Spanish Phrases For Travel

…just enough to get you started…

Spanish is a difficult language. Just ask anyone who is trying to learn it.

I have been living in Mexico for a number of years; I still can’t speak Spanish to save my life!

I know three words: cervezas, tacos, and mamasitas. These three words can get you just about anywhere in Mexico –  and they’re all best in the plural! (NOTE: Switch out “mamasita” and replace it with “papasito” if you are a girl.)

However, if you want to be really Hollywood with your conversations (and converse in style), make sure you memorize some of the following Spanish phrases for travel.

Here are a few tips to accelerate the learning process:

  • Drink lots of cocktails and beer while you are practicing! Confidence is 50% of everything – not just when learning Spanish, but with life in general. A little “liquid courage”  will exponentially improve your Spanish speaking skills.
  • Practice a LOT!  Anything that you are good at, you were once bad at.  Think about walking.  You couldn’t do it when you were born,  but now it’s easy for you!  It was practice that made you better. It is the same with learning another language. Practice will make you better.
  • Work with native speakers. If you learn from a native, you can hear the subtle differences that you might otherwise miss.  Anything else would be like asking a dolphin to teach you how to run! Huh?
  • And a special thanks to my neighbor Candy for helping me with these translations – who is also a native speaker!

Good luck with the following travel phrases, and please let me know how you do during your vacation here!

Included Sections:

Riviera Maya Names and Nearby Attractions

If there is one area of pronunciation that I see badly butchered and battered by tourists, it is the names of the areas and attractions surrounding Playa Del Carmen. Moreover, even the name “Playa Del Carmen” gets killed in most conversations I hear.

In the following list, I am going to give you the name of all the major cities in the area. I’ve also included a few of the major attractions that are most often mispronounced. Believe me when I say that you will stand out like an expert if you can pronounce all of these places correctly. Moreover, the scammers here will be much less likely to try to take advantage of you – they will think you are not a tourist!

So, here it goes. If you remember one section of this entire page, try memorizing this section first.

ENGLISH SPANISH CORRECT PRONUNCIATION
Playa Del Carmen Playa Del Carmen PLY a dale CAR men
Playacar Playacar ply a CAR
Mayan Riviera Riviera Maya RIV ee air a Meye a
Quintana Roo Quintana Roo kin TAHN ah Roo
Cenote Cenote say NO tay
Cancun Cancun kahn KOON
Isla Mujeres Isla Mujeres IS la moo HAIR es
Cozumel Cozumel KAH zoo mel
Tulum Tulum too LOOM
Akumal Akumal ah koo MAHL
Puerto Morelos Puerto Morelos PWEAR toe moe REH loas
Puerto Aventuras Puerto Aventuras PWEAR toe ah ben TOO rus
Holbox Holbox HOLE bosh
Coba Coba COE ba
Chichen Itza Chichen Itza CHEE chen EE tsa
Ek Balam Ek Balam ek ba LAHM
Xcaret Xcaret ssh kah RET
Xplor Xplor ex PLORE
Xenotes Xenotes ????
Xel-Ha Xel-Ha SSHELL hah
Rio Secreto Rio Secreto REE oh seh CREH toe
Street Calle KAH yay
12th Street Calle Doce KAH yay DOE say
Avenue Avenida ah beh NEE duh
5th Avenue Quinta Avenida KIN ta ah beh NEE duh

 

Being Polite / Starting a Conversation In Spanish

Politeness is a universally attractive quality that some of us have – and (unfortunately) some of us don’t.

Because of the slow pace of life here, and the fact that you are a tourist in a foreign country, a little bit of politeness goes a long way.

Please make sure that you are not shy about using the following travel phrases in Spanish!

