Baja Tips
  • Latest Tip 
  • Cellular coverage 
  • Customs on the road
  • DSS TV south of Cataviña
  • General & History
  • Immigration, (Inmigrante-Rentista)
  • Internet
  • Pemex & Propane
  • Road conditions
  • Tipping, dont overtip!
  • Travel Tips

  •        Make sure you watch the military personal while  they are checking your suitcases and tool boxes, get out, lock the doors, then only open one door at the time!!!.
    ***** Gas ( Pemex, Benzin) ****
    Propan powered Car's can refill at Bulk Gas Plants.
    A new and large Pemex has opened in El Rosario. Another large Pemex is under contruction just north of the La Pinta in Guerrero Negro.
    The Pemex at the Jct. to Bahia del Los Angeles is still closed. Cataviña, La Pinta Hotel Pemex has only Gas at some times. At both locations they sell Gas from Pickups at high prices.
    Propane/Butan Gas stations
    For propane refill's on bottles, RV´s and propane powered vehicles!
    by David Eidell
    1. I have been motoring in Mexico and C.A. on (butane) for the last ten years.

    2. Mexico sells mostly butane except in the northern mountains in winter where they sell propane.
    3. The two gases are for all intents and purposes, interchangeable in automotive and camping uses.
    4. Stations are allowed to charge 20% more for motor fuel than they do for "domestic" fuel, but some
    plants charge but one price.
    5. The current motor fuel price is just over a dollar per gallon (U.S.) Domestic fuel price is .80 gallon
    6. Bulk fuel plants in the towns of Guerrero Negro and Santa Rosalia do not have metering equipment - strictly on the barter system.
    Bulk Fuel Plant Locations
    ENSENADA: 4 miles north of the city on the left just after the Pemex tank farm.
    TECATE: 2 miles south of the city plaza on the highway to Ensenada, on the right.
    COLONIA GUERRERO: 4 miles north of town on the right, about two miles south of the "Baja
    Restaurant" on your left.
    GUERRERO NEGRO: Located between the eagle monument and the turnoff to Guerrero Negro. On
    the right.
    SANTA ROSALIA: Located 5 miles north of town at the bottom the the steep Santa Rosalia grade. On
    your left
    CIUDAD CONSTITUCION: Located 3 miles north of town on your right.
    LA PAZ: Located 4 miles south of town on highway 1 & 19. On your left.
    SAN JOSE DEL CABO: located 3 miles west of town on road to Cabo San Lucas. On your right.
    CABO SAN LUCAS: Located 5 miles north of town on highway 19 to La Paz. On your left at top of
    first long hill.

    Plants are open Mon/Fri 7:00AM to around 7 (mas o menos).  Closed Sundays, and all Mexican holidays. Carry a calendar.  Gas is usually sold in Kilograms even though they may have a liter dispensing meter.
    a) 2 kilos per U.S. gallon,  b) 2 kilos = (4) 3.78 U.S. quarts

    Here's how I barter at Guerrero Negro and Santa Rosalia: Clean off and make legible the data on the
    liquid fuel storage tank so that they can read the capacity of the tank(s). Clean off, or replace the liquid
    level gauge so that they can see the needle inside the clear plastic housing. You, yourself, need to be self
    educated in estimating the quantity of fuel remaining in your tank so that you can make a guesstimate as
    to the correctness of the plant operator's "guesstimate" ALWAYS, ALWAYS, ALWAYS, ask for a
    presupuesto, (estimate) first before they start pumping.

    Mexican fast fill nozzles are about 6" shorter than most U.S./Canadian fillers. Make sure that your access around the fast fill valve is clear, or if it isn't make an extension. I always carry a POL to Fast Fill adapter.

