Buying petrol/gasolina in Bolivia

Discussion in 'Latin America' started by stevedo, Jul 5, 2019.

  1. stevedo

    stevedo Been here awhile

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    I've read so many different stories of folks having issues with buying petrol (gasolina) in Bolivia that I thought I'd share some current information based on our own experiences.

    My wife and I have been in Bolivia on our Tiger 800XC for the past two months. Petrol here is subsidised by the government and is 3.74 Bolivianos per litre. The official non-subsidised rate for foreigners is 8.7 Bolivianos per litre. There's a somewhat drawn out process that we should go through in order to buy petrol for our foreign registered bike. However, the petrol pump attendants are not too keen on doing the extra work. Our experience is broken down as follows:

    Roughly 65% of the time we just pay the local price. Even if the pump attendant checks our license plate (placa) they just charge whatever the price is on the pump as if we were locals.

    Maybe 20% of the time we pay a price between the subsidised rate and the official foreigner rate, usually between 5 and 7 Bolivianos per litre. This is always "sin factura" - without a receipt and I imagine the difference between the subsidised rate and what we pay goes directly into the pocket of the attendant.

    10% of the time we've purchased fuel in plastic bottles. Once due to the fact that there was no petrol station (on the Che Guevara route) and we ended up buying it in a small shop. Price was 4.5 Bolivianos per litre. We were also affected by one of the many road blockades in Bolivia. This meant that for a few days there was no petrol in any petrol station. The only possibility was to buy from someone who managed to get petrol from somewhere and sold it at the side of the road. Price was 10 Bolivianos per litre, supply and demand :-)

    Only on one occasion have we gone through the official process to buy fuel. By the time the attendants had figured out what to do and enter our details into the computer (they needed our TIP) it took 15 minutes to fill up!

    In summary we have never been refused fuel in any petrol station. Where stations haven't existed it's been easy to buy in plastic bottles. The only frustration in obtaining fuel was caused by a 10 day road blockade by soya farmers resulting in fuel shortages in Beni, the area we were travelling through at the time. We have mostly just paid the local rate and have only had to go through the official process once. Buying petrol here has not really been an issue at all.

    Saludos
    Steve
    www.tiger800rtw.com
    www.facebook.com/tiger800rtw

    Filling up during the road blockade. This is near Trinidad.

    Fuel blockade (1 of 1).jpg
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  2. aneeshmittal10

    aneeshmittal10 n00b

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    I'll add to this thread my experience until now (2 weeks) from Peru via La Paz, Oruro & Sucre (Potosi tomorrow and then off to Uyuni & Tarija in the next 2-3 weeks, if anybody wants to meet up)
    I have mostly been consulting iOverlander for 'friendly' gas stations. Mostly paying 5/Lts. Some fuel stations didn't sell me fuel because the attendants didn't know how to do the process in their computers. This is actually illegal by Bolivian law, and if this happens, you can complain via Phone call: 800-10-6006.
    During my visit to Bolivia last year, I used to buy from 'tiendas' in almost each village on the highway near gas stations. Normally 5-6Bs/L, more near Uyuni.
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  3. Dvvjd

    Dvvjd Adventurer

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    Just crossed Bolivia . No issues buying gas with US plates. They just gave a high price first. Ask if they can help you out then they would drop it to 7 or 6/L . Then ask again if they help you and you’ll help them and I was mostly getting 6 sometimes 5/L with a tip at the end. Was never refused gas, just sometimes paid more.
    #3
  4. Gerineldo

    Gerineldo Adventurer

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    The horror stories about foreigners buying gasoline in Bolivia are largely true but luckily things have taken a turn for the better since early 2019. The motorcycling community (led by Riders Bolivia) managed to get a video of a traveler being refused fuel at a regular gas station in Potosi. They raised quite a high-profile stink through social media and official letters to appropriate government officials. End result, the story made it to media and TV, the gas station was fined and shut down (temporarily I believe), and it appears that most gas stations around the country have learned the lesson.
    As the OP pointed out, foreigners are entitled to buy gas everywhere albeit at a much higher price. But, as travelers have mentioned above, with a bit of negotiating skills you should be able to buy it a price somewhere between local (3.74) and international (8.70) prices.
    #4
  5. charapa

    charapa Been here awhile

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    Good info as many ask me as they leave Peru headed south!
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  6. knight

    knight Been here awhile

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    Do you have any information that may help find a missing rider that was last seen in Santa Cruz , Bolivia
    https://m.facebook.com/NicInBolivia/
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  7. stevedo

    stevedo Been here awhile

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  8. JimsBeemer

    JimsBeemer 2017 R1200GSA

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    Our (wife Carol and I- two motorcycles) recent experience (October 2019) with gas in Bolivia, after a week and a half in the country: It has been a hassle but we have been able to get gas. The hassle has been that the hoops the operators have to jump through to "correctly" sell you gas as a foreigner are considerable, involving entering your passport and license plate numbers into their computerized system. This is a process that they apparently do not do often and is confusing and time consuming for them - I always apologize for the inconvenience even though it isn't my fault.

