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Useful Spanish phrases for volunteering in Cusco

As stated on our website, speaking Spanish is not a requirement for working at one of our Latin American destinations.

However, there are some situations where knowledge of a few Spanish phrases can be really useful! 

There are many aspects of Peruvian Spanish which are slightly different to Castilian Spanish. Specifically, when coming to volunteer with one of our projects in Cusco, you’ll find that despite the slow and calm tone which people speak to you in, they use many words and phrases which are different.

In this blog you will find phrases for common situations you might find yourself in whilst volunteering in Cusco. In addition to a few individual aspects of the dialect of Cusco which would be useful to know before getting here!

traditional girl cusco
catedral in the plaza de armas

Phrases for meeting and greeting

Hola - “Hello” more often used when greeting someone you already know

Buenos días - “Good morning” used before 12 noon, a polite way to greet someone

Buenas tardes - “Good afternoon” used after 12 when it’s still light outside, also polite

Buenas noches - “Good night/ good evening” quite self-explanatory, also polite

¿Cómo estás/ está? - “How are you?” the first is informal, the second formal

¿Qué tal? - “How are you?”

Gracias - “Thank you”

Muchas gracias - “Thank you very much”

Hasta luego - “See you later”

Nos vemos - “See you later”

Hasta pronto - “See you soon”

Hasta mañana - “See you tomorrow”

Hasta la próxima (vez) - “Until the next time”

Chao - “Bye”

Adiós - “Goodbye”

cusco flag in the plaza de armas
volunteers by san pedro

Taking the bus

Baja/ bajo - “I’m getting off” use this short word to signal that you want to get off when it’s your stop

Magisterio - (the bus assistant will shout this) the bus stop located closest to the Globalteer office/ volunteer house

T.da la Cultura/ Av.da de la Cultura - (the main street through Cusco) If you see these on the side of the bus, you can take it to reach our project pick up point.

Pasaje - They say this when they will collect your bus fare early

Phrases for taking a taxi

¿Cuánto cuesta/ es? - “How much does it cost/ how much is it?”

Acá/ aquí está bien - “Here is fine”

En la esquina - “At the corner”

¿Cuánto cuesta ir a …. ? - “How much is it to go to …. ?

fruit market in the centre
san pedro market

At the supermarket/ shopping

Precio - “Price”

¿Cuánto cuesta/ es? - “How much does it cost/ how much is it?”

Un medio/ cuarto kilo - “A half/ quatre kilo”

Un kilo - “A kilo”

Boleta - “receipt”

Rebaja - “sale”

Casera/o - people selling fruit on the street will often call this out to you, you can address them as Casera (female) or Casero (male) too.

Uno de esos/estos - One of those/ these

Phrases for ordering at a restaurant

Me gustaría … - I would like … (and then your order)

Para mí … - For me … (and then your order)

La cuenta por favor - the cheque please 

Dónde está el baño- where is the bathroom?

Some other words which are different in Peruvian Spanish 

Papa - “potato” different to “patata” in Castilian

El carro - “car”, different to “el coche” in Castilian Spanish

Mama/ mami - often used in place of senora/senorita in a slightly less formal setting (for example you can use this to address your casera), it is used as a sign of respect

Papa/ papi - often used in place of senor in a slightly less formal setting (for example you can use this to address your casero), it is used as a sign of respect

volunteers at restaurant
shop owner cusco

Other fun facts about Peruvian Spanish!

Another thing you will notice when you come to Cusco is that the local people often use the diminutive form of words. This means adding “ito” or “ita” to the end of a word to make it seem smaller or sometimes cuter. For example the word “perro” (which means dog) is often changed to “perrito”.

Lastly, for those of you who are a bit more familiar with Spanish grammar, in Peruvian Spanish the “you plural” form in Castilian Spanish is not used. Instead of saying ¿cómo estáis? (How are you all?) when addressing more than one person, you would use ¿cómo están? Which essentially means “how are they?”. I found this really interesting when I arrived here! 

Additionally they refer to a group of people as ustedes instead of vosotros, also referring to the “you plural” form. For example, instead of saying “para vosotros/as” (meaning for you all) they would say “para ustedes” which is more commonly known as the polite form of saying “you” in Castilian Spanish. 

Ice cream seller Cusco
Machu Picchu Cusco

Due to the use of the polite and diminutive forms, along with the calm tone in which Cusquenans speak, I think Cusquena Spanish is one of the loveliest dialects you’ll come across. People also speak much slower here than in other Latin American countries! Therefore, I think it’s a great place for Spanish beginners to start practising. Why don’t you come see for youself? ¡Hasta pronto!