Filling up your tank sounds like a straightforward concept, but you might be surprised by how crossing borders can complicate the task. In fact, there is no standard procedure for how to pump gas throughout the world. Fuel standards, stations and pumping etiquette all vary from country to country, often leading to unexpected complications on the road. Road trips allow travelers the opportunity to experience new places as a local would, but you don’t want the cultural differences to cause a roadblock. To help reduce frustrations and better plan for the road ahead, we compiled a list of 30 countries from all corners of the world to offer some practical advice to explain the process for pumping gas.
Prior to embarking on your journey, follow these tips before picking up your rental car:
- Fill up as frequently as you can. Gas stations can be fewer and farther apart than you might find in the United States. Consider if you will be driving through major cities, remote locations or country roads.
- Be familiar with the type of fuel your car requires. Filling up with the wrong fuel can not only disrupt your itinerary but pile on costly expenses.
- Be prepared with cash. While gas stations in many large cities will accept credit cards, it’s common for credit cards or debit cards to be declined when used internationally.
Region of the World: Africa and the Middle East
Some of the best sights in the Middle East and Africa can be seen by car, however, driving is not for the faint of heart. It’s common to experience obstacles in all forms. That said, planning ahead for your fuel needs and understanding station etiquette will help make for a smoother drive.
In Egypt, it’s unlikely you will ever need to leave your vehicle to fill up the tank. An attendant will pump your gas, clean the windshield, wipers and mirrors to prepare you for your next destination. Don’t forget to tip anywhere from 3 LE to 5 LE.
Petrol stations are not as common in Morocco as they are in many developed countries, so it’s always best to plan ahead for the next fuel stop. If you can help it, follow the golden rule of always having at least a half tank of gas throughout your road trip to avoid being desperate. Since Morocco is close in proximity to Spain and France, it’s common to see an influx of these languages throughout the country. For example, unleaded petrol is referred to in French as “sans blomb” and diesel is referred to as “gazole.”
For those who prefer to pay for gas with plastic, South Africa widely accepts credit cards at petrol stations, including international cards. However, being that most stations have pump attendants that will offer full-service, be sure to have 5 to 10 South African rand on hand for a tip.
Self-service is not a petrol station practice in Turkey, however, it’s typical that drivers pre-pay with the cashier. Once you pay, you’ll receive a receipt to provide to the pump attendant who will fill up your tank. Turkey has some of the most expensive gas prices in the world, so be prepared to endure high costs at the pump.
Region of the World: Asia and Oceania
Countries like Australia and New Zealand have similar fuel station practices to the western world, where those in Thailand and India can keep drivers on their toes. These regions offer wildly diverse climates and sights that are best experienced from behind the wheel. For a smooth road trip, use this guide to learn how to pump gas in eight different countries including local terms for gas stations.
To prevent spills and accidents, Australia does not allow petrol pumps to have an automatic latch, so drivers must hold the pump handle until full. Australia offers thousands of kilometers of extraordinary driving from The Eyre Peninsula to The Great Ocean Road, but the lack of preparation could create speed bumps in your road trip. Even Aussies who’ve driven their roads for year can come across surprises, don’t make pumping gas one of them.
China is known for having fewer petrol stations than many other countries. It’s always safe to go by the half-tank rule of thumb and plan your route in advance. While many stations have petrol attendants, it’s common to encounter self-service station in remote areas.
Many foreigners who travel India by car, often hire a driver along with it. Traffic is known for being high-risk with few regulations, so this may be the safest option if you aren’t familiar with the roads. Whether you have a driver or choose to brave the traffic on your own, you should still understand petrol station etiquette and what kind of fuel your vehicle takes. Thanks to this guide, you now know how.
In Indonesia, it’s common to find barrel pumps or bottled petrol for sale on the side of the road. While there are a large number of brand petrol stations through the cities, don’t be surprised by this practice. It’s a common fill up method for scooters, which are an extremely popular mode of transportation for locals and tourists alike. When ready to fill up, motorists are expected to make the fueling port available.
At full-service gas stations in Japan, it’s common to have one attendant that pumps gas and one that will clean your windshield, wipers and mirrors as a free service. A free rag is also provided for you to wipe the dashboard. To reduce static electricity, many of the kiosks offer a touchpad at self-service pumps.
New Zealand is known for expensive prices of petrol, so it’s important to note that prices change based on location, rather than by the gas company. While supermarkets in other countries may have their own pumps nearby, this is not as common for kiwis, however, most will provide a voucher to save at their partner petrol stations. Be careful not to lose any savings by spending too much time driving around for the best deals.
Driving in Russia offers some incredibly scenic experiences, but it doesn’t come without challenges. Beware of low grade or diluted fuel. In some regions, there have been cases where gas tanks were fueled with water. A good indicator of a trustworthy station is a line of cars, or better yet, truckers. Try to fuel at the largest gas station chains in the country and if a station is empty, check to see if there is another one nearby.
In Thailand, petrol stations can vary depending on location. You may be asked to get out of a vehicle while petrol is being pumped since some stations attendants feel this safe for the driver. Much like Indonesia, it’s common to find barrel pumps or petrol being sold by the bottle near the side of the road. If you are wary of this practice, it never hurts to visit brand name petrol stations.
Region of the World: Europe
Some of the most incredible locations in Europe are connected by major motorways, which makes driving a great means of transportation. Pumping petrol is often straightforward, but it’s always important to plan ahead for the next station and expect closures during certain times of the day. Use this guide to learn what gas stations to stop at, where it’s customary to tip and when to pay.
To help with petrol grade confusion, the nozzles of premium petrol pumps in France are often larger than those of regular unleaded pumps. Nevertheless, pay attention, as liquid petroleum gas (LPG) is commonly included among the options.
