Costa Rica Language – Spanish Travel Phrases

The national Costa Rica language is Spanish. This means that it is really helpful to know at least some basic Costa Rican Spanish before visiting.

If you are in touristy locations you will likely have no trouble finding someone who speaks perfect English, but it is good to know some Spanish phrases for things like going to non-touristy restaurants, filling up gas in your rental car, etc.

Anyway, here is a complete guide to basic Spanish for Costa Rica to help you get by during your travels.

Basic Spanish Words / Phrases

costa rica spanish

Here are some of the words and phrases you are most likely to use in Spanish.

Yes – Si

No – No

Maybe – Tal vez

Of course – Claro

Fine – Bien 

I need… – Necesito…

Formalities in Spanish

Please – Por favor

Thank you – Gracias

Thank you very much – Muchas gracias 

You’re welcome – De nada / Mucho gusto

Excuse me – Con permiso (used if you need to get by somebody)

Excuse meDiscúlpe (when you need to get somebody’s attention)

Pardon me – You can say “disculpe” or “perdón!” (use if you bang into somebody)

I’m sorry – Lo siento

Language Phrases

Do you speak English? – Habla inglés?

I don’t speak Spanish – No hablo español

I speak a little Spanish – Yo hablo un poco de español 

How do you say … in Spanish? – (Como se dice … en español? 

What does … mean in English? – Que significa … en ingles

Do you understand? – ¿Entiende? 

I don’t understand – No entiendo

Speak slower please – Por favor, habla más despacio

Can you repeat please – Podrías repetir por favor

Greetings and Goodbyes in Spanish

pura vida

Hello – Hola

Hi – Buenas  (The direct translation is “good” but in Costa Rica “buenas” is a more relaxed way of saying hello. It is normal to say “Buenas” to people working at a shop, restaurant etc. )

Good morning – Buenos días

Good afternoon – Buenas tardes 

Good evening/ night – Buenas noches 

How are you? – Cómo estás? 

What is your name? – Cómo se llama? 

My name is… – Mi nombre es… 

Nice to meet you – Mucho gusto 

Where are you from? – De dónde eres? 

I am from … – Yo soy de … 

See you later – Hasta luego 

Bye – Adiós 

Bye – ¡Pura Vida!

Bye – Ciao

Question Phrases


Can I…? – ¿Puedo…?

Can you…? – ¿Puede…?

Do you have…?¿Tiene…?

What? – ¿Que?

What time is it? – Qué hora es? 

When? – ¿Cuándo?

How? – ¿Cómo?

Why? – ¿Por qué?

Where? – ¿Dónde?

Where is…? – ¿Dónde está…?

Emergency Phrases

safety costa rica

In case of an emergency, the number for the police is 9-1-1. Usually it is no problem to speak to someone that knows at least some English.

Also, keep in mind that there are no addresses in Costa Rica. You will either have to explain to the police where you are located or tell them the name of the hotel/ place you are at.

Help! – Auxilio!

I need help – Necesito ayuda 

I had an accident – Tuve un accidente 

Send the police, please- Envíe a la policía, por favor.

I’ve been robbed – Me han robado (a)

My passport was stolen – Me robaron el pasaporte

I lost my passport – Perdí mi pasaporte 

I am sick – Estoy enfermo (a)

I don’t feel well – No me siento bien

I need a doctor – Necesito un médico

heatstroke – insolación

heart attack – ataque al corazón 

Restaurant Phrases for Costa Rica

restaurant costa rica

In most restaurants, you will be able to get an English menu. If they give you a menu in Spanish it is always worth at least asking if they have one in English as well.

When you finish your meal you will need to ask for the bill. They will not just come over and give it to you.

Also, on your bill, you will see a sales tax and a service tax. Service tax is usually 10%. It is always nice to give a bit of a tip on top of this, but it is not absolutely necessary.

I have a reservation – Tengo una reservación

A table – Una mesa

A table for two, three, four – Una mesa para dos, tres, cuatro

The menu please? – ¿El menú, por favor?

Do you have an English menu? – ¿Tiene un menu en ingles?

I would like…. – Para mi (menu item name), por favor. Or you can say…. Yo quisiera (menu item name)

I am allergic to … – Soy alérgico a … 

An appetizer – Una entrada

What would you like to drink? – ¿Para tomar?

A drink – Una bebida

Cheers! – ¡Salud! –

Dessert – Un postre

I am vegetarian – Soy vegetariano/a

Very tasty – Que rico!

To go – Para llevar

The bill, please – La cuenta, por favor.

Service – Servicio (This is the 10% added to the bill for tip)

Sales tax (13%) – Impuestos ventas

Transportation Phrases for Costa Rica

car costa rica

There are some phrases that will be very helpful while getting around the country with ease.

Gas Station Spanish

gas station

All gas stations in Costa Rica are full service. That means you just stay in your car while a gas station attendant takes care of everything for you. If you need your windshield washed or tire pressure checked they can do that as well. However, it is always nice to give them a small tip (we usually give about 300 colones) if they provide these extra services for us.

Fill it with regular (gas) please – Lleno con regular, por favor

Could you please check the air pressure? – ¿Podría por favor verificar la presión de aire en las llantas??

Could you clean the windshield? – ¿Podría limpiar el parabrisas?

May I have the bathroom key? – Me podría dar las llaves del baño, por favor?

Taking the Bus

bus - transportation in costa rica

Often you will buy bus tickets ahead of time at a bus station ticketing office. However, if you are boarding a bus at a bus stop you will need to purchase your ticket on board. Most bus drivers do not speak English so it is good to know a few basic phrases for your bus ride.

Bus station – Estación de buses

Bus stop – Parada de bus

Where are you going? – ¿A dónde va?

