16 Basic Spanish Phrases Every Traveler To Costa Rica Should Know

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Costa Ricans are known throughout Latin America for their laid-back attitude and very clear pronunciation of Spanish. The combination of these two traits makes it the ideal place for anyone to practice their Spanish – from novice to fluent speakers.  Here are 16 simple and common Spanish phrases that any traveler to Costa Rica will find helpful as they explore one of the most beautiful countries on Earth. We’ve also included a quick explanation of when and how to use each phrase, so that you will be culturally appropriate when you practice your Spanish.  And – there’s a free printable of these important basic phrases that you can take with you on your travels included too! If you feel like you’ve got a good handle on Spanish, check out this great post on Costa Rica slang from Ryan at Costa Rica Outsider!

  1. Buenos días (bwe-nos dee-as)     Good morning

-It is customary in Costa Rica to greet everyone with this phrase, even if you do not know them.  It is especially common to say this when you are walking into a room where there are already people (such as at breakfast) and before starting a conversation or asking a question.

2. Buenas tardes – (bwe-nas tar-des)     Good afternoon

-The same custom for use of buenos d[ias is also used for buenas tardes, which is also used as a leave-taking phrase.  “Afternoon”  in Costa Rica is considered until 6 p.m.

3. Buenas noches (bwe-nas no-ches)     Good evening/good night

-Again, the use of buenas noches when entering or exiting a room and before beginning a conversation is customary in Costa Rica.

Hola (oh-la)     Hello

Hola is used in the same way that hello is used in the United States.  

4. Por favor (por-fa-vor)     Please

You can never use this phrase too often in Costa Rica, which values gratitude and politeness!

5. Gracias  (grah-si-ahs)     Thank you

Another phrase that you really can not overuse.  

6. ¿Cómo le va? (Koh-mo lay vah)     How’s it going?

-Costa Ricans use this more formal question in all situations where Americans would use the phrase “How’s it going?”

7. Bien (byen)     fine, well

-This is the most common response to the question how’s it going? Most Costa Ricans will not answer otherwise until they know you well.

8. ¡Pura Vida! -(pu-dah bi-dah)     great, awesome, wonderful, no worries, good people

-The Costa Rican national phrase, it means anything positive. Use it liberally and watch others smile at you.

9. Mucho gusto (moo-cho guhs-toh)     Nice to meet you,  you’re welcome

-When you first meet someone new, you will simply respond mucho gusto.  Also, when someone tells you “gracias”  you can also respond by saying mucho gusto.  Costa Rica is one of the only countries that regularly uses “mucho gusto” as both “you’re welcome” and “nice to meet you.”  

10. ¿Habla inglés? (ah-blah een-gles)     Do you speak English?

-Enough said.

11. ¿Cuánto vale? (kwan-toh ba-leh)     How much is it?

-It’s a good idea to ask how much things cost in advance or agreeing to pay for them, and this phrase is the most common way to pose the question in Costa Rica.

12. ¿A qué hora es …..? (ah ke or-ah es)

What time does…. Start?

-Time is relative in Costa Rica, and it is a good idea to ask what time things will begin, but also be flexible within a half hour each way.

13. ¿Dónde queda …? (dohn deh kay dah)

Where is…?

-Distance can also be relative in Costa Rica, and it’s a good idea to ask about your mode of transportation too!

14. ¿Aceptan dólares? (Ah-sep-tahn doh-lah-rays)  

Do you take dollars?

– Many places will take, or even prefer dollars.  This doesn’t mean you will get you change back in dollars if you don’t have exact change.

15. ¿Puedo pagar con tarjeta? (Pwe-doh pa-gahr cohn tar-heh-tah)

Can I pay with a card?

-Costa Rica is super modern in this respect, there are so many places that take cards.  Expect to show ID during the transaction and for Costa Rican merchants to pass along any transaction fees to you.


Click here for a free printable of these phrases to take with you as you practice Spanish in Costa Rica!

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16 basic spanish phrases for travel in costa rica

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  • Mine Medina
    June 28, 2016 at 7:59 am

    Toda la vida he querido conocer

    • Christa
      June 30, 2016 at 7:45 pm

      ¡Tienes que ir! Es un verdadero paraíso, y ¡espero que puedas visitar pronto! Gracias por el comentario y espero que sigas visitando nuestra página Web.

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