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You’re planning on travelling to a Spanish-speaking country and you want to be as prepared as possible. So, you’re learning some essential Spanish travel phrases and going over your checklist to pack your bag.
But what if an emergency strikes? Are you prepared for how to ask for help in Spanish?
No one ever wants or expects unfortunate situations to occur while they travel, but sometimes they do. And even if everything is going well, you may still need help finding your way around, or finding something you lost. I know I’ve had this happen too many times before in my travels! Even recently, I lost the key to my Airbnb and had to ask for help.
So, learning how to ask for help should definitely be on your checklist to prepare for your trip.
How to Ask for Help in Spanish
“Help” in Spanish is la ayuda (as a noun) or ayudar (an -ar verb). To ask for help, you could say Ayuda por favor (“Help, please”).
But if you need to yell “Help!”, you’d use ¡Ayudame!
Of course, in non-emergency situations, you may need to approach someone to ask for directions or help in some way. In that case, you can politely ask, “Can you help me, please?” with ¿Puedes ayudarme por favor?
As you’re learning how to ask for help in Spanish, you may want to review your question words in Spanish. That way, you can ask for what you need.
Here’s a quick refresher:
- Who: Quien
- What: Qué
- When: Cuando
- Where: Dónde
- Why: Por qué
- Which: Cual
- How: Cómo
If you know these words, then you can use them to ask questions and get the assistance you need.
Here are a couple of examples how to use these phrases:
¿Puedes ayudarme por favor? ¿Dónde está el banco más cercano?
“Can you help me, please? Where is the closest bank?”
Perdón. ¿Me puedes ayudar? ¿Cuándo cierra hoy la oficina de correos?
“Excuse me. Can you help me? When does the post office close today?”
You can also use phrases like Necesito ayuda to say “I need help.” And although I encourage trying to speak Spanish as much as possible, situations where you need help and have to explain difficult problems are an exceptional case. So, in that situation, you can ask ¿Habla inglés? to say “Do you speak English?” or ¿Hay alguien aquí que habla Inglés? for “Is there anyone here who speaks English?”
These two phrases will help you find someone who understands you in emergency situations, or just whenever you need help and are struggling to get your point across in Spanish.
Getting Around in Spanish while Traveling
When you’re out and about on the streets in a Spanish-speaking country, you may find situations where you need to get someone’s attention for help. So these phrases will help you to prepare for getting around the town.
One of the most basic sentences to learn is ¿Dónde está ____?
If you’re walking around and looking for your hotel, you could say ¿Dónde está este hotel? while showing a picture, address, or name to someone around you. Then they can point you in the right direction.
Maybe you have a bathroom emergency (because that’s a real problem!). In that case, you can ask ¿Dónde está el baño?
You can use this phrase to ask where anything is located. Here’s some vocab you can pair with it that may be helpful:
- Hospital: el hospital
- Police station: la estación de policía
- Pharmacy: la farmacia
- Bank: el banco
- Post Office: el correo
- Restaurant: el restaurante
- Bar: el bar
- Cafe: el café
- Convenience store: la tienda de conveniencia
- Laundromat: la lavandería
- Grocery store: la tienda de abarrotes
- Mall: el centro comercial
- Museum: el museo
- Department store: los grandes almacenes
- Bookstore: la librería
- Library: la biblioteca
- Movie theatre: el cine
- Church: la iglesia
- Gym: el gimnasio
- Airport: el aeropuerto
- Taxi rank/Taxi stand: la parada de taxis
- Bus stop: la parada de autobús
- Train station: la estación de tren
Now, what if someone gave you directions that you didn’t understand? You can say ¿Puede repetir eso? (“Can you repeat that?”) or ¿Puedes hablar más despacio? (“Can you speak more slowly?”) You could also let them know you only speak/understand a little Spanish with Hablo / Entiendo un poco de español. You could shorten that further to Entiendo un poco, which is “I understand a little.”
Emergency Spanish Phrases for When You Need the Police
First off, let’s learn how to let others know there’s a big issue. If there’s an emergency, you can say ¡Tengo una emergencia! That will grab others’ attention and alert them that you need assistance, ASAP.
