What do you do when you need something stiffer than a drink? Why head to the world’s first cocaine bar of course.
Route 36 – Ruta Treinta y Seis in Spanish – is an illegal after-hours lounge in La Paz, Bolivia, and is the world's first cocaine bar.
La Paz sits more than 3,500 metres above sea level in a sprawling valley in the middle of the Andes.
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Although the drug is illegal in Bolivia, political corruption and the affordability of locally produced cocaine have resulted in Route 36 becoming a popular destination for thousands of tourists each year.
In 2020, Colombia continued to account for the majority of global coca cultivation (61%), followed by Peru (26%) and Bolivia (12.5%).
The majority of Bolivia's cocaine is produced around the eastern cities of Cochabamba and Santa Cruz. It's the many farms here that give Bolivia its number three global ranking when it comes to its production.
To avoid complaints from nearby business owners or residents, Route 36 doesn’t operate in the same location for more than a few weeks at a time.
It can only be found by word-of-mouth, which is also how customers learn about the bar’s existence.
Visitors have suspected that corruption is at play as the infamous Route 36 is en route to being the worst-kept secret in La Paz.
It has been reported that the people behind the secret bar grease the right palms of the notoriously corrupt officials to avoid being shut down or prosecuted.
Plus, it’s strictly for foreigners only; no Bolivians are allowed.
There’s no address – so curious tourists wanting to find it have to rely on La Paz’s cab driver information network.
The best spot to find a cabbie in the know is outside one of the city’s party hostels but it seems that most drivers in the city centre will have an idea of where to go.
According to one Stylist reporter, for 150 bolivianos (about £18) they were able to get a gram of cocaine and it was another 25 bs (£3) for a cuba libre or 15 bs (£2) for a beer.
The cocaine is allegedly served in a small paper parcel on a plastic plate – with patrons having to use their own credit cards or cash to consume the illicit substance.
The inside of the Route 36 is always low-fuss, with many saying it looks like any run-of-the-mill university bar.
It is often home to some black leather couches and rickety coffee tables.
Some have reported of a projector screen playing nineties and noughties music videos for some ambience.
A reporter for Medium, who visited the bar by asking a taxi driver for a lift there, describes the venue as so dark they could barely see their own hands.
They recalled: "Like a well-oiled machine, as soon as the barmen got the order, he went and fetched our drinks.
"Shortly after, he came back with a serving tray. The tray had three tiles; each tile had neat rows of cocaine already racked up. It was surreal to watch him delicately place the tile in front of those who ordered them as if he was serving food at a restaurant."
They added: "He even gave them a straw to snort away with.
"'If you need any more, let me know.' He said with a professionalism that wouldn’t have been out of place in a high-end restaurant…
"I have never lost track of time so badly.
"What is undeniable is that the bar was no exaggeration. What is even more undeniable is that it was the most bizarre bar I have ever been to in my life."
The bar operates only by card – so once you’ve run out of money, it often means it’s time to go!
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