cuban phrases for tourists

Ten Spanish survival phrases for a trip to Cuba

If you are one of those who hate being a tourist out of place, this text is for you. With these ten phrases you can communicate with Cubans as if you were born on the island.

  1. Asere, ¿qué bolá?: This is the first Cuban phrase you have to learn. This is an expression that you can use when you greet your Cuban friends. Surely they will be surprised that you know it! In addition to a greeting, it is a question about the other person’s status. In standard speech, it would be equivalent to: “Amigo, ¿cómo estás?”. It’s like “Whats up, dude?”. 
  1. ¿Quién es el último?:  If you come to Cuba, you will see that to access almost all of the services, you must make a “small” line. Once you want to join it, it will not be enough for you to place yourself at the end of the row, but you will have to ask, in a voice so loud that several people hear it “¿Quién es el último?” (Who is the last one?), which is the same as asking “¿Quién es la última persona?” (Who is the last person?). If when you do it, nobody responds, then say: “Si no hay último, entonces soy el primero” (If there is no last one, then I am the first one). You will see how quickly the person you were looking for appears!
  1. Chofe, parada: If you decide to travel in urban transport, you will listen, and surely you will have to shout this expression. Through it, you remind the driver of the guagua (as the bus in Cuba is told) that approaches a parada, or that “forgot” to stop at it. “La parada” is the regulated site for the descent and ascent of the passengers. “Chofe” is a cordial way of referring to the driver.
  1. ¿Cuánto, de aquí a …?: When you want to take a taxi, to make sure that the price the driver will charge you is what you can pay, we recommend you that, before boarding, ask the taxi driver for the price of your route. A good way to ask him would be this (How much, from here to…), which, with more words, would be “¿Cuánto me cobra desde aquí hasta …?” How much do you charge me from here to…?).
  1. ¿Tienes hora?: It is the most common way someone will ask you if you can tell them what time is it. It is the Spanish way to turn the following two questions into one: 1.) if you have a clock and 2.) please, tell me what time is it.
  1. Vamos a coger un diez: Maybe, when you work in team, and you need a pause, the Cubans will tell you: “Vamos a coger un diez”. That means the time for resting a while has come, for retaking the labor later. Maybe, that break really takes ten minutes, maybe twenty or more, but surely after your break everyone will have more strength or inspiration than before the pause. A similar expression in English could be “Let’s take a break.”
  1.   Voy bajando, que está nevando: It arises from the rhyme between “bajando” (going down, which means to leave in Cuba) and “nevando” (snowing), and it’s used to mean that someone is leaving. It’s a very common way of saying goodbye, which shows what Cubans would do in the face of a snowstorm: to flee.
  1. ¡Ño! This is the word that replaces most expressions in Cuban Spanish. If you know it, then you can refer to many situations, just by mentioning it. Indicates joy, emotion, annoyance, sorrow, amazement. It is the equivalent of many expressions like: That suck !; Awesome !; She’s ugly !; She’s hot !; What smells !; I’m tired !; That hurt! And many more…
  1. Monta que te quedas: A phrase to which you will be able to take much benefit from will be this one, because it is a very convincing way to tell a Cuban to hurry, to not be late, that you are leaving. It happens that the rhythm in Cuba may be a bit slower than in the rest of the world, and you should clearly and emphatically let your friend know that if he does not hurry, he is about to lose a chance, an opportunity.
  1. Hasta que se seque el Malecón: This is another phrase you will hear most in Cuba, and comes from the chorus of a song by Jacob Forever, a famous Cuban reggaeton singer. It is used when someone wants to say that they will try something many times, that he is willing to wait a long time until he reach a goal, that he will fight until the end of time. Many people think that it expresses the fighting spirit of the Cubans. When you know the Havana Malecón, you will know better what this expression is about.