How to pay at a restaurant in Spanish

At the end of a restaurant meal in Mexico, you’ll normally have to ask for the check. This is true even in places that don’t give you a physical bill. If your waiter is within earshot, you can simply say la cuenta. Otherwise, gesture by signing an imaginary check in the air. If you waiter isn’t visible, don’t worry. Just flag down another one and they’ll relay the message.

The exception would be at a place where you pay directly at the cash register, la caja, in which case you simply ask: ¿Cuánto (te) debo? or ¿Cuánto va a ser? The cashier may ask you what you had.

Pal antojo = para el antojo, for your cravings, Mexico City

Pal antojo = para el antojo, for your cravings, Mexico City


For security reasons, most businesses in Mexico keep little change on hand. As a result, you will often be asked to pay with smaller bills, that is, pagar con cambio. There are several equivalent versions of this request:

  • ¿Tienes cambio? Do you have change? Are you able to pay with exact change or a smaller bill or coin?
  • ¿No tienes cambio? Do you possibly have change?
  • ¿Tendrás cambio de casualidad? Do you happen to have change?
  • ¿De casualidad no tendrás diez pesos? Do you happen to have ten pesos (so that I could give you less change in return)?

In these requests, the use of future, tendrás, is a politeness mechanism. The de casualidad part expresses the idea of ‘happen to’, also a way of softening the request.

If you don’t have change, you may be asked to wait while the cashier leaves to find someone who does. Or you may be refused the purchase altogether. But in most cases, the cashier has the change on hand but is simply saving for later.

When accepting large bills, the cashier may announce the amount in order to avoid misunderstanding. Recibo cien. You have just given me a 100 peso bill. Recibo exacto. Exact change received.


The propina, tip, is rarely included with the bill. Ten percent is fairly standard, although in a fonda, a small, simple restaurant, even less may be left.

One Reply to “How to pay at a restaurant in Spanish”

  1. I was woundering what is booth is called in mexico

    MRA: Here in Mexico, for restaurant booth I’ve heard ‘gabinete’ (a cognate for ‘cabinet’) and ‘cajón’, drawer. Chains like Sanborns, Vips and Toks have booths but American-style diners are not common.

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