Basic Spanish for travelling

by Alison Maciejewski Cortez
March 24, 2021
woman saying hello in english

As the pandemic vaccination scheme in the UK continues to roll out, Spain will once again be a destination hotspot for UK tourists. For all who have studied to learn Spanish at home during quarantine, now is the time to brush up on our travel Spanish. All of those hours of online Spanish lessons are about to be put into practise. Let’s do a quick breakdown of what you need to know. Here is basic Spanish for travelling.

Basic Spanish for travel

We always say that the best way to learn Spanish is total immersion. With Spain as a close neighbour, it’s the most popular country for UK Spanish learners to try out an immersion experience. Whether it’s for a weekend holiday or a study abroad to learn Spanish, there is some Spanish essential vocabulary to make the experience easier. The basics are all about being polite.

  • por favor – please
  • gracias – thank you
  • de nada – you’re welcome

At the airport

As anyone who has browsed Wikitravel knows, the airport can be a tricky obstacle on holiday. Since Brexit, UK citizens go through customs in Spain, which is certainly a new experience. Here is Spanish vocabulary for the airport.

  • pasaporte – passport
  • boleto de avión – plane ticket
  • pase de abordar – boarding pass
  • vuelo – flight 
  • puerta número… – gate number…(review your numbers in Spanish)
  • aduana – customs
  • nada que declarar – nothing to declare 

Finding your holiday home

After the airport, getting into your hotel or rental flat is crucial. Here is some vocabulary that will help you find and get inside your holiday home.

  • metro – underground
  • mapa – map 
  • taxi – taxi cab 
  • llaves – keys (YA-ves)
  • código – code number
  • móvil – mobile phone
  • tarjeta de SIM – SIM card

Food in a Spanish restaurant

There is specific vocabulary for Spanish restaurants. Beyond words you should know, reading a menu is hard to do in Spain. Though I grew up bilingual in the United States, I remember arriving in Madrid and not understanding any of the common Spanish foods. Here are foods from a typical Spanish restaurant.

  • montadito – small sandwich
  • bocadillo – baguette sandwich
  • jamón Ibérico – Spanish Iberian ham
  • manchego – aged, hard cheese
  • boquerones – sardines
  • croquetas – fried meat and potato croquettes
  • tortilla – potato omelet
  • churro – fried dough
  • chocolate – liquid dipping chocolate for churros

Drinks in a Spanish restaurant

Drinks are the same all over the world, right? Not necessarily. As we’ve mentioned before, each Spanish-speaking country has its own unique vocabulary, especially when it comes to food and drink. Here are some typical Spanish drinks you can have on holiday.

  • vino tinto – red wine
  • vino blanco – white wine
  • tinto de verano – red wine spritzer (mixed with gaseosa)
  • gaseosa – sparkling water/club soda
  • limonada – lemon soda (literally lemonade)
  • caña – a small-sized beer
  • vermút – vermouth (strong wine)

How to order food in Spanish

Spanish tapas are world-famous. The word tapa comes from an old custom in Spanish taverns. Wine was served with a small piece of bread or a tiny plate to cover your glass. This “topper” kept bugs or dust from getting in the drink while you chat with friends at the bar. The tradition of tapas is all about mixing socialisation with meals out on the town. Tapas in tourist areas may have a small cost, but in local bars from Madrid to Málaga, you can still find free tapas. I shared before my 4 steps to order food in Spain. Below are some sizing definitions that will help you to order food in Spain.

  • tapa – a small amount of food that comes with drinks (usually free)
  • pincho/pinxo – similar to a tapa
  • ración – one full portion of food (typically for sharing)
  • media ración. – half portion (larger than a tapa, smaller than a meal)

Although we hate to think about it, sometimes people fall ill while on holiday. If this happens to you, review our guides for how to talk to a pharmacist in Spanish and Spanish medical phrases to speak with a doctor. Now that you know how to get from the airport to the best Spanish tapas restaurants with ease, are you ready for your post-pandemic holiday in Spain?

Practise ordering a Spanish meal with a native Spanis-speaking tutor today. Register for a 7-day free trial with Lingoda

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