Spanish Phrases to Learn Before You Go to Mexico

If you don't speak any Spanish at all, it's a good idea to at least learn a few phrases before you travel to Mexico. Many tourism industry workers in Mexico speak English, especially in popular vacation destinations, however, if you venture off the main tourist trail, it's really helpful to speak some Spanish. If you don't speak any at all, buy a good phrase book (or an app for your phone) and refer to it often! You'll probably find plenty of people along the way who are willing to make the effort to understand what you need. However, no matter your destination or if the people around you speak English, making an effort to speak at least some Spanish will go a long way towards creating a rapport between you and the Mexicans you meet. 

  • 01 of 08

    Hola

    Mexican greeting
    ••• A smile and an appropriate greeting are important. Credit: Erik Isakson / Getty Images

    "Hello." Mexicans tend to be quite formal when it comes to greetings. You may come across as rude if you neglect to greet people properly in Mexico. Greet your taxi driver before saying where you want to go. Greet the attendant at the information counter before you launch into your questions. A simple "hola" is fine among friends, but in other situations, you should change the form you use depending on the time of day. 

    • Before noon: Buenos días (Good morning, Good day)
    • From noon until dark: Buenas tardes (Good afternoon)
    • At night: Buenas noches (Good evening, Good night)
  • 02 of 08

    Gracias

    Spa men thank you
    ••• Say please and thank you!. Trinette Reed / Getty Images

    "Thank you." It's always polite to thank people who are providing you with a service - and even better to say it in their language. The correct response is de nada. You should also learn learn to say please: por favor. To be extra polite, you can say: "Gracias, muy amable." Which means "Thank you, you're very kind."

  • 03 of 08

    ¿Cuanto cuesta?

    Tourists shopping in Mexico
    ••• Danita Delimont / Getty Images
    How much is it?
    Of course, if you hope to understand the answer, you'll need to have some knowledge of the numbers in Spanish. In a restaurant, ask for la cuenta.
  • 04 of 08

    ¿Donde está...?

    Where is...?
    Perhaps the most essential one is ¿Donde está el baño? (Where is the restroom?). But knowing how to ask where things are can come in handy in many circumstances. Hopefully the person answering you will point so it won't matter if you don't understand their reply!
    Continue to 5 of 8 below.
  • 05 of 08

    Me llamo...

    My name is...
    The best way to learn Spanish is to talk with people, and the way to begin is by introducing yourself.
  • 06 of 08

    Disculpe

    Excuse me.
    There are different forms to say this depending on the situation, but this is the one which works in most situations - if you're trying to get by someone and you want them to move out of your way, if you've made a faux-pas or if you're trying to get their attention.
  • 07 of 08

    ¿Puedo tomar una foto?

    May I take a photo?
    Some people don't like to have their picture taken, so to avoid conflicts, it's better to ask first.
  • 08 of 08

    No hablo español. ¿Habla usted inglés?

    I don't speak Spanish. Do you speak English?
    As a last resort!