Spain, Costa Rica, and Argentina are 3 of the most beautiful countries I have had the great pleasure of visiting. They have many things in common such as incredible food, amazing weather, and beautiful beaches but the most important and wonderful part of these countries are the people and their culture. Here is where knowing Spanish phrases and words will help tremendously!
Visiting a country where you don’t speak or understand the language can be confusing and frustrating. The simplest of things such as ordering a meal or catching a bus, can turn into an absolute disaster. Learning key words in the native language of the places you visit will not only help you and improve your experience but it is greatly appreciated by the local people.
To keep things simple, I have divided the words and phrases into 4 categories:
- Directions & Getting Around
- Eating & Drinking
- Question Words
A simple “Hello!” accompanied by a smile can make someone’s day, so why not do it while exploring a new country? Greetings are easy to learn and are enthusiastically welcomed in Spanish speaking countries.
Hello – Hola (O-la)
How are you? – ¿Cómo estás? (Koh-moh eh-stahs)
I’m good, thank you – Bien, gracias (Bee-en gra-see-as)
What’s your name? –¿Cómo te llamas? (Koh-moh te ya-mas)
My name is – Me llamo (May ya-moh)
Nice to meet you – Mucho gusto (Moo-choh goo-stoh)
Good morning – Buenos días (Bway-nos dee-as)
Good afternoon – Buenas tardes (Bway-nas tar-des)
Goodnight – Buenas noches (Bway-nas noh-chays)
And of course, you can’t forget your manners!
Please – Por favor (Por fa-vor)
Thank you – Gracias (Gra-see-as)
Leaning a new language can be difficult, so be patient and kind to yourself. You may find that when you start speaking the few words you know, people assume you speak more than you do. Until you learn more, great Spanish phrases you can remember to use in those instances are:
I do not understand – Yo no entiendo (Yo no en-tee-en-do)
I only speak a little Spanish – Solo hablo un poco de español (So-lo ab-lo oon po-co day es-pa-nyol)
Do you speak english? – ¿Habla inglés? (Ab-la in-glays)
Directions & Getting Around
I once took a solo Uber ride to the airport in Buenos Aires, Argentina. The driver was trying to communicate that he was going to pull over before we got there and I had to come up and sit in the front seat. This was so security wouldn’t know he was an Uber driver, as at the time, Uber was not permitted to operate at airports. Now imagine how this conversation went between two people who do not speak the same language at all…
To ask where something is, use “dónde está” followed by what it is you’re looking for:
Where is [street name] street? – ¿Dónde está la calle [street name]? (Don-day es-tah la ka-yay)
Where is the bathroom? – ¿Dónde está el baño? (Don-day es-tah el bah-nyo)
Where is [restaurant/hotel name] – ¿Dónde está el restaurante/hotel [name]? (Don-day es-tah)
Once you have asked for directions, hopefully you will receive an answer! Knowing how to understand the answer is just as important as asking the question. Some key directional words to learn are:
On the right – A la derecha (A la de-rey-cha)
On the left – A la izquierda (A la iz-kee-er-da)
Straight – Derecho (De-re-cho)
Here – Aqui (Ah-kee)
There – Allí (Ay-ee)
Far – Lejos (Lay-hos)
Close – Cerca (Ser-ka)
You may also need to get a taxi, bus or train.
Where can I get a taxi? – ¿Dónde puedo encontrar un taxi? (Don-day pwey-doh en-kon-trar oon taxi)
Where is the nearest bus stop? – ¿Dónde está la parada de autobús más cerca? (Don-day eh-stah la pa-rah-dah de ow-to-boos mas ser-ka)
Where is the nearest train station? – Dónde está la estación de tren más cerca? (Don-day eh-stah la es-tah-see-on de tren mas ser-ka)
Eating & Drinking
One of my favourite parts of travelling is experiencing the local food and drinks. “Un vaso de vino tinto, por favor” (A glass of red wine, please) was one of the first Spanish phrases I learned in my early days of travelling to Cuba and Mexico.
First, let’s learn how to read a menu so you know what kind of portion sizes you are looking at.
Appetizer – Entrada (En-tra-da)
Main – Plato Principal (Pla-toh prin-si-pal)
Dessert – Postre (Pos-tray)
Drinks – Bebidas (Beh-bee-das)
Ready to order? Use “yo quiero” (I want) followed by the Spanish menu item to let the Server know what you would like to order. For example, “Yo quiero una ensalada, por favor” is I want a salad, please.
Ordering food in a new country, in a new language can be tough when you have dietary restrictions and allergies. As a person who doesn’t eat beef, ordering food in Argentina was quite the task! These three phrases will be essential in navigating menus:
I am vegetarian – Soy vegetariano/a (Soy ve-he-tah-ree-ah-no/na)
I am vegan – Soy vegano/a (Soy ve-gah-no/na)
I have an allergy to – Tengo alergia a (Ten-go al-er-hee-ah a)
Ready to settle up? Asking for the bill is nice and easy! Just say:
The bill, please – La cuenta, por favor (La kwen-tah por fa-vor)
If you equip yourself with question words you are bound to get some answers. Let’s learn the basics!
Who – ¿Quién? (Kee-en)
What – ¿Qué? (Kay)
Where – ¿Dónde? (Don-day)
When – ¿Cuándo? (Kwan-doh)
Why – ¿Por qué? (Por-kay)
What time? – ¿A qué hora? (A kay or-ra?)
How much? – ¿Cuánto? (Kwan-toh)
How many? – ¿Cuántos? (Kwan-tohs)
How long? – ¿Por cuánto tiempo? (Por kwan-toh tee-em-poh)
Memorizing these key words and phrases will make a world of difference when navigating Spanish speaking countries. Knowing the local language opens up endless possibilities for unique experiences and meeting amazing people.
I have been learning and practicing Spanish for a little over a year, both through Spanish classes and my favourite language learning app Duo Lingo. I Highly recommend trying out Duo Lingo to begin your Spanish journey + they have a free version!
It’s important to note, the information I have provided does not consider all Spanish dialects. For example, if you visit Argentina, you will notice the pronunciation of words will be different from Spain. A quick search will get you educated on the varying dialects but the above words and phrases are fundamentals that will be understood regardless of which country you visit.
Learning a new language is not only fun but rewarding and it will feel absolutely incredible when you can travel somewhere new and put your skills to practice! I hope you have enjoyed learning essential Spanish phrases you need to know as a traveller and I would love to hear about your experiences while learning and travelling.
Let’s connect! Comment below, follow me @domdesilva on Instagram or shoot me a direct message at email@example.com.