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Useful Spanish Phrases for Travelers

A little bit is better than nada

Chichicastenango market by SChandler

Chichicastenango market by SChandler

So you've decided to add some flair to your travels and visit a Latin country. The sights, the sounds, the food, the local color....these are the things you're looking for. Unfortunately, you don't speak Spanish. This can be a major handicap when you need to use the bathroom, for example. Though holding your crotch with a pained look on your face and hopping up and down often conveys this message, wouldn't it be better to be able to "ask" where the facilities are located? I have been in many situations while traveling in Mexico and Panama that required the use of a few key words and phrases to get my point across to one of the locals, and that is why this blog can be helpful to you. Knowing how to order a meal, or a cold beer, or getting directions to the bus stop, train station, museum, or the hospital if necessary can make your trip more rewarding and enjoyable than you can imagine. And I have always found that locals tend to appreciate my meager efforts at trying to speak their language - that I cared enough about their country and their language to make the effort to communicate not in English.

Granted, I have taken years of Spanish classes, I have lived in Mexico, but if you don't continually practice speaking Spanish, the nuances of the tongue can be evasive. Today, my Spanish is very poor, because I haven't used it for so long. I tend to speak only in the present tense, because I can't remember the past tense or the pluperfect tense (c'mon, who ever remembers the pluperfect tense?) Nonetheless, I am able to make myself understood sufficiently that I get what I need. And do not, under any set of circumstances, EVER be afraid to try. No one cares that you can't recite Cervantes in the original. Pronunciation is over-rated, people KNOW that you don't speak their language. The key is that you are TRYING, and that's what counts. Just remember to speak clearly and with sincerity, and in a normal tone of voice. No one likes some tourist shouting at them. And if you get something wrong, so what? Try again. I once took a class with my father and sister in Mexico taught by a Jesuit priest. My father was trying to conjugate the verb caer, to fall. He was extremely proud that he knew the answer, so much so that he shouted out "Yo cago". The priest began blushing and giggling, because rather than saying "I fall", my father managed to say "I shit". This was quite amusing, though hardly correct. Generally, when you mispronounce something, people will smile and be amused, so don't be nervous about getting everything right the first time. It's alright to order in a restaurant "dos jueves y jabon" (2 Thursdays and soap), rather than "dos huevos y jamon" (2 eggs and ham). People will usually get a giggle and be more apt to help you.

So below is a short list of words and phrases that might just come in handy if you find yourself in Spain,Mexico, Central America or South America (except Brazil, where Portuguese is spoken - and I still can't figure that one out!!), or the Philippines, even Italy, because Spanish and Italian are very close. I must leave out accents on words because I haven't learned how to do that on my keyboard.
The Family Nuñez by kermibensharbs

The Family Nuñez by kermibensharbs


Where is... - Donde esta (doan-day eh-stah)
How much is it - Cuanto cuesta (kwan-toe kway-stah)
What is your name? - Como se llama (coh-moh say yah-mah)
Where are my shoes? - Donde estan mis zapatos (dohn-day eh-stahn mees sah-pah-tose)
Who's the blonde stranger (female)? - Quien es la estranjera rubia (key-en es la ehs-trahn-hair-ah roo-bee-ah) -
Who's the blonde stranger (male)? - Quien es la estranjero rubio (key-en es la ehs-trahn-hair-oh roo-bee-oh)
Hey, you never know.....

Generally, when you mispronounce something, people will smile and be amused, so don't be nervous about getting everything right the first time.


Here - Aqui (ah-key)
There - Alli (ah-yee)
Everywhere - Por Dondequiera (pour dohn-day key-air-ah)
The Corner - Rincon (reen-cone)(corner of the room)
The Corner- Esquina (es-key-nah) (corner of the block)
Straight - Derecho (deh-ray-cho)
Right- Derecha (deh-ray-chah)
Left - Izquierda (ees-key-air-dah)
Ahead - Adelante (ah-day-lahn-tay)
Behind - Detras de (day-trahs day)
In(inside) - Adentro (ah-dent-row)
Out(outside) Afuera (ah-fwhere-ah)
Railroad - Ferrocarril (fair-oh-car-rill)
Train - Tren (Trehn)
Bus - Autobus (Ow-tow-boos)
Car - Coche (koh-chay)
Taxi - Taxi (this one is pretty universal)
Plane - Avion (ah-vee-own)
Airport - Aeropuerto (ay-air-oh-pwer-toe)
Station - Estacion (eh-stah-see-own)
Hotel - Hotel (oh-tell)
Hostel - Hostel (oh-stahl)
City - Cuidad (see-ooh-dahd)
Country - Pais (pahy-ees)
Store - Tienda (tee-en-dah)
Market - Mercado (mair-cah-doe)
Restaurant - Restaurante (res-tau-rahn-tay)
Bus stop- Parada (pah-rah-dah)


The Museum - El Museo (el-moo-say-oh)
The Park - El Parque (el par-kay)
The Church - La Iglesia (lah ee-glay-see-ah)
The Library - La Bibliotheca (lah beeb-lee-oh-tay-kah)
A Monument - El Momunento (el mon-ooh-meant-oh)
The Aquarium - El Acuario (el ah-kwar-ee-oh)

all dressed up in Peru by Mavr8k

all dressed up in Peru by Mavr8k


Beer - Cerveza (sair-vay-sah)
Wine - Vino (vee-no)
Water - Agua (ah-gwa)
Juice - Jugo (who-go)
Rum - Ron (rohn)
Milk - Leche (lay-chay)

