Basic Spanish for a Trip to Mexico


When traveling to Mexico for work or leisure you can benefit hugely from learning some basic Spanish phrases. Spanish is used by more than a hundred million Mexicans at homes, schools, businesses, healthcare institutes, restaurants, tourist attractions, and all kinds of organizations across all type of industries.

Spanish is the second most spoken language in the world and 25% of the native speakers live in Mexico.[1] Interestingly, Spanish is not registered as the official language in Mexico!

That is because the Mexican government recognizes Spanish along with 68 other indigenous tongues as the national language.[2] But despite the ethnic diversity, Spanish is spoken by the vast majority of the Mexican population for both public and private matters.[3]

Basic Spanish phrases:

These basic Spanish phrases will help you to greet people, be polite, and start small talk.

Greetings and good manners:

Hello Hola
Good bye Adiós
Good morning Buenos días
Good afternoon Buenas tardes
Good evening Buenas noches
Good night Hasta mañana
Thank you Gracias
You´re welcome De nada
Excuse me Disculpe
Sorry Lo siento – Perdone
Very kind Muy amable

Conversation starters:

How are you? ¿Cómo estás?
What is your name? ¿Cuál es tu nombre?
Where are you from? ¿De dónde eres?
What time is it? ¿Qué hora es?

Weather as an ice-breaker:

What is the weather like? ¿Cómo es el clima? – ¿Qué tiempo hace?
Rainy Lluvioso
Sunny Soleado
Windy Airoso
Cloudy Nublado
Hot Caluroso
It seems like it´s going to rain Parece que va a llover
What is the weather forecast? ¿Cuál es el pronóstico del tiempo?

How to order food in Mexico

Traditional Mexican cuisine encompasses farming practices of native crops, spiritual rituals, and ancestral cooking techniques. No wonder the UNESCO has acknowledged it as an Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity![4]

Staple foods include corn and corn-based products such as tortillas, endless varieties of chilies, zucchini, and beans. A veritable bounty of fresh vegetables and fruits are found across the nation. Even tropical cacao beans, aromatic coffee beans, and exotic vanilla pods are cultivated in Mexico.

Mexican geography is extremely diverse, thus the gastronomy changes along with the landscape. Always go for local delicacies to maximize your culinary experience. Popular dishes include chilaquiles, mole, pozole, aguachile, barbacoa, chiles rellenos, and cochinita. However discerning your pallet Mexico’s cuisine will have you licking your fingers for more.

It is common practice to leave a tip ranging from 10% to 15% in most food establishments. Speaking of tips, to ensure you get attended be sure to use the word Joven when addressing your male waiter and Señorita for a female waitress.

So, whether it´s humble tacos from a street stall or a sophisticated dish from a high-end restaurant, the following phrases will help you get your fill.

I would like to make a booking Quisiera hacer una reservación
Table for two please Mesa para dos por favor
To eat in Para comer aquí
To take away Para llevar
To drink Para beber
Sparkling water Agua mineral
Beer Cerveza
Wine Vino
Soda pop Refresco
Coffee Café
Milk Leche
Cheers ¡Salud!
Bon appetit Buen provecho
Only half portion Solamente media porción
With or without cheese Con o sin queso
On the side A un lado
I am vegan/vegetarian/celiac Soy vegano/vegetariano/celíaco
My food is cold/hot Mi comida está fría/caliente
Salt and pepper Sal y pimiento
How much is it? ¿Cuánto cuesta?
The bill please La cuenta por favor

How to ask for the bathroom in Mexico

The lack of legislation for public sanitation design allows Mexicans to apply their creativity and resourcefulness in even the most functional of spaces. Curiously enough, the pictorial and colorful chaos of Mexican folk attitudes towards life can be appreciated even in the toilets and it has been documented by Kurt Hollander, who has spent years photographing bathrooms in Mexico City.[5] In any case, being familiar with the vocabulary necessary to use the restroom is a must!

Where is the bathroom? ¿Dónde está el baño?
Where is the nearest public toilet? ¿Dónde se encuentra el baño público más cercano?
Gentlemen/Men Caballeros/Hombres
Ladies/Women Damas/Mujeres
Toilet roll Papel de baño
Handwash Jabón de manos
Hand towel Toalla de manos
Engaged/In use Está ocupado

How to ask for directions in Mexico

You will find that most Mexicans are warm and hospitable and will offer you directions and assistance without hesitation. It is, however, advisable to use registered taxi services and airport shuttles to avoid disappointments.

