Due to its proximity to the United States as well as its gorgeous beaches, impressive mountains, lush jungles, and delicious and varied cuisine, Mexico has become one of the most popular holiday destinations for Americans.
If you’re planning to travel to Mexico, whether for holiday or longer term stay, you might be wondering whether you need to learn Spanish before you go.
While it’s true that English is widely spoken in touristy and metropolitan parts of the country, it’s estimated that only around 10% of the population is able to speak English, and an even smaller percentage of Mexicans speak English fluently.
With this in mind, having some conversational Spanish under your belt will make your stay a lot more enjoyable. Not sure where to begin? We’ve lined up 20 common Spanish phrases you should know before your trip to Mexico.
What are travel Spanish skills?
If you’re looking to take Spanish classes before an upcoming trip to Mexico, it’s important to be realistic about how much you’ll be able to pick up within the timeframe you have.
So what Spanish language skills should you focus on? If you have just a few weeks or months before your trip, it’s best to devote the bulk of your time to learning conversational Spanish that will facilitate your day-to-day interactions.
The Spanish phrases you learn for your travels should help you navigate situations such as meeting and greeting people, taking public transport, asking for directions, eating out and seeking medical attention incase of an emergency.
Learning some of the informal Spanish or slang you may encounter during your stay can also be helpful, as the Spanish that’s spoken in Mexico sounds very different to the Spanish you would encounter in Spain.
Phrases you need to know when traveling to Mexico
Let’s take a look at some of the most important Spanish phrases you should learn to successfully navigate everyday situations during your stay in Mexico, whether you’re ordering food or taking public transport.
Knowing how to greet people and introduce yourself will come in handy whether you’re striking up a conversation with your taxi driver or making new friends at the beach. Here are a few simple greetings and introductions you should familiarize yourself with.
Buenos días! ¿Cómo está?
Good morning! How are you?
Hola! Me llamo ___ ¿Cómo se llama?
Hi! My name is ___ What’s your name?
Mucho gusto en conocerte.
Nice to meet you!
Soy de ___ ¿De dónde eres?
I’m from ___ Where are you from?
Going out for food or drinks
Whether you’re visiting a local market or going out to eat, you’ll need to be able to ask for the items you want. Here are a few common phrases you can use to order and pay for your drinks and food while out.
¿Tiene una recomendación?
Do you have a recommendation?
Me gustaría pedir ___
I would like to order ___
¿Cuánto va a ser?
How much will it be?
It was delicious!
Asking for directions
Another important thing you’ll need to be able to do when traveling in Mexico is ask for directions. Here are a few phrases you can use to find your way when you’re navigating an unfamiliar part of town or looking for a specific landmark.
I am lost!
Dónde está ___ ?
Where is ___ ?
¿Dónde puedo tomar un taxi?
Where can I get a taxi?
¿Qué tan lejos está la estación?
How far is the station?
Getting medical attention
Anything can happen while you’re traveling, so it’s important to be able to make yourself understood if you need medical attention while visiting Mexico. Although hopefully you won’t need to use them, here are a few useful phrases for visiting a pharmacy or doctor.
¿Me puede ayudar?
Can you help me?
Busco una farmacia
I am looking for a pharmacy
I am sick.
Quiero tomar una prueba
I would like to take a test
Basic Mexican slang
Finally, although it’s more polite to use formal Spanish when ordering food and asking for directions, there are lots of Mexican slang words and phrases that could be useful to understand when interacting with people in informal situations.
¿Qué onda, jaina/güey?
What’s up chick/dude?
Esta bien chido!
This is really cool!
Me vale madre!
I don’t give a damn!
Ready to learn Spanish or take your existing Spanish language skills to the next level? Berlitz offers a range of in-person Spanish classes as well as online courses to suit learners of all ages and skill levels. Find out more.