The majority of Chileans speak Chilean Spanish.  If you brush up on your Spanish before a holiday to Chile you’ll get by greeting someone but don’t be surprised if their reply sounds like Greek.

Chilean Spanish is very different and a source of national pride.  They speak like they’re commentating at the horse races – fast and excitable.  It is a dialect of Spanish with distinct pronunciation, modified verb tenses and weird vocabulary.  It’s full of slang words and sometimes an entire sentence sounds like one long word.

Vamos a comer un helado (we are going to eat an ice cream) sounds like vamoacomerunelao

A common expression Más o menos (more or less, so-so) is Má o meno but sounds like one word Máomeno.


They also add words that mean nothing just out of habit.  Like the word Po you hear a lot of at the end of a sentence. Something simple like yes or no is se po, no po.

Some letters are missing in Chilean Spanish such as S and D – the letter is in the written word but dropped off in the pronunciation.

Vamos (let’s go) sounds like vamo

Pesado sounds like pesa’o

H is silent in Spanish so don’t forget to drop it for a friendly greeting.

Hola (hello) sounds like oh la


If you want to impress your smart hosts on a trip to Chile, replace CH with SH. This is how the educated, upper-crust speak.

Me manché el chaleco con chocolate (I stained my sweater with chocolate) sounds much better as Me manshé el shaleco con shocolate.

So we’re sorry if you’ve brushed up on your Spanish for your trip to Chile.  You have to start again and learn Chilean Spanish.

¿Cachai? Do you understand? Do you get it?

10 phrases to get you by when you travel to Chile

Buenos días/buenas tardes (good morning/afternoon)

Hola (hello)

Muchas gracias (thank you very much)

Hasta luego (Goodbye)

Que tengas un buen día (Have a nice day)

No hablo español (don’t speak Spanish)

Cuánto cuesta (How much does it cost?)

¿Dónde está (Where is the…)

¡Buena onda! (Cool)

¿Qué onda? (What’s up?)

Friendly insults


If someone calls you a weon or a weona (female) it’s because they think you’re an idiot.  The word is either hurled in abuse or used in friendly banter.  Make sure you don’t get it mixed up.

If you’re cool, awesome or sweet you’ll hear a lot of bacán but if you behave like a silly, stupid person wait for someone to shout amermelado.

If things get a bit heated, tranquil (calm down, don’t worry)

A night out on the town

Bored of sightseeing and looking for a carrete?  It’s time to carretear (to party). We’re not talking about a sedate tea & scones party.  We’re talking Hangover II.

You can introduce your partner as your pololo (boyfriend) or polola (girlfriend).  Don’t get too hung up on its meaning though; it comes from piulliu which is the word for black fly – you know, the way flies circle around fruit.

If you have the munchies after too much chela (beer), stop for a completo.  It’s a grilled hotdog topped with avocado, chopped tomatoes and mayonnaise.  It does the trick!

Experience the sights and sounds of Chile. Lekker Adventures specialises in providing you with the complete travelling experience to Chile. Click here to find out more about travelling to Chile with the assistance of Lekker Adventures.

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