General directions and common places:

Straight on Derecho
Left Izquierdo
Right Derecha
Ahead Adelante
Behind Atrás
Airport Aeropuerto
Taxi service Servicio de taxi
Bus station – Train station Estación de autobús – Estación de tren
Bike rental Alquiler de bicicletas

Asking for guidance:

Where is located? ¿Dónde se ubica?
How far is it to the beach? ¿Qué tan lejos está de la playa?
Can you please repeat that? ¿Puede repetirlo por favor?
Can you please take me? ¿Puede llevarme por favor?
Is it within walking distance? ¿Se puede ir caminando?
Where can I get a town map? ¿Dónde puedo obtener un mapa del pueblo?
Is there a tourist information office nearby? ¿Hay una oficina de información turística cercana?
What does that sign say? ¿Qué dice el letrero?
I am lost Estoy perdido
I need help Necesito ayuda
It is an emergency Es una emergencia

In many ways, Spanish has shaped the identity of the country.[6] An “albur”, for instance, is a double-meaning pun generally used by men and is characteristic of Mexican humor. Thus, communicating in the local language will enable you to further enjoy Mexico´s rich cultural heritage and really engage in a unique traveling experience.

Basic Spanish for a Cruise To Mexico

Before we get into situation specific words and phrases, let’s start with the basics of Spanish. Even if you learn nothing but how to say hello, goodbye and introduce yourself, it will go far when trying to assimilate and enjoy Mexican culture.

If you’re going on a cruise to Mexico and passing through the Caribbean, being able to speak some simple travel Spanish will help communication with staff on the cruise line and other passengers much easier.

This is true whether you’re traveling Carnival, Norwegian, Disney, Royal Caribbean, Mayan, or any other cruise line. Basic Spanish is also very helpful for stops at Ports of Call in the Bahamas, Mazatlan, the Mexican Riviera, or other cruise destinations.

Royal Caribbean Cruises through the Baja and Panama Canal are no exception.

  • Hola! (Hello.)  Note: This is a rather informal way of greeting someone.
  • Adios. (Goodbye.)
  • Gracias. (Thank you.)
  • De nada. (You’re welcome.)
  • Me llamo… (My name is…)
  • ¿Como te llama? (What’s your name?)
  • Si. (Yes.)
  • No. (No.)

Greetings

Just like in English, the time of day that you meet someone will determine what phrase is appropriate when offering a simple greeting. Depending on whether it is morning, noon or night, it is helpful to know the appropriate phrase that will take you beyond a simple “hola”!

  • Before noon: Buenos días (Good morning)
  • From noon until dark: Buenas tardes (Good afternoon)
  • At night: Buenas noches (Good evening, Good night)

Shopping

While stopping in port on a Mexico cruise ship destination, one of the main things to see and enjoy are the different markets and shops. To get you through the experience without too much wear and tear on your wallet, here are a few helpful phrases to know:

  • ¿Cuanto cuesta? (How much is it?)
  • Eso es demasiado caro. (That’s too expensive.)
  • No gracias. (No thank you.)

Dining

If you decide to venture outside and eat at a local restaurant or café, then it’s important that you know some basic phrases. If you offer your waiter even a little bit of Spanish it can greatly improve the relationship and the service.

  • Quiero…(I’d like…)
  • La cuenta por favor. (The bill please.)
  • Un poco mas. (A little more.)
  • Una cerveza por favor. (One beer please.)

Etiquette

One mistake that many foreign travelers to Mexico make is a lack of etiquette and understanding while traveling. Even if you are in Mexico for vacation, it’s important to remember actual people live in the country! Be courteous when taking photos and videos to make sure that you are not being obtrusive. Here are a few helpful words, phrases and questions to keep your interactions with the Mexican people positive:

  • ¿Puedo tomar una foto? (May I take a photo?)
  • Gracias por tu ayuda. (Thank you for your help.)
  • Habla Ingles? (Do you speak English?
  • No hablo Espanol. (I don’t speak English.)
  • No entiendo. (I don’t understand.)

While this is by no means an exhaustive list, learning a few simple phrases can at least show  people that you care enough to communicate. Whether you find yourself in Cozumel or Cabo San Lucas, take a little bit of the language with you and enjoy the rich culture that Mexico has to offer.

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