Do I need a ticket? – ¿Necesito un tiquete?

One ticket to…. – Un tiquete a

Stop here – Pare aquí

Direction Phrases

Puerto Jiminez road

Because people from Costa Rica are generally nice people-pleasers it can be difficult to get directions from them. It is not unusual for Ticos to try and give you directions even if they have no idea where you need to go.

So, the moral of the story is that you will need to asses the situation and decide if you really trust somebody’s directions.

If you would like some tips on driving directions we have a complete guide to getting directions in Costa Rica.

Can you help me? – ¿Puede ayudarme?

How do I get to …? – ¿Como llego a…?

Where is the nearest gas station? – ¿Dónde está la gasolinera más cercana

I am lost – Estoy perdido 

I am going to… – Voy a…

Is this the road to…? – ¿Esta es la calle a…?

To the right – A la derecha

To the left – A la izquierda

Straight ahead – Derecho

At the corner – En la esquina

In one block – A una cuadra

Shopping Phrases for Costa Rica

costa rica souvenirs

At outdoor art stands it is OK to haggle a bit for the price. However, keep in mind that Costa Ricans do not like confrontation. Don’t make them feel uncomfortable by trying to get a much lower price for something.

Open – Abierto (as in relation to store hours)

Closed – Cerrada (as in relation to store hours)

I’m just looking – Solo estoy mirando

I’m looking for … – Estoy buscando … 

What sizes do you have? – ¿Que tallas tienes?

Small – Pequeño (a)

Medium – mediano (a)

Large – Grande

Can I try it on? – ¿Me lo puedo probar?

Do you have other colors? – ¿Tienes otro colores?

Do you sell Kolbi cards? – ¿Vendes tarjetas Kölbi prepago?

I would like a card for (amount) – Me vendes una tarjeta por (amount) colones

(Note: Kolbi is one of the prepaid phone companies here. You can pick up a SIM card in the airport after exiting Customs. Check out our guide to using your cell phone in Costa Rica for more info on how that works)

Phrases for Paying

Costa Rica Language - Spanish Travel Phrases

I would like to buy this – Lo voy a comprar

How much does it cost? – ¿Cuánto cuesta? 

Do you accept dollars? – ¿Aceptan dólares?

Do you accept credit cards? – ¿Acepta tarjetas de crédito?

Hotel Phrases for Costa Rica

san jose hotel lobby

In most hotels, the front desk person will speak some English. If you run into a situation in which there is not an English speaking employee these are the phrases you need to know.

I have a reservation – Tengo una reservación

What is the nightly rate? – ¿Cuánto es la tarifa por noche?

Do you have any rooms available? – ¿Tiene habitaciones disponibles? 

I’d like a double room – Quisiera una habitación doble 

I’d like to stay for … nights – Me gustaría quedarme por … noches

Is breakfast included? – ¿El desayuno está incluido?

What time is check out? – ¿A qué hora es la salida?

What is the WIFI password? – ¿Cuál es la clave para el WIFI?

Our Costa Rica Language Tips

– People from Costa Rica are generally some of the nicest people you will ever meet. Don’t be shy about trying to speak Spanish here.

Almost everybody you meet will be so appreciative that you at least are making the effort. Also, they will likely recognize right away that you are not from here and will speak slowly to you or they may even switch to English.

-The Google Translate app is always great to have on your phone. It is super-advanced now and even has a feature in which you can speak into the app in English and it will translate it by voice into Spanish. This is perfect for when you need a lot of help with something and have no clue how to say what you need.

-We created this in PDF format that you can download for free. We know you won’t always have our website open. This will make it so you can easily access this list whenever you need. 🙂 Just click here to grab your copy.

Hopefully, this guide to Costa Rica language has helped you get a better grasp on some basic Spanish for your vacation. Let us know if you have any questions about speaking Spanish in the comment section below. While we are not Spanish experts we are happy to try and help you out.

You Might Also Like:

Costa Rica Travel Details: What You Need to Know

๐Ÿš— Should I rent a car in Costa Rica?

Having a rental car will give you the most flexibility when traveling in Costa Rica. This will also allow you to take fun day trips on your own.

๐Ÿ„๐Ÿฝ How can I book things to do?

We find that Viator tends to have the most comprehensive selection of activities with secure booking and good cancellation policies.

๐Ÿ I’m overwhelmed with planning. Can you help?

Of course! I suggest joining our Facebook group for specific questions and head to our Start Here Page to get started planning.

โœˆ๏ธ What is the best way to book a flight?

Usually, we have the best luck finding great prices with Skyscanner. Check for flights to both San Jose Airport (SJO) and Liberia Airport (LIR).

๐Ÿ›๏ธ What is the best way to book my Costa Rica hotels?

We highly suggest for hotel bookings and typically use VRBO for Costa Rica vacation rentals.

๐Ÿ—ฃ๏ธWhat is the main language in Costa Rica?

The main language in Costa Rica is Spanish. Most people working in tourism speak at least some English.

๐Ÿ’ฐ What is the currency in Costa Rica?

The currency used in Costa Rica is the Costa Rican colรณn (CRC). However, the US dollar is widely accepted in most tourist areas

๐Ÿ“ž What is the best way to stay connected?

An eSIM from Airalo is the easiest way to get 4G data while traveling in Costa Rica.

๐ŸŒด Is Costa Rica safe?

Generally, Costa Rica is considered safe for tourists. However, like any travel destination, it’s best to use caution and be aware of your surroundings.

๐Ÿ›‚ Do you need a passport to go to Costa Rica?

Yes, Costa Rica is its own country. You will need a passport to visit.

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One Comment

  1. Great post, this will be very helpful for travelers.
    Two slang terms I hear a lot are “tuanis” which is like cool and “mae” which is like bro.