Now, if you need a police officer, you can say ¡Necesito un policía! You can ask someone else to call the police by saying Llama a la policía, por favor.
When talking with the police, you’ll need to be able to give them some information. Things like your name, address, phone number in Spanish, plus the problem. Here are some examples:
- My name is…: Me llamo…
- My address is…: Mi dirección es….
- My phone number is…: Mi número de teléfono es…
- Here is my passport: Aquí está mi pasaporte
- Here is my driver’s license: Aquí está mi licencia de conducir
- My _ has been stolen: Mi _ ha sido robado.
- I lost my __: Perdí mi _
- I want to report an accident: Quiero declarar un accidente
- I want to report a robbery: Quiero denunciar un robo
- I want to report a crime: Quiero reportar un crimen
- I need help right away: Necesito ayuda inmediatamente
- I’m located at…: Estoy ubicado en …
Hopefully, you won’t need any of these phrases, but if disaster strikes or you witness an accident, you can call the police. Be aware that the emergency number is different in each country. For instance, in Spain, it’s 112. In Mexico, the police number is 065. Argentina’s number is 101. Before you travel abroad, it’s always a good idea to check the list of emergency numbers in the country you’re going to. If you’re bringing an international phone card, program these numbers into your contacts so you don’t forget!
Emergency Spanish Phrases for When You’re Hurt
It’s hard to think clearly when you’re not feeling well, especially in another language. But if you’re sick, hurt, or otherwise need a doctor, this is what you need to know.
First, doctor in Spanish is el médico/la médica (for male and female doctors, respectively). To ask for a doctor, use the phrase Necesito un médico. And if you need more serious immediate help, you can ask Por favor envíe una ambulancia to say “Please send for an ambulance.”
Here are some words and phrases you’d need to know with the doctor:
- I don’t feel well: Me siento mal
- Ouch, that hurts: ¡Ay, eso duele!
- I have a fever: Tengo fiebre
- I have a pain here: Me duele aquí
- I have a headache: Tengo dolor de cabeza
- Health insurance: La seguro
- I have travel insurance: Tengo seguro de viaje
- Medication: La medicina
- Prescription: La prescripción
- My stomach hurts: Me duele el estómago
- Dehydration: La deshidración
- Heatstroke: La insolación
- Heart attack: El ataque al corazón
- Sprained ankle: Tobillo torcido
- Broken bone: Hueso roto
- I’m allergic to…: Soy alérgico a…
Emergency Spanish Phrases for Dangerous Weather
If there’s bad weather coming, there are a few phrases that will help you stay alert.
Inclement weather in Spanish is inclemencias del tiempo, or tiempo severo (“severe weather”). If there’s a thunderstorm (la tormenta) or other dangerous weather situation, you may hear Ponerse a cubierto (“Take cover”).
You may hear a weather alert (alerta del clima) for bad weather like el huracán (“hurricane”), la inundación (“flood”), or la tormenta de viento (“windstorm”). If there are closures because of the weather, then you may see or hear Cerrado debido a las inclemencias del tiempo. (“Closed due to inclement weather”).
Helpful Spanish Phrases for When You’re Lost
If you’re lost, you can ask for help and say Disculpe, estoy perdido. ¿Me puedes ayudar? (“Excuse me, I’m lost. Can you help me?”) I previously showed you how to ask where something is. But if you’re lost, you’ll need to know some basic directional words to get around. Here are a few to help you get by:
- Go straight ahead: Ir a la recto
- Turn left: Girar a la izquierda
- Turn right: Girar a la derecha
- At the end of the street: Al final de la calle
- At the stoplight: En el semáforo
- At the corner: En la esquina
- Next to: Cerca de
- In front of: En frente de
- Near: Cerca
Always Be Prepared!
Obviously, I hope you don’t need to use these phrases during your travels! But, it’s better to know a few in case of an emergency. Things happen — illness, accidents, missed flights — so it’s best to know how to ask for help in the local language.
And even if you’re smooth sailing, knowing how to ask for directions if you get lost is crucial!
What other phrases do you know for asking for help when you’re travelling? Share with me 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.