Planning a trip to a Spanish-speaking country? Or prepping for a Spanish conversation on Skype? Then you need to get some simple, really useful Spanish phrases under your belt!
There are tons of benefits to learning to speak the local language when you travel, even if you just learn a few phrases. People really appreciate it when you speak to them in their own language, and there’s a good chance you’ll make memories you can treasure for life.
I started out learning Peninsular Spanish (mainland Spain), but through my travels I've grown accustomed to various dialects of Spanish. It always made these adventures much more enjoyable.
By learning a few basic Spanish phrases for travel, you can create lasting friendships all over the world. Making friends, enjoying the culture, and learning about the best spots only locals know – that’s the real dream of travelling, isn’t it? So let’s get you prepared!
How to Say “Hello!” in Spanish
Of course, you can’t start a conversation without knowing some Spanish greetings. So here are some common Spanish phrases to get started.
This is the most common greeting is hola. You can use this one at any time of day, and it always sounds natural.
You can also try the following:
“Good Morning” in Spanish
To greet someone in the morning (la mañana), you say buenos días. During the afternoon (la tarde), you can switch to buenas tardes (“good afternoon”), which is also in the plural form.
“Nice to Meet You” in Spanish
When you’re introduced to someone, you can say mucho gusto. It translates as “pleasure”, like “It’s a pleasure”. But that’s a bit formal in English, so a more accurate translation would be “Nice to meet you”. In extra formal situations, you can say un placer.
“My Name is…” in Spanish
When you introduce yourself, you can start by saying Me llamo ____. My favourite conversation starter is Hola, soy Benny (“Hi, I'm Benny”). This version is a more conversational way to say your name, but me llamo is more straightforward.
“What’s Your Name?” in Spanish
Once you’ve introduced yourself, you should ask what the other person’s name is (if they don’t beat you to it). To ask someone else’s name, you say ¿Cómo te llamas?
“Have a Good Day” in Spanish
Say goodbye by saying ¡Tenga un buen día! to wish someone well with the rest of their day. If it’s someone you’re close to, you can say it more casually: que tengas un buen dia.
“See You Soon” in Spanish
If you’ve made plans to meet with someone again, throw in a friendlier phrase: ¡Hasta luego!
“Goodbye” in Spanish
You can say adiós for “goodbye”, or cuídate to say “take care”.
Being Polite in Spanish
Naturally, you want to make sure you can express yourself in a polite way so you don’t offend anyone. So memorize these important phrases to mind your manners.
“Please” in Spanish
When asking for something, make sure to include por favor to say “please”. It usually gets added on at the end of a sentence, much like in English.
“Thank You” in Spanish
Make sure to always say thank you! You can say gracias, or muchas gracias if you want to say “thank you very much”.
“You’re Welcome” in Spanish
If someone says thank you, you can reply with de nada which means “you’re welcome” or “no problem”. You could also use mucho gusto here to say “it was my pleasure”.
“Excuse Me” in Spanish
There are a few main ways to say this in Spanish, depending on how you use it. If you need a favour, you say perdone. And if you need to get by someone, you would say perdón, disculpe or con permiso (this is a bit more polite, like “pardon me”).
“I’m Sorry” in Spanish
If you did something wrong or need to apologise for something, say lo siento. As in English, you can also use disculpe (“excuse me”) for an apology in some situations.
Chit Chat in Spanish
Now it’s time to start diving into useful Spanish phrases for conversation! I’m covering some light small talk to get you going, but make sure to check out my Spanish conversation starters to get into deeper discussions.
“How Are You?” in Spanish
There are several ways to ask how someone is doing, but the most common and direct translation is ¿Cómo estás? or ¿Cómo está usted? (which is more polite). If someone asks you this question, you can reply bien for “I’m well” or así así for “so-so”. Follow with ¿Y tú? (“And you?”) to keep the conversation going.
“What’s Up?” in Spanish
For a more casual greeting, you can use the expression ¿Qué tal? You’ll hear this one quite a bit, as it’s more natural in everyday conversation – like “what’s up” or “how’s it going?” When someone says this to you, you can answer the same way as above: bien (or muy bien, meaning “very well”).
“What Are Your Hobbies?” in Spanish
Start getting to know others by asking what they like to do in their spare time. You can ask ¿Cuáles son tus aficiones? for “What are your hobbies?” Un hobby and un pasatiempo are other common ways to say “hobby”. You can also ask ¿Qué haces para divertirte? which means “What do you like to do for fun?”
“I Like…” and “I Don’t Like…” in Spanish
You asked them about their interests, and now they’ve asked you. So how do you express what you like? You say me gusta (“I like”) or no me gusta (“I don’t like”). For instance, me gusta viajar (“I like to travel”) or No me gusta la pizza (“I don’t like pizza”). Just kidding with that last one – who doesn’t like pizza?
“Where Are You From?” in Spanish
Another small talk question that helps to keep the chit chat going. You can ask someone where they’re from by saying ¿De dónde eres?
Talking About the Weather in Spanish
It’s always handy to know a few words or phrases about the weather, as it’s universal small talk. The word for “weather” is el clima or el tiempo, and you can say things like ¡Buen clima hoy! (“Nice weather today!”). Or, the opposite: El mal tiempo hoy, eh (“Bad weather today, huh”). Other phrases you can use are hace calor hoy (“It’s hot today”) and hace frío hoy (“It’s cold today”).
Out on the Town & Getting Around
When you’re travelling, it helps to know how to express yourself when you’re out to eat, shopping, or trying to find your way around!