It’s unlikely to encounter many obstacles while pumping gas in Germany. In fact, credit cards are widely accepted, which is not always the case in other European countries. A tip to make sure your credit card works is to pay inside with the cashier. Additionally, the Eurocheque card or Maestro Card is always preferred at fueling stations.
By law, Greece requires that at least one gas station remain open in each area at night and on Sundays—certainly convenient for drivers. Additionally, what many countries call petrol is actually referred to as “unleaded benzine.” Beware that petrol can be mistaken for “petreleo” which is actually the word for diesel in Greek.
If you are driving on Hungary’s motorway network, you must pay a toll or what is most commonly known as a pass. These passes are available at petrol stations through the country. Once you see a sign that says “Matricia vignette,” it’s a good time to exit the highway pay a visit to your nearest station.
Outside of the area of the capital, Reykjavik, petrol stations can be few and far between. Some petrol stations only have a credit card-activated single pump on the side of the road. Iceland packs some extreme weather conditions, so plan ahead and fuel up when you have the chance.
For the pre-pay petrol stations in Ireland, it’s common to pay at a separate machine or kiosk prior to pumping the petrol. Once you enter your grade, pump number and payment, you can then fuel up at the pump near your vehicle.
In Italy, it’s common for the colors of pump handles and vehicle fuel ports to be coordinated. Gas stations are often closed midday and on Sundays, so plan ahead and keep a close eye on your tank and the timing of your trip. Many self-serve pumps are right off the road and offer pre-select button options like “pieno,” which gives you the option to fill up or “canc,” which allows for transaction cancellation and the ability to select a specific quantity.
It’s rare to experience a petrol station shortage in Poland, however, navigating the roads are known to be tricky. If you end up lost, use the phrase “Gdzie jest najbliższa stacja benzynowa?” translated to “Where’s the nearest gas station?”
Petrol stations are usually open from 7:00 to 22:00 with frequent closures for a couple hours midday, so if you are driving through the night, be sure to plan your fuel needs accordingly. It’s unlikely to come across any 24-hour pumps. If you end up lost, use the phrase “Onde posso comprar a gasolina?” translated to “Where can I buy petrol?”
Diesel cars are common in Europe, so you will likely need “gasoleo” for your vehicle. This is not to be confused with the English word, gasoline, which is commonly used for unleaded fuel. Something to be on the lookout for is the various grades of diesel as only one is suitable for cars—be sure to choose gasoleo A.
While the United Kingdom has a variety of terms for “gas station,” the process of pumping fuel is pretty straightforward. Much like Australia, the U.K. does not allow petrol pumps to have an automatic latch in an effort to prevent spills and accidents. Additionally, drivers don’t push a button to select the grade of gas, instead, you must pick up the diesel or petrol nozzle to begin pumping fuel.
Region of the World: North and South America
North and South America are home to one of the longest roads in the world, the Pan-American Highway, with thousands of additional miles to explore. From glaciers in Canada to beaches in Brazil, driving allows travelers to experience each country from a local’s point of view. Of course, it’s always important to keep in mind diverse weather conditions, tipping etiquette and forms of payment vary across borders.
Traffic in Argentina can be hectic and so can the pumps. The best time to fill up is in the early morning. Petrol station traffic is the worst in late afternoon and on weekends, so if possible, plan our fuel needs around these prime times.
When pumping fuel in Brazil, it’s always advised to use brand name fuel stations. Some stations are known for watering down their fuel to make more money which can lead to serious engine trouble. Self-service is also illegal in Brazil, so you shouldn’t need to leave the car unless you need to stretch or grab a beverage.
While most provinces in Canada allow drivers to pay after filling up, prepayment is the law in British Columbia and Alberta. Another outlier can be found in the western cities of Richmond and Coquitlam where self-service is prohibited at gas stations. To promote safety at the pumps, these cities still employ station attendants. To top off the friendly services at Canadian gas stations, most establishments offer WinterGas from November to March. This special kind of fuel is available across most grades and is formulated to help engines run smoother and prevent gas lines from freezing as the temperatures start to drop.
Gas station attendants are commonly referred to as “bomberos.” Since stations are full service, tell the bombero how much gas you want in liters, peso amount, or say “lleno” to fill up your tank. The bombero may ask to wash your windows, check the oil, or fill your tires, so it’s polite to have a tip ready. While dollars are accepted as tips, it’s more common to tip using the Chilean peso.
For almost 80 years, Pemex or Petróleos Mexicanos monopolized the fuel industry in Mexico until in late 2017 when Shell opened its first gas station. This introduction allows tourist and local drivers more choice of where to fill up.
Many countries have a unique color attributed to each fuel by grade, however, this is not the case in the U.S. where a variety of colors correspond to unleaded fuel options. To help differentiate, diesel is typically pumped from a green handle and offered at a separate pump. If you’re new to driving in the United States, be cautious to understand the required grade and don’t base your fuel needs on the color of the pump handle.
In Uruguay, a 5 to 10 peso tip is appreciated for any service beyond pumping gas. While many gas stations, otherwise known as “estaciones de servico,” accept cash a primary form of payment, the Montevideo and Canelones regions implemented a law that bans any form of cash payments at fuel service stations in an effort to deter criminals.
Pumping gas shouldn’t be difficult, but it doesn’t come without surprises across borders. Gas station etiquette varies by country much like driving and gas prices. Always keep in mind customary practices when it’s appropriate to tip. In addition to the many translations for the word “gas” or “gas station,” it’s important to always pay attention to the color of the pump handles and what type of fuel your vehicle takes.