The price of fuel is uniform throughout Mexico, with the possible exception of border areas and very remote locations. The only formal seller of fuel is Pemex, the nationally owned "Petroleos Mexicanos" oil monopoly (website: www.pemex.com). Other companies may sell lubricating oil (e.g., Quaker State is quite popular), but only Pemex distributes and sells fuel (exclusively through franchises - website: www.franquiciapemex.com - that is, the "Pemex" stations are all privately owned).(Note: Beginning in December 2002, a policy of lower prices within 25 km. of the border was implemented. This will allow Pemex stations to more effectively compete with U.S. stations. As a general rule, this will not affect most travelers to Baja California.)
In some remote locations you will encounter individuals selling gasoline out of barrels. There will be no uniformity of price in this situation (the individuals are simply reselling gasoline they've purchased at a far away Pemex station, or from a passing Pemex delivery truck). The hefty premium you'll be asked to pay may very well be "inexpensive" given the difficulties of getting the fuel to that location. Exercise a bit of caution in this situation, especially if the barrel is almost empty and you might be getting some rust or water mixed with the fuel.
Pemex stations typically accept only cash (i.e., no checks or credit cards)!
Note: Beginning in 2001 there are a few stations, in some of the larger cities, which are trying a program of accepting credit cards. However, you should not depend on finding such a station, unless you already know the location. It has been reported that there is a significant surcharge added for the use of a credit card.
There are two grades of unleaded gasoline sold in Mexico:
PEMEX Magna 87 octane -- Look for the green sign PEMEX Premium 92 octane -- Look for the red sign
Magna is sold in all stations, and has traditionally been delivered from a green pump ("bomba"). Premium was introduced in 1997 and is offered only in the busier or newer stations.
PEMEX Diesel Look for the black sign
Diesel fuel is readily available due to the large number of trucks on the highway - however, don't confuse the green Magna gasoline pump with a diesel pump as might be the case in the U.S.. The diesel pumps are often purple or red, and are usually sited on a separate island - the marking is "Diesel" or "Diesel Sin." The usual warning about water in diesel fuel applies more so along the Baja highways. Try to use only the large stations which have a lot of truck traffic that keeps the fuel from sitting in the tanks for long periods of time.
At popular times there may be gasoline supply problems, especially in the central region of the peninsula. One time to be especially careful is "Easter week" ("Semana Santa")- a major travel time in Mexico. Another possibly difficult time is after Christmas when many U.S. and Canadian RV's are heading both north and south before the new year begins.
Unexpected delays in fuel delivery can cause major problems (see the "Gas Crisis" story linked below). This may be brought on by difficulties occurring anywhere from the refinery to the delivery truck. Especially, keep in mind that the central part of the peninsula is supplied from either the northern (Ensenada) or southern (La Paz) extremes, and there are lots of problems for those tank trucks to experience in traversing the large distances.
Gauge the distance to the next station and the likelihood that there will be fuel at that station - do not rely on the distance measurements printed on the blue or green gas pump signs along the highway.
Imagine that the next station is out of fuel, and think about what you would do if that turned out to be the case.
While it's true that gasoline supply problems are not nearly as acute as they used to be, this general improvement will be of no consolation it you end up stuck in mid-peninsula waiting for the tank truck to arrive.
Location Magna Prem Diesel Description Tijuana Yes Yes Yes Numerous stations Ensenada &
Yes Yes Yes Numerous stations Santo Tomás Yes ? No On the west side of the highway. San Vicente to
Col. Vicente Guerrero
Yes Yes Yes Several stations. San Quintin
Yes Yes Yes North end of town at the stoplight.
Yes ??? ??? There are two stations in the town of Lazaro Cardenas. El Rosario Yes Yes Yes At the bottom of the hill - north end of town. The station was completely renovated in 1998. This station is operated by and individual well-known to the Baja-Internet crowd. It may well be the most (only?) honest station on the highway. Cataviña Maybe No No The Pemex pumps are shut down at Cataviña, however you'll often find gasoline being sold out of barrels. Be prepared for a significant premium on the price (20% - 35% above the current Pemex rate). Bahía Gonzaga Probably ? ? As of 2006, there is a station located in Gonzaga. Do not count on this station being open or having fuel - delivery is very difficult. Holiday weekends can empty the station's tanks. Gasoline from barrels is probably available at the Rancho Grande store. (Thanks to "Mcgyver" for this update.) L.A. Bay
Maybe No No The old station is closed. The only fuel is sold out of barrels by local entrepreneurs. Again, be prepared for a significant premium on the price (20% - 35% above the current Pemex rate). L. A. Bay Maybe No Maybe As of 2006, there is a station located in town. Do not count on this station being open or having fuel - delivery is difficult. Jesús María Yes ??? ??? This station has now been completely renovated (confirmed in December 2004). It should prove a reliable source for fuel, especially for those heading south who have just crossed the "Great Gas Gap." (Important note: the "Tamale Lady" (in her Tamale Van) continues to serve the eating public! In December 2004, the cost was 10 pesos per tamal.) Guerrero Negro Yes Yes Yes A new station by the Eagle Monument, and two stations in town.
