LivingTravelBasic phrases in Spanish for travelers

Basic phrases in Spanish for travelers

It doesn’t take much to understand it in Spanish: the people who speak it in Latin America and Europe are forgiving of mistakes and are very helpful. A combination of sometimes silly pantomime and basic Spanish words and phrases are what you need most to travel in a Spanish-speaking country. “Please” and “thank you” are very helpful, and a phrase book is a great help.

Greeting people

If you only learn one phrase in Spanish before your trip, make it how to say “hello.” Locals will always appreciate that you make the effort to speak their language, so learn to greet them in Spanish. Here are the basic greetings:

  • Hello: hello (oh-lah)
  • Good morning: Good morning ( bway-nos dee-ahs )
  • Good afternoon: Good afternoon ( bway-nahs afternoon)
  • Goodnight: Goodnight ( bway-nahs noh-chess )
  • How are you ? : How are you? (coh-moh es-tah)
  • Well, thank you: Well, thank you ( bee-ehn, grah-see-ahs )
  • Can you speak English ?: Do you speak English? (hah-blah een-glays)?

Asking for directions

As a traveler, some of the most common phrases you can expect to use have to do with directions. You may need to ask someone where their hotel is, where the bathroom is, or where you can get a meal. And, of course, you should also be able to understand your answer.

  • Where is… ? : Where is…? (DHOHN-dheh ehs-TAH)
  • Where is a restaurant ? : Where is there a restaurant? (Dhohn-dheh eye oon rest-ore-rahn-tay)?
  • Where is the restroom? Where is the bathroom? (Dhohn-dheh ehs-tah el ban-yo)?
  • How far ? : At what distance? (Ah kay dhees-Tan-syah)
  • Right: Right (Ah lah dey-ray-chah)
  • Left: To the left (Ah lah eez-key-ayr-dah )
  • Forward: Right ( De-rey-choh )
  • Can you help me ?: Can you help me? (PWEH-dhe ah-yoo-dh-AHR-meh)
  • Please: Please (please-pray)
  • Thank you: Thank you (gra-see-uhs)

Eat in a restaurant

When you don’t ask locals for directions, you will most likely order food and drinks from restaurants. You should be aware that often the best food on offer comes from places that do not have English menus for tourists. Learn the basics of the restaurant and you’ll be ready to handle eating in a foreign country.

  • How much does it cost? : How much does it cost? (KWAHN-toh KWEH-stah)
  • The bill, please: Count it, please (Lah KWEHN-tah, please-pray)
  • That was delicious: It was delicious (est-ooh-vo del-ish-ee-oh-so)
  • I’m a vegetarian: I’m a vegetarian (I’m veg-et-air-ee-an-oh / ah)
  • A table: A table (oona me-sah)
  • A menu: A menu (oon mey-noo)
  • A drink: A drink (oon-ah beh-beed-ah)
  • Beer: Beer (be-vay-sah)
  • Red or white wine : Red or white wine ( vee-noh teen-toh or blahn-coh )
  • Water: water (ahg-wah)
  • A coffee: A coffee (uhn cah-fey)
  • Sandwich: Cake (tore-tah)
  • Hamburger: Hamburger (ham-burg-ess-ah)
  • Chicken: Chicken (poy-oh)
  • Spicy: Spicy (pick-ant-ay)

Know more than the basics

If you want to learn Spanish beyond the basics, there are plenty of phrase books, online guides, and apps designed so that you can get a conversation going in just a few months. These are some of the best options:

  • Lonely Planet Spanish Phrasebook and Dictionary
  • Lonely Planet Latin American Spanish Phrasebook
  • Easy Spanish Phrase Book New edition: more than 700 phrases for daily use

This article has been edited and updated by Lauren Juliff.

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