You’re probably feeling pretty excited right now. You’ve just booked your first trip to Mexico and you can’t wait to soak up the sun and the tacos! There’s just one problem… You don’t know a word of Spanish.
Don’t worry, I’ve been there and I empathize. That’s why I’ve put together a cheat sheet of key phrases that will get you through your trip. Plus, you can use them to impress your friends when you get home!
Beyond bragging rights, having a basic command of Spanish is sure to help you feel safer and more confident throughout your travels, especially if you’re traveling Mexico solo.
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Greetings, Goodbyes & Pleasantries
In Mexico, pleasantries go a long way. Even if you aren’t able to converse with other people in Spanish it’s nice to be able to set the tone of your interaction with the appropriate greeting.
Let’s start with the classics. If you only manage to learn three phrases in Spanish let them be these:
“Buenos dias” – “Good morning”
“Buenas tardes” – “Good afternoon”
“Buenas Noches” – “Good night”
If you want to show off a little you might add these to your repertoire:
“Qué tal?” – “How’s it going?”
“Nos vemos” – “See you later”
And if you’re Canadian you’ll definitely need this one:
“Disculpe” – “Excuse me”
Now that you’ve demonstrated your ability to greet people, they are bound to attempt to converse with you. Here are a few of the questions most likely to be asked of you and the appropriate responses.
“De dónde eres?” – “Where are you from?”
Your response should be:
“Soy de…” – “I am from…”
Or they may ask:
“De dónde vienes?” – “Where are you coming from?”
Think of this question as “Where are you arriving from?”
Your response should be:
“Vengo de…” – “I came from…”
For example, if you’re from Canada but you just flew in from Las Vegas, “Vengo de Las Vegas.”
Asking for Directions
Your trip will be greatly enhanced if you’re able to ask for directions to where you’re going! These phrases will get you started:
“Dónde está?” – “Where is…”
You probably recognize this one from the infamous phrase, “Dónde está la biblioteca?”
But since you’re probably not visiting the library on your vacay you’ll want to learn a few additional vocabulary words that better represent your interests, ie. “la playa” (the beach).
Or, if you want to be a little more polite and formal you can ask like this:
“Dónde puedo encontrar…” – “Where can I find…”
Spanish Phrases for Restaurants & Ordering Food
There’s really no point in visiting Mexico if you don’t know enough Spanish to order a beer (cerveza) or a taco (taco). These phrases will keep you well-fed and hydrated:
“Quiero…” – “I want…”
“Me puede traer…” – “Could you bring me…”
Of course, you’ll need to learn the names of some Mexican dishes to say after those phrases. You’re probably familiar with many of them already, but when in doubt, just say “dos de pastor.”
Your server will likely ask you how your food tastes. The correct answer is always:
“La comida está muy rica” – “The food is delicious.”
And finally, when you’re done eating you’ll need to ask for the bill:
“La cuenta, por favor.” – “The bill, please.”
Another phrase you’ll hear frequently when eating out in Mexico is:
“Buen provecho” – Bon Apetit / Enjoy your meal
Buen provecho, often shortened to simply provecho, is what people say in Mexico when people are eating. Often your server will say it upon delivering your meal to the table. You’ll also notice that people will say to anyone eating when they enter or exit a restaurant. Remember this phrase and use it; It’s a really nice gesture!
Related Reading: Everything You Need to Know About Tipping in Mexico
No trip is complete without a little souvenir shopping! Use these phrases to make sure you get all the info you need before making a purchase:
If you see an “I Love Mexico” shot glass that you just can’t resist, this is how you ask the price.
“Cuánto cuesta ésto” – “How much does this cost?”
Or maybe you spot a comically large sombrero at a street market and you want to try it on for your Insta story, this is what you say:
“Puedo ver ésto?” – “Can I look at that?”
By the end of your trip, you’re bound to be laden down with bags of souvenir hot sauces, tequila bottles, and a comically large sombrero (you couldn’t resist it, could you?). You’ll want to take a taxi to the airport.
This is how you should ask your driver:
“Me puede llevar al aeropuerto?”
And don’t forget to pay him at the end of the ride! Ask “Cuánto me cobra?” to find out how much it costs.
There you have it, my friend. These words and phrases will help you immensely on your trip. Learning a few words in Spanish really breaks down barriers.
If you really want to make an impact, pick up a phrasebook before your trip! Even if you really have no interest in ever fully learning the language, it’s helpful to have a reference.
This Mexican Spanish phrasebook & dictionary is super handy. It breaks down the phrases into different situations and even provides alternative phrases to help you sound more like a local.
Many people in Mexico speak or, at the very least, understand English, but making the effort to converse in Spanish is a gesture of good faith. It will help you make a good first impression.
Will it be awkward? Absolutely. But who doesn’t love a good language barrier anecdote?!
Mexico Travel Planning Resources
🌡️ Do I need travel insurance?
Yes! Healthcare in Mexico is affordable for minor ailments, but travel insurance will give you peace of mind if an emergency arises. Plus, you can add coverage for trip interruption, theft, etc. Get a quote from SafetyWing.
🏨 What’s the best way to find accommodation in Mexico?
I use a mix of Booking, Airbnb, and Hostelworld.
💸 How should I exchange money in Mexico?
Use local ATMS to withdraw cash. US travelers should open a Charles Schwab bank account because they’ll refund ATM fees at the end of the month.
Travelers from outside the US should open a Wise account to secure the best currency exchange rates.
📱 Where can I buy a local SIM card in Mexico?
Pick up a Telcel SIM card at any convenience store. Or, buy an Airalo eSIM online so you’re connected as soon as you land.
🗣️ Do I need to speak Spanish in Mexico?
No, but it definitely helps you feel more confident and connected.
✈️ What’s the best way to find affordable flights?
I use Skyscanner because it makes it easy to compare rates across different travel days.
🚖 How do I find a safe airport transfer?
I recommend GetTransfer for airport transfers anywhere in Mexico.
🚗 What’s the best way to find rental cars in Mexico?
I recommend Discover Cars because they aggregate prices across rental car companies, making it easy to find competitive rates.
🚐 How do I book bus tickets online in Mexico?
🤿 How do I find cool activities and tours in Mexico?
🇲🇽 How can I experience Mexico like a local?
Solo female travelers can hire a local female guide through Greether. Greeters will tailor tours based on your interests— it’s basically like experiencing a destination with a local bestie!
🧳 What’s the best luggage for Mexico?
Unless you’re staying at a resort, a travel pack is recommended. I’ve used this one from Osprey for the last 8+ years.
👯♀️ How do I connect with fellow travelers in Mexico?
Join my Female Travelers in Mexico Facebook group, a supportive community of fellow Mexico travel enthusiasts, where you can find answers to all your travel questions!