Heading on a trip to South America this year and want to make sure you don’t make yourself and those around you completely confused? Having a toolkit of invaluable travel sayings at your disposal will ensure your plans don’t go awry and it’s for that purpose we’ve put together this Spanish for travelers guide.
The 68 travel phrases have a particular focus on South America, where expressions sometimes have a distinctly different character than in Spain.
We’ve broken down these Spanish travel phrases into topic areas to ensure that, regardless of the situation, you’ve got a phrase at your disposal. If you want to go even further into learning Spanish ahead of your trip to South America, head over to our study Spanish online guides or consider taking a Spanish language immersion course when you arrive in the continent.
There’s no better way to make a good impression in a new country than with pleasantries and polite greetings. These phrases are the Spanish for travelers 101.
Hola – Hello
Buenos días – Good morning
Buenos tardes/noches – Good afternoon/evening
¿Cómo está? / ¿Qué tal? – How are you? If you already know the person, you can use the less formal ¿Cómo estás?
Por favor – Please – Don’t underestimate how useful this word can be!
¡Mucho gusto! – Nice to meet you!
Con permiso/perdón – Excuse me
Gracias – Thank you
Hasta luego/Chao/Adios – See you later/bye/bye
Useful general Spanish travel phrases
When traveling around Latin America, you’ll want the following Spanish travel vocabulary on the tip of your tongue.
Quiero*… – I want
…una cerveza – a beer
…un billete simple – a one-way ticket
…un taxi – a taxi
…ayuda – Help
*However….if you want to be more polite, get your chops around the more difficult-to-pronounce:
Me gustaría and Quisiera
Both mean I would like, which is slightly more formal and politer than quiero but will often get you a friendlier reaction! Don’t forget to include por favor (please) at the end of each of these expressions!
¿Cuánto cuesta? – How much does it cost? – Can be said while pointing at an item to indicate what you’re talking about!
¿Tiene….? – Do you have…? – Is often useful when asking for accommodation ¿Tiene una habitación matrimonial? – Do you have a double room?). Or in restaurants ¿Tiene una mesa para dos? – Do you have a table for two?
¿Hay? – Is there…? – Is useful for asking for places nearby. ¿Hay un baño cercano? Is there a toilet nearby?
¿Hay alguien que habla inglés? Is there anyone who speaks English?
No entiendo – I don’t understand!
¿Habla inglés? – Do you speak English?
¿Qué hora es? – What time is it?
Necesito… – I need…
…dinero – money
…el baño – the bathroom
If you’ve just arrived in a new place in a South American city, you’ll want to know the following Spanish phrases to help you find your way.
Estoy buscando – I’m looking for…
¿Dónde está… – Where is….
…la oficina de infomación turística? The tourist information office?
…el baño? – The bathroom?
… el cajero? – the ATM?
…la casa de cambio? – The currency exchange bureau?
You’ll also want to know the following key Spanish travel phrases related to directions.
Gira/doble a la derecha/izquierda – Turn right/left
Está a la derecha/izquierda – It’s on the right/left hand side
Derecho/recto – Straight on
Calle/avenida – Road/avenue
Toma la primera/segunda a la derecha/izquierda – Take the first/second on the right/left
Taking public transport
Working out exactly which bus or train you need, a how to get to the correct terminal in the first place, can be a huge headache when you’re traveling in South America. But make a note of these phrases and you shouldn’t have any problems.
¿Dónde está… – Where is…
…la estación de buses? – the bus station?
…la estación de tren? – the train station
¿A qué hora sale el bus a —–? – What time does the bus to —- (insert your destination) leave?
¿Cuánto cuesta… – How much does — cost?
…un billete para el bus? – a bus ticket
Quisiera… – I would like….
…un billete simple – A one-way ticket
Finding accommodation for the night
You’ve arrived to your destination but need to find somewhere to stay the night. These common Spanish phrases for travel will help you check in to a hotel.
¿Tiene… – Do you have….
…una habitación para dos personas? – a room for two people?
…WIFI? – WIFI?
¿Incluye… Does [the room] include..
…desayuno? – breakfast?
…estacionamiento? – parking?
¿Cuánto cuesta… – How much does —- cost?
…la habitación? – the room?
Dining in a local restaurant
Going out for dinner to enjoy the lovely Latin american food, can feel like a complicated step when you’re on holiday or traveling in a new country. Luckily there are a number of key travel phrases that will help you make sure you order exactly what you want.
Una mesa para dos/tres/cuatro, por favor. – A table for two/three/four people, please.
Quisiera… – I would like…
…ver la carta, por favor – to see the menu, please.
…el menú del día, por favor – The menú of the day, please –
In lots of countries in South America, restaurants serve a daily menu, often including a starter, main and dessert for a very reasonable price.
…una entrada – a starter
…un plato principal – a main course
…un postre – a dessert
…ver la carta del vino, por favor – to see the wine list, please
…agua, por favor – water, please
…la cuenta, por favor – The check, please
…pagar con tarjeta de crédito – to pay with credit card
Note that in many parts of South America, it can be difficult to pay with credit card in lots of restaurants. The rule of thumb is that only the more expensive venues accept payment by credit card.