The Essential Spanish Phrase Guide for Traveling in Latin America

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The Essential Spanish Phrase Guide for Traveling in Latin America

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Attention all you jet setters and newbie travelers! By simply having the ability to speak in English and Spanish, you are able to communicate with over 70% of the world! Pretty awesome, right?

But not knowing the native language when traveling to a foreign country can be very nerve racking. Take it from me, I should know! After traveling to many different countries over the past few years, mostly within the Caribbean, I have had different experiences with language barriers. Some have even been with my own native tongue, English!

Making new friends and talking with the locals in their own language will help you enjoy your vacation even more! Unfortunately not knowing Spanish while in Central America could leave you out of the joke...
Making new friends and talking with the locals in their own language will help you enjoy your vacation even more! Unfortunately not knowing Spanish while in Central America could leave you out of the joke...

Seeing how Spanish is one of the world’s top 5 most-spoken languages (number 2 considering the amount of native Speakers), it’s not surprising that one may find themselves traveling to a native Spanish-speaking country on any given holiday (Spanish is the official language in about 20 countries). But, how relaxing and enjoyable is that trip if you are not able to communicate effectively, even for your bare necessities?

No need to panic! Here's a list with basic Spanish phrases for the common traveler. Whether you need to ask for directions or order a nice cold beer, this list will provide you with the basic phrases you need for a more relaxing, enjoyable and memorable vacation!

Common Signs

  1. Open: Abierto (ah-bee-AIR-toh)
  2. Closed: Cerrado (sehr-RAH-doh)
  3. Entrance: Entrada (ehn-TRAH-dah)
  4. Exit: Salida (sah-LEE-dah)
  5. Push: Empujar (ehm-POO-har)
  6. Pull: Tirar / Jalar (TEE-rar/HAH-lar)
  7. Toilet / Bathrooms: Servicios / Aseos / Baños (sehr-BEE-thee-yohs / ah-SEH-aws / bah-nios)
  8. Men: (PAL-oh): Hombres / Caballeros (OHM-brays / Ca-bah-yeh-ros)
  9. Women: Mujeres (moo-HEH-rehs)
  10. Don't Smoke: No fumar/fume (noh foo-MAHR/FOO-may)
  11. Forbidden: Prohibido (pro-hee-BEE-doh)

Salutations / Farewells

  1. Hello/Hi: Hola (OH-lah)
  2. Have a good day : Que pase un buen día (keh PAH-seh un BWEHN DEE-ah)
  3. How are you? (informal): ¿Cómo estás? (KOH-moh ehs-TAHS?)
  4. How are you? (formal): ¿Cómo está usted? (KOH-moh ehs-TAH oos-TEHD?)
  5. Fine, thank you: Muy bien, gracias. (MOO-ee byehn, GRAH-syahs)
  6. What is your name? (informal): ¿Cómo te llamas? (KOH-moh TAY YAH-mahs?)
  7. What is your name? (formal): ¿Cómo se llama usted? (KOH-moh SAY YAH-mah oos-TEHD?)
  8. Who are you? (informal): ¿Quién eres? (KYEN EH-rehs?)
  9. Who are you? (formal): ¿Quién es usted? (KYEN ehs oos-TEHD?)
  10. My name is ______: Mi nombre es ______ (Mee nome-breh eHs _____ ))
  11. I am ______: Yo soy ______ (YOH SOY ______)
  12. Nice to meet you: Encantado/a (ehn-kahn-TAH-doh/ehn-kahn-TAH-dah)
  13. It's a pleasure to meet you: Mucho gusto. (MOO-choh GOOS-toh)
  14. Please: Por favor (POHR fah-BOHR)
  15. Thank you: Gracias (GRAH-syahs)
  16. You're welcome: De nada (DAY NAH-dah)
  17. Yes: Sí (SEE)
  18. No: No (NOH)
  19. Excuse me (getting attention): Disculpe (dees-KOOL-peh)
  20. Excuse me (begging pardon): Perdón (pehr-DOHN)
  21. I'm sorry: Lo siento / perdón (LOH SYEHN-toh / pehr-DOHN)
  22. Goodbye: Adiós (ah-DYOHS). Hasta luego (AHS-tah LWEH-goh).
  23. I speak a little Spanish: Hablo un poco de español. (AH-bloh oon POH-koh deh ehs-pah-NYOHL)
  24. I can't speak Spanish (well): No hablo (bien) español (noh AH-bloh (bee-ehn) ehs-pah-NYOHL)
  25. Do you speak English? (informal): ¿Hablas inglés? (AH-blahs een-GLEHS?)
  26. Do you speak English? (formal): ¿Habla usted inglés? (AH-blah oos-TEHD een-GLEHS?)
  27. Is there someone here who speaks English? : ¿Hay alguien que hable inglés? (I ahl-GYEHN keh AH-bleh een-GLEHS?)
  28. Help!: ¡Ayuda! (ah-YOO-dah!)

