LOST in Mexico: What To Say in Spanish (Asking for Directions in Spanish)
I want you to imagine you’re in la Ciudad de México, and you want to visit the beautiful city center.
Therefore, you ask someone: “Disculpe, señor, ¿dónde está el centro de la ciudad?” (Sorry, sir, where's there city center?)
And he replies:
- “Vas derecho, dos cuadras a la izquierda, pasas un Oxxo; de ahí, cuatro cuadras a la derecha y pasas otro Oxxo; y, finalmente, cruzas el puente y, dos Oxxos después, ahí es”.
So, do you know how to get to the city center now? I didn’t think so! That’s why, in this article, I will teach you all the chunks and phrases in Spanish you need when asking for directions and understanding them.
So, if you really want to make it to the city center, understand the directions you just heard, and know what an Oxxo is, this piece is for you.
What are chunks?
Did you notice I said I was going to teach you chunks and not words? Well, a chunk is a word combination that native Spanish speakers use all the time when talking to each other and that you should start using as well.
This word combination will always be correct (after all, you’ve heard it from a native speaker), and you don’t need to worry about which prepositions or verb conjugations to use… Think about it: if you get lost in a city and want to find out where to go, the last thing you want to think about is grammar rules!
Chunking is how we teach Spanish in all our videos and our Academy. If you’d like to learn more about it, feel free to check out the Spanish chunking training we have on our website, where we demonstrate it in detail and give you tons of examples.
1. Addressing someone on the street
So, ¿dónde estaba? (where was I?) Aaaah, yes! I was talking about the chunks and phrases we use when asking for directions.
First, I will teach you how to approach a person to ask for directions. This is very simple:
- Disculpe, señor / señorita, ¿puede ayudarme? (Excuse me, Sir / Miss, can you help me?)
Then, use any of the following magic questions and add whichever place you are looking for:
- ¿Dónde está el centro de la ciudad? (Where is the city center?)
- ¿Dónde hay una farmacia? (Where can I find a pharmacy?)
- ¿Cómo llego al hotel? (How do I get to the hotel?)
Differences between ¿Dónde está? and ¿Dónde hay?
“¿Dónde está?” means you are being specific about a place; therefore, you use the definite article EL or LA.
In this example, you are talking about THE city center, but when saying “¿Dónde hay?” it could be any place.
In our example “¿Dónde hay una farmacia?”, you are asking for any pharmacy in the neighborhood; therefore, you need an indefinite article (un or una). — If you need a reminder on the Spanish articles, check out my lesson about that topic.
2. Lifesavers if you don’t understand
Finally, someone will help you with the directions, and the first thing I suggest you to learn is:
- ¿Puede hablar más despacio? (Could you speak more slowly?)
- ¿Puede repetir, por favor? (Could you repeat that, please?)
This will help you in case they have spoken so fast that you didn’t understand the directions.
By the way, since you are talking to an unknown person, that is why we are using the third person that relates to usted puede (could you / formal) rather than tú puedes (could you / informal). Remember: addressing someone with Usted is a symbol of politeness.
Okay, now you will have to expect their answer might be as shown below…
3. Understanding the directions you are getting
- Ahhh, está muy fácil llegar ahí. (Ahh, it is really easy to get there!)
- Uff! Está un poco lejos y complicado. (Uff! It is a bit far and complicated!)
In any case, you need to know what they are saying. I know you have Google Maps, but come on, you didn’t get this far to use Google Maps! Take this opportunity to talk to the locals and use your Spanish skills!
First, let’s talk about the basic vocabulary and the chunks you will hear when receiving directions:
- Vas todo derecho (Go straight)
- Giras a la derecha (Turn right)
- Das vuelta en la calle Pinzón (Turn on Pinzon street)
- Sales a la izquierda en la glorieta (Take the left at the roundabout)
- Caminas hasta topar con pared (Walk until you reach the wall)
- Pasas por la avenida Insurgentes (Pass by Insurgentes Avenue)
4. Real life scenarios
Now that you know the basics, let’s hear some conversation examples using the following scenarios.
You just arrived at your hotel, and you would like to go to the city center.
Buenas tardes, señor, ¿podría ayudarme?
(Good afternoon, sir! Could you help me?)
Sí, con mucho gusto. ¿Cómo le ayudo?
(Gladly! How may I help you?)
¿Cómo llego al centro de la ciudad desde el hotel?
(How can I get to the city center from the hotel?
¡Ahh! ¡Muy fácil! Sale del hotel y camina todo derecho, cuatro cuadras. Después, gire a la derecha. En la esquina verá una iglesia, y ahí es el inicio del centro.
(Oh! It’s pretty easy! Leave the hotel and walk straight for 2 blocks. Then, turn right. There’s a church in the corner and that’s where the city center begins.)
¡Muchas gracias! Espero no perderme.
(Thank you! I hope I don’t get lost.)
You’re driving, and you want to get to the highway. Therefore, you stop at the street and ask a local for directions.
Disculpe, ¿puede ayudarme?
(Excuse me! Could you help me?)
(Yes, tell me!)
¿Dónde está la salida hacia la autopista?
(Where’s the exit that leads to the highway?)
Ahh… pues está un poco complicado, pero tiene que manejar todo derecho y, en la calle de Pinzón, da vuelta a la izquierda. Pase cuatro semáforos. Ahí verá usted la glorieta y tiene que salir en la tercera salida. Esa misma calle la llevará a la autopista.
(Oh! It is a bit difficult, but you have to drive straight ahead and, on Pinzon street, turn left. Pass 4 traffic lights. There you will see the roundabout and you have to take the third exit. That same street will take you to the highway.)
¡Perfecto! ¡Muchas gracias por su ayuda!
(Alright! I appreciate your help!)
OXXOS… and some more Chunks
¡Muy bien, mis amigos! Are you ready to go on a trip to Mexico? But wait, I never told you what an Oxxo was…
Remember the conversation at the beginning of this video?
- “Vas derecho, dos cuadras a la izquierda, pