Useful Spanish phrases for travelers: what you need to know before your trip to South America
Get a deeper connection with the locals and a smoother landing into the local culture by learning the basics of the local language.
Even though most people working in the travel industry in South America do speak English, some other locals do not at all (especially those living in small cities or towns). Therefore, if you want to feel more comfortable during your stay, be able to get in touch with locals, and deeply understand the history of each place you may want to learn the basics of the local language (Spanish).
At Signature Tours, we have been building bridges between cultures by showing hundreds of thousands of travelers the hidden gems of South America through unique and exclusive tours and experiences since 2003. And now, we want to make sure that you have the most pleasant experience during your trip, so here is a list of the most useful Spanish phrases for travelers that will open the door to many enjoyable experiences (and act as icebreakers!).
Greetings: how to go beyond “Hola”
Locals will appreciate your effort in learning some basic Spanish, so don’t worry if you find pronunciation a little bit difficult. We suggest including greetings in your basic list as they will help you in many different situations. Let’s see some examples:
-Hello. “Hola” (oh-lah).
-Good morning. “Buen día” (boo-en dee-ah).
-Good afternoon. “Buenas tardes” (boo-eh-nas tar-des).
-Good evening. “Buenas noches” (boo-eh-nas noh-chais).
-Goodbye. “Adiós” (ah-deeh-os).
-Until tomorrow. “Hasta mañana” (as-tah mah-gnah-nah).
-Bye. “Chau”. This is a very common word in Argentina, but it is very informal and usually used when you feel close to that person.
At the airport
Even though most people at the airport can speak English, we would like to provide you with some basic Spanish for travelers so you can rest assured that communication won’t be a problem.
If one of your suitcases is not found, keep calm and head to the nearest counter saying “Reclamo de equipaje” in order to get help.
Some useful Spanish phrases:
-I can’t find my suitcase. “No encuentro mi valija” (noh en-koo-en-troh mee vah-lee-hah).
-I need help, please. “Necesito ayuda, por favor” (neh-ceh-see-toh ah-dzoodah).
-Could you help me, please?. “¿Podrías ayudarme, por favor?” (poh-dria adzoo-dar-meh, por fa-vor?.
-Where is the toilet, please?. “¿Dónde está el baño, por favor?” (don-day es-tah el ba-gnoh).
-Do you speak English?. “¿Hablas inglés?” (ah-blah een-glays).
-Exit. “Salida” (sah-lee-dah).
At the hotel
Most people working at hotels speak English, but you may go to a small off-the-beaten-path bed and breakfast and may need some Spanish for travelers to complete the check-in or to request something.
-My name is… . “Me llamo…” (meh dza-moh)..
-Is my room ready? “¿Mi habitación está lista?” (mee abee-tah-see-on es-tah- lees-tah).
-Do you need my passport? “¿Necesita mi pasaporte?” (neh-ceh-see-tah mee pah-sah-por-teh)
-Is breakfast included? “¿El desayuno está incluido?” (el deh-sah-dzu-noh es-tah een-klui-doh).
– What time is breakfast served? “¿A qué hora sirven el desayuno?” (ah keh o-rah seer-ven el deh-sagzuh-noh)..
-Elevator/lift. “Ascensor” (ah-sen-sor).
Asking for help at the hotel
The first moments in a new country could be tiring, and if encounter some difficulties it may be quite stressful, so here are some basic phrases in Spanish to get help from the concierge:
-I have lost my key. “Perdí la llave” (per-dee lah- dzah-veh).
-Is there an ATM here? “¿Hay un cajero automático aquí?” (I oon kah-heh-roh ouh-toh-mah-tee-koh akee)..
-I need a doctor. “Necesito un doctor” (neh-ceh-see-toh oon dok-tor).
-It doesn’t work. “No funciona” (noh foon-see-oh-nah).
-Crib, cot. “Cuna” (koo-nah).
-Stroller, buggy. “Cochecito” koh-cheh-see-toh).
-Wheelchair. “Silla de ruedas” (see-dzaa deh rroo-eh-das).
The hotel receptionists and concierges will always be ready to assist you so that you can enjoy your stay as much as possible.
Amenities at the hotel
Enjoying your stay at the hotel is amazing, so there you go:
-Where is the swimming pool? “¿Dónde está la piscina?” (don-deh es-tah lah pees-cee-nah).
-The gym. “El gimnasio” (el heem-nah-see-oh).
-The restaurant. “El restaurant” (el res-tau-ran-teh).
