Help, I’m Lost! Asking for and Giving Directions in Spanish
Traveling is an amazing experience. The cultural differences, the spectacular architecture, the rich history—and yes, the beaches and parties, too. But what happens when you get lost in another country and don’t speak the local language?
The situation doesn’t even need to be that dramatic; perhaps you are not lost but simply can’t find a gas station. How do you ask for directions? How do you find what you are looking for?
Today, we are going to learn how to ask for directions and study the grammar structure for giving directions in Spanish. We’ll see questions, answers, common phrases, verbs, nouns, and prepositions used for this purpose.
Why Asking for and Giving Directions in Spanish is Important
As any experienced traveler will tell you, knowing how to ask for directions in the places you visit is vital. I know we all have now smartphones and geolocation, but still, you never know when you are going to run out of battery, lose connection to the network, or have your phone stolen. You at least need to know how to ask for directions to the airport, the hotel, and maybe the embassy.
However, giving directions in Spanish is the true test when it comes to this all-important subject. Because you need to understand how directions are given in order to be able to receive them properly. It won’t matter that you know how to ask someone for directions if you can’t understand what they’ll tell you afterward.
Besides, asking for and giving directions in Spanish is always a good excuse to approach the locals, start conversations, and socialize a little bit. In my experience, some of the best friendships I made during my trips started with asking for directions.
Asking For Directions in Spanish
I know it’s hard to believe now, but there was a time when you couldn’t ask Siri, Google, Uber, or any other app or virtual assistant for directions. You actually had to approach real humans. Let’s go back to that world for a while and explore some of the best ways to approach people in Spanish and ask them for directions.
These are words and phrases that help you to call for someone’s attention. I mean, you can’t simply ask the first person that crosses your path “where is the museum?”
Disculpe (formal) – Excuse me
Disculpa (informal) – Excuse me
Usually, the basic rule of thumb to know when to use the formal or informal version of the second person in Spanish (tú or usted – you) is age. If the person you are asking is a kid or a young adult, use the informal version. If you are asking an older person, use the formal one. (Get a deeper analysis of the formal and informal “you” in Spanish.)
You may add some of the following words after the initial approach:
Niño – Boy
Niña – Girl
Joven – Young man
Señorita – Miss
Señor – Sir
Señora – Ma’am
This way you can build an approach as needed, just like in this couple of examples:
Disculpa, niño. – Excuse me, boy.
Disculpe, señora. – Excuse me, Ma’am.
A greeting also works well every time:
Hola – Hello
Buenos días – Good morning
Buenas tardes – Good afternoon
Buenas noches – Good night
Two main questions exist in Spanish to ask where something is, and both translate simply as “where is?”
¿Dónde está…? – Where is…?
¿Dónde hay…? – Where is…?
If you are asking for something specific such as a stadium, museum, or beach, you have to use ¿dónde está..?
¿Dónde está el Estadio Azteca? – Where is the Azteca Stadium?
¿Dónde está la Playa Delfines? – Where is the Dolphins Beach?
However, if your question is about something less specific like a gas station or convenience store, you should use ¿dónde hay..?
¿Dónde hay una gasolinera? – Where is a gas station?
¿Dónde hay una farmacia? – Where is a drugstore?
Other useful questions when asking for directions are:
¿Cómo llego a la plaza? – How do I get to the main square?
¿Qué tan lejos está el centro comercial? – How far is the shopping center?
¿Hay algún(a) [supermercado] cerca de aquí? – Is there any [supermarket] around here?
Other Useful Phrases
These are not questions but work just like them.
Estoy perdido. – I’m lost.
Estoy buscando el Museo de Arte Moderno. – I’m looking for the Modern Art Museum.
Busco la gasolinera más cercana. – I’m looking for the closest gas station.
Giving Directions in Spanish
Giving directions in Spanish may not be as important for you right now, as it’s hard to imagine a situation in which you would have to give directions to someone in Spanish. However, as mentioned before, it’s important to understand the structure of the phrases used in order to be able to receive directions correctly. And that’s an easier situation to imagine.
Locations and Prepositions
Prepositions come in handy when defining the location of something, and that’s the reason you have to use them when giving directions in Spanish.
Detrás de la plaza. – Behind the main square.
En frente de el estadio. – Across from the stadium.
Al lado de la farmacia. – Next to the drugstore.
Entre la gasolinera y el centro comercial. – Between the gas station and the shopping center.
En la esquina. – On the corner.
Hasta la siguiente avenida. – Until the next avenue.
Recto(a), derecho(a) – Straight ahead
Derecha(o) – Right
Izquierda(o) – Left
Cerca – Near
Lejos – Far
Próximo(a) – Next
Primera(o) – First
Segunda(o) – Second
Tercera(o) – Third
Seguir – To follow, to continue
Girar, doblar, dar la vuelta – To turn
Sigue derecho hasta la gasolinera y ahí giras a la izquierda. – Continue straight ahead all the way to the gas station and when you get there turn left.
Ir – To go
Parar – To stop
Cruzar – To cross
Caminar – To walk
Conducir, manejar – To drive
Cruza la calle y paras al llegar a la esquina. – Cross the street and stop when you get to the corner.
la plaza – square
la calle – street
la carretera – highway
la cuadra, manzana – block
la acera, banqueta – sidewalk
el semáforo – traffic light
el puente – bridge
el camino – road
(la) avenida – avenue
el parque – park
la rotonda, glorieta – roundabout
la dirección – address
Other Useful Phrases for Giving Directions in Spanish
When giving directions in Spanish, we use a mix of the previous terms and create our own phrases. However, some of them are so common that I think it’s helpful to learn them:
Toma un taxi, un tren, el metro, el autobús. – Take a cab, a train, the subway, the bus.
Todo derecho. – Just keep going straight.
Gira a la derecha. – Turn right.
Da vuelta a la izquierda. – Turn left.
Está al lado de la plaza. – It’s next to the square.
Está a 5 minutos, horas, kilómetros, millas. – It’s 5 minutes, hours, kilometers, miles, away.
Practice Giving Directions in Spanish
Now that we’ve covered tons of the terms, questions, and possible answers for giving directions in Spanish, it’s time for you to practice at home and simulate real-life situations. That’s the only way you won’t get lost when traveling across Latin America.
What’s your favorite way of asking for or giving directions in Spanish? Leave us a comment below and start a conversation with students around the world!
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