The station at the Eagle Monument does not sell Premium - only Magna and Diesel.
Many have reported that the pumps at one of the stations in town are miscalibrated (in the stations favor) - this is probably the first station you encounter entering the town. It has also been reported that the Eagle Monument station is owned by the same franchisee as the infamous Santa Rosalia station. Beware!
Vizcaino Yes Yes Yes This station was renovated in 1999. It's a major fueling stop for trucks, so the diesel should be water free. San Ignacio Yes ? Yes On the highway near the turnoff to town.
Thanks to Bill Kalinyak for an update (Aug. 2002)
Santa Rosalia Yes ? Yes Right on the highway south of the ferry terminal.
Well-known for rip-offs! This has historically been the worst Pemex station in all of Baja California when it comes to fair treatment of customers. I strongly recommend that this station be avoided.
Mulegé Yes ? Yes Two stations: one inside town (not recommended for RVs due to the narrow streets) and the other about a mile south of town on east side of the highway.
The highway station has been a place where donations are sought for vaguely specified organizations, and I've taken to avoiding it. It has also been reported that this station is owned by the same franchisee as the infamous Santa Rosalia station. Beware!
Loreto Yes Yes Yes Three stations inside the town (i.e., off the highway). Cd. Insurgentes Yes ? Yes Two stations: one north of the "Y" intersection and the other several miles east of the "Y" (may have closed in 2001). Cd. Constitución Yes Yes Yes Several stations - all on the west side of the highway. Some are pay before you pump. La Paz Yes Yes Yes Numerous stations. Todos Santos Yes ? Yes Where the road turns. Los Cabos Yes Yes Yes Numerous stations. Route 1:
La Paz to San José
Yes ? Yes A number of stations: San Antonio, Los Barriles, La Ribera, Santiago, and near Miraflores
There are a number of common gas station rip-offs the tourist should be aware of. Here is a general list:
- The pump is not "zeroed" when pumping is started.
- Incorrect change is offered under the assumption that the tourist will be ignorant of the coins, or too timid to complain.
- The "emergency stop" button is pushed while you're not looking. This resets the register to some even amount ($90, $80, etc.), and then the attendent explains that you owe that amount and it will be added to the amount from the remaining fillup. He must then reset the pump by holding the button down, and at this point you will see the register counting down by 10's to zero.
This is probably most frequently used when there are two tanks being filled. The best known station for this activity is the Santa Rosalia Pemex station. (Thanks to Dave Stogner (firstname.lastname@example.org) for explaining this scam!)
- The pump is mis-calibrated to read high. Unfortunately, there is nothing to be done about this scam.
I've been bitten at the stations in San Quintin (north) and Santa Rosalia. These have been the two stations most commonly reported as being the site of dishonest attendants, although the problems at the San Quintin station are reported to have been cleared up in 2000. If you are cheated at these stations, don't expect to get anywhere with the management, or even the local police. I'd strongly recommend avoiding the Santa Rosalia station, if possible. The stations at the Eagle Monument and on the highway in Mulege are reported to also be owned by the same individual as owns the Santa Rosalia station. You should either avoid these stations or be very careful. The pumps are probably miscalibrated and you may find that you've bought more fuel then your tank can hold!
In the late 80's, the Santa Rosalia station was closed by the government for a period. I did not know the story behind the closure until David Eidell passed on the following (1998):A federal attorney passing through Santa Rosalia was ripped-off at the station. When he confronted the personnel (as a citizen) they laughed and called the local cops. Enraged, the attorney called Mexico City and spoke briefly with de La Madrid, then the President of Mexico. The next day, federal police swooped down on the station and closed it down for two weeks, and arrested everyone from the owner down to the attendants!
Another experience at the Santa Rosalia station was reported by Anthony Maw (the incident occured in September 1995):After waiting until 8 am for the station to open, I told the guy to fill it up. As the pump reached 90 pesos, I watched him stick his hand behind the meter and reset the meter to 0, then set it to 140 and continue pumping until it reached 160 pesos. I got out of my truck and confronted the guy but I don't speak Spanish and he didn't speak English, so I pointed at my eye and pointed at the meter and then him. Then he said 110 which is what I paid.
More detailed background was supplied by Barry Monkman in 2004:The stations at Parallel 28, Santa Rosalia and the Mulege highway station are all owned by the same franchisee. These three stations steal 15-20 % of gas fills from tourists and locals. They have been fined, punitively shut down by Pemex in the past and shamed in the local papers. I know personally that the pumps in Sta Rosalia have hidden switches that shut off fuel flow while the meter continues to run. (and the attendants are VERY well trained!) Also, I have personally filled 5 gallon cans and been charged for 6 gallons at Mulege. They just grin and act dumb when confronted.
Two separate businessmen in Santa Rosalia have told me that this franchisee continues to blatantly fleece despite public indignation because he pays the PROFECO inspector 20,000 pesos / month to rig his pumps!
If you get ripped off, any Green Angel truck has complaint forms you can send to the government.