Costa Rican Expressions You Need to Know

ICADSCosta Rica, Language, Spanish, Study Abroad

Several weeks ago, we shared someuseful Costa Rican words for your next visit to our country.  However, “Tico language” also includes slang phrases. In Costa Rica idioms can be endless, and they vary according to the region.  We asked some of our Costa Rican friends to tell us the most common phrases they use.  Take a look!


This is an expression ticos use when they are skeptical about something. It could also be used as a synonym of “Are you serious?”


  • A: I woke up at 5 a.m., but I was late anyway.
  • B: ¿Al chile? (I don’t believe what you are saying).
  • A: I’ve just paid $ 5 for this bottle!
  • B: ¿Al chile? (I can’t believe it).




This expression can be used as a synonym for “take it easy”.  When a Costa Rican feels you rush all the time, he/she will probably advice you to “llévela suave”.  The expression can also be used as a synonym to “slow down”.


  • A: It’s been an hour and I’ve finished 5 pages.
  • B: ¡Llévela suave! We have 2 more hours to finish (as a synonym of take it easy).


  • A: We’ve been here for 30 minutes and you drank two beers. ¡Llévela suave! (As a synonym of slow down).



No.  Costa Rican people are not asking for free things.  We do not know why, but most ticos tend to say “Me regala” when they go to a store.  They are asking the salesperson to give him/her a product even though the phrase implies you are asking for a product to be given to you for free.  So if you go to the supermarket, feel free to say: “¿Me regala un helado?” for “I want an ice cream, please.”



Ticos say ¡qué pereza! when they don’t want to do something.

  • A: Let’s go to the opera.
  • B: ¡Qué pereza! (I don’t want to go).
  • ¡Qué pereza! I have so much to study (I can’t go).



An accurate translation for this slang would be “fortunately”.  It seems like ticos really love this expression, because you will hear it all the time in almost any context.  Costa Ricans like to express appreciation for their good fortune all the time!

  • A: So, you made it! Your class finished earlier and you can watch the game with us.
  • B: ¡Por dicha! (Fortunately).


It means “What a mess!”. So, if you mess up, this is the expression to use:

  • A: I left the keys inside my car!
  • B: ¡Qué torta!


When ticos use the expression “buena nota” referring to a person, it means he/she is cool or nice.  They also use it as a synonym of “great”:

  • María es tan buena nota. She let me wear her new sweater! (synonym of nice).
  • A: I organized your room for you.
  • B: ¡Buena nota! (Great! / Thank you!).


Now, it’s time to practice. Pura vida!

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