“I Would Like…” in Spanish
If you want to ask for something, use me gustaría… as the basic Spanish stem to get started. A few common things you might ask for: food, drinks, or to buy something. If you want to ask for something to eat, say me gustaría comer… For something to drink, you say me gustaría beber… And to say what you would like to buy, you say me gustaría comprar… Add the word for what you’re trying to get at the end, like Me gustaría comprar un periódico (“I would like to buy a newspaper”).
To make it even easier, you could always point to what you want and say esto for “this.” So in that last example, you could hand the cashier the newspaper you want to buy and say Me gustaría comprar esto (“I’d like to buy this”).
“Can I See a Menu, Please?” in Spanish
If you’re out to eat and trying to figure out what you want to ask for, you can first ask to see the menu. Un menú, por favor (“A menu, please”) will do the trick.
“Check/Bill, Please” in Spanish
When you’re finished your meal, you’ll need to ask for the check/bill. You can ask for it by saying La cuenta, por favor.
“Cheers” in Spanish
Of course, you need to know how to toast at happy hour! Whenever you meet with someone over drinks, say ¡Salud! for “Cheers!”
“How Much Does it Cost?” in Spanish
When you’re out shopping, you’ll likely want to know how much everything is. To ask the price, say ¿Cuánto cuesta eso? which is “How much does it cost?”
“Do You Have…” in Spanish
To ask if someone has something you need, you can say ¿Tienes…? followed by the word for what you need. Are you at the hotel and in need of toiletries, like toilet paper? Ask the receptionist ¿Tienes papel higiénico?
“I Need…” in Spanish
Or, you could say “I need” to express what you’re looking for. You say necesito… and then whatever word you need. Like in the last example, you could say Necesito papel higiénico (“I need toilet paper”).
“I Want…” and “I Don’t Want…” in Spanish
If you remember those old Taco Bell commercials with the little Chihuahua, you probably already know this one: Yo quiero Taco Bell. Any time you want something, you can say yo quiero and any time you don’t want something, you say yo no quiero.
“Where is…” in Spanish
When you’re travelling, it’s easy to get a bit lost or unsure of where things are located. You can use the phrase ¿Dónde está…? to ask for directions or where something is. Some basic Spanish sentences that may be helpful:
- ¿Dónde puedo encontrar un taxi? (“Where can I find a taxi?”)
- ¿Dónde hay un banco? (“Where is a bank?”)
- ¿Dónde está ____ hotel? (“Where is (your hotel’s name) hotel?” )
- ¿Dónde está el baño? (“Where is the bathroom?”)
Direction Words in Spanish
If you’re going to ask where something is located, it’s helpful to know the words to understand the answer. Here are some basic direction words you should know:
- Izquierda (“Left”)
- Derecha (“Right”)
- Siga recto (“Go straight ahead”)
- Gira (“Turn”)
- Aquí (“Here”)
- Allí (“There”)
- Adelante (“Up ahead”)
- Deténgase aquí (“Stop here”)
“What Time is It?” in Spanish
Don’t have a watch? Ask someone for the time by saying ¿Qué hora tienes? You can also ask more casually with ¿Qué hora es?
“What is This?” in Spanish
One of the most useful basic Spanish phrases you can know when learning the language: ¿Qué es esto? Anytime you don’t know the word for something, you can ask by saying “What is this?” Then you can keep expanding your Spanish vocab!
Ask the Important Questions
To really find your way around or continue a conversation, you need to know how to ask questions. From asking about a person to trying to understand what someone is saying, these words are crucial to communication, learning, and building your Spanish sentences.
The 5 W’s in Spanish
Who, what, when, where, why. If you know these words, you can get the answers you need.
- ¿Quién…? (“Who”)
- ¿Qué…? (“What”)
- ¿Cuándo…? (“When?”)
- ¿Dónde…? (“Where?”)
- ¿Por qué…? (“Why?”)
“How” in Spanish
To ask “how,” you say ¿Cómo…? And to ask how many, you ask ¿Cuántos? Plus, if you need to know which things, you can ask ¿Cuál? means “Which?”
“Can You Help Me?” in Spanish
If you’re in need of help while out, you can ask ¿Puede ayudarme? This is a good one to remember, too, because if you’re lost or you’re shopping and have a question, you can get their attention with Disculpe. ¿Puede ayudarme?
For an emergency, shout ¡Auxilio! (“Help!”)
“Can You Say That Again?” in Spanish
When you’re starting out learning a language, it’s hard to keep up with native speakers sometimes. If you didn’t catch what they said, you can ask puede repetirlo, por favor (“Can you say that again, please”). If you still can’t understand, try asking them to say it slowly by asking ¿Puedes hablar más despacio? If all else fails, you can ask ¿Hablas inglés? (“Do you speak English?”) Although, I believe the smartest decision you can make to gain fluency is to aim for full immersion and avoid English when possible.
Speak. Experience. Enjoy.
Now you’re ready for your travels and prepared to start having some basic Spanish conversations! The locals will appreciate your efforts, and you’ll have a more meaningful cultural experience.
If you need help with your pronunciation, check out this online pronunciation dictionary called Forvo. And if you’d like more prep leading up to your travels (or for deeper studying!), check out my tips for Spanish home immersion.
How are you going to use these Spanish phrases to have deeper experiences and make new friendships? I’d love to hear about your plans or if you have a really cool story to share about how learning basic phrases impacted your trip. Share your thoughts in the comments!
And finally... One of the best ways to learn a new language is with podcasts. Read more about how to use podcasts to learn a language.