-Room service. “Servicio a la habitación” (ser-vee-see-o ah lah a-bee-ta-see-on).
-Can I book a tour, please? “¿Puedo reservar un tour, por favor?” (pwe-do reh-ser-var oon tour).
Legal currency in Argentina is “peso”. Many people get a little confused because the symbol is “$”, so they think prices are expressed in American dollars, but the fact is that prices are expressed in “pesos”, our local currency. That being said, you will see that in many places, specially in the smaller towns of the countryside, you will need cash for your daily transactions, so we prepared some common Spanish phrases for travelers to get you through this:
-Currency. “Moneda” (moh-neh-dah).
-Money Changer/Currency Exhange: “Casa de cambio” (kah-sah de kam-bee-oh).
-Exchange rate. “Tipo de cambio” (tee-poh de kam-bee-oh).
-How much is…? “¿Cuánto cuesta… ?” (kwan-to kwues-tah).
-Your change. “Su vuelto” (soo voo-el-toh).
– Where can I find an ATM. “¿Dónde puedo encontrar un cajero automático?” (don-deh poo-eh-do en-kon-trar oon kah-heh-roh ou-to-mah-tih-koh).
In your trip to Argentina you will find stunning landscapes, but this country is also a shopper’s paradise for the variety of local products, the quality and, specially, the price. So spare a few days to buy yourself some Argentine goods to take back home.
-Shopping center. “Centro comercial” (sen-tro koh-mer-see-al).
-Shoe shop. “Zapatería” (sah-pah-teh-ree-ah).
-Jewelry. “Joyería” whau-dze-ree-ah).
-How much is… . “¿Cuánto cuesta…” (kooan-to koo-es-tah).
-Do you have my size? “¿Tiene mi talle?” (tee-eh-neh mee ta-dzeh).
-I like it. “Me gusta” (meh goos-tah).
-I do not like it. “No me gusta” (noh meh goos-tah).
-Can I get a discount? “¿Hay algún descuento?” (ay al-goon des-kooen-toh). (This might be possible when the amount of your purchase is significant. You have to know that bargaining is not an option in our country, even though it happens in some other ones).
-I will take it. “Lo llevaré” (loh dze-vah-reh).
-Can I have everything delivered to my hotel, please? “¿Pueden enviar todo a mi hotel, por favor?” (poo-eh-den en-vee-ar toh-doh ah mee o-tel).
When it comes to paying, these basic Spanish words for travelers will make things easier:
-Bank. “Banco” (ban-koh).
-Money. “Dinero” (dee-neh-roh).
-Are credit cards accepted? “¿Aceptan tarjeta de crédito?” (ah-cep-tan tar-heh-tah deh kre-dee-toh).
-I will pay cash. “Pagaré en efectivo” (pah-gah-reh en eh-fec-teeh-voh).
-Debit card. “Tarjeta de débito” tar-he-tah deh deh-bee-toh).
At the restaurant
Whenever you visit a new city, tasting the local food is a must. Sometimes you need to call the waiter/waitress, order dishes and so on, so let’s see how to do it:
-I need a table for two, please. “Necesito una mesa para dos, por favor” (neh-ceh-see-to oonah meh-sah pah-rah dos, por fah-vor).
-Waiter. “Mozo/camarero” (moh-zoh/kah-mah-reh-roh).
-Waitress. “Camarera” (kah-mah-reh-rah).
-The menu, please. “La carta, por favor” (lah kar-tah por fah-vor).
-What do you suggest? “¿Qué me sugiere/recomienda?” (keh meh suh-hee-eh-reh/rreh-koh-mee-en-dah).
-Which is the dish of the day?: “¿Cuál es el plato del día?” (koo-al es el plah-toh del dia).
-I am vegetarian. “Soy vegetariana/vegetariano” /soy ve-hetah-ree-ah-nah/noh).
-I am vegan. “Soy vegano/vegana” (soy ve-gah-noh/nah).
-I am allergic to… . “Soy alérgica/alérgico a…” (soy aler-hee-kah/koh ah…).
-Starter. “Entrada” (en-trah-dah).
-Main course. “Plato principal” (plah-toh preen-see-pal).
-Dessert. “Postre” pos-treh).
-Well done. “Bien cocido” (bee-en coh-see-doh).
-Medium. “A punto” (ah poon-toh).
Drinks are very important to complete the menu. There are lots of excellent choices for you.