ENGLISH SPANISH CORRECT PRONUNCIATION
Please🔈 Por favor poar fa VOAR
Hello Hola OH la
Yes Si see
No No no
Excuse me Perdon pear DOAN
Goodbye Adios ah dee OAS
Good morning Buenos dias BWOY ness DEE us
Good afternoon Buenas tardes BWOY ness TAR days
Good night Buenas noches (NOTE: DOES NOT MEAN "GOODBYE" LIKE IN ENGLISH BWOY ness NO chase
Thank you Gracias GRAH see iss
No thank you No, gracias no, GRAH see iss
I like _____ Me gusta _____ mee GOO stuh _________
I don't like ______ No me gusta ___ no, mee GOO stuh _________
I'm ready Estoy listo eh STOY LIS toe
You are welcome De nada day NAH duh
I understand Yo entiendo yoe en tee EN doe
I don't understand Yo no entiendo yoe no en tee EN doe
Do you understand? Tu entiendes? too en tee EN days
How are you Como estas? COE moe eh STAHS?
What is your name? Cuál es tu nombre? coe ALL es tu NOME bray?
My name is ___________ Mi nombre es ______. MEE NOME bray es ______.
Do you speak english? Hablas ingles? HOB lus ing GLES?
It is nice to meet you Mucho gusto MOO choe GOO stoe
Have a nice day Que tengas buen día. kay tang gus bwoyn DEE a
See you next time Nos vemos después. noas BAY moas deh SPWAYS
See you tomorrow Nos vemos mañana. noas BAY moas mon YAH na
See you later Nos vemos más tarde. noas BAY moas mahs TAR day

 

Numbers In Spanish

Doce?……Trece?……Catorce?” I asked myself as I nearly fell on my face trying to get out of bed this morning. “How many beers did I drink last night?

Somewhere along the line I lost track. It wasn’t a blackout – I just lost track.

Whether you are counting tequila shots, money, or the number of phone numbers that you received last night, knowing how to count numbers in Spanish will help you a lot during your trip.

Consequently, I included some numbers below. First learn how to say, “number,” and then start on the numbers 1-10. After you finish those, see if you can work your way up to 21!

ENGLISH SPANISH CORRECT PRONUNCIATION
Number Numeral NEW mar uhl
One Uno OO no
To Dos dose
Three Tres trays
For Cuatro KWAH trow
Five Cinco SEEN koe
Six Seis seys
Seven Siete see EH tay
Eight Ocho OH choe
Nine Nueve new AY vay
Ten Diez DEE es
Eleven Once OWN say
Twelve Doce DOE say
Thirteen Trece TRAY say
Fourteen Catorce kuh TOR say
Fifteen Quince KIN say
Sixteen Diecises dee eh see SEYS
Seventeen Diesiciete dee eh see see EH tay
Eighteen Dieciocho dee eh see OH choe
Nineteen Diecinueve dee eh see new AY vay
Twenty Veinte BEN tay
Twenty-one Veinte uno BEN tay OO no

 

Money-related Spanish Phrases

Money is something that all of us need and appreciate. Most of the people here want to separate you from it. This next section will help you avoid getting ripped off by some of the local Mexicans. Believe me, it can happen. It’s happened to me hundreds of times since I’ve lived here! Unfortunately, for these people it’s just a game. But this section will help you avoid making the mistakes that I did when I first came here.

Don’t forget the three most important rules in dealing with money here:

  1. Try to exchange money before you arrive. If you need money after you arrive, do not exchange dollars at one of the money exchange services on Fifth Avenue. Also, never use the ATMs on Fifth Avenue. Go to one of the major banks and withdraw money from your bank account/credit card with there. Not only will you get a better rate, but you won’t have to worry about some of the ATMs  that have been found to contain “card skimmers” that can read your ATM card and PIN you enter! NOTE: These card skimmers have not been found at the ATMs found within large banks here.
  2. Never pay for anything in dollars. I know, it’s convenient to walk up to a restaurant, bar, or souvenir shop and simply pay in dollars. However, the game is rigged against you. Don’t think for a moment those people are doing you a favor by accepting your dollars. They will give you an atrocious exchange rate! It’s almost guaranteed! The only time you should be paying in dollars is a big institutions like Walmart or Mega grocery stores. Some tours may also demand payment in dollars as well. Retailers and services providing quasi-criminal exchange rates is by far the biggest and most consistent scam that runs in the city!
  3. Never tip more than 10%. I know, I know. You are a cool American/Canadian. You can do whatever you want. However, it’s important to remember that you inadvertently create institutional discrimination by tipping more than 10%. Tipping is not a part of Mexican culture – never has been. This was an idea brought to Mexico from the United States and Canada. When you tip – or more specifically “OVERtip” – you essentially contribute to an ever-growing problem where locals are completely unwelcome and grossly overlooked by the service industry workers who don’t want to serve them because they will not receive as large of a tip from them as a foreigner.