Beef - Carne (sort of generalized for meat) - (car-nay)
Pork - Puerco (pwair-co)
Chicken - Pollo (poy-oh)
Duck - Pato (pah-toe)
Veal - Ternera (tair-nair-ah)
Guinea Pig - Conejillo de Indias (or Cuy in SA) (cone-ay-heel-yo day een-dee-ahs) (coo-ee)
Ham - Jamon (hah-moan)
Bacon - Tocino (toe-see-no)

Vegetables - Vegetales (veh-hay-tahl-ehs)
Carrot - Zanahoria (sahn-ah-ore-ee-ah)
Onion - Cebolla (say-boy-ah)
Potato - Patata (pah-tah-tah)
Beans (legumes) - Frijoles (free-hole-ehs)
Cabbage - Repollo (ray-poy-yo)
Tomato - Tomate (toe-mah-tay)

Fruit - Fruta (froo-tah)
Apple - Manzana (mahn-zah-nah)
Banana - Banana (you can get this one)
Large banana used for weapons or frying - Platano (plah-tah-no)
Grapes - Uva (ooh-vah)
Lemon - Limon (lee-moan)
Lime - Lima (lee-mah)
Melon - Melone (meh-loan-ay)
Nut - Nuez (noo-ezz)

Ice Cream - Helados (ay-lah-dose)
Chocolate - Chocolate (choak-oh-lah-tay)
Candy - Dulce (also means "sweet") ( Dool-say)

My dog has no nose - Mi perro no tiene nariz (mee pair-oh no tee-en-ay nahr-ees)
How does he smell? - Como huele? (koh-moh way-lay)
Terrible! - Terrible (tear-ee-blay)


Hello - Halo (ah-low)
Hello - Hola (Oh-lah)
Please - Por Favor (pour fah-vore)
Thank you - Gracias (grah-see-ahs)
You're Welcome - Por Nada (pour nah-dah)
Excuse Me - Disculpa Me (dis-cool-pah may)
Of Course! - Por Supuesto! (pore Soo-pweh-stow!)
Kiss - Beso (beh-so)
Hug - Abrazo (Ah-bratz-oh)

oaxaca signs by kreglicka

oaxaca signs by kreglicka


Police - Policia (poh-lis-see-ah)
Hospital - Hospital (ose-pee-tahl)
Fire Department - Servicio de Bomberos (sair-vee-see-oh day bom-bear-ohs)
Embassy - Embajada (ehm-bah-hah-dah)


Where is the hotel (name) - Donde esta el hotel (doan-day eh-stah el oh-tell...)
My name is... - Me llamo (may yah-mo)(Literally "I'm called...")
This is a beautiful country - Este es un pais hermoso (eh-sta es oonah pie-ees air-moh-sah)
Where is the bathroom - Donde esta el baño (doan-day eh-stah el bahn-yo)
My dog has no nose - Mi perro no tiene nariz (mee pair-oh no tee-en-ay nahr-ees)
How does he smell - Como heule (koh-moh way-lay)
Terrible - Terrible (tear-ee-blay)
This is my stop - Esto es mi parada (Es-toe es me pah-rah-dah)
Help Me! - Socorro! (So-core -oh!) Ayudame! (Ay ooda may!)

A hearty smile and an effort to speak to someone in their own language without feeling foolish can make memories to cherish for a lifetime

las hot spring chicas by ggithens

las hot spring chicas by ggithens

This list is by no means complete, but it should give you a fair idea of really the most basic words and phrases that can make your travels so much easier and friendlier. A hearty smile and an effort to speak to someone in their own language without feeling foolish can make memories to cherish for a lifetime....or, if nothing else, some pretty good stories for your friends about how you asked the old woman in Santiago about your oral hygiene when you wanted to know if she had bananas for sale.

If you have other tips and tricks for your fellow travellers, then join us in educating travellers worldwide. To get started, send our editors an email at unravelled [at] travellerspoint [dot] com. Let them know a bit about yourself, and maybe include some writing samples and ideas for entries. They will review your submission and, if you fit the bill, they will welcome you to the team.

Posted by beerman 09:52 Tagged tips_and_tricks

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This is easily the best edited entry that I have every seen,anywhere, at any time, in any format. Excelsior to the editor!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I guess the writing's okay too.

by Piecar

I got your excelsior right here in my left side desk drawer....come closer....closer

Haha, Thanks for the great editing and spelling help. Hopefully we can help some folks tell the World's Deadliest Joke in Spanish!!!

by beerman

Great job beerman!! :)

by Sam I Am

Just some little corrections!
-Onion: Cebolla
-This is a beautiful country: Este es un hermoso/bonito país
-How does he smell?: ¿Cómo huele?

And a hint: These are American variety examples. Some expressions are different in Spain.

Anyway, good idea. As said above, it's always good to show appreciation for a country and its people by learning some of the language.

by maeva

Fantastic Kris, realy enjoyed it. I go to Spain regular and can only manage the basic things.
Thanks to you ill try even harder (not sure about the dog with no nose one)
Gracias Kris,

by Garry Mollart

Thank you maeva, those are good suggestions - I love onions!!! Unfortunately I haven't added Spanish punctuation and accents to my computer, so nothing was accented or question marked, and yes, Spanish is quite different in various countries due to local dialect.....you should hear Spanish spoken in Chicago!!! Someday.....

And Garry, thanks, whatever I can do to help. Maybe I'll work on translating some other jokes....great icebreakers they are!!!!

by beerman

Thank you for sharing

by kombizz

In Spain the verb "coger" is to catch (bus,train etc.)but in South America the same verb means something very sexual!!! It will make them smile...yes

by afortunado

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