If you have plans to travel the world, learning basic phrases in different languages comes in handy. Even within the United States, people speak multiple languages.
Basic Spanish phrases prove especially important to learn. That’s because Spanish is the official or majority language in 21 countries around the world.
If you plan to travel to one of these countries soon, you might not have the time to learn the language. But, you do have time to learn some basic phrases that help you communicate. Let’s review a few.
Basic Spanish Phrases for Travelers
The Spanish form used depends on the country you plan to visit. For instance, most Spanish-speaking countries in South America have a different form than in Spain. You can still get by with basic Spanish travel phrases that people can understand no matter which country you’re visiting.
If you plan to travel regularly, you should still take the time to learn Spanish more fluently. You can use a program such as My Daily Spanish to improve your abilities. Until then, you can take the time to learn 15 survival Spanish phrases to get you by.
It’s important to remember your manners in Spanish-speaking countries. This will get you far when it comes to finding people willing to help you.
Your manners start with using proper greetings when you meet new people. This includes meeting people on your own or having someone introduce you. It’s easiest to address people as Senor or Senorita until told otherwise.
1. How Are You?
If you’re speaking to someone you don’t know, “Como esta?” works to say “How are you?” For someone you do know, say “Como estas?”
2. Good Day
When greeting people, the phrases of “Good morning,” “Good afternoon,” and “Good evening” prove useful. Once you say “Hola,” or “Hello,” you can greet with these terms.
“Buenos dias” means good morning. Say “Buenas tardes” for “Good afternoon” and “Buenas noches” for “Good evening.”
When meeting someone new, you naturally want to learn names. You can introduce your name by saying “Me llamo” and your name. To ask “What’s your name?” say “Como te llamas?”
Make sure you remember your manners in all interactions. This includes basic terms such as “please” and “thank you.”
4. Please, Thank You, and Excuse Me
For please, say “Por favor.” “Gracias” means “Thank you.” If you’re interrupting or seeking attention, “Disculpe” means “Excuse me.”
You also want to show your manners by saying “Nice to meet you” after introductions. For this, you say “Mucho gusto.”
Basic Questions and Answers
Understanding basic questions will help you find the things you need. Whether you’re looking for a place or an individual item, you can use basic survival Spanish to make your point known.
5. I Want or I Need
To introduce something you want or don’t want to find, you can say “Yo quiero” or “Yo no quiero.” For a more polite term, say “Me gustaria” for “I would like.” You can say “Busco” for “I’m looking.”
You can also say “Yo necesito” for “I need.” To ask where to find something, say “Donde esta?”
6. Questions of Money
“Money”, or “dinero”, will prove an important topic to know how to discuss. You can ask about the use of credit cards with the term “tarjeta de credito?”
When completing a transaction, a common question is “how much will it cost?” For this, ask “Cuanto cuestra?”
7. Questions of Understanding
Some people will understand English, so ask this question before continuing. Ask “Habla ingles?” to find out if they speak English.
You also want to make sure people understand your Spanish. To ask “Do you understand?”, say “Entiende?” You can also show your understanding, or lack thereof, by saying “Yo entiendo” or “Yo no entiendo.”
There’s a good chance you’ll need help getting around. If you’re asking for directions, you’ll want to understand the answers you get.
8. Left and Right
The easiest way for someone to give directions includes sending you left or right. If someone tells you “la derecha,” they’re sending you right. If they say “la izquierda,” they’re sending you left.
9. Other Direction Terms
If you’re close to your destination, a point with “aqui” shows you your destination’s “here.” A point further away with “alli” shows your destination over “there.”
If someone tells you “derecho”, they’re pointing you “straight ahead.” “En la esquina” directs you “at the corner.” A number with the term “cuadra” tells you how many blocks you need to go for your destination.
You also want the basic nouns involved with travel to communicate your needs. You’ll want to learn more, but there are some nouns you should start knowing.
You need to know how to get around the towns you visit. You want an easy way to get to your destinations, such as “un hotel” or a street termed “la calle.”
To locate a bus, you’ll want to ask for “autobuses.” For a taxi, ask for “un taxi.” If you need to travel by train, you need to ask for “un tren.”
11. Restaurant Terms
You also want to know how to locate and order food. If you don’t know where to eat, you need to ask for “un restaurante.”
Once you’ve located the restaurant, you want to ask for “una mesa” and “un menu.” This gets you a table and a menu. After you eat, you can request your check by saying “la cuenta.”
Another important term in a restaurant or other building will include locating a bathroom. Asking for “el bano” will help you here.
12. Meal Starters
Most meals start with “una entrada” or an appetizer. You can ask for soup by asking for “sopa.” For a salad, you ask for “ensalada.”
You also need to start with “una bebida” or a drink. For water, ask for “agua.” For coffee, you’ll want to ask for “un cafe.”
If you want an alcoholic drink, you can ask for “vino” or “cerveza.” “Vino” or wine comes as “tinto” (red) or “blanco” (white). “Cerveza” will get you beer.
14. Condiments and the Like
Americans enjoy their condiments. You can ask for meals to come “con” or “with” condiments with the correct terms.
You get ketchup by asking for “salsa de tomate.” “Mostaza” gets you mustard. You can also ask for tomatoes (“tomate”) or lettuce (“lechuga”).
15. Main Dishes
You’ll also want to know how to order your main dishes or “un plato principal.” If you ask for “el pollo”, you’ll get a chicken dish. “La carne” gets you beef.
If you’re unsure about the options, you can ask for “hamburguesa” to get the American traditional hamburger. You can’t get this option for “el dasayuno,” or breakfast. You can get it for lunch (“el almuerzo”) or dinner (“la cena”).
Understanding these basic Spanish phrases when traveling through Spanish-speaking countries will get you far. The best step to prepare for travel involves preparing yourself for your surroundings.
Preparation involves knowing where and how to travel. If you want help preparing, check out our traveling tips.