ENGLISH SPANISH CORRECT PRONUNCIATION
Money Dinero dee NAIR oh
Pesos Pesos PAY sew / PAY sews
Dollars Dolores doe LOAR ays
Cents Centavos sen TAH bose
Change Cambio KAHM bee oh
Coins Moneda moe NAY duh
How much? Cuanto KWAN toe?
How much is that? Cuánto es eso? KWAN toe is EH soe
Do you accept dollars? Aceptas dolares? ????
Do you have change? Tienes cambio? tee EN ays KAHM bee oh
Do you accept credit cards? Aceptas tarjetas de credito? ????
Signature (for credit cards) Firma FEER ma
Do you accept travelers checks? Aceptas cheque de viajero? ????
Where can i exchange money? Dónde puedo cambiar mi dinero? DUHN day PWAY doe KAHM bee are MEE dee NAIR oh?
One moment Un momento oon moe MEN toe

 

Hotel-related Spanish

So now that you’ve made it to your hotel, you wondering how to check in, make sure that your room is what you paid for, and take advantage of the “all-inclusive” part of your stay by ordering room service immediately.

Here are a few words that will get you started! Heck, you can even take it a step further – if your housekeeper, bellboy, or whoever else is really cute and friendly, you can start to combine some of the words you learned earlier with some of the words below to get some extra special treatment!

ENGLISH SPANISH CORRECT PRONUNCIATION
Bed Cama KAH ma
Towel Toalla TOY ya
Shampoo Shampoo shahm POO
Soap Jabón ????
Hair dryer Secadora de cabello seh ca DOOR a ka BEYE yo
Pillow Almohada all moe HAH da
Light Luz loos
Restaurant Restaurant res toe RAHN tay
Air conditioning Aire acondicionado ????
Luggage Equipaje eh kwip AH hey
I have reservations Tengo reservación TAYN go reh sir vay see OWN
I do not have reservations No tengo reservación no TAYN go reh sir vay see OWN
How much is the room? Cuánto cuesta el cuarto? KWAHN toe KWEH stoe el KWEAR toe?
Does it have an ocean view? Tiene vista a la playa? tee EN aye VEH sta ah la PLAY ya?
May i see the room? Puedo ver el cuarto? PWAY doe bear el QWEAR toe?
Here is my passport Aquí tienes mi pasaporte. ah KEE tee EN aye mee pahs a POR tay
Come in (e.g. room service) Adelante ah del EHN tay
We need an extra bed Necesitamos una cama extra. neh say see TAH moas OO na KAH ma EX tra
This is my bag Esta es mi bolsa. EH stah es mee BOWL sa
Tip Propina proe PEE nah
Thank you. This tip is for you. Gracias, esta es tu propina. GRAH see us, eh STAH es too pro PEEN a
Where is the restaurant? Dónde esta el restaurant? DUHN day es TAH el res tah RAHN tay
Where is the pool? Dónde esta la alberca? DUHN day es TAH la el BEAR ka
I would like room service Me gustaría servicio al cuarto. mee goo STAH ree a date VEH see OH Al KWAR toe

 

Restaurant-related Spanish

That’s right! All of this traveling and humidity made you hungry! Using some of the restaurant related Spanish travel phrases below, you should have no problem at all ordering all the food you want – that includes appetizers, entrées, desserts, etc. Oh, and I should not forget the drinks! They’re included below as well.

