Ticos are pretty tranquilo about most things, and they tend to speak at a relaxed speed and enunciate clearly, especially when addressing a foreigner. Costa Ricans are known for saying “Mae,” which means “Dude,” but has become a form of verbal punctuation used in some circles in almost every sentence. A notable idiosyncrasy here is creating diminutives with “ico” instead of “ito” (“un poquitico”)—hence the words “Tico” and “Tica” to describe Costa Rican men and women. Ticos are said to have an odd way of pronouncing the “R” at the beginning of a word, as in “Rica”—the “R” is never rolled or trilled. All in all, rest assured that if your español is not buenísimo, most Costa Ricans will speak slow, proper Spanish to you.
If you're looking for a more comprehensive dictionary and language resource, pick up a copy of Frommer's Spanish Phrase Finder & Dictionary, or Frommer's Spanish Phrasebook and Culture Guide. Both are excellent pocket books with a wealth of information to make your travel interactions more rewarding.
Some Typical Tico Words & Phrases
Birra -- Slang for beer.
Boca -- Literally means "mouth," but also a term to describe a small appetizer served alongside a drink at many bars.
Bomba -- Translates literally as "pump," but is used in Costa Rica for "gas station."
Brete -- Work, or job.
Buena nota -- Right on.
Casado -- Traditional lunch with meat, rice, beans, salad (literally “married,” suggesting this is the kind of lunch a married man brings to work).
Chapa -- Derogatory way to call someone stupid or clumsy.
Chepe -- Slang term for the capital city, San José.
Choza -- Slang for house or home. Also called chante.
Chunche -- Knickknack; thing, as in "whatchamacallit."
Cien metros -- 100 meters, or one block
Con gusto, Con mucho gusto -- You're welcome, with pleasure.
De hoy en ocho -- In 1 week's time.
Diay -- An untranslatable but common linguistic punctuation, often used to begin a sentence. Can mean “Gosh,” “Well,” or “Wow.”
Estar de chicha -- To be angry.
Fria -- Literally "cold," but used to mean a cold beer -- una fria, por favor.
Fut -- Short for fútbol, or soccer.
Goma -- Hangover.
Harina -- Literally "flour," but used to mean money.
La sele -- Short for La Selección, the Costa Rican national soccer team.
Limpio -- Literally means "clean," but is the local term for being broke, or having no money.
Macha or machita -- A blond woman.
Mae -- Translates like "man" or "dude"; used by many Costa Ricans, particularly teenagers, as frequent verbal punctuation.
Maje -- A lot like mae, above, but with a slightly derogatory connotation.
Mala nota -- Bummer.
Mala pata -- Bad luck.
Mejenga -- An informal, or pickup, soccer game.
Pachanga or pelón -- Both terms are used to signify a big party or gathering.
Ponga la maría, por favor -- This is how you ask taxi drivers to turn on the meter.
Pulpería -- The Costa Rican version of the "corner store" or small market.
Pura paja -- Pure nonsense or BS.
Pura vida -- Literally, "pure life"; translates as "everything's great."
Qué torta -- What a mess; what a screw-up.
Si Dios quiere -- God willing; you'll hear Ticos say this all the time.
Soda -- A casual diner-style restaurant serving cheap Tico meals.
Tico -- Costa Rican.
Tiquicia -- Costa Rica.
Tuanis -- Most excellent, cool, great.
Una teja -- 100 colones.
Un rojo -- 1,000 colones.
Un tucán -- 5,000 colones.
Upe! -- Common shout to find out if anyone is home; used frequently since doorbells are so scarce.
Zarpe -- Last drink of the night, or "one more for the road."
Abanico -- Fan
Aire acondicionado -- Air-conditioning
Almohada -- Pillow
Baño -- Bathroom
Baño privado -- Private bathroom
Calefacción -- Heating
Caja de seguridad -- Safe
Cama -- Bed
Cobija -- Blanket
Colchón -- Mattress
Cuarto or Habitación -- Room
Escritorio -- Desk
Habitación simple/sencilla -- Single room
Habitación doble -- Double room
Habitación triple -- Triple room
Llave -- Key
Mosquitero -- Mosquito net
Sábanas -- Sheets
Seguro de puerta -- Door lock
Silla -- Chair
Telecable -- Cable TV
Ventilador -- Fan
Aduana -- Customs
Aeropuerto -- Airport
Avenida -- Avenue
Avión -- Airplane
Aviso -- Warning
Bote -- Boat
Bus -- Bus
Cajero -- ATM, also called cajero automatico
Calle -- Street
Cheques viajeros -- Traveler's checks
Correo -- Mail, or post office
Cuadra -- City block
Dinero or plata -- Money
Embajada -- Embassy
Embarque -- Boarding
Entrada -- Entrance
Equipaje -- Luggage
Este -- East
Frontera -- Border
Lancha -- Boat
Norte -- North
Oeste -- West
Occidente -- West
Oriente -- East
Pasaporte -- Passport
Plata -- Money
Puerta de salida or puerta de embarque -- Boarding gate
Salida -- Exit
Sur -- South
Tarjeta de embarque -- Boarding pass
Vuelo -- Flight
¡Auxilio! -- Help!
Ambulancia -- Ambulance
Bomberos -- Fire brigade; firefighters
Clínica -- Clinic or hospital
Déjame en paz -- Leave me alone
Doctor or médico -- Doctor
Emergencia -- Emergency
Enfermo/enferma -- Sick
Enfermera -- Nurse
Farmacia -- Pharmacy
Fuego or incendio -- Fire
Hospital -- Hospital
Ladrón -- Thief
Peligroso -- Dangerous
Policía -- Police
¡Váyase! -- Go away!
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.