories over a beer.
For club hopping, hiring a private car (around FG50,000) for the evening is easiest. Cover fees can vary, ranging from nothing to FG15,000, though this is often negotiable – especially for foreigners heading to the purely African places, where they remain something of a novelty.
Clubbing in Dakar, Senegal
“Nanga def?” “Jama rek.” The throaty greeting and response of the Wolof language is all around us as we hustle to get into a soiree at one of the busy clubs in Dakar, Senegal’s dusty capital. Under the orange glow of street lamps, some outrageously upfront flirting is going on. It pervades the warm, perfume-laden air like static. Inside, the lights swirl, the simple stage fills, the high, clear lead vocals surge through a battering of drums and the floor becomes a mass of shaking hips, bellies, arms and legs. It’s no place to be shy – but there’s no better place in Africa to get over shyness quickly.
Nightlife in Dakar is dominated by big-name musicians and their clubs. The city, staunchly Muslim (most Senegalese are devoted followers of Sufi saints) yet keenly fun-loving, is a magnet for musicians from across West Africa, drawn by a thriving CD market, famous venues and the best recording facilities in the region. The principal sounds are mbalax – the frenetic, drum-driven style popularized by Youssou N’Dour and his Super Etoile band – and hip-hop, whose ambassadors Daara J introduced the Senegalese streets to the world.
Check out clubs Thiossane; Le Kily (Kilimanjaro), home to local star Thione Seck; or Just 4 You for Orchestra Baobab and other great bands. The quarterly 221 magazine has all the latest listings.
Going underground in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic
Originally used by the indigenous Taino people for religious ceremonies, this massive, multi-level underground cave now attracts those who worship a different type of deity – the DJ. In a city full of clubs, La Guacara Taina, or simply “The Cave”, is Santo Domingo’s best, attracting world-class musicians and hordes of ravers. Decadence awaits as you descend into the club, passing bars, stalactites and scantily clad, well-to-do locals. If the intricate lightshow and three throbbing dance floors don’t pull you out into the crowd, you can pass the evening sipping your Presidente in one of the smooth rock alcoves in the back.
La Guacara Taina, Av Mirador del Sur, Santo Domingo (+1 809 533 1051).