However, if you want to get extremely familiar with the food here, you have to take a look at my Mexican food glossary. It includes several hundred food items and food-related words that will help you familiarize yourself with the cuisine in the area.

If you’re a single girl/guy, just think how cool you will look when you can order things from the menu in a foreign language! And even if you’re married, your significant other will probably be just as impressed! Score!!!

ENGLISH SPANISH CORRECT PRONUNCIATION
Food Comida coe MEE duh
Breakfast Desayuno deh say OO no
Lunch Almuerzo el moo AIR zoe
Dinner Cena SAY nuh
Buffet Buffet buh FETT (yes, unfortunately the people here don't know its a French-based word)
Table Mesa MAY sa
Chair Silla SEE yuh
Open Abierto ah bee AIR toe
Closed Cerrado sir RAH doe
Hot Caliente kah lee EN tay
Cold Frío FREE oh
We need a table, please. Queremos una mesa, porfavor kare AY moes OO na MAY suh, pore FUH vore
We need a table for 2, please. Queremos una mesa para 2, porfavor kare AY moes OO na MAY suh PAH ruh dose, pore FUH vore
How many people? Cuántas personas? KWAN tuhs per SONE uhs?
For how many people? Para cuántas personas? PAH ra KWAHN tis per SONE uhs?
Smoking/non-smoking
Waiter/waitress Mesero / mesera may SARE oh / may SARE a
Beer Cerveza sir VAY sa
Coctail Cocktel COKE tell
Wine Vino VEE no
What kind of beer do you have? Qué tipo de cervezas tienes? kay TEEpoe day sir VAY suhs tee EN ays?
What kind of wine do you have? Qué tipo de vinos tienes? kay TEE poe day VEE nose tee EN ays?
What is your best cocktail? Cuál es el mejor cocktail coo ALL es el MAY whor COKE tell?
I would like __________. Me gustaría________. may gooSTAReeuh _____.
Appetizer Botana boe TAHN a
Entrée/main course Entrada / Plato principal en TRAH da / PLAH toe prin see PAHL
Dessert Postre POE stray
One appetizer which you recommend? ????
What entrée would you recommend? Qué entrada me recomiendas? kay en TRAH duh may reh koe mee EN dahs?
What dessert would you recommend? Qué postre me recomiendas? kay POE stray may reh koe mee EN dahs?
This is too hot Esto esta muy caliente. EH stoe eh STAH MOO ee kah lee EN tay
This is too cold Esto esta muy frío. EH stoe eh STAH MOO ee FREE oh
Check Cheque CHEH kay
Tip Propina pro PEEN a
Credit card Tarjeta de credito tar HET a day CREH dee toe
The check, please. La cuenta porfavor la koo EN tuh pore fa VOAR
Is the tip included? La propina esta incluida? la pro PEE nuh eh STAH en cloo EE dah?
Do you accept credit cards? Aceptas tarjeta de credito? ah SEP tas tar HEH TAH day CREH dee toe?
Signature Firma FEER ma
Where do i sign? Dónde firmo? DONE day FEER moe?

 

Getting a Taxi / Location / Directions in Spanish

A stomach full of Mexican/international food! Who could ask for more? It is now time to begin exploring the city. Honestly, it’s difficult to get lost here because this place is not very big. However, you do want to make sure that you can find a taxi, car, or bus as quickly as possible. Spanish travel phrases that you’re going to learn in a moment are going to help you tremendously when it comes time to getting around the city.

You have already learned about money and counting above, so nobody is going to take advantage of you very easily. That’s good because the taxi drivers here are a pernicious but necessary evil in this city. You will want to spend as little time as possible dealing with them. Luckily, if you master this section, you won’t have many problems.

