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Are you planning on visiting a Spanish-speaking country soon? If so, learning some basic Spanish travel phrases may be helpful.
Spanish is the second most spoken language in the world, with approximately 500 million native speakers globally. It is the official language of 20 countries, the largest of which are Mexico, Columbia, and Spain.
Let’s explore some of the most useful Spanish phrases when traveling. We’ll cover greetings and polite expressions, asking for help, and ordering food. It may save you from awkward situations! Let’s begin!
The Spanish Alphabet: an Introduction
There are twenty-seven letters in the Spanish alphabet. It is similar to English. However, they have another letter: ñ. The ‘h’ letter sound is silent unless it is next to the letter “c,” which makes the “ch” sound almost identical to the English version. The letter ‘w’ is only used in foreign words.
In Spanish, there are two genders for nearly all nouns; they can be masculine or feminine. Most nouns ending in -o are masculine, and those ending in -a are generally feminine. For example, “el libro” (the book) is masculine, and “la mesa” (the table) is feminine.
Spanish Phrases for Traveling
Knowing some basic terms in the local language is always helpful when traveling. Here are some essential Spanish travel phrases.
Greetings in Spanish
- Hola / Buenas (informal)
Meaning: Just a simple “hello,” nothing too fancy.
- Buenos días / buenas tardes / buenas noches
Meaning: Good morning / Good afternoon / Good night.
- Mucho gusto
Meaning: nice to meet you.
“Mucho gusto“ is a great phrase when first meeting someone. You can also say “encantado” (for a male) or “encantada” (for a female), which has the same meaning.
- ¿Cómo te llamas?
Meaning: What is your name?
“Cómo te llamas” is a great way to start a conversation with someone new. You can answer with “me llamo…” (my name is…)
- ¿Qué tal? / ¿Cómo estás?
Meaning: How are you?
Use this phrase as a greeting and a way to start a conversation when you meet someone new.
- Muy bien, gracias.
Meaning: Very well, thank you.
“Muy bien, gracias” is an excellent response to “¿Qué tal?” You can return the question by saying, “¿Y tú?” (and you?)
- Estoy aquí para.
Meaning: I’m here for.
Use this phrase to tell someone why you are in town or your purpose. For example, “Estoy aquí para trabajar” means “I’m here for work.”
- Buen viaje
Meaning: Have a safe trip.
“Buen viaje” is a great phrase when saying goodbye to someone traveling.
- Adiós/ Chao
“Adiós” is a common way to say goodbye in Spanish. You can also use the phrases “hasta luego” (see you later) or “nos vemos” (see you).
Meaning: Thank you
Thank you is the simplest way to express gratitude. “Gracias” and “muchas gracias” (thank you very much) are both commonly used.
- De nada
Meaning: You’re welcome.
Use this great phrase when someone thanks you. It’s a typical response to “gracias.”
- Disculpa / perdón
Meaning: Excuse me/ I’m sorry
To get someone’s attention or interrupt someone, use “disculpa.” For small apologies, use “perdón.”
- Por favor
Use “por favor” to be polite when you ask for something or need someone’s help.
- ¿Tú hablas inglés?
Meaning: “Do you speak English?”
If you encounter communication difficulties, use “¿Habla inglés?” Expect the conversation to revert immediately to English or for them to say something like “un poco,” which means “a little.”
- Sí /No
Meaning: Yes/ no.
You likely already know these two words. Luckily, they are easy to remember!
- Lo siento
Meaning: I’m sorry.
We say “lo siento” to apologize for a mistake we have made that made the other person feel bad. We also use it to apologize for situations outside of our control. For example, a sick friend.
Asking For Help in Spanish
- ¿Me ayuda?
Meaning: Can you help me?
“¿Me ayuda?” is an excellent phrase when you need assistance or directions.
- No comprendo / No entiendo
Meaning: I don’t understand.
If you get lost in conversation and need clarification, don’t be afraid to say that you don’t understand.
- ¿Cómo se dice…?
Meaning: How do you say…?
If you want to learn a word or phrase, ask, “¿Cómo se dice…?.” People are happy to help when you ask! For example, “como se dice ‘bank’ en español?” is essentially asking someone how you say the word ‘bank’ in Spanish.
- Yo no hablo español
Meaning: I don’t speak Spanish.
If someone tries to communicate with you in Spanish, you can tell them you don’t speak the language.
- ¿Dónde está…?
Meaning: Where is…?