Greetings

  1. Good morning: Buenos días (BWEH-nohs DEE-ahs)
  2. Good afternoon / Good evening: Buenas tardes (BWEH-nahs TAR-dehs)
  3. Good evening / Good night: Buenas noches (BWEH-nahs NOH-chehs)
  4. I don't understand: No entiendo (NOH ehn-TYEHN-doh)
  5. Could you speak more slowly please?: ¿Podría usted hablar más despacio por favor? (poh-DREE-ah oos-TEHD ah-BLAHR MAHS dehs-PAH-thyoh pohr fah-BOHR?)
  6. Could you repeat it please?: ¿Podría usted repetirlo por favor? (poh-DREE-ah oos-TEHD reh-peh-TEER-loh pohr fah-BOHR?)
  7. Where is the toilet?: ¿Dónde está el baño? (DOHN-deh ehss-TAH EHL BAH-nyoh?)

Bars / Clubs

  1. Bar (the counter inside a bar): barra (BAHR-rah)
  2. Tavern/pub : taberna (tah-BEHR-nah)
  3. Club: club (kloob)
  4. Want to dance?: ¿Quieres bailar? (Kie-Res BAI-lahr?)
  5. What time do you close? : ¿A qué hora cierran? (ah KEH OH-rah oos-TEHD SYEHR-rahn?)
  6. Do you serve alcohol? : ¿Sirve alcohol? (SEER-beh ahl-koh-OHL?)
  7. Is there table service?: ¿Hay servicio a la mesa? (eye sehr-BEE-syoh ah lah MEH-sah?)
  8. A beer/two beers, please: Una cerveza/dos cervezas, por favor. (OO-nah sehr-BEH-sah/dohs sehr-BEH-sahs, pohr FAH-bohr)
  9. A glass of red/white wine: Un vaso de vino tinto/blanco. (oon BAH-soh deh BEE-noh TEEN-toh/BLAHN-koh)
  10. A pint/half a liter of beer: Una jarra de cerveza

So go ahead and start practicing in front of the mirror. Put some "post its" up around your house and once you fly to Latin America, don't be embarrassed if you fumble around to find a word: the most important thing to make progress with your Spanish skills is to let go and not be afraid to make mistakes. For even more Spanish learning tips click here...

The beginning of the following video shows in a funny way what happens when you don't know Spanish while traveling in Central America and what you can do about it... enjoy!

FIND OUT MORE ABOUT SPANISH COURSES IN LATIN AMERICA... »

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Search our blog if you're visiting Panama! From must do's, where to party or eat, to which beaches and hiking trails you shouldn't miss, you'll find great insider info about Bocas del Toro, Panama City and Boquete, as well as Panamanian culture, customs and traditions, and certainly tips and advice for learning Spanish while in our country! We've been writing about all things Panama for over 10 years and nothing beats local knowledge from the locals themselves.


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