I was very nervous the first time I got fuel in Mexico. I read the booklet provided by the tour company, cautioning about fraud at the pump. Before our whale watching tour I overheard a conversation between our Tailgunner, who owns a home in San Felipe, and our guide about which stations were known for dishonesty. The guide rattled off a long list of dirty gas stations, which were equal opportunity grifters; they took advantage of Mexicans just as much as foreigners.
You might wonder how someone can get defrauded at the pump. If you do not have a locking gas cap and it takes you a while to exit your vehicle, the attendant might fail to zero out the pump before starting to dispense the fuel. Once the fuel is in your tank, how are you going to dispute the amount, and how can you refuse to pay?
Duly warned, I grabbed my cash and scrambled out of the RV as quickly as possible at the Pemex station. The attendant had not yet removed my non-locking cap. He zeroed out the pump and made a grand gesture toward the display, seeking my agreement that it was set to zero. This was to be a theme during the trip; every attendant zeroed the pump first and pointed to it to get my acknowledgement before proceeding.
The second way to get “taken” at a fuel station in Mexico is during payment. We were told that attendants have a huge wad of cash in their pockets to make change. We were advised never to hand over payment until we saw the change in the hands of the attendant. En guarde, I showed the 2000 pesos to the attendant. We played a little bit of tug-of-war with the currency until he gestured to the inside of the store, indicating he had to get change from there. I took a leap of faith. He returned with my exact change.
When we were in larger cities, attendants did not have a big bankroll in their pockets. Most of the time they went inside to make change. The old rules and the old ways of taking advantage mostly no longer apply in the cities. For example, many stations now take plastic, some even at the pump.
If you need diesel, the good news is that it is plentiful on the Baja. Not every station carries it, but when they do, diesel is indicated by the color black, NOT the color green!
During my time in Baja it cost about 4000 pesos to fill my 100-gallon tank, which equates to approximately $2.30 per gallon. I tipped attendants 20 pesos – a little over a buck.