Travelers visiting Spain can learn simple and basic Spanish phrases to easily communicate with the locals, and make the trip more memorable. From common greetings, saying thanks, expressing apology, asking for the cost of items or service, it doesn’t hurt to remember key Spanish words.
Learning phrases like ¡Hola!, ¿Cómo está?, Por Favor, or Gracias, make all the difference when approaching a stranger and asking for their help. Spanish people are naturally friendly, laidback, and fun-loving people, that’s why traveling here is a delight for many tourists.
However, a huge number of locals can’t speak or understand English, so travelers need to make a little effort in remembering a few Spanish words.
Aside from the ease in communicating, learning a few basic Spanish phrases also makes each encounter meaningful and comfortable for both parties. For people who will travel in Spain for the first time, here’s a list of the most common and simple Spanish words to memorize for the trip.
Basic Spanish Phrases for First Time Visitors
The most basic Spanish word to utter when starting a conversation is, ¡Hola! Or Hello. Do not underestimate the importance of greeting locals because a warm smile can help a lot in different situations. Travelers can use this word anywhere; when arriving at the hotel, greeting the taxi driver, a stranger, and asking for direction.
Hola can be used at any time of the day. Still, travelers can also learn several greetings in the morning, afternoon, and evening.
- Buenos días for good morning
- Buenas tardes for good afternoon
- Buenas Noches for good evening or goodnight
Make sure to flash a warm smile and hold eye contact when greeting locals. Also, don’t be surprised when some locals give air-kisses—this is rather common in Spain.
2. ¿Habla Inglés?
As mentioned, not everyone speaks the English language, but if desperate, travelers can say Habla inglés to ask if a person can speak in English. This is applicable to situations when asking for help in finding a place in the restaurant when making requests, during an emergency, and others.
More younger people can speak English, so it’s best to try asking. There are older people who can communicate in English using common phrases, but don’t expect too much. It is handy to know some Spanish phrases for travel in order to communicate better with locals.
When using public transportation like buses and trains, there are information counters available to speak to an English-speaking staff or personnel. Additionally, English signage is also installed and used to aid foreign travelers.
3. ¿Me podría ayudar?
In situations that call for desperate measures, travelers can say ¿Me podría ayudar? when asking for help. When running into trouble, like losing valuable possessions, travelers can simply shout, Ayuda Me! Ayuda! and locals can help. This will set off the alarm or attention needed and get help faster.
Getting scammed in popular tourist places in Spain is a bit more common, with foreigners falling victims to pickpocket thieves and muggers. Major cities like Madrid and Barcelona are notorious for street snatchers, so be vigilant when strolling across neighborhoods and alleys.
Be wary in accepting unsolicited help from strangers too, as some people can take advantage of tourists. Better to seek help from authorities, as police stations are almost everywhere.
4. Por Favor
To not sound rude when asking for help or requesting something, be sure to add por favor or please in English. Locals are more willing to fulfill requests and help travelers address them properly and talk to them nicely. In addition, saying please is polite, especially when asking for a huge favor.
Por favor is a common Spanish phrase for travel and comes handy when communicating with Spaniards. Practice a polite way of speaking and saying por favor when asking for a menu in a restaurant, ordering food, booking a room, or asking for a table. Doing so shows respect and portrays a message that travelers don’t consider themselves superior from locals.
5. ¿Dónde está el baño?
Another survival phrase to learn when visiting Spain is, ¿Dónde está el baño? or where is the bathroom in English. Problems may arise if travelers don’t know how to ask the location of the toilet or comfort room. After all, natural calls are unexpected and may come at any time of the day.
While signages are available in some local restaurants, and several attractions, finding its exact location is important for urgent businesses. So, it’s best to ask a staff member where exactly the toilet is, to save time looking everywhere.
When excusing oneself to use the restroom, simply say, disculpe mientras voy a usar el baño or excuse me while I use the bathroom.
6. Muy amable, Gracias
Learning a couple of flattery phrases helps to create meaningful encounters. Saying gracias is enough to express gratitude, but adding muy amable or very kind expresses deep respect and recognition to the other person. Gracias is among the simple phrases in Spain that travelers need to learn in order to show respect and give credit.
The phrase, muy amable, gracias is applicable for returning thanks to anyone who has helped travelers in different situations. For instance, when asking for direction and a local provides detailed information, travelers can say muy amable, gracias in return.
Other phrases to express gratitude in Spanish include mil gracias, te agradezco por, or muchísimas gracias or thank you very much.
7. ¿Dónde está?
The simplest way to ask for direction is by saying ¿Dónde está? or ‘where is’ in English. It’s one of the survival travel phrases in Spain as certain landmarks, and tourist spots are hard to find.
Travelers can also use this phrase when asking for the train or bus stations nearby. Simply add la or the, when asking for specific locations. For instance, dónde está la estación del bus is equivalent to ‘where is the bus station’ in English.
8. ¿Cuánto cuesta?
When shopping, dining, or asking for tours, the phrase ¿Cuánto cuesta? come in handy when asking for the price or cost of items. When visiting tourist landmarks, locals offer a lot of items to visiting tourists. To find out the price of items or services, simply say Cuánto cuesta or cuánto es.
This phrase is very common in Spain, and travelers can hear this a lot in malls, restaurants, and souvenir shops. To ask for a discount, simply say, ¿Me podría dar un descuento? or ¿Cómo puedo conseguir un descuento? Price negotiation is very common in Spain, and locals provide good discounts for tourists.
9. ¿Qué me recomienda?
One of the most used Spanish phrases for travelers is, ¿Qué me recomienda? or ‘what can you recommend’ in English. Use this to ask for a restaurant’s specialty to get a taste of the best food in the menu and the best beverage. The staff is more than happy to assist tourists with a particular local dish to try.
Travelers can also use this phrase when shopping for souvenirs, buying wines, or simply asking for assistance for the best things to get. Speaking of souvenirs, never forget to take home Spanish wines and cheeses.
10. ¿Me puedes sacar una foto?
What is traveling without taking photographs in tourist spots, right? When asking someone to take a picture of travelers, the phrase, ¿Me puedes sacar una foto? is best to use. This phrase simply means, ‘Can you take a picture of me?’ in English.
This is common and considered basic Spanish phrases, especially for solo travelers who don’t have anybody to take their pictures. Return the favor by saying muchísimas gracias or gracias.