Cubans speak fast and furiously. There's a very nasal and almost garbled quality to Cuban Spanish. Cubans tend to drop their final consonants, particularly the s, and they don't roll their rr's particularly strongly, converting the rr into an almost l sound in words like carro or perro. Cubans seldom use the formal usted form, instead preferring to address almost everyone (except those much older or of particular social or political stature) as tú. Likewise, you'll almost never hear the terms señor or señora as forms of address -- Cubans prefer compañero and compañera. Cubans are also direct. They will almost always answer the phone with a curt "Diga," which translates roughly as a mix of "Tell me" and "Speak."

Typical Cuban Words & Phrases

Ahí Namá -- There it is, that's it!

Ay Mi Madre -- Oh my mother! (exclamation of frustration)

Babalao -- Afro-Cuban religious priest

Bachata -- Informal party, hanging out


Bárbaro -- Great, fabulous

Bicitaxi -- Bicycle carriage

Bodega -- Store

Bohío -- Traditional, palm-thatched rural or indigenous dwelling

Botero -- Private car with yellow plates not permitted to carry tourists


Cachito -- Cuban-made sparkling lemonade; used to request all lemonade

CADECA -- Acronym for casa de cambio (currency exchange office)

Carro particular -- Privately owned car

Casa de la trova -- Traditional music club


Casa del campo -- A simple country house

Casa particular -- A private home with rooms for rent

Cerveza -- Beer

Chama -- Child

Chavito -- Cuban Convertible Peso

Chévere -- Cool, excellent

Coche -- Car

Coche de caballo -- Horse-drawn carriage


Cola -- Line or queue

Comida criolla -- Cuban creole cuisine

Compañero/compañera -- Literally, "partner," most common form of an address, as opposed to señor or señora, which are almost never used

Compay -- Friend

Consumo -- Price inclusive of food and drinks


Coppelia -- National ice-cream chain, almost synonymous with ice cream

Cuba libre -- Cocktail with rum and Coke

Diga -- Literally, "speak"; this is a very common phone greeting

Divisa -- U.S. dollar/Cuban Convertible Peso

Efectivo -- Cash


Fanoso -- Cheapskate

Fruta bomba -- Papaya

Fula -- U.S. dollar (slang)

Gallego/a -- Foreigner

Guagua -- Bus

Guarachar -- To hang out or party

Guayabera -- Loose-fitting, embroidered and pleated men's shirt


Hacer botella -- To hitchhike

Jinetero/jinetera -- Literally, "jockey"; used to refer to anyone hustling a foreigner for money

Mango -- Good-looking person

Mangon -- Exceptionally good-looking person

Mata -- Tree

Mojito -- A rum cocktail

Muchacho/a -- Young man/young woman


Orisha -- Santeria deity

Paladar -- Private home restaurant

Paradero -- Transport stop

Por nada -- You're welcome

Puro -- Cuban cigar/older respected man

¿Qué bolá? -- "What's going on?" (slang)


Santero -- Afro-Cuban Santeria religious priests

Sirilo -- Yes or yeah

Socio/a -- Literally, "member," used to address close friends

Transporte Chapa "T" -- A type of taxi, marked by red license plates beginning with T, that are driven by Cubans and permitted to carry tourists


Villas -- Towns or settlements

Yuma -- Originally an American; now used as a term for all foreigners

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.