10 Slang Words to Know Before Traveling to Mexico

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Since Spanish is spoken in various countries around the world, the language as a whole is extremely diverse. Some varieties of Spanish slang words are more common in certain regions than others, like Mexican Spanish in the United States and, of course, Mexico! With its beautiful beaches and rich culture, Mexico is a popular tourist spot. If you’re planning on visiting this amazing country, we have a list of words and phrases to help you fit in when you go!

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1. ¿Qué onda? = What’s up?

Locals love this phrase, and you’ll hear it often when you’re in Mexico. It’s a simple and casual greeting along the lines of ¿Qué pasa? or ¿Qué tal?

Example:
Friend: ¿Qué onda? (What’s up?)
You: Voy al cine. ¿Quieres ir conmigo? (I’m going to the movies. Want to come with me?) alt

2. ¡No manches! = No way! / You’re kidding!

Used to express disbelief, much like Get out of here! or Are you kidding me?, this phrase literally translates to Don’t stain. No manches isn’t usually considered vulgar, but be aware that people who aren’t close friends or family might get offended by it. The more vulgar version, if you’re wondering, is No mames, which literally translates to Don’t suck.

Example:
You: ¡Gané $500 en la lotería! (I won $500 in the lottery!)
Friend: ¡No manches! (No way!) alt

3. ¡Aguas! = Watch out!

Literally meaning Waters!, this expression is the best way of telling someone to look out or to be careful. Definitely use this if your friends are doing something risky and you want them to be careful. Conversely, if someone says this to you, make sure to dip, duck, dive, and dodge the possible danger ahead.

Example:
Friend: ¡Aguas! ¡No te caigas! (Watch out! Don’t fall!)
You: ¡Sé lo que estoy haciendo, güey! (I know what I'm doing, dude!) alt

4. Chela = Beer

This is Mexican slang for beer, so use this if you're heading to a bar or want to invite some of your friends to your place for some beer and cheer. Pretty straightforward and useful, right?

Example:
You: ¿Qué quieres hacer esta noche? (What do you want to do tonight?)
Friend: Hay que ir al bar y tomar unas chelas. (Let's go to the bar and have some beers.) alt

5. Estar pedo = To be drunk

This one is pretty straightforward, too, even if the literal translation is to be fart. While the phrase sounds a bit strange, it’s also useful for vacationing or clubbing in Mexico, especially if you’ve had several chelas.

Example:
You: ¿Estás bien? (Are you okay?)
Friend: No, estoy muy pedo. ¡Tomé seis chelas! (No, I’m so drunk. I drank six beers!) alt

6. Estar crudo = To be hungover

Now that you’ve learned how to say to be drunk in Mexican Spanish, it’s time to learn how to talk about being hungover. The literal translation of this phrase is to be raw, a feeling you'll understand if you've ever had one too many chelas.

Example:
You: ¿Te sientes bien? (Are you feeling okay?)
Friend: No—tomé demasiado anoche y ahora estoy crudo. (No—I drank too much last night and now I’m hungover.) alt

7. Güey / Carnal = Dude / Bro

If you’re around Mexicans, you’ll hear güey over and over again, which is essentially the equivalent of dude. Carnal is similar, but it’s usually reserved for people with whom you have a closer relationship, so it’s more like an affectionate bro.

Example:
Friend: ¿Qué vamos a hacer hoy, güey? (What are we doing today, dude?)
You: No estoy seguro, carnal. (Not sure, bro.) alt

8. ¡Órale! = Come on! / Wow!

There is no exact translation for this word, but phrases like Right on! and Way to go! come pretty close. Words like awesome and okay are slightly more of a stretch, but are also acceptable translations of órale. You can even use this phrase to get someone to hurry up or move faster because it also means Come on!

Example:
You: ¡Compré mis boletos de avión para viajar a México! (I bought my plane tickets to Mexico!)
Friend: ¡Órale! (Awesome!) alt

9. Chido / Padre = Cool / Awesome

Chido and padre are basically interchangeable since the differences between the two are mainly regional, so feel free to use whichever one you think sounds more chido.

Example:
You: ¡Mira esa moto! (Look at that motorcycle!)
Friend: ¡Qué chido! (Cool!) alt

10. Camión = Bus

In other Spanish-speaking countries, camión usually means truck. In Mexico, however, camión is the preferred word for bus. You should plan on using this word a lot if you're going to get around Mexico en camión (by bus), although you can also use the more formal term autobús.

Example:
You: ¿Cómo puedo llegar a Acapulco desde el aeropuerto del DF? (How can I get to Acapulco from the airport in Mexico City?) Attendant: La opción más económica sería tomar un camión. (The cheapest option would be to take a bus). alt


Now you're ready to book your travels to Mexico City, Cancún, and Guadalajara. Remember to take this list with you on your travels. Have a safe journey!


For other travel vocabulary lists, check out these related blog articles:

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