    Bulk trucks (the dispensing kind with six wheels) work like our trucks. They have meters and pumps.
    They are allowed to fill your vehicle and commonly charge a price that is exactly in between domestic and motor fuel price per liter. They ar selling motor fuel on the sly, so the extra amount over and above the top of domestic fuel price is their "tip", or service fee.
    I ALWAYS pay in pesos. Dollars will result in a 20% price penalty. They do not accept Traveller's Cheques.
    Be prepared for spot shortages Dec/Mar. Tanker trucks (18 wheelers) bring in gas from Mexicali, or over from Topolobampo to La Paz, then north, on the ferry. Shortages last 2 - 4 days. Best days to buy gas, Monday afternoon - Thursday
    It is up to you to keep from blowing up when refueling. Douse the refrigerator and hot water heater, before you start fueling.
    It is common for someone to fuel you up, then write out a receipt. You'll present one copy to the cashier
    at the window, take another back to the fuel person as proof of payment, and stuff the third copy in your
    pocket as a souvenier.

    Buying Gasoline in Bája
    by -David Eidell-
     Selecting a station is easy in México, the petroleum industry was nationalized in 1938, and Petróleos Mexicános, PEMEX is the only brand in the country. Gasoline stations called Gasolineras, are franchise operations. Fuel is dispensed to regional tank farms and then distributed (delivered) to individual stations by private transport tank trucks (which are usually owned and operated someone who owns a string of stations). Fuel comes to Bája from the North and across the Gulf of California by barge to La Paz.

     There are two grades of unleaded gasoline. Regular unleaded is found in the GREEN dispenser pump and is called MAGNA SIN. Super unleaded goes by the name PREMIUM and is dispensed from RED pumps. Look below the station's large banner "Pemex" sign and you'll see smaller color-coded product signs. Black is for diesel, green for Magna Sin, and Red for Premium.

     México manufactures about sixty five percent of its gasoline. The remainder is purchased on the spot market in the USA. Premium is manufactured in the USA as well. Thus, you will encounter subtle but detectable variations in the quality (octane level) of Magna Sin gasoline. Diesel fuel is refined in México.

    The Gasolines

     Premium gasoline exhibits better than average anti-knock and driveability qualities as compared to USA regular unleaded gasoline. Most customers believe that Premium is comparable to (at least) a mid-grade US gasoline. This fuel also reportedly works better than Magna Sin in outboard motors, generators, and off-road cycles. México imports Premium gasoline from the USA. Premium does not contain MTBE or alcohol. Don't count on finding Premium gasoline south of Ensenáda or north of La Paz. Cábo San Lúcas has premium fuel but San Felípe does not.

     Magna Sin replaced "Extra" unleaded in the early 1990's and is definitely an improvement over the early unleaded fuel. To discourage tampering, PEMEX added green dye to Magna Sin, which is still being done today. As noted earlier the quality of Magna Sin varies according to its source. Méxican refined gasoline is poorer in quality than imported fuel. US fuel exhibits 87 octane while its Méxican counterpart is two or three points lower. Magna Sin does not contain MTBE or alcohol.

    Fuel Additives

     If it makes you feel happier then by all means spend the money. I've a very low opinion of breast-beating gasoline additives. If you are like me, my additive consists of a one-liter bottle of grain alcohol added to the tank periodically. You can find the stuff in most grocery stores. If the thought of a rattling engine keeps you awake at night, you can chug-a-lug some of it as well.

    The Diesel

     According to the people who use diesel, Méxican fuel is preferred over USA diesel. Méxican diesel contains more sulfur which has a similar effect to diesel engine as does lead (for gasoline engines) in leaded gasoline. It is common to obtain better fuel mileage with Méxican diesel.

    Aircraft Gasoline

     Aircraft gasoline is available at Major airports. It originates from the USA. Eighty-octane low lead is common, while 100-octane low lead is not. Because of México's continuing fight with illegal drug-running aircraft, it is impossible to purchase aircraft fuel for use in a motor vehicle. Don't bother asking because you will need an aircraft manifest form and this opens a can of worms.

    A Sure Sign That A Station Is Out Of Fuel

     Méxican stations don't use signs to announce that they're out of fuel. Instead the attendants will drape the gas hoses over the pumps. Only a greenhorn will pull into a station and ask for a fill up when the hoses are over top the pump dispensers.

    The Mid-Peninsula "Gap"

     An unreliable supply of fuel is available in a two-hundred mile stretch of highway in mid-peninsula. Rather than count on getting fuel between El Rosário and Guerrero Negro, it's best to add more fuel capacity to your vehicle or carry enough extra gas to tide you through this stretch. Smart travelers always top their tanks in Guerrero Negro and El Rosário.

    El Rosário To Guerrero Negro

     Cataviña has never been a reliable source of gasoline. SAHISA kept the Punta Prieta station functioning for several years but closed down in 1996. The station in Villa Jesús María operates on electricity generated by the local village and closes down for much of the day. The Bahia de Los Angeles area needs a gasolinera but until Pemex builds one, Magna Sin will continue to be sold out of steel drums. Expect to pay a hefty premium for the convenience.
    Periodic Fuel Shortages
     The central peninsula region suffers periodic gasoline and diesel shortages. It was no different back in the thirties, sixties, and eighties, so the phenomenon is not new. The reasons are manifold:

     Someone has to haul the fuel to the station from the tank farm in La Paz or the tank farm in Ensenáda. There is a chronic shortage of tank trucks. Second, high winds may delay the Topolobampo / La Paz barge (the ferry boat as well). Remote areas suffer a lack of stations because few people wish to relocate there to run them. Señor Sanchez (SAHISA) closed the station at Punta Prieta several years ago (reportedly because of employee theft and embezzlement). Pemex reports a six-fold increase in total fuel consumption over the years 1980 - 2000. Fuel consumption doubled 1994 - 2000. As more and more vehicles transit the peninsula they are going to tax the fuel supply to the limit and shortages are likely for the foreseeable future.

    Dirty Fuel
     The biggest source of dirt contamination is the barge transport across the Sea of Cortéz. The operator is a private company and their vessels are old and incredibly rusty inside. If a tank truck happens to receive its load from the very bottom of the barge, then it is likely that the fuel will be laced with rust and scale. Heavy summer rain sometimes will drain from a barge deck through a leaky hatch cover and into the hold. The water will slosh around and form gums and other evil by-products. The barge operators have also been known to fill a hold with diesel that hasn't had all of the gasoline removed. This has caused the barge crew several black eyes from angry truck drivers in the past. Note: The foregoing sounds discouraging but in reality really dirty or contaminated fuel is uncommon these days. The remarks were inserted so that blame if blame is justified, will not be mis-directed at the fleet of tanker trucks that deliver the fuel to the stations.

     The best way to deal with dirty fuel is to add an after-market fuel filter in the line between the fuel tank and engine. Don't bother with an inline filter as they will plug up with just a minor amount of contamination present. The best filters are for diesel fuel (can be used with gasoline), and are larger than your engine's oil filter. The filters withstand high pressure from fuel injection pumps in the gas tank. The best part is that the filter capacity is huge and the filter media is extremely fine. Look in your local Yellow Pages under "Filters". Ask about easy to mount filter mounting housings. My preference in filters leans toward the selection of a GMC "Secondary" fuel filter.

    Inaccurate Gas Pumps

     According to station owners, Pemex is extremely stingy with allowable profit margins on sales of gasoline and diesel. The government controls the retail price. Whatever the reason you will find a variance in the accuracy of the dispensing pump concerning the quantity of fuel displayed. The average amount of error is around five percent (favor of the station). A few stations are "honest" with near zero deviation. Noteworthy in the chain of stations on highway one, is the one in El Rosário. Servicio Meza has maintained near 0 percent error over the years. Areas with a high degree of error include Ensenáda, Camalu, San Quintin, Guerrero Negro, Santa Rosalia, Loreto, and Ciudád Constitucion. [Testing was done throughout Bája in 1993 - 1995 by the author using a brand-new Seraphin gasoline 20-liter test measure, with NIST accuracy certification to within one-half percent. Results are on file with the México City Bureau of The Wall Street Journal]

    Dishonest Attendants

     Double-dealing and slight-of-hand have been a hallmark of too-many Méxican gasoline station attendants. Although cheating is not the norm, it is common enough to prompt travelers to protect themselves when fueling up. Americans and Canadians should keep in mind that deceptive practices by dishonest attendants are honed to a fine art at the expense of Méxican patrons.

