Essential Spanish travel phrases for your next Summer holidays

The warm weather has finally arrived and us here at Spanish Gurus are already thinking about our next Summer holidays. In case you are too, we’ve got you covered with these essential Spanish travel phrases. Whether you’re hitting the nightlife in Ibiza or visiting the Guggenheim in Bilbao, bookmark this post because, trust us, you’re going to need it!

Get your ‘holas’ and your ‘olés’ right

First of all, congrats for the great decision of spending your Summer holidays in Spain! We have tons of good things to offer - in fact, we’re pretty sure you’ll never want to leave again. Just look at the numbers: we had a little over 82 million tourists last year (more than the US!) and we expect to have even more this year.

But one thing foreigners still seem to get wrong is how to say hello. Hello in Spanish is ‘hola’ - ‘olé’ is an interjection associated with flamenco and bullfighting. No, we don’t really say ‘olé’ all the time, much less when we’re greeting each other or checking out at the supermarket. (By the way, we also don’t start dancing in the middle of the street randomly, both because life is not a musical and because cha-cha-cha originated in Cuba.)

Learn a few greetings and pleasantries  in Spanish

Knowing a few pleasantries in a foreign language will never hurt. Here’s a list of things you might want to remember:

Thank you - Gracias/ muchas gracias

Please - Por favor

Excuse me - Disculpe

Pardon me - Perdón

You’re welcome - De nada

Good morning - Buenos días

Good afternoon - Buenas tardes

Good evening/ night - Buenas noches

Goodbye - Adiós

Learn the numbers in Spanish


Now that you know how to say hello and thank you, the next best thing you can possibly now are the numbers. Listen, even though we’re pretty much the world’s second biggest tourism destination, you shouldn’t expect the person at the supermarket counter to speak English.

In fact, many people working in stores, especially if you’re staying outside of the tourist-y areas, won’t be able to tell you the price of a bottle of water in English. While all of this can be solved with mimics and finger counting, you could save yourself a bit of time and worry by learning the numbers in Spanish. And then there’s another bunch of things you can do with numbers: understand phone numbers, make an order (‘dos cervezas, por favor’ - two bottles of beer, please), tell time…

Learn how to tell time in Spanish

When you master the numbers, it’s pretty easy to learn how to tell time in Spanish. This is something can be very useful, especially when you’re travelling by train or by bus. It’s also a good thing to know if you need to listen to public informations or make appointments, so...get to it!

Cityscape of Barcelona, Catalonia, where the Sagrada Familia stands higher than any other building.

And how to ask for directions in Spanish.

Lost inside the Prado Museum in Madrid or in a town in the middle of Andalucía? If there’s anything that is more essential than Spanish travel to ask for directions, let us know.

Where is the (restaurant/ museum/ hotel) - ¿Dónde está este restaurante/ museo/ hotel?

Thankfully, these expressions are all you need to know:

Straight ahead - todo recto/ a derecho

To the left - a la izquierda

To the right - a la derecha

And a few extras:

In front of - enfrente de

Next to - al lado de

Behind - detrás de

Avenue - avenida

Street - calle

Square- plaza

Learn how to order drinks, including coffee

Sangria in the Summer, horchata in Valencia, cava in Catalonia, apple cider in Asturias… There’s plenty to choose from. If you’re coming to Spain it’s highly recommended that you learn how to order drinks, and that is why we’re including it in our essential Spanish travel phrases.

Let’s start with coffee. Coffee in Spain doesn’t work like anywhere else. There’s a café solo (literally, coffee alone), which is your regular espresso, and then there’s a whole range of coffee with different proportions of milk. Café cortado only has a few drops of milk. Then there’s café con leche, a true Spanish institution, which is more or less 50%-50%. Finally, there’s leche manchada, which is closer to milk with a few drops of coffee (think 80% milk, 20% coffee). Confused? You can brush up on your Spanish coffee culture here.

Now, here’s a list of drink names:

Water - água

Sparkling water - água con gas

Juice (e.g. orange juice)  - jugo (e.g. jugo de naranja)

Tea -

Wine - vino

Beer - cerveza or caña

… and learn the food!

You’re almost ready for your Spanish holidays, but there’s something missing from your essential Spanish travel phrases: food. As you very well know, menu translations rarely work out well - and, in any case, you might need to know a few basic words if you intend to buy food in the supermarket. When I stayed a few years ago in the Czech Republic, I made myself learn ‘veal’ and ‘chicken’ in Czech just to go to the local butcher shop. So if you find yourself in the same situation in Spain, here it is:

Veal - ternera

Chicken - pollo

Turkey - pavo

Pork - cerdo

Hamburguer - hamburguesa

Fish - pescado

White fish/ Hake - merluza

Tuna - atún

Octopus - pulpo

Squid - calamares

Spicy - picante

Vegetarian - vegetariano

Lactose free  - sin lactosa

Gluten free - sin gluten

With these words, you should at least be able to know what you are eating at any restaurant. But remember that what you must try doesn’t have any translation: jamón pata negra (a type of cured ham), patatas bravas (potatoes with sauce), tortilla de patatas (eggs and potato omelette, kind of) and paella (rice dish from Valencia). The French say ‘bon appétit’, but around here you should say ¡Qué aproveche!