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As you travel to Costa Rica for your next vacation, you probably want to learn to speak a few basic Spanish phrases. This guide will help you learn to use and pronounce some of the most common phrases in Costa Rican Spanish.
I’m positive I’m biased, but I think I learned Spanish in the best country in the whole world to do so! 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.
Add in the fact that the tourism industry has been booming in Costa Rica for many years, so if you are visiting Costa Rica for the first time – especially visiting Costa Rica with kids– you will find many ticos (as Costa Ricans call themselves) speak excellent English.
Read more: Awesome Places to Stay In Costa Rica
Still, it’s important when you learn a language to have a few words and phrases handy that you know you’ll be using frequently. In Spanish-speaking countries, even trying to use just a few common Spanish phrases goes a long way to show respect to locals.
Here are 15 simple and common Costa Rican Spanish travel phrases that any traveler to Costa Rica will find helpful as they explore one of the most beautiful countries on Earth.
I’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. If you want to have all of these phrases in one place, I highly recommend my favorite Costa Rican Spanish book.
If you feel like you’ve got a good handle on basic Costa Rican Spanish, check out this great post on Costa Rican slang. I guarantee you will find a few hilarious phrases you’ll have a lot of fun trying out!
Also check out:
- Spanish Phrases For Travel In Costa Rica With Young Children
- 5 Travel Tips For Visiting Costa Rica With Young Children
- What does Pura Vida mean?
List of 10 Common Costa Rican Spanish Phrases
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 días 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.
4- Hola (oh-la) – Hello
Hola is used in the same way that hello is used in the United States- it’s a very conversational Spanish phrase.
5- Por favor (por-fa-vor) – Please
You can never use this phrase too often in Costa Rica, which values gratitude and politeness!
6- Gracias (grah-si-ahs) – Thank you
Another phrase that you really can not overuse.
7- ¿Cómo le va? (Koh-mo lay vah) – How’s it going?
Costa Rican Spanish uses this question in all situations where Americans would use the phrase “How’s it going?”
8- Bien (bee-en) – 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.
9- ¡Pura Vida! -(pu-dah bi-dah) – Great, awesome, wonderful, no worries, good people
Pura Vida Costa Rican national phrase, it means anything positive. It’s the most important Costa Rican Spanish phrase. Use it liberally and watch others smile at you.
10- 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.”
Related post: 20 Marvelous Beaches on Costa Rica’s Pacific Coast
Additional Basic Spanish Phrases for Travel
11- ¿Habla inglés? (ah-blah een-gles) – Do you speak English?
This is another one of those Spanish phrases for travelers that is especially helpful.
12- ¿Cuánto vale? (kwan-toh ba-leh) – How much is it?
It’s a good idea to ask how much things cost in advance or before you agree to pay for them. This phrase is the most common way to pose the question in Costa Rica. Costa Ricans generally do not use cuánto cuesta, which is more common in the rest of Latin America.
Read also: Costa Rica Currency
13 – ¿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.
14 – ¿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!
Read also: Driving In Costa Rica – Complete Guide
15- ¿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 your change back in dollars if you don’t have the exact change.
16 – ¿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.
Read also: Costa Rica Currency
Is Costa Rican Spanish different?
Costa Rican Spanish is very similar to Spanish in the rest of Central America. You’ll find a wide spread of either “usted” or “vos” to refer to someone else, as opposed to “tú” as used in other parts of Latin America and Spain.
What does Pura Vida mean?
Pura vida could be considered Costa Rica’s official phrase. It literally translates to “pure life” and means everything from awesome to cool to good.
Welcome! I’m Christa, a former high school teacher married to a handsome Costa Rican and mother of two bilingual daughters. I love all things Spanish and bi-cultural, (especially travel and food!) and you’ll find my observations on life here. Thanks for stopping by