How to Navigate Traffic in a Spanish-speaking Country
Going abroad is a wonderful experience. It’s a great opportunity to meet people, explore new settings, and try out exciting food! If you’re reading this blog, I imagine you’re extra adventurous, because driving in a foreign country is a whole new world of freedom. I remember the one and only time I drove a car in a foreign country – I was terrified! We were coming back from doing some gardening with volunteers, and my boss at the time asked if I wanted to drive back. I couldn’t say no to that, so I hopped in the driver’s seat and took that old red car for a spin.
Luckily I had my boss, a local, to guide me through the traffic signs and give me cues on rules that I might not be aware of. This made my drive a lot less scary and a great experience that I remember to this day. If you’re driving alone it’s very important that you research topics like speed limits, driving requirements, driving age, and so on. Here’s a link to a page with useful information on driving requirements for different countries.
Basic vocabulary for driving and GPS navigation
Road signs in Spanish
Just like with local traffic laws, I always recommend that you study the local road signs before you drive anywhere. Below are some examples of traffic signs that change slightly or are nonexistent in the US.
Hopefully, you can figure out what this sign is asking you to do by just looking at it. If you see a red octagon with the word ALTO written in, it means you should definitely stop and look both ways before you carry on.
This is personally one of my least favorite road signs, especially if I’m in a crowded town. If you see an ‘E’ with a red slash across it, that means you can’t park in that area. Some countries will have a ‘P’ instead, so be on the lookout for both, since parquear and estacionar are synonyms for the word parking.
These black arrows on a red circle are there to let you know you absolutely must make a turn in the direction they suggest, or you’ll end up driving against traffic!
Ceda el paso
While the yield sign is the same as in the US, it’s always a nice reminder that these signs mean the same thing, since you might find the Spanish text to be confusing.
Límite de velocidad
Speed limits, or Límites de velocidad, are something to always look out for. Especially since in most if not all of the Spanish speaking countries we use Kilometers instead of miles. It’s important to keep that in mind as you drive!
No hay paso
If you find yourself on the wrong side of the road, this sign will let you know you need to turn around ASAP! No hay paso means ‘wrong way.’
Obra en construcción
Typically, the best way to know there’s a construction site ahead is the annoying traffic it will surely cause. The second best way, and the most reliable, is to look out for obra en construcción signs. These are typically yellow or orange and will tell you how far away the site actually is.
Ready, set, drive!
There are many ways to learn Spanish: traveling, studying, and practicing. Before you set out on the road, maybe you’ll want to learn some Spanish words for traveling to have under your belt, and if you’re unsure of where to go, I suggest you read up on our top 8 destinations for travel. Regardless of where you choose to go, you can still learn Spanish at Homeschool Spanish Academy. Try out a free class today, available anywhere with an internet connection!
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