9 Costs, Banks, and Tipping

Money & Exchange Rates

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The one bank in Mulegé now has an ATM that works for foreign banks but it can be unreliable, so pick up some pesos in Santa Rosalíta or Loreto. In a pinch, the grocery stores take dollars and will give you change in pesos (at a less attractive exchange rate). You can also send yourself some cash using Western Union.

Gas stations will always change money, but watch carefully. Some attendants are pretty fast with the transaction and you may find later that you’ve been had.

Carry small bills and coins for the vendors and small shops; they don’t have much change.

Credit Cards vs Cash

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Bring cash! Outside of the big cities, and sometimes even in them, credit cards may not work, gas stations included. Also be aware that your credit card company may put a hold on your card for “suspicious transaction,” so be prepared and bring two.

WARNING: Credit card fraud is common. A hardware store in Santa Rosalia ran my $80 total through twice. I spoke with them but ultimately had to put a stop on it with my credit card company.

GAS STATIONS

Pemex Gas Station
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Gas costs more than in the US so fill your tank before you cross. But don’t fill your extra gas containers as you may be forced to pour it out at the border. Mexico relies on its gas tax, concrete tax, and paint tax for infrastructure and social services. (Pemex, Cemex, and Comex.)

Try to buy gas at the big stations along the road. The older stations in small towns may have rusty tanks. But generally, gas will be good.

If you’re riding off-road motorcycles in remote places, you’ll usually find gas at the local store. They shouldn’t mark it up too much. Most rancheros will sell you gas, too. They kinda love hanging out and talking to strangers. They don’t get much entertainment out there.

Don’t rely on the availability of hi-test. Stations carry octane booster if you need it.

On Hwy 1 there used to be a “dry spell” between El Rosario and Jesus Maria (a few minutes north of Guerreo Negro) of about 235 km, and even now motorcyclists should top off at each end. In the middle is Catavenia. They’ve built a new gas station, motel, and restaurant there, but they sometimes run out of gas. If they do, you’ll probably find a gas-seller with barrels on the roadside or in a truck bed on the main road.

On MEX 1 there’s usually someone selling gas at the turnoff to Bahia Los Angeles (Bay of LA), and also at the turnoff to Gonzaga Bay. Both the Bay of LA and Gonzo Bay stations run dry often, so unless I’ve heard from other travelers that they have gas, I top off. I don’t feel bad if I pay a little more, because it’s a way for the locals to make some money.

Currently, there’s a graded dirt road connecting MEX 1 and MEX 5 for between 25 and 40 km, depending on the route around the construction, that passes by Coco’s Corner. The road was supposed to be completed by the end of 2019 but a hurricane destroyed a lot of it so they’re starting over. I haven’t heard people say they have much hope of this stretch ever being completed.

Again, the Gonzaga Bay Pemex may or may not have gas. It usually does. Across the street, there’s a large roadside shop for food, camping supplies, and other sundries. This is south of the turnoff to Alphonsino’s, where you should stop to have a walk on the beach and the best shrimp tacos of your life. There’s camping there, and a motel, which is very popular especially with the fishing crowd, so call ahead if you know you want to stay there.

Another note about gas stations. Make absolutely certain the meter is at zero when the gas starts pumping. It’s a common scam to start the meter higher. One visitor told me he paid for twice the amount of gas his Jeep could hold, and only realized it 100 miles down the road.

Round up to tip your gas attendant a little bit. If someone washes your windshield, tip them… 10 pesos is enough.

An attendant in El Rosario will sell you fossils. You could probably walk across the street and dig one out yourself, if you have the time and inclination. They’re impressive, and I think I paid $20 for a fossil the first time I passed through. Now I wouldn’t pay more than $5.

In San Ignacio you can buy fresh-picked dates at the gas station. They’re sticky, sweet, and  delicious.

Tipping

tipping in baja
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Restaurant waitstaff are not used to tips from Mexicans but Gringos round up at the least but tipping is very much appreciated.

Anyone who helps you at all–give them some small change. If they try to refuse, say it’s pour cervesa or soda and they will usually smile and accept.

When motorcyclists air up at llanteras (tire shops) they may not charge you, but hand them 10 to 50 pesos, again, pour cervesa. They’ll charge to air up your four-wheeler and RV, but not much, so a tip is welcome.

Just remember, life is harder here, and people often barter with each other for food and supplies. So cash is very welcome.

Camping & Lodging

Photo by Carla King

All along the coast you’ll generally pay $10/night or less for a camping/RV spot with a palapa and about half that for one without, depending on the exchange rate.

Motels in Mulegé run from $30 to $90 a night.are  In Loreto there many many motels and hotels. Look for prices between $40-$200.

Gifts

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Many travelers have been rescued by locals; towed, repaired, even being housed and fed in remote areas. Money is almost always refused in exchange for this generous hospitality. So if the pour cervesa trick doesn’t work, a gift of an extra t-shirts, flashlight, headlamp, small toolset, and a small packets of cosmetics (lipstick, nail polish, eye shadows) for the women, are accepted with pleasure. Quality items are not available in Baja and they will be very much appreciated.

License

Baja Adventure Guide Copyright © 2017 by CARLA KING. All Rights Reserved.

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