If you’re visiting any Spanish-speaking country, you’ll probably be trying some local cuisine at some point (trust me, you won´t regret it!).
After a slap-up meal, the time comes to pay the bill (the best part, right!?) and you’ll want to show off your language skills to blend right in with the locals. With that in mind, this list of 10 ways to ask for the bill is sure to come in handy!
Some of the phrases and expressions may seem similar, just remember that it’s nuance and variation that enrich the language.
Of course, I’ve also thrown in a few colloquial options for you to try and enjoy!
Bill / check (restaurant) in Spanish
First things first, let´s clarify exactly how to say ‘the bill’ or ‘the check’ in Spanish! There are actually 3 different words, each with their individual nuances – ‘la cuenta’ (the most common), ‘la nota’ (a less common synonym of ‘la cuenta’) and ‘la factura’, which is actually an ‘invoice’ so not a ‘check’ in the traditional sense of the word.
La cuenta – the bill
If you’re ready to pay the bill in a restaurant, you’ll normally ask for ‘la cuenta’ (which literally translates as ‘the bill’). This is the standard word for a ‘check’ in a restaurant and it´s used in all Spanish-speaking countries.
Erika´s note – notice the article ‘la’, which indicates that it’s a feminine word. We NEVER say ‘el cuenta’ and ‘el cuento’ means ‘the story’.
La nota – the bill / the check
You may also hear someone ask for ‘la nota’ (literally ‘the note’ in English). It’s as valid a term as ‘la cuenta’, but it’s somewhat less common, especially in fine-dining restaurants in which asking for ‘la cuenta’ is very much standard practice.
This may be due to the fact that ‘una nota’ (‘a note’) means any form of written message, not just the bill. If you’re ever curious, you could check out all 21 meanings listed by the Royal Academy of Spanish (it´s sure to give you an idea of the word’s ambiguity).
La factura – the invoice
This one might be useful if you’re travelling for business and you need to keep a record of your expenses. ‘La factura’ (‘the invoice’ in English) is usually a more detailed document than ‘la cuenta’; it includes legal information of the transaction in question, normally for tax purposes.
In such cases, you’ll have to ask for ‘la cuenta’ and also ‘la factura’ or a ‘ticket / nota para facturar’ (which is best translated as a ‘ticket for invoicing’). Some bills already include this information, so I recommend that you ask for ‘la cuenta’ first, and if you need a more detailed document you can then ask for ‘la factura’.
Right, now that you´ve now got the words for ‘check’ / ‘bill’ in Spanish on mental speed dial, let´s get into how to actually ask for it!
Asking for the bill / check in Spanish
¿Me trae mi cuenta, por favor? – Could you bring me the bill, please?
Let’s start with a very formal phrase, perfect for a night out at an elegant restaurant*. ‘Me trae mi cuenta, por favor’ literally translates to ‘could you bring me the bill, please?’, and it also uses a more formal manner of speech.
The verb here is in the formal ‘usted’ form, hence ‘me trae’ (3rd person singular) instead of ‘me traes’ (2nd person singular or the ‘tú’ form).
Although it´s perfectly acceptable to ask this question using the ‘tú’ form of the verb, ‘usted’ is much more polite and respectful. It´s basically a safer bet in pretty much any Latin America country!
Mesero – ¿Me trae la cuenta, por favor?
Comensal – Claro, en un momento, caballero
Waiter – Could you bring me the bill, please?
Diner – Of course, right away, Sir.
*Erika´s note – you´re probably also going to want to leave a tip when dining in fancier establishments. Be sure to give our article ‘5 ways to say keep the change’ a quick once over, so you know exactly what to say!
La cuenta, por favor – The bill, please
Looking for something a little easier on the tongue?
Step forward ‘la cuenta, por favor’ (‘the bill, please’ in English). It’s just as polite as ‘me trae mi cuenta, por favor’, but way quicker! Since there´s no verb, you don´t have to worry about ‘tú’ vs. ‘usted’, and the phrase ‘por favor’ (‘please’) softens it enough for both formal and informal occasions.
Mesero – La cuenta, por favor
Comensal – En un momento se la traigo
Waiter – The bill please
Diner – I’ll bring it in just a moment
La cuenta, plis – The bill, please
In a diner or small café in Mexico City?
You may hear someone asking for the check with a word that sounds a lot like ‘please’.
And, well, that´s exactly what it is!
This is a bit of “Spanglish” for you and it´s very common in certain parts of Mexico as people love to throw English words into everyday conversations. The same phrase would sound odd in Spain, where mixing English and Spanish is definitely not the norm.
