When I was 18 I took my first trip to Mexico without knowing one word in Spanish. I remember landing and immediately realizing I had made a big mistake. So many people started talking to me in Spanish and I had no way of understanding them, or even to express that I couldn’t understand them. I was like a deer caught in headlights.

However, the moment I learned just a few basic words and phrases in Spanish, it was like a whole new world opened up. I could finally express myself, ask for things, and navigate the world around me. At first, I only learned about 100 basic words, but I quickly learned that even with such a short vocabulary I could actually accomplish a lot. Just imagine what I could’ve accomplished with Babbel.

easy spanish words to learn before a trip

Now that I actually live part of every year in Mazatlán Mexico, my fluency in Spanish has greatly increased, but every day I still use all those basic words and phrases I learned so long ago.

This article includes some of the easiest, most basic and most USEFUL Spanish words you’ll want to know for your next trip. I have also given some tips and tricks to learning more Spanish before you go, what apps you should download on your phone, and some other tools for getting your point across.

Many articles about learning Spanish for your trip will give you big complex sentences to use, and let’s be honest… who is going to remember all that?

Your head is full of trip planning, plane tickets, gate numbers, hotel reservations, and probably doesn’t have room to add 100 or so new language phrases to the mix. Plus then try to add masculine/feminine into the mix? Let’s just keep it super simple.

Instead of teaching you grammar, verb conjugation and other complex stuff, this article will just give you some basic stepping stones. Yes, you are going to sound like a Neanderthal when you speak basic sentences with only a word or two, but I promise it’s better than nothing at all.

learning spanish

My best advice:
Use Spanish words and not full phrases

Don’t try and form big sentences. Use single words! People will understand your “Tarzan Spanish” just fine. For example, instead of trying to learn “Where is the bathroom?” (¿Dónde está el baño?) you can just say “bathroom?” (¿baño?)  and people will know what you’re looking for. It takes a lot of pressure off trying to memorize a bunch of extra words you might not ever need to use.

This hack can be applied to almost anything!

Instead of: “Where can I find the nearest bank?” (¿Dónde puedo encontrar el banco más cercano?)

Use: “Bank?” (¿Banco?)

Instead of: “Excuse me, could you bring me the check?” (Disculpe, ¿podría traerme la cuenta?)

Use: “Check!” (Cuenta)

Do I think it’s rude to speak like this? No! Especially if you don’t know Spanish and you are unable to learn complex conjugations and sentences before your trip. I think being able to say a few basic singular words in Spanish is better than nothing. 

Of course, if you want to learn more Spanish before your trip, DO IT! But if you are at a very basic level of Spanish I would get super familiar with the keywords and most basic phrases.

Easy Spanish Words and Phrases

(please note: these are common phrases and words in Latin American Spanish, predominately Mexican. Sure, someone from Spain will also understand this, but just note they can be slightly different, especially with pronunciation.)

basic spanish for travel

Greetings & Basic Words

Hello – Hola

Thank you – Gracias

You’re welcome – De nada

Yes – 

No – No

Please – Por favor

Excuse me – Perdón

Sorry – Lo siento

Good morning – Buenos dias

Good afternoon – Buenas tardes

Good evening – Buenas noches

How are you – ¿Cómo estás?

Good – Bien

Bad – Malo

simple spanish words and phrases for travel

Nice to meet you – Mucho gusto

Do you speak English? – ¿Hablas Inglés?

I don’t speak Spanish – No hablo Español

I don’t understand – No entiendo

What is your name? – ¿Cómo te llamas?

My name is – Me llamo es

I’m from – Soy de

Why – Por qué

How – Cómo

Where – Dónde

When – Cuando

What – Qué

I don’t know – No sé

How do you say? ¿Cómo se dice?

I want – Quiero

I have – Tengo

I need – Necesito


Where are you from? ¿De donde eres?

Where do you come from? ¿De donde vienes?

Good morning/afternoon/evening – shortened to just Buenos/Buenas


I’m hungry – Tengo hambre

I’m thirsty – Tengo sed

Water – Agua

With ice – Con hielo

Without ice – Sin hielo

I don’t eat meat – No como carne

The bill/check – La cuenta

Coffee – Café

Sugar – Azúcar

Milk – Leche

learn super easy spanish words

Beer – Cerveza

Wine – Vino

Menu – Menú

Table for 2 – Mesa para dos

Table for 4 – Mesa para cuatro

Everything is good – Todo bien

I’m allergic – Soy alergica/alergico

Tip – Propina

Straw / No Straw – Popote/ Sin popote


Would you like something to drink? ¿Le gustaría algo de tomar?

