A collection of simple phrases any tourist in Mexico will find useful and practical.
Mexican Phrases: The Practical
Getting around a culture that speaks a different language is a challenge, and it’s a mistake to assume people speak English. However, it’s also useful to be able to ask politely if people speak English, as this can often help you avoid problems. Con permiso (kon puhr-mee-so) is “excuse me” and habla usted ingles? (a-blah oo-sted een-glays) is “do you speak English?” Just remember to be meek when you ask. If someone begins speaking to you in Spanish and you can’t follow, don’t let it get out of hand – stop them and say no entiendo (no en-tee-en-doh), which means “I don’t understand.”
I know when I travel to unfamiliar places, finding a bathroom to use can be a challenge, so know how to say necesito un bano (ness-es-ee-toh un ban-yo), “I need a bathroom,” is priceless. You can often just gesture and say un bano? and everyone will understand what you mean. Pro tip: change bano to policia or hospital if the situation calls for it.
Mexican Phrases with Gestures!
The strategy for tourists lacking language skills throughout history has been to combine simple phrases with simple gestures. If you’re unsure of where you’re going or whether some place is safe or permitted, you can gesture at it and ask esta bien? (eh-stah bee-en), which means “is this okay?”
If you have a map in hand, you can always perform the tourist trick of pointing at the map and asking donde esta? (nohn-day eh-stah”) which means “where is the _____?” or simply “where is?” It’s not exactly elegant, but it will probably get you at least some guidance.
If you want to be a good tourist, teach yourself as you go - como se dice (co-mo say dee-say) means “how do you say?” in Spanish, and can help you pick up some more useful phrases and words. And finally, if you get into any trouble, know how to ask for help: Ayudame! (eye-you-duh-may) — Help me!