-Sparkling water. “Agua con gas” (ah-goo-ah kon gas).
-Still water. “Agua sin gas” (ah-goo-ah seen gas).
-Red wine. “Vino tinto” (vee-noh teen-toh).
-White wine. “Vino blanco” (vee-noh blan-koh).
Perhaps you would like to have some champagne for a toast:
-Toast. “Brindis” (breen-dees).
-Cheers! “¡Salud!” (sah-lood).
Paying at the restaurant
We are sure that you will enjoy wonderful meals. When it’s time to pay, you may say:
-Can we have the bill/check, please? “¿Puede traer la cuenta, por favor?” (poo-eh-deh trah-er lah koo-en-tah, por fah-vor).
It is common use to tip the waiter/waitress. Tips are not included in the bill and 10% is recommended. Even though credit cards are accepted almost anywhere, cash is used for tips.
-Tip. “Propina” (pro-pee-nah).
A new country, a new city. You will be excited to go around, so it will be wonderful to learn some basic Spanish words:
-What time does the … close? “¿A qué hora cierra el/la…?” (ah keh orah see-eh-rrah).
-Free activity. “Actividad gratuita” (ak-teeh-veeh-dad grah-too-eeh-tah).
-The main square. “La plaza principal” (lah pla-zah preen-seeh-pal).
-Park. “Parque” (par-keh).
-How can I get to… .“¿Cómo llego a…?” (koh-moh dze-goh ah…).
-Left/right. “Izquierda/derecha” (eez-keeh-er-dah/deh-reh-cha).
-Theatre. “Teatro” (tea-tro).
-Mass. “Misa” (mee-sah).
-Taxi/cab. “Taxi” (tah-xi).
Places to visit
Every city has a wide variety of attractions and historic places to visit, so it is better to organize your day:
-Art gallery. “Galería de arte” (gah-leh-ree-ah deh ar-teh).
-Stadium. “Estadio” (es-tah-dee-oh).
-Bookshop. “Librería” (lee-breh-ree-ah).
-Where is the museum? “¿Dónde queda el museo?” (don-deh ke-da el moo-se-oh).
-Is the Cathedral open? “¿La Catedral está abierta?” (lah kah-teh-dral es-tah ah-bee-er-tah).
-The church. “La iglesia” (lah ee-gle-see-ah).
-How much does the ticket cost? “¿Cuánto cuesta la entrada?” (cuan-toh kues-tah lah –en-tra-dah)
You may forget some words, but your effort in being polite will be much appreciated and, for sure, will open you many doors.
-Please. “Por favor” (por fah-vor).
-Thank you. “Gracias” (grah-see-as).
-You are welcome. “De nada” (deh nah-dah).
-Yes, please. “Sí, por favor” (see, por fa-vor).
-No, thank you. “No, gracias” (noh, gra-see-as).
-Excuse me. “Disculpe/Permiso” (dees-cul-peh/per-mee-soh) .
-I am sorry. “Lo siento” (loh see-en-toh).
-Pardon. “¿Me podría repetir?” (meh po-dree-ah reh-peh-teer).
Perhaps we do not think about learning numbers in a different language when you have the same symbol for them, but you will find it very helpful.
-One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten.
“Uno, dos, tres, cuatro, cinco, seis, siete, ocho, nueve, diez”.
(oonoh, dos, tres, kuah-troh, seen-coh, seh-ees, see-eh-teh), oh-cho, noo-eh-veh, dee-ez)
-One hundred. “Cien” (see-en).
-One thousand. “Mil” (meel).
When we go to a new country, we are ready to enjoy every second in that destination, but sometimes we might have some kind of medical problem, so these phrases will help you:
-I need a doctor. “Necesito un doctor” (neh-ceh-see-to oon doc-tor).
-Where can I find a pharmacy? “¿Dónde hay una farmacia?” (don-deh ay oonah far-mah-see-ah).
-I have a headache. “Me duele la cabeza” (meh due-leh- lah cah-beh-zah).
-I have a fever. “Tengo fiebre” (ten-goh fee-eh-breh)..
–I have travel insurance. “Tengo seguro de viaje” (ten-goh seh-guh-roh deh- vee-ah-heh).
Traveling with babies
When you travel with babies, you may have some special situations and rush to buy some items. Don’t worry, these words will make things easier:
-Dummy, pacifier. “Chupete” (choo-peh-teh).
-Baby’s bottle. “Biberón, mamadera” (bee-beh-ron, mah-mah-deh-rah).