Turista mexicano – ¡La cuenta, plis!
Camarero español – En un momento, caballero. Nos visita de México, ¿cierto?
Mexican tourist – The bill, please!
Spanish waiter – In just a moment, sir. You´re from Mexico, right?
¿Te / lo molesto con la cuenta? – May I bother you with the bill?
This one translates to ‘May I bother you with the bill?’.
It can be said using either the more formal ´usted´ or the less formal ‘tú’ form without *that* much difference in meaning as it´s such a polite phrase straight out of the box (as in English)!
Comensal – ¿Lo molesto con la cuenta?
Mesero – ¡Con gusto, señorita!
Diner – May I bother you with the bill?
Waiter – With pleasure, Miss!
Comensal – ¿Te molesto con la cuenta?
Mesero – ¡Enseguida te la traigo!
Diner – May I bother you with the bill?
Waiter – I’ll bring it right away!
¿Cuánto te debo? – How much do I owe you?
‘¿Cuánto te debo?’ means ‘How much do I owe you?’ and it’s an informal (notice that pronoun ‘te’ again), yet polite way to ask for the bill! This one´s great when at a taco stand, for example!
En un puesto de tacos en la Ciudad de México
Jorge – Hermano, ¿cuánto te debo?
Taquero – Serían noventa pesitos, carnal.
At a taco stand in Mexico City
George – How much do I owe you, brother?
Man selling tacos – It´s going to be ninety pesos, bro.
Erika´s note – if you want to make this one more formal just replace the ‘te’ with ‘le’ – ‘¿Cuánto le debo?’.
¿Me cobras, por favor? / ¿Me cobras, porfa? – Can you charge me, please?
‘¿Me cobras, por favor?’ or ‘Can you charge me, please?’ is another gem of a phrase that´s sure to come in handy when you want to ask for the bill.
The second variant of this phrase, ‘¿me cobras, porfa?’, is more colloquial as the word ‘porfa’ is a less formal abbreviation of ‘por favor’ (‘please’).
Estamos listos para la cuenta – We´re ready for the bill
This phrase translates to ‘we´re ready for the bill’. Of course, if you’re by yourself then you need to switch to the first person of ‘estar’ (‘estoy’) and change the adjective ‘listos’ (‘ready’) to its singular form ‘listo’ (for masculine) or ‘lista’ (for feminine) – ‘estoy listo para la cuenta’ / ‘estoy lista para la cuenta’.
Mi nota, por favor – My bill / check, please
As I said before, you can use ‘la nota’ as a synonym for ‘la cuenta’ in some cases, although it’s far less common. ‘Mi nota, por favor’ means ‘my check, please’, and you´ll likely hear it in more casual situations.
En una cafetería
Mi nota, por favor.
Se la traigo.
At a coffee place
My check, please.
I´ll go fetch it for you.
Quiero pagar mi cuenta – I want to pay the bill
‘I want to pay the bill’ isn´t the most common of the phrases on this list, but you can use it when you’re in a bit of a hurry (or if the waiter´s rubbed you up the wrong way and you want them to know it!); the waiter will know you need to pay right away!
Add the infallible ‘por favor’ (if you´re just in a hurry, that is) at the end and you’ll sound more courteous.
Juan está de malas y el mesero no le hace caso
Juan (casi gritando al mesero) – Quiero pagar mi cuenta.
Mesero – En seguida te la traigo.
John is in a bad mood and the waiter isn´t being attentive
John – (almost shouting at the waiter) – I want to pay my bill.
Waiter – I´ll bring it right away.
La cuenta y un gendarme – The bill and a policeman
This is a fun one! If you’re ever in Mexico City, especially around older generations, you may hear someone ask for ‘the bill and a policeman’. This is an old colloquial expression and is really a joke for the waiter, implying something along the lines of ‘you may wanna bring a policeman since I’m not sure I´ve got enough money to pay!’.
There’s even a Mexican song called ‘La cuenta y un gendarme’!
Just make sure to use this one in less formal situations (preferably with a waiter that you know), since it’s not really a ‘proper’ way to ask for the bill.
So, there you have it, a thorough list of ways to ask for the bill in Spanish!
Whether you’re in a luxurious restaurant in a five-star hotel or eating some quesadillas at the local market, you’ll now be able to use the right expression, and even joke around with the waiter!
Just remember to actually pay for the bill if you decide to whip out ‘la cuenta y un gendarme’, otherwise he / she might not be so amused after all …
Finally, to avoid any nasty surprises when that check does finally come, be sure to check out our article on 10 ways to ask how much something costs.
¡Hasta la próxima!