Tips for Speaking Spanish While Travelling

After several months of travelling in South America, my Spanish has developed to a basic level. I am able to complete tasks like ordering food in a restaurant and booking a hotel over the phone and I can ask simple questions and get simple answers. I’ve got a long way to go, but learning Spanish while travelling can be a lot of fun.

Tips for Speaking Spanish: Iguazu Falls, Argentina
Iguazu Falls

Tips for Speaking Spanish

Whether you are in Bogota or Buenos Aires or Barcelona, it’s worth making the effort to learn some Spanish. Start with the basics, because the locals will always appreciate it when you say “Gracias” and “Por Favor”. From there, here are some tips for speaking Spanish to help you improve as you travel:

  • Don’t be afraid to try it out and make a mistake. Speaking bad Spanish is better than speaking no Spanish at all – and people will be more patient with you than you think.
  • If you are travelling as a couple and one person has better Spanish skills than the other person, don’t let that one person with the stronger skills always ask questions and interact with locals! Make sure that the other person takes a turn so that they can practice their skills too.
  • Listen to an audio course such as the Michel Thomas Method or Rosetta Stone, which will give you a basis in the language. You can listen to it in your downtime, such as when you are on a bus or chilling out at the hostel.
Tips for Speaking Spanish: Musicians at the Fiesta de Virgen de Candelaria in Peru
Musicians at the Fiesta de Virgen de Candelaria in Peru
  • Take classes! One on one Spanish lessons are very expensive in many Latin American countries and this is a great way to learn the language.
  • Take advantage of any opportunity to can to speak to the locals, even if it is making small talk with your taxi driver or the staff at your hotel. This are great opportunities to practice your Spanish speaking skills.
  • Many Spanish speakers are eager to learn English, so perhaps you could meet up with a local who is willing to practice with you.
  • Watch movies in Spanish with Spanish subtitles. You can see the words while hearing them and the context of the film will help you to understand them – especially if you have seen the movie before and are familiar with the plot.
  • Listen to music with Spanish lyrics and read the lyrics to try to understand. Look up the words that you don’t know and then attempt to translate the song into English.
Tips for Speaking Spanish: Valparaiso, Chile - one of my favourite cities in South America
Valparaiso, Chile – one of my favourite cities in South America
  • If you don’t know a particular word, think of simpler ways to get your point across. For example, you want to tell the waiter that you would like to substitute fries for salad but you don’t know the word substitute? You can simply say “no quiero papas fritas, quiero ensalada por favor”
  • If someone is speaking too quickly for you to understand, you can say “mas despacio por favor” (slower please).

Keep these tips for speaking Spanish in mind and have fun learning this beautiful language on your travels!

About Kelly Dunning


A Canadian freelance writer with a love of art, culture, literature and adventure, Kelly loves exploring foreign lands and expressing her experiences through the power of the written word. She and her English boyfriend Lee run, packed full with travel guides, stories and inspiration for those who dream of travel. They have been location independent and travelling the world digital-nomad style for the last three years, with no address, no car and no fixed schedule.

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