     Years ago I came up with a set of rules and conduct that has just about eliminated the possibility of getting cheated at the gas pump. Here’s how I do it:

    I exchange enough Dollars for pesos at the border to pay for gasoline all the way to my destination. I make every attempt to get the pesos in small denomination bills so that whenever possible I can pay with exact change.

    I installed locking gas caps on all of my tanks. The keys fit onto the same ring as my car keys. No one will steal a locking cap minus the key however sales of heisted (expensive) late-model non-locking gasoline caps are a minor industry.

    When I pull into a station, the attendant has to wait until I unlock and remove the gas caps. This allows me to verify that the gas pump meter is starting with all zeros.

    I will observe the meter on the gas pump while my tanks fill. My vigilance is not disturbed by a horde of windshield washing rag-a-muffins, beggars, or the tamale lady. I let my partner deal with distractions.

    When the filling is finished, I note the money amount displayed on the pump and say the quantity aloud. Even when said in English the fact that I have so noted the amount will be apparent to the attendant who will assume that I am keenly aware of the amount owed.

    I'll make every attempt to make exact change for the transaction. When that isn't possible I will announce the amount of money that I am handing over. Again even if this is spoken in English the attendant will know that you are staying on top of the situation. 

    If I have tendered a large bill and have a lot of change coming, it may be offered in the form of high denomination coins as well as banknotes. I will walk near the hood of my vehicle and then receive the change from the attendant. I will use the hood as a counting table to facilitate the accounting of the change.

    Most Important. Only some attendants are crooks. Most are honest. I always greet an attendant with Buénas Dias (and mean it). Then I plaster a smile on my face which remains until the transaction is finished. Honest attendants eventually become very tired of being treated like the kin of Ali Baba. Frowns, suspicious glances and curt utterances will eventually sour even a good-natured personality. An attendant whom is subjected to an endless stream of abuse will probably give in and live up to the reputation¾wouldn't you?

    Why Is Gasoline So Expensive?

     Since the time of Cortéz, México has been strapped for cash. When México's technocrats gained the presidency in 1988, they raised fuel prices as a general revenue tax. In short, high fuel prices are nothing more than a general "Income Tax". This argument is being used against Pemex by foes that wish to see the oil company privatized. There's noting to prevent the government from levying taxes through a private company however. Pemex defends the high prices claiming that reliance on imported gasoline takes away much of the profit. What isn't mentioned however is that foreign gasoline costs less than domestic fuel does to manufacture.

     In a curious aside, a presidential candidate recently announced that he would slash the retail price of gasoline by thirty-percent if elected. This first-of-a-kind admission that fuel prices are out of line may be nothing more than rhetoric by a hungry politician. Then again because the statement came from the candidate most likely to be the next president of México, it bears watching (but don't hold your breath). 

    Don't Bring Full Gas Cans To México

     Border officials will refuse entry for persons bringing filled jerry cans or drums. This rule isn't always enforced but when it is, it can complicate your border crossing plans.


     Few people will take the time and write a letter of complaint to Pemex if they are ripped off in a station. The best thing to do is to try to explain the problem to the station manager and if that tactic doesn't work, copy down the station number, time and date and circumstances. The next time you encounter a Green Angel ask them to provide a form complaint letter. Fill it out and hand it over to them. You may not get your wrong righted, but the station owner must fill out and sign the lengthy form and send it back to Pemex. It is rumored that the process is a pain-in-the-ass for station owners.
    Sign My Guestbook
      View Guest-Forum