Essential Tips: Salsa Dancing in Havana
My favorite place in the world to go salsa dancing is in Havana - of course!
Aside from prepping the typical things - money, keys, phone, and knowing where I was going - I developed a few other essential habits that made my nights out salsa dancing in Havana more comfortable. Before you head to #Havana for your dream salsa vacation, take a look at these essential #tips - you'll be glad you did!
1. The first thing you have to deal with is the heat (especially if you visit Cuba in the summer). And if you're like me, a dainty flower of a woman who sweats like a 300-pound man, you really need to deal with the heat. So, BRING A FAN. It brings much-needed relief between dances! And it's not just when you're outside in the heat - indoor venues often don't have much air circulation.
I bought some hand fans on Amazon – really cheap and fell apart a bit, but they did the trick for a little while. You can also buy some in Cuba – the best spot is the fan store on Obrapia and Mercaderes in Habana Vieja, where they sell a range of colors and styles starting at about $4. I'd recommend buying a few that you don't mind losing or breaking, as both will likely happen.
2. Bathrooms are … interesting in Cuba. Sometimes they flush, sometimes they don't. Sometimes the sink works, sometimes it doesn't. (Don't ever count on soap.) The usual process is that there is an attendant outside who you tip (max 25 centavos, or 5 pesos) to give you toilet paper. So bring coins. And I always bring tissues whenever I go out just in case.
3. Many dance spots have bag checks which is great, because then you can actually bring a change of shoes, some toiletries, etc and not worry about stuffing everything in your pockets. Because unless you're with a big group with people willing to watch your bag, you never leave it unattended while you're dancing. I've checked a purse with my phone, toiletries, and keys and never had a problem, but I try not to check too much money.
The locations with bag checks include: Mil Ocho, Cafe Cantante, Casa de la Musica, La Gruta, and Asturias. Note that some will require you to check your bag if it's medium/large sized. Bag checks are free, but it's nice to tip.
4. When it comes to shoes, I'm already accustomed to dancing in sneakers since that is very common in Cuban-style salsa. So I have a bunch of different Bloch dance sneakers which I love and which work at every venue.
Mil Ocho's outdoor dance floor is a mix of rough and polished concrete, so sneakers are perfect – I've never attempted heels there. La Gruta is inside but the floor is sometimes tricky to navigate. Hotel Florida has a nice floor but it always gets wet from the air conditioner units (and possibly from the sweat).
The only place I've felt comfortable wearing heels is at Cafe Cantante. However, I've seen women dancing in heels at all of these places, so if you are really, really comfortable in heels, you will probably be fine.
So those are my essentials! When you follow these simple tips, you'll feel prepared and comfortable and can just relax and enjoy your night!
And check out the Follow My Lead: Havana web series! Travel with me through the world of dance, starting with Havana, Cuba. The streets are alive with music and dance, and I've got some big goals while I'm here. This is a dream come true and the challenge of a lifetime!
Photo credit: Sophia Marguette