Helpful Phrases for Bogota, Colombia

Travel Tips — By Richard McColl on September 9, 2011 at 7:20 pm

Perhaps due to its geographical isolation that has permitted a certain purity or perhaps that Bogota is readily referred to by its inhabitants as the Athens of South America due to the prevalence of a well-educated citizenry, Bogotano Spanish, often referred to as Rolo or Cachaco, is singled out for its concision and clarity for those wishing to learn the language.

And despite Bogota making headway as an international city of note, you are advised to study up a little and get some decent phrases and vocabulary under your belt before visiting in order to take full advantage of the accommodating and well-meaning people found here.

And before we list a few key phrases a few colloquialisms and unsuitable pieces of vernacular, perhaps it is worth noting that some of the following phrases may have originated beyond Bogota but have been absorbed into rolo chat.

General Phrases and Terms

Las vueltas – change (noted here since this term changes from country to country in South America)

Mil Barras – (very colloquial) 1000 pesos. Obviously this can be substituted for any sum.

Su Merced – literally, your mercy, but really a deference of respect used by older generations that habitually employ antiquated Spanish terminology.

Phrases relating to region, nationality and insults

Rolo or Cachaco – someone of Bogotano roots

Corroncho – a pejorative term to describe someone in bad taste, i.e. dressed poorly or in extreme cases, someone from the Caribbean coast.

Guevon (sometimes Huevon) – Idiot, asshole, dumbass.


Bacano – Cool

Berraco – Even cooler

La Berraquera – unrivalled!

Una Porquería – A waste of time or something useless.


Arepa – A maize based thick tortilla often stuffed with delicious fillings. Not to be confused with Arepera which is the local and very insulting reference for a lesbian.

Ajiaco – hearty potato, corn and chicken-based highland soup

Between Friends

Dar Papaya – a difficult one this one, but put into a phrase, you could use it as “to be blatant” or “to be asking for it”.

Mamar GalloTo pull someone’s leg


Transmilenio – got to get this one in here as it refers to Bogota’s bendy bus system.


Rumbear – can mean either to go out and party as well as to hook up.

Paseo Milionario – Hopefully this never happens to you – when you are drugged and taken from ATM to ATM while complicit taxi driver and gang members empty your bank account.

Tags: bogota spanish, colloquial spanish, dar papaya, spanish in bogota, useful phrases for bogota


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