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.
“Buenas noches“ means good evening or good night. These are polite phrases to use when greeting someone, depending on the time of day.
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.”
Meaning: Have a safe trip.
“Buen viaje” is a great phrase when saying goodbye to someone traveling.
“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.
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.”
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.”
Meaning: Yes/ no.
You likely already know these two words. Luckily, they are easy to remember!
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
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.
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
Meaning: How much is it?
You’ll need to know this phrase when shopping for souvenirs or anything else in stores.
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?
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.
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.
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.
Meaning: I’m hot
Street Signs in Spanish
Ceda el Paso
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!)
This post was produced by Savoteur.
Caitriona is a private language tutor and founder of TPR Teaching. Caitriona has been teaching the English language since 2016. She has taught in schools in Spain and the U.K. and teaches online. On her blog, you will find tons of English language articles, worksheets, resources, tips, and advice for learners and teachers.