-Diaper, nappy. “Pañal” (pah-ñal).
-Sanitary pads/napkins. “Toallas higiénicas”(toh-ah-llas ee-hee-eh-nih-kas)
-Bib. “Babero” (bah-beh-roh).
-Baby soap. “Jabón para bebé” (hah-bon pah-rah beh-beh).
You will always find a place to buy these items not far from your hotel. So, no reason to worry about them.
There are special occasions when you need to solve other situations:
-Hairdresser, hairstylist. “Peluquero (a man), peluquera (a lady)” (peh-loo-keh-roh)rah).
-Massage. “Masajes” (mah-sah-hes).
-Manicure. “Manicura” (mah-nee-koo-rah).
-Dry cleaner. “Tintorería” (teen-toh-reh-ree-ah).
-Laundry. “Lavandería” (lah-van-deh-ree-ah).
-(Self service) Laundromat, launderette: “Lavadero” (lah-vah-deh-roh).
-Shoe repair shop. “Zapatero” (zah-pah-teh-roh).
Knowing some words about the weather forecast may help you to organize your tours and activities:
-Rain. “Lluvia” (lloo-vee-ah).
-Sunny. “Soleado” (soh-lea-ah-doh).
-Cloudy. “Nublado” (noo-blah-doh).
-Windy. “Ventoso” (ven-toh-soh).
-Hot. “Caluroso” (kah-loo-roh-soh).
-Cold. “Frío” (free-oh).
-Real feel. “Sensación térmica” (sen-sah-see-on ter-mee-ka).
–Which is the weather forecast? “¿Cuál es el pronóstico?” (koo-al es el pro-nos-tee-koh).
Remember that temperatures are expressed in degrees Celsius. Keep that in mind!
We love having pets. You will see them everywhere. Many restaurants accept them and even prepare a bowl with water for them. You will be surprised. Let’s find out some usual Spanish words for them:
-Dog. “Perro” (peh-rro).
-Cat. “Gato” (gah-toh).
-Leash. “Correa” (koh-rreh-ah).
-Muzzle. “Bozal” (boh-zal).
-Dog walker. “Paseador de perros” (pah-seh-ah-dor).
In some places, you will see a dog walker with a big group of dogs. They also enjoy the city!
A little bit of everything
There are others basic Spanish words for travelers we would like to share with you:
-Here. “Aquí” (ah-kee).
-There. “Allí” (ah-llee).
-I don’t understand. “No comprendo” (noh kom-pren-doh).
-I want… . “Quiero…” (kee-eh-roh).
-To the right. “A la derecha” (ah lah deh-reh-cha).
-To the left. “A la izquierda” (ah la eez-kee-er-dah).
-At the corner. “En la esquina” (en lah es-kee-nah).
-How are you? “¿Cómo está/estás?” (koh-moh es-tas).
-I am fine, thanks. “Estoy bien, gracias” (es-toy bee-en, grah-see-as).
We always need to ask questions about what to do, where to go or why we should not miss something.
A few key Spanish words to ask questions:
-When…? “¿Cuándo?” (koo-an-do).
-What…? “¿Qué?” (ke).
-Where…? “¿Dónde… ?” (don-de).
-Why? “¿Por qué?” (por ke).
-Because… . “Porque…” (por-que).
-Which. “¿Cuál?” (koo-al).
Of course, we need to know about the time so that we do not miss anything at all. Let’s see:
-What time…? “¿A qué hora?” (ah keh orah).
-What time is it? “¿Qué hora es?” (keh orah es).
-On the dot. “En punto” (en poon-toh).
-Half past… . “… y media” (ee meh-dee-ah).
(For example: Half past three/Tres y media) (tres ee meh-dee-ah).
-Noon. Mediodía (meh-dee-oh-dee-iah).
We hope that these examples of useful Spanish phrases for travelers will be helpful for you. We are pleased to make things easier and provide you with local insights and tips so that you can enjoy your stay and make the most of it. Make sure to check out our special selection of blog posts with recommendations from our tour guides about places to visit, travel advice, food and drinks, history and architecture, art and culture, and much more.
If you are planning to visit South America and want some guidance through the extremely stressful planning and booking journey, you can book a free 30-minute counseling session so that one of our experts can answer your questions and help you to make your dream trip a reality (without perishing in the effort!).
In case you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact us. We are just a message away, ready to help you, and hoping to see you soon around here to say: “Welcome to South America. Enjoy your stay”.