Bachata is in 4/4 time - which means there are four emphasized beats in every measure. Here are some queues to help know where you are: The low bongo usually plays on the 4th beat. The voice accents the 1st beat - often that means that vocal phrases end on the first beat rather than start on it. The bass tends to play on the 3rd, 4th, and 1st beats - but this can change. Dancers usually step on beats 1,2 and 3 - stepping in place on 4 (tap). Sometimes, people will dance on different timings. Bachata is informal, it's not a ballroom dance, so the rules defining it are not rigid. See the last video on the bottom left for a step by step breakdown of bachata's most basic footwork.
A traditional Dominican pattern of dancing bachata is the box step. The box step maintains the same basic step pattern described above, but instead of simply stepping side to side, the dancer steps in a square. The most common way of dancing the box step is to step sideways with the left foot, with the right foot follow, just as in the most basic step, and then with the 3rd right step put your foot forward. Tap with your right, side step with your right. side step with your left to bring it next to your right, then step back with your right to return to your starting position. Tap, with your left and start again. A couple following dancing together in box step have a richer interplay than straight side to side, and the box can open up into a variety of more complex variations. There are also variations of the box step that differ in timing and style. See the Adam Taub and Joan & Griselda Soriano videos to the left for examples of the bachata box step.
In the Dominican Republic, the tap step is often replaced by a quick three step sequence sometimes referred to as the 'Cha-cha' step (because it is also part of basic cha-cha-cha footwork). Where you would ordinarily tap with the right foot on 4, here you instead step with your right foot on 4, followed quickly with your left foot on '4 and' , and then again with your right on 1 - leading into the second half of the pattern. The sequence of 3 cha-cha steps occur at double the speed of the ordinary steps around it. The cha-cha step can be substituted in the same way for the left tap, and can also occur in other parts of the basic bachata pattern. See the Bachata Autentica dance video to the left for an example of a couple dancing bachata with the cha-cha step.