Do you need anything else? ¿Necesitas algo mas?

Would you like to add a tip? ¿Quieres agregar una propina?

easy spanish to learn before visiting mexico


Taxi – Taxi

Bus – Camión

I’m lost – Estoy perdido

Where is – Dónde está

Hotel – Hotel

Hospital – Hospital

Bank – Banco

Market – Mercado

Restaurant – Restaurante

Pharmacy – Farmacia

Airport – Aeropuerto

Bathroom – Baño


Where are you going? ¿A dónde vas?

spanish words to learn for travelling


Money – Dinero

How much? – Cuanto

Expensive – Caro

Cheap – Barato

Less – Menos

More – Más

Change – Cambio

Cash – Efectivo

Credit Card – Tarjeta

Bag / No Bag – Con bolsa / sin bolsa

spanish words and phrases that are easy to learn


1 – uno

2 – dos

3 – tres

4 – cuatro

5 – cinco

6 – sies

7 – siete

8 – ocho

9 – nueve

10 – diez

20 – veinte

50 – cincuenta

100 – cien

1000 – mil

tips to learn spanish before a trip


Help – Ayuda

Help me – Ayudame

Police – Policía

Slow down – Más despacio

With all of the Spanish words and phrases above, you’ll want to practice them over and over to get them inside your brain. Go to the store and buy some cue cards or get someone to quiz you. Study them like you used to study for a test in school. It’s all about repetition and actually speaking them out loud, not just in your head.

Save some of them in a note section on your phone or write them down in a mini-notebook that will be in your purse/backpack.

Spanish App to Download


Literally stop what you are doing and go download the Google Translate app onto your phone right this second.

This app does it all! You can quickly type in phrases to translate, speak into your phone to translate your voice into another language, or even.. get this… hold your phone up to Spanish text and have it translated to English for you.

google translate from english to spanish

You can download the Spanish package onto your phone through the app that allows you to use Google Translate even if you have no data or Wi-Fi connection.

google translate text
example of google translate spanish camera

Here is an example of how the camera translation works. Here is the inside of a greeting card in Spanish. All I had to do was open the Google Translate app, hit the ‘camera’ button, and hold my phone over the text. It translates it into English instantly like magic as I hover over it. Great for using on street signs, reading labels, or really anything that needs translating without typing it all in. 

Learn Spanish Before You Go

If you want to step up your Spanish game, you can always do some exposure learning before your trip. Try a few of these tips to get more familiar with the language as a whole:


A few weeks before your trip, start watching all your favorite shows with the Spanish subtitles on. You will still be listening in English, but with the addition of having the Spanish text flash across the screen. This will help you get familiar with some basic words, spellings, and patterns before you go. I still do this all the time!

learn spanish by listen to podcasts

There are many different podcasts you can listen to in Spanish, and best of all they are free. You can listen to stories that are half in Spanish and half in English with the Duolingo Spanish Podcast. There are also podcasts that help you learn like Coffee Break Español.

If you are at a higher level of Spanish, you might even want to listen to the news totally en Español, but slowed down to make it easier to grasp.

listen to latin radio before you travel to mexico

Gringos have been loving Spanish music ever since Despacito blew up on the international charts a few years ago. Keep the party going and download a bunch of Latin songs onto your phone. I have an iPhone and I love to listen to a Spanish radio channel on iTunes called ‘Latin Pop Radio’. Even listening to music will help familiarize yourself with common words and phrases. The best part about the iTunes radio station is you can also watch the lyrics across your screen if you really want to dive into what they are singing about.

learn spanish with duolingo app

Duolingo has to be the best free language learning app out there. You can download it to your phone and start learning Spanish in seconds, without ever having to pay a cent. The app makes it really easy to learn, plus it’s made to keep you entertained and stimulated so you don’t get bored or frustrated. I would recommend downloading Duolingo 1 month before your trip and making a 30-day challenge for yourself to study 20 minutes a day for the next 30 days. You will honestly pick up so many basic words and phrases you will be surprised!

One last word of advice:

Don’t try and be perfect. No one expects a visiting foreigner to be fluent in their language, but they will really appreciate that you are trying. If you can’t seem to get your point across, use the two universal languages: a smile and some hand signals.

Kashlee Kucheran

The Mazatlan Post