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How to Use Spanish When Traveling

Updated on June 14, 2019
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Marma is a former professor and currently working in the legal field. She has a love of writing, culture and travel.

Why Learn Spanish?

Aside from being able to communicate with more people in the U.S., learning Spanish is a great way to enhance your travel experience. I have worked with a number of clients traveling to Spain, Argentina and Mexico, who took private language lessons with me before leaving for their destination.

Some of their travel was for recreational or professional purposes, but regardless, learning the language was advantageous for them. During our lessons we focused on pertinent travel vocabulary (example: passport, flight, itinerary, etc.) as well as questions that would help them navigate smoothly within the country. Further in this article I will introduce some basic questions and responses you may hear or use in your future travels.

Basic map of Spain, the origin of the Spanish language.
Basic map of Spain, the origin of the Spanish language.

Transportation Phrases

When arriving to your Spanish speaking country, it may be a good idea to know some key terms and phrases to get you from the airport (el aeropuerto)to wherever you are staying.

In the Airport:

¿Cómo puedo conseguir un taxi? = How can I get a taxi?

¿Dónde está la estación del taxi/autobús? = Where is the taxi/bus station?

In the Taxi:

Quiero ir al hotel San Juan, por favor.= I want to go to the San Juan hotel, please.

¿Cuánto cuesta la vuelta? = How much does the ride cost?

¿Acepta Usted una tarjeta de crédito? = Do you accept a credit card?

You can practice these phrases several times out loud or with a Spanish speaker until you feel comfortable using them. Of course, you will have to be prepared to hear and understand the answers you receive. Look at some possible responses below:

#1 ¿Dónde está la estación del taxi?

Answer: La estación está afuera de la puerta. = The taxi station is outside the door.

The emboldened portion of the answer is what you can focus on as you listen. Está means 'is' in terms of where something 'is located.'

#2 ¿Cuánto cuesta la vuelta?

La vuelta cuesta treinta euros.= The trip/ride costs 30 Euros.

I emboldened cuesta or 'costs' and the number 'treinta' or '30' so you can focus on the amount the speaker tells you it costs.

Asking Where Places Are

Use the correct Interrogative word, where, or ¿Dónde? to ask where a location is. Be ready to hear está or 'is' within the response.

¿Dónde está________ ? = Where is...?

¿Dónde está * la calle? = Where is the street?

¿Dónde está el restaurante? = Where is the restaurant?

¿Dónde está el hotel?= Where is the hotel?

* Note that double 'll' in Spanish makes a 'y' sound so la calle will sound like cayeh.*

After asking WHERE IS you can add any number of additional places:

un parque: a park

una tienda de ropa: a clothing store

un museo: a museum

un café: a coffee shop

un supermercado: a supermarket

una plaza con buenos restaurantes: a plaza with good restaurants

Click thumbnail to view full-size

Phrases When Dining

Because dining out and sampling Spanish cuisine is a must during travel, it will help to know some basic words and phrases for ordering food. Try to be as polite as possible to your server or clerk when requesting items.

There are a variety of ways you can express what you want. Here are two basic request verbs below:

Me gustaría = I would like

Quiero: I want

Me gustaría una ensalada, por favor. = I would like a salad, please.

The sever may then ask you what you want to drink: ¿Y para beber?

Me gustaría beber una soda, por favor. = I would like to drink a soda, please. Or you can say: Quiero una soda, por favor. = I want a soda, please.

You can use a variety of food vocabulary to create multiple orders with the sentence frame below.

Me gustaría _________, por favor.

Common Food Words:

una hamburguesa

un bocadillo: a sandwich

una ensalada con pollo: a salad with chicken

el arroz: rice

el arroz con pollo: rice with chicken

el jamón: ham (very popular in Spain)

las verduras: greens, veggies

la fruta

el pan: bread

un tostado: toast, toasted bread

Common Beverage Words:

el café con leche: coffee with milk

el café solo: black coffee

el té: tea

un batido: a shake

un vaso de agua: a glass of water

un refresco, una soda: a soda

el vino: wine

una limonada: a lemonade

At the end of the meal the server will probably bring the bill or la cuenta. Near this point, you can thank him or her using a polite phrase such as:

Grácias en servirnos. = Thank you for serving us.

Muchas grácias. = Thank you very much.

Grácias en atenderme. = Thank you for attending to/serving me.

Of course, all the content in this article is just a small sample of the communication you can use in your travels. More communication requires more study of the target language.

Feel free to check out my TeachersPayTeachers store for additional resources. Most of the resources in my store are for classroom teachers but I will be adding more practical resources for the out of classroom adult and recreational learner.

Buenas suerte!

Additional Resources

For a brief lesson and practice with ordering food items in a restaurant, feel free to look at my Ordering Food Worksheet or Pedir La Comida on my TeachersPayTeachers store. It is four pages worth of activities full of great food and drink items as well as a practice dialogue where you can write about ordering food between yourself and a waiter in a restaurant.

© 2019 Marma


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