“¿Dónde está…?” will come in handy when you ask for directions. For example, you can ask, “¿Dónde está el baño?” which means “Where is the bathroom?”
At the Shop
- ¿Cuánto cuesta?
Meaning: How much is it?
You’ll need to know this phrase when shopping for souvenirs or anything else in stores.
- Una Bolsa
Meaning: A bag.
If you are in the supermarket and want a plastic bag to put your groceries in, ask for “una bolsa.”
- Vas a pagar con efectivo o tarjeta de crédito?
Meaning: “Will you pay with cash or credit card?”“
You will likely be asked how you wish to pay when buying something. You can reply with “pagaré en efectivo” (I will pay by cash) or “pagaré con tarjeta” (I will pay by card).
- “Puedo pagar con dólares?”
Meaning: Can I pay in dollars?
If you are traveling to a Spanish-speaking country from the US, it’s always worth asking if they accept dollars. In some places, they do!
At a Spanish Restaurant
- La carta / el menu
Meaning: The menu
If you are in Spain and want to order from the full menu, ask for “La carte.” “La carte” is usually for more formal restaurants, while “el menú del día” usually consists of three courses for a set price.
- ¿Qué me recomienda?
Meaning: What do you recommend?
- Copa Bienvenida
Meaning: Welcome drink
- Plato Principal
Meaning: Main Course
Meaning: Soft Drink
- Buen provecho
Meaning: Enjoy your meal
Spanish speakers say, “buen provecho” when someone is about to eat. It’s polite to respond, “gracias, igualmente” (thanks, you too).
- La cuenta, por favor
Meaning: The bill, please.
Ask for the bill, “la cuenta,” at the restaurant. Research the tip amount beforehand so you’re not caught off guard!
Having Fun at a Fiesta
Meaning: Let’s dance!
Assuming you haven’t already heard the famous song by CNCO, “¡Bailemos!” is a fun phrase to use when you go out with friends.
- ¿Quieres bailar?
Meaning: Do you want to dance?
If they say yes, then you’re in for a fun time!
“¡Salud!” is a common way to say “cheers” when drinking with friends. “Salud” is a Spanish phrase that also means “bless you.” For example, if someone sneezes, you can say, “¡Salud!”
- ¿Cuál es tu número de teléfono?
Meaning: What is your phone number?
Use this phrase if you want to exchange numbers with someone.
- ¡Buena suerte!
Meaning: Good luck.
Wish someone good luck before they embark on a new endeavor or if you want to wish them well for the future.
Expressing Feelings in Spanish
- Yo Quiero… / Yo No Quiero
Meaning: I want
- Me gusta/ No me gusta
Meaning: I like… / I don’t like
- Tengo hambre / Tengo sed
Meaning: I’m hungry / I’m thirsty.
- Necesito ir al baño
Meaning: I need to go to the bathroom.
- Tengo calor
Meaning: I’m hot
Street Signs in Spanish
- Ceda el Paso
- No Estacionar
- Prohibido Fumar
- Avenida (Avda.)
Spanish Transport Phrases
The following phrases will come in handy when using public transport in a Spanish-speaking destination.
- ¿Cuándo sale el próximo tren/autobús a…?
Meaning: When is the next train/bus to…?
- ¿Dónde está la parada de…?
Meaning: Where is the stop for…?
- ¿Cuánto cuesta el billete a…?/ ¿Cuánto cuesta el pasaje a…?
Meaning: How much is the ticket to…?
Do I Need to Learn the Local Language to Travel?
Many people ask this question when planning a trip to a foreign country. If you plan on staying in tourist areas and never straying too far from English-speaking people, you probably won’t need to learn a new language.
Learning a language is not an easy task. The Foreign Service Institute (FSI) of the US Department of State says it takes an English learner approximately 600-750 class hours to learn Spanish. An online language learning provider, such as Lingoda, can give you a more accurate estimate based on your level and how much time you’re willing to commit per week.
However, if you want to truly immerse yourself in the culture and experience everything the country offers, it is worth learning some basic phrases. Not only will you be able to communicate more effectively with locals, but they will appreciate your efforts to learn their language. It’s a great way to make new friends and create lasting memories!
As you can see, there are numerous Spanish phrases for travelers. Add these to your list of essential phrases before your next trip.
Remember, the more you practice, the better you’ll become at speaking Spanish. Don’t be afraid to start conversations with locals and make mistakes. It’s all part of the learning process!
¡Buen viaje! (Have a safe trip!)