Basic Spanish Phrases & Slang You Should Know
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Basic Spanish Phrases & Slang You Should Know

In some regions where Rustic Pathways students travel there aren’t many people who speak English. Even if there are, it’s still nice to try to communicate in the local language. For tens of millions of people Spanish is their first language.

It’s the fourth most spoken language in the world after English, Mandarin and Hindi. Spanish also is the official language in five nations and territories where our students travel.

To help with language, there are a number of translation apps that can assist travelers both before the trip and when they are on the road. However, there are times where you may not have access to a phone. Plus knowing some basics is really beneficial.

In some cases, communication preparation is more crucial. This would include instances where food allergies or special dietary needs are a concern. There are cards that can be handed to people to share health details in Spanish, if needed.

Fortunately, communication is much more casual in most settings. Below are some basic Spanish words and phrases that may help with the day-to-day conversation while traveling, along with just a few slang words you may run into in various countries.


Hello – Hola
How are you? – ¿Cómo estás?
Good morning – Buenos días
Good afternoon – Buenas tardes
Good night – Buenas noches
Welcome – Bienvenido
Goodbye – Adios

Spanish Language Immersion in Costa Rica with Rustic Pathways

Spanish Language Immersion program in Costa Rica
Copyright: © 2015 Rustic Pathways


Please – Por favor
Thank you – Gracias
Excuse me – Perdón
Sorry – Lo siento

Useful Questions & Sentences

Where is the bathroom? – Dónde está el baño?
Could you repeat that please?  – Repite por favor.
How do you say ___ in Spanish? – ¿Cómo se dice ___ en español?
I don’t understand – No entiendo.
I want to go to ___. – Yo quiero ir a ___.
Where is ___? – ¿Dónde está ___?
I would like ___. – Yo quisiera ___.
How much is it? – ¿Cuanto vale ___?

Casual Conversations

What is your name? – ¿Cómo te llamas?
My name is ___. – Me llamo ___.
Where are you from? – ¿De dónde eres?
I am from ___. – Yo soy de ___.
How old are you? – ¿Cuantos años tienes?
I am ___ years old. – Tengo ___ años.
Do you speak English? – ¿Hablas inglés?
I speak a little Spanish – Hablo un poco de español.
I am hungry  – Tengo hambre
I am thirsty – Tengo sed
I am cold – Tengo frio
I am hot – Tengo calor

Common Words & Slang

Costa Rica:

Pura vida – “pure life” This refers to the Costa Rican way of life. It’s often used as a response to ¿Cómo estás?
mae – “dude” but can be used to refer to any man or woman.
por dicha –  thank goodness
tuanis – cool
pulperia – a small corner store


Bacán – cool (also used in Ecuador) –
Chévere – great
Soroche – altitude sickness (Take precautions to avoid having to use this word!)
Al toque – right now (used when someone is in a hurry)
Jama and jamear – food and to go eat
Luca – refers to money, specifically 1 sol

Rustic Pathways students can practice their Spanish skills during the Andes to Amazon program in Peru.
Copyright: © 2014 Rustic Pathways


Achachay – feeling cold
¿Cachas? – do you understand or “catch” something
Pana — buddy
¡De una! — absolutely!
¡Mentira! — used to express astonishment
¿Qué fue? — What’s up?

Dominican Republic:

Bacano – something cool or someone who is really good at something difficult
Nítido – another word for great/cool
Chercha – a party or good time
Chillaxing – Anglican word that’s also used here, means relaxing or chilling
Colmado – small corner store
Hevi nais – very nice
¿Dime a ver? – what’s up
Vaina – thing or stuff  – It’s often used when something is negative, so travelers may want to avoid using the word.

Puerto Rico:

Boricua – name for the local Puerto Rican people based on the language of the indigenous Taino people
Janguiar – hang out
Chavos – money (also used in the Dominican Republic)
Gufear – to goof or joke around
¡Mano! – hey bro

To learn even more Spanish, students can register for the Spanish Immersion program in Costa Rica. For more information on language development, view:

How Students Can Use Travel Experiences to Learn Another Language

Using Travel as a Tool for Language Development


About the Author

Mary Rogelstad

Content Writer