Your first time buying gas in Baja can be a bit confusing, so these tips should help you buy gas in Baja like a pro
Buying gas in Baja is an easy process, but you need to be aware of the following concepts before pulling into your first Pemex station.
Try not to let your tank get below 3/4 of a tank
There are a few stretches of Baja highway that do not have any gas stations for over 200 miles, so you should always plan ahead and keep your tank as full as possible. Gas stations have been known to run out of fuel, so never put yourself in a position where you could run out of gas if the next town does not have any fuel.
The longest stretch of highway that does not have any fuel is between El Rosario and Guerrero Negro. The distance between these two towns is about 225 miles. NOTE: There is a small gas pump in Catavina, but it is rarely open, so do not plan on getting gas in Catavina! If you plan to visit Bahia de Los Angeles, there is a Pemex station there that seems to have a good supply of gas.
Another reason to keep your gas tank full is to avoid problems with dirty gas. Every once in a while you hear stories about dirty fuel being sold in Baja, so it is wise to never fill your entire tank at one gas station. By filling your tank regularly, you will be diluting any bad gas with the 3/4 tank of good gas you already have in your tank.
How to buy Gas in Baja - All Pemex stations in Baja are full service
Pemex is the government owned petroleum company, and it is the only gas station franchise you will find in Mexico. In Baja, all of the Pemex stations are full service, so do not attempt to pump your gas yourself. Don't worry, you are not paying extra for full service - all of the gas is the same price. If you try to pump the gas yourself, the attendant will not let you, and you quickly become the confused silly tourist.
When pulling into a Pemex station, simply pull up to the pump and roll down your window.
If you want to fill your tank, say "Lleno por favor" - this means "Full please."
You must also select the grade of fuel you want. Magna is regular unleaded fuel, and Premium is higher octane fuel. I often choose the Premium because I feel it is cleaner - but this is just my personal theory. NOTE: Premium is often sold out or not offered at many of the Pemex stations, so you will need to get Magna in this case.
If you require diesel, makes sure to keep an eye on the attendant filling your tank. We have heard reports of diesel trucks being filled with regular fuel by a confused gas station attendant.
If you wish to have your windshield cleaned, say "Lava el parabrisas por favor" - Lava means wash, and parabrisas is windshield. Or you can just point at your windshield and say "por favor".
Remember, gas is measured in liters in Mexico, so be aware of the gallons to liters conversion: 1 gallon = 3.785 liters
You will then pay the attendant. Pesos are recommended for gas stations because they are much quicker and less confusion than having to convert dollars to pesos.
Make sure to tip the attendant, especially if they washed your windows. 10 pesos (about $1 US dollar) is fine, or more will make them happier!
Towns in Baja Where you Can Find Gas
Tijuana to El Rosario - Each town along Highway 1 between Tijuana to El Rosario will have a Pemex station. Each of these towns are about 30 - 60 miles apart, so gas will be easy to find.
El Rosario to Guerrero Negro - There are no consistent gas stations along Highway 1 for this 225 mile stretch. Make sure to fill up in El Rosario. If you decide to visit Bahia de Los Angeles, there are 2 Pemex stations in town, so this is another town to fill up in, but it is 43 miles east of Highway 1 from the turn off at Punta Prieta. Also, the town of Villa Jesus Maria has a Pemex station, but it has been known to be closed at times. Villa Jesus Maria is about 30 miles north of Guerrero Negro on Highway 1.
Guerrero Negro to Cabo San Lucas - Now that you are in the state of Baja Sur, Pemex stations pop up a lot more frequently. There will be a few stretches of highway with no gas for 75 miles or so, but you should be able to find a Pemex station in almost every town you drive through from Guerrero Negro south.