    We were almost rejected once because two attendants together could not figure out what to do after 5-10 minutes of pushing buttons. But just as we were about to pull out a manager came out and told us to wait, and she figured it out. Another time, I stopped at a station on the outskirts of La Paz in the morning (day of the Death Road ride - epic) and they jumped through the official hoops pretty efficiently - but when I stopped at the exact same station on the way back, a different guy was there and was basically rude and not happy to have to deal with me, and ended up just charging me more w/o doing the official process, and I'm sure just pocketed the extra. But at the end of the day ... we were able to get gas. Just have to plan more time at the pump - it is not quick.
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  9. CarbonCat

    CarbonCat Long timer

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    We should be going to Bolivia first week of January, how do you pay for gas at a gas station? Credit card or cash?
    Thanks!
    #9
  10. Parcero

    Parcero Mundial Supporter

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    Depends on where you are in Bolivia. Gas stations in larger cities will accept debit cards and sometimes credit cards. In rural areas mostly cash.

    Here’s my overall assessment on Bolivia from by ride report a couple of years ago:

    As an update on Bolivia and to answer several PM inquiries I've received on these topics, here's some info on cell service, payments, gasoline, etc.

    I exchanged US dollars for Bolivian currency (bolivianos) in person from a money change office at the border in Villazon. The exchange rate I was offered was six bolivianos per dollar. This was, of course, less than the then-official exchange rate of almost seven to the dollar, but that's to be expected when exchanging small quantities of dollars and not massive amounts that drive the official rates. I was also exchanging 20s, which get a lesser rate than 100s. That was the only time I exchanged currency in person. I obtained more bolivianos as needed from ATMs at larger banks in Sucre and Santa Cruz. The exchange rate mirrored within a few thousandths of a cent the official rate on the days of the transactions.

    Credit and debit cards were accepted at most businesses. VISA and MasterCard where easily handled, AMEX required a separate machine where accepted. Some businesses and smaller hotels, along with some gas stations, accepted only debit cards. Some gas stations, especially those in rural areas, were cash only.

    There are two options at gas stations--gasoline or diesel. No octane rating is given. I thought the gasoline smelled very different than gasoline in other countries but, despite that, I didn't experience any engine performance issues. The bike seemed to run just fine. As I've often thought, I can't imagine BMW designing a bike to be ridden all over the planet that can only run on premium. There are also two, or really three, prices. The national price for Bolivians, a foreigner price, and a sort of black market price for us foreigners if we don't need an official receipt--the "sin factura" price. I think the national price was like two and a half bolivianos per liter, the foreigner price was a little over eight, and I was able to pay between seven and five at some stations, sin factura. In dollar terms, that's about 36 cents a liter for Bolivians, $1.20 a liter for USA-types, and between 75 cents and a dollar a liter sin factura. I got lucky one time and filled my tank for the national price. At over 40 mpg, I'm not too concerned about gasoline prices on a moto, and it's not like I had much choice in the matter, anyway, with somewhat limited availability. Why boggle my mind trying to convert liters to gallons while simultaneously trying to convert bolivianos to dollars to make a Bolivia-USA fuel price comparison?

    Cell service was widely available, although my phone was showing "No Service" in lots of rural mountain areas away from populated zones. When available, 3G was the usual level of service, and even LTE was available in large- and even some medium-sized cities. Data speeds where not nearly as fast as at home, but I know that T-Mobile throttles data speed when roaming internationally. WiFi was available in almost every restaurant and hotel, regardless of size or location, but the speed of the service was abysmal in the smaller locales. In some places, the WiFi symbol on the phone simply taunted me--awesome full-strength signal to the router but obviously no internet hook-up whatsoever.

    Electric service was 220VAC, and plugs are the two round prong type (I think Type C, officially.) All I was doing is charging cell phones and camera batteries, which all accept either 220VAC or 110VAC. Almost every place I stayed or had to plug in had outlets that accepted either Type C or Type A (USA-type) plugs.
    #10
  11. Misery Goat

    Misery Goat Positating the negative Super Moderator

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    I had success getting gas in Bolivia by showing up without any luggage on the bike. They tend to assume you're living there, even if not a Bolivian national. Even when I was loaded down they didn't give me any grief and I usually paid the local price. I might have paid the higher price one time. I was on a KTM 950 SE that doesn't draw attention like shiny BMWs do.
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  12. Parcero

    Parcero Mundial Supporter

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    I’m not sure how “shiny” any moto is after riding any length of time in Bolivia.
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  13. Bovino

    Bovino Been here awhile

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    I’m in Bolivia atm. Evo‘s gone hiding last night, most of the blockades in the south should be gone by tomorrow the locals say. Getting gas was easy today. There are something like 50 tanker trucks just outside Villamontes waiting to get going towards Tarija.
    I prepped a card with my name, reg and passport number so the guys at the pumps have not much hassle typing. That probably helps too.
    #13
  14. Parcero

    Parcero Mundial Supporter

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    Evo went to Mexico where he was granted asylum by his comrade AMLO. I’m sure he’ll be able to access his billions in Swiss accounts from Mexico.
    #14