Every country has its phrases and slang. Costa Rica is no exception, with the most famous example being Pura Vida. Below are phrases that are unique to Ticos and Costa Rica. Did we miss any? Add them below in the comments section.

1000 colones un rojo
Everyone gets confused the first time they step on a bus in Costa Rica and the driver asks for “un Rojo”

Most Common Costa Rican Words & Phrases


A tico is a native Costa Rican. The nickname comes from Costa Ricans adding “ito” and “ita” (making something small) to the end of words.

Pronunciation: Pronounced as “TEE-kos/TEE-kas”. The emphasis is on the first syllable.

Los Ticos son conocidos por su hospitalidad.

Translation: The Ticos are known for their hospitality.


This is similar to “dude” in the US, but used much more frequently.

Pronunciation: Pronounced as “mah-AY”. The sound is similar to saying “my” with a slight ‘ah’ sound at the beginning.

¡Hola, mae! ¿Cómo estás?

Translation: Hey dude! How are you?

Pura Vida

We wrote a blogpost on this which you can read here in short it means pure life and can be used as a greeting or farewell.

Used as a greeting or farewell, “¡Pura vida, amigo!” (Pure life, my friend!) or as a response to “¿Cómo estás?” (How are you?), “¡Pura vida!


This is a fun one. With our colorful currency, in laid-back settings, the price of something can be quoted by the color of the bill. A good comparison of this is in the US calling a $100 bill a Benjamin. Un Rojo is 1,000 colones.

Pronunciation: Pronounced as “ROH-ho”. The ‘j’ is pronounced like the ‘h’ in “hello”.

Eso cuesta un rojo.

Translation: That costs a thousand colones.


This is also about money, and is slang for 100 colones. However, unlike un rojo, the history of the nickname isn’t as clear. A “teja” translates to a roof tile. It’s said that way back, a single roof tile was 100 colones, and was so commonly bought that eventually una teja simply meant 100 colones.

Pronunciation: Pronounced as “TEH-hah”. Like ‘Rojo’, the ‘j’ is soft, similar to the ‘h’ in “hello”.

Me dio una teja de vuelto.

Translation: He gave me 100 colones in change.


This is a phrase that means cool or when you want to let somebody know that everything is good or awesome.

Pronunciation: Pronounced as “twah-NEES”. The first part is like ‘twa’ from ‘twang’, and the second part is like ‘knees’ without the ‘k’.

Este lugar es tuanis.

Translation: This place is cool.

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