You can definitely get by in Costa Rica without learning Spanish, but I’m not sure why you’d want to. I’ve had plenty of English-speaking friends who started learning the language but were terrified of actually speaking it in public. Luckily, I discovered an easy solution to this almost as soon as I arrived — alcohol. Knock back 3 or 4 beers and all of a sudden you won’t have five conjugations competing for your brain’s attention — you just let the conversation flow, ignoring the small stuff.
So, now that I’ve got you drinking, you might as well learn some words and phrases to help you get by in one of Costa Rica’s many bars. The list below should get you started.
Essential Bar Slang
Estar japi (pronounced happy) – to be buzzed
Estar tapis/borracho – to be drunk
Estar hasta el culo/la mierda/la picha – to be wasted (the more vulgar the noun, the more wasted you are)
Estar de goma – to be hungover
Me vende un blanco? – Can I bum a cigarette off you?
Tiene fuego? – got a light?
Fondo – chug!
Otra vuelta/ronda – another round
Abrir/cerrar una cuenta – to open/close a tab
Regáleme una Imperial – I’ll have an Imperial. (Ticos regularly substitute the verb regalar for dar.)
Common Drinks and Bar Terms
Guaro (m) – Costa Rican sugar cane liquor, usually Cacique (or sometimes refers to any alcoholic drink in general)
Cerveza/birra (f) – beer (birra is used more often than the word cerveza)
Cerveza michelada – beer splashed with lime juice
Cerveza cruda – draft beer
Un shot (m) – a shot
Un trago (m) – any alcoholic drink in general
Añejo – aged
En las rocas – on the rocks
Ron (m) – rum
Ron con coca – rum and coke
Gin (f) – no, not like gin and tonic. It’s actually short for ginger ale; try mixing it with Cacique.
Vodka (f) / whiskey (m) / tequila (m) – just speak with Spanish pronunciation
Mamadita (f) – simliar to a Blowjob shot
Sexo en la playa – sex on the beach
Cucaracha (f) – this is a vile shot mixed with pretty much every liquor on the premises and lit on fire. It’s usually forced upon a birthday boy/girl. Don’t drink this unless there’s a good spot to puke nearby.
Vino tinto/blanco (m) – red/white wine
Cóctel (m) – cocktail
Licor (m) – liquor
Ligas – mixers/chasers
Champán – champagne
Pichel (m) – pitcher
Putting It All Together
Example: Hey buddy, let me get an Imperial in a bottle, two shots of guaro and a bottle of water for my friend who’s already wasted. Wait…actually cancel the guaro, I don’t want to be hungover tomorrow!
Translation: Mae, regáleme una Imperial en botella, dos shots de guaro y una botella de agua para mi amiga que ya esta hasta el culo. Espere…mejor cancele el guaro, no quiero estar de goma mañana!
Did I miss anything? Let me know in the comments and I’ll add it to the list.