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10 Simple Phrases for Tourists in Spanish-Speaking Countries

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Travelers looking to head south of the border for a tropical getaway are lucky in a number of ways. First, it’s easier than ever to get there thanks to the dozens of airlines that have daily flights to capitals and other major cities. Another perk is that, with just a few exceptions (yes, I’m talking to you, Brazil!), Spanish is the universal language spoken throughout nearly all of Central and South America. Whether you’re heading to Mexico, Costa Rica, Argentina, or just about anywhere in between, chances are pretty good that with some basic Spanish you’ll be good to go. Here are 10 useful phrases you’ll want to learn before traveling to any Spanish-speaking country:

1. Mucho gusto.

This is the customary expression when meeting someone for the first time. It loosely translates to “It’s a pleasure to meet you,” and is considered a polite greeting for children and adults alike.

2.  Me llamo …

When introducing yourself in Spanish, you say “My llamo [insert name here].” This actually means, “I am called name.” Someone asking you your name will say, “¿Como te llamas?”

3. Gracias.

You can never go wrong with a simple “thank you!”

4. Buenos días.

You’re sure to make friends by telling everyone “good morning.” And you’ll most certainly hear plenty of people wishing you a good day, too! “Buenas tardes” is the appropriate greeting for later in the day and means “good afternoon.”

5. Más despacio, por favor.

“Slower, please.” This phrase is key for those who aren’t completely fluent in Spanish. Most people you meet on your trip will be very patient and should have no qualms with repeating whatever they say at a slower pace.

6. ¿Cuánto cuesta?

Let’s face it, chances are pretty good that you’ll be doing a little shopping while on vacation! This helpful question asks how much something costs. Many vendors will even be able to tell you the approximate price in dollars, though make sure you know the value of the local currency before your trip as well.

7. ¿Dónde está el baño?

This one’s straightforward – “where is the bathroom?” At some point or another you’ll most certainly need a restroom while traveling! 

8. Sigue derecho.

“Keep going straight.” This phrase is important in giving and receiving directions. You can tell taxi drivers where to go, plus you will need to know this common term if you’re walking around and ask a local for help finding your way.

9. & 10.A la derecha & a la izquierda.

“To the right” and “to the left” are two other important phrases to know for getting around town.

"Map-Hispanophone World". Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons.

Map-Hispanophone World“. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons.

Most Americans have studied Spanish at some point or another. If you’ve studied the language and are curious about how much you remember, take our free Spanish level test! You may find that with a little bit of practice, your Spanish will all come back to you. You’ll definitely have an even better trip if you invest some time in learning (or remembering) these basic Spanish words and phrases. Can you add anything to this list?