ENGLISH SPANISH CORRECT PRONUNCIATION
Where? Dónde? DONE day?
Where is ____________? Dónde es_______? DONE day es ________?
Car Carro KAH roe
Van Van vahn
Bus Camión kah mee OWN
Taxi Taxi TAH ksee
Where is a car rental agency? Dónde hay una agencia de renta de carros? DONE day hi OO na ah HEN see a day REHN tuh day CAH rose?
Where are the transport vans to playa del carmen? Dónde tomo la van que va a Playa del Carmen? DONE day TOE moe la ban kay BAH ah Playa Del Carmen?
Where is the bus to to playa del carmen? Dónde tomo el camión a Playa del Carmen? DONE day TOE moe el kah mee OWN ah Playa Del Carmen?
Where can i get a taxi? Dónde puedo tomar un taxi? DONE day PWAY doe TOE mar oon TAH ksee?
How much? Cuánto? KWAHN toe?
How much does it cost (in a taxi) to __________? Cuánto cuesta en u taxi ir a ___________? KWAHN toe KWEH stuh en oon TAH ksee eer ah _______?
Left Izquierda eh SKYAIR duh
Right Derecha deh REH cha
Straight ahead Sigue derecho SEE gway deh REH cha
North Norte NORE tay
South Sur ????
East Este EH stay
West Oeste OH eh stay

 

Shopping Phrases In Spanish

Out of all of the cities in Mexico, Playa Del Carmen offers the best shopping. Of course, every tourist city in this country sells those ridiculous souvenirs that people bring home – gaudy sombreros that look about as ridiculous today as they did when they were actually worn 200 years ago, ugly “handmade” hammocks that usually break a day after you finally figure out how sleep in them, and Mexican tequila shot glasses with a “Made In China” sticker half-removed from the bottom. How embarrassing!

Luckily, there are many more options here. Either way, you will know exactly how to deal with both street sellers and retailers. By using some of the Spanish phrases for shopping below, you can easily find out the correct prices, negotiate with the seller, and make final “take it or leave it” offers.

ENGLISH SPANISH CORRECT PRONUNCIATION
Store Tienda tee EN duh
Mall Centro comercial SEHN tro coe mer see ALL
Discount Descuento deh SKWEN toe
Expensive Caro KAH roe
Cheap Barato buh RAH toe
Diamond Diamante dee a MEN tay
How much is _____________? Cuánto es por _____? KWAN toe es para _______?
I will give you ___________? Te doy______. tay doy _________.
Will you take _________ for this? Tomarías _____ por esto? toe mar EE ahs _______ pore ES toe?
How much for three of these? Cuánto es por estos tres? KWAN toe es pore EHS toes trays?
Is there a discount if i buy more? Hay descuento si compro más? hi deh SKWEN toe see COMpro mahs?
How much in dollars? Cuánto es en dolares? KWAN toe es en dah LORE ays?
How much in pesos? Cuánto es en pesos? KWAN toe es en PAY soes?
That is expensive Eso es caro. EH soe es KAH roe
That is cheap Eso es barato. EH soe es ba RAH toe

 

Telling the Time In Spanish

Honestly, while you are on vacation, time should not be very important. However, you don’t want to miss transportation too expensive tours, your reservations at an exquisite restaurant, or began keeping “Mexican-style appointments” while you are here (e.g. showing up 45 minutes late for EVERYTHING)!!!

In the following section you will learn about how to tell time in Spanish. Frankly, there are 1 million+ different time combinations on a clock. You will need to combine this section with what you learned about Numbers in Spanish above. You will likely still be confused, but if you also keep in mind the first section we learned that taught you about Being Polite, you won’t have any problems.

ENGLISH SPANISH CORRECT PRONUNCIATION
What time is it? Que hora es? kay OR a es?
Do you have time for _________? Tienes tiempo para ____? tee EN ays tee EM poe PAH rah ________?
What time do you open? A qué hora abren? ah kay OR a ah BREN?
What time do you close? A qué hora cierran? ????
How long will it take? Cuanto tiempo tarda? KWAN to tee EM poe TAR duh?
Seconds Segundos seh GOON does
Minutes Minutos meh NOO toes
Hours Horas OR ahs
Days Días DEE ahs
Weeks Semanas seh MAHN us
Months Meses MAY says

 

Days of the Week In Spanish

I thought about NOT including this section. Why would I do that? Because every day is a Saturday here! The only other day that may qualify as being distinct is Sunday (the actual Sunday) because all the liquor stores close early and they stop selling alcohol at all the convenience stores, Walmart, and even the mom-and-pop liquor stores. Some people actually panic. Other than that, every day feels almost the same here.

Nonetheless, if you don’t want to show up back at the office three or four days late, you should probably learn the days of the week in Spanish! It’s taken me more than five years to learn these – and I still can’t keep them straight. However, if you put in 5-10 minutes memorizing them, you shouldn’t have a problem. And when you do, please give me a call and I will contract you to be my Spanish teacher!

ENGLISH SPANISH CORRECT PRONUNCIATION
Monday Lunes LOO nays
Tuesday Martes MAR tays
Wednesday Miércoles MEE AIR koe liss
Thursday Jueves WAY vays
Friday Viernes bee AIR nays
Saturday Sábado SAH bah doe
Sunday Domingo doe MEEN go

 

Months of the Year In Spanish

You probably won’t be concerned about the months of the year in Spanish once you arrive. However, as you are planning your vacation, they will be very important. People come to Playa Del Carmen for many reasons – they have time for vacation, there is a specific event here they don’t want to miss, their children have vacation during a certain time of the year, or because they just want to save money during the low season here and plan their vacation around that, etc…

In any case, as you are investigating this city, you will find many of the restaurants/events/tours posters and websites written partially in Spanish. Understanding the months of the year in Spanish will really help you out as you explore some of the activities that are possible here. Like the days of the week in Spanish above, there are really not that many months to memorize, and many of them are very similar to their counterparts in English.

ENGLISH SPANISH CORRECT PRONUNCIATION
January Enero ????
February Febrero ????
March Marzo MAR zoe
April Abril AH breel
May Mayo MY oh
June Junio HOON ee oh
July Julio HOO lee oh
August Agosto ah GO stoe
September Septiembre sep tee EM bray
October Octubre ahk TOE bray
November Noviembre no vee EM bray
December Diciembre dee see EM bray

 

Miscellaneous Spanish Travel Phrases

So now you’ve learned more Spanish phrases than I learned in the first several years of living here in Mexico. If you want to know the truth, many of the words on this page I still don’t know! Sad, but true.

In any case, I have included a few extra words here that I I couldn’t quite categorize. There’s a good chance you won’t use them, but if you see one that sparks your interest, feel free to memorize it – and more importantly, use it!

ENGLISH SPANISH CORRECT PRONUNCIATION
Help! Ayuda eye OO duh
This is an emergency! Es una emergencia is OOna eh mair HEN SEE a
Faster Rápido RAH pee doe
Slower Despacio eh SPAS ee oh
More Más mahs
Less Menos MEN ose
I am American Soy Americano soy a mare ee KAHN oh
I am Canadian Soy Canadiense soy kah nah dee EN say
Husband Esposo eh SPOS oh
Wife Esposa eh SPOS a
Boyfriend Novio NO bee oh
Girlfriend Novia NO bee a

 

Conclusion

So now you can speak Spanish almost perfectly. Congratulations! Well not really, but congratulations anyways. There are probably several hundred thousand words in Spanish – and several million common word combinations. Needless to say, I could not include them all.

If you do decide that you want to continue your Spanish studies, there are several places you can do so here in the city. Think of it as a vacation/education combined. (“Vaducation” sounds appropriate?!?)

I hope you have enjoyed learning some of these new words as much as I have enjoyed adding them to this page. If you see any obvious errors (sometimes I am prone to make them), or expressions/words/phrases that absolutely MUST be added to these lists, please let me know in the comments section below.

I hope to hear you speaking Spanish in this city soon!

Lots of love,

Rufus

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