When you come to Peru, and in particular, Cusco, you don’t need to know a ton of Spanish. This is because many folk in the center speak at least a little English and you can probably book tours, eat in good restaurants, and do a bit of shopping without too many hiccups.
However, the locals will be really pleased if you at least try a little, and if you want to head out to the markets, it’s a good idea to know at least a little. So, we’re going to help you learn a few of the more important or useful phrases to use while you are here.
If you don’t speak the language well, don’t worry, you can always begin by asking if they speak English; ¿Hablas ingles? Or by letting them know you can’t speak Spanish; no hablo español. And if worse comes to the worse, whip out the following phrases.
Wherever you are in the world, it’s always good to know yours pleases and thank yous. In Spanish, please is ‘por favor’ and thank you is ‘gracias’. No thank you is ‘no, gracias’.
No, gracias, can come in handy when people offer you things you don’t want. A simple, no, gracias, will let them know that you are not interested in what they have to offer.
It’s also a good idea to know ‘permiso’ or ‘perdón’ if you are trying to get past people on the street!
It’s always nice to know how to say hello in another language for when you go to a shop, a restaurant, or anywhere else where you would greet someone. Here are the most common that you will need to know:
- Buenos días = Good morning.
- Buenas tardes = Good afternoon.
- Buenas noches = Good evening or good night.
- Hola = Hello.
And here are few farewells to say goodbye:
- Chao/chau/Adios = Bye.
- Hasta luego = See you later.
- Hasta pronto = See you soon.
- Nos vemos = See you around.
A few other things you may want to ask people around the town or may hear from them are:
- ¿Como estás? = How are you?
- ¿Qué tal? How’s it going?
- ¿Cuál es su nombre? = What’s your name?
- ¿De dónde eres? = Where are you from?
This is a very important phrase that you are likely to use every day in a number of situations. It basically means ‘how much?’, so you’ll be using it at markets, shops, restaurants, bars, when asking how much a taxi is, etc.
It’s extremely useful and all you need to do is learn a few of the numbers to help you out with their answers! Here are a few of the most important ones.
- Uno – one
- Dos – two
- Tres – three
- Cuatro – four
- Cinco – five
- Seis – six
- Siete – seven
- Ocho – eight
- Nueve – nine
- Diez – ten
- Veinte – twenty
- Treinta – thirty
- Cuarenta – forty
- Cincuenta – fifty
- Sesenta – sixty
- Setenta – seventy
- Ochenta – eighty
- Noventa – ninety
- Cien – one hundred
In a Restaurant
There are likely to be many times on your trip where you find yourself in a restaurant and have a few questions. Let’s help you out with a few questions you may want to ask, or a few ways of expressing you like or don’t like something, as well as if you have allergies.
- ¿Cuáles son los platos típicos? = Which are the typical dishes?
- ¿Cuál es el plato del día? = What is the dish of the day?
- Yo soy vegetariano/vegetariana o vegano/vegana = I am vegetarian/vegan.
- Tengo alergia al gluten/a la lactosa = I am allergic to gluten/lactose. (This can be applied to any type of allergy to make sure your food is prepared as needed).
- Es muy rico = It’s really delicious.
- Me gusta/no me gusta = I like/I don’t like.
- Bebida/comida = Drink/food.
- ¿Puedo hacer una reserva? = Can I make a reservation?
- ¿Dónde esta el baño? = Where is the bathroom?
- La carta, por favor = The menu please.
- La cuenta, por favor = The bill/cheque please.
At the Shops
Another place you are definitely going to find yourself over your vacation is in shops or two, whether it be picking up some groceries or buying souvenirs. Below are some expressions that will come in useful in this situation.
- ¿Aceptan tarjetas? = Do you accept cards?
- ¿Tiene esto en otra talla? = Do you have this in another size?
- ¿Dónde está el/la…? = Where is the…?
- ¿Me lo puede empacar, por favor? = Can you wrap this for me please?
- ¿Tiene cambio? = Do you have change?
- ¿Tiene esto en otro color? = Do you have this in another color?
Ways to Learn Spanish
If you already know a little about the language or want to learn more after you get familiar with these phrases, there are a few ways to keep going.
- Get a Spanish phrasebook – This is always a good place to start when traveling abroad. You can quickly look up what you need to know on the spot.
- Download an app – There are a variety of downloadable apps these days that can really help you, and quite quickly. You can practice daily and give yourself challenges to improve.
- Invest in classes – Whether it be in Cusco or back home, it’s a good idea to take classes if you really want to improve. You will get to practice with a Spanish speaker and learn all the grammar. This is the best way to make sure you speak correctly.
- Practice with the locals – By all means practice with people who speak Spanish when you’re at the market or in a restaurant. They will probably enjoy helping as much as you enjoy practicing!
- Watch some Spanish movies – If you find you get really good, you could start watching some films in Spanish, or even listening to music.
So don’t be shy when you get here and don’t know a word. The people in Cusco are very used to seeing tourists, of which many don’t speak Spanish. They have heard hundreds and thousands speak just a few words and they will be happy to see you try. Go ahead and don’t be shy! You might learn more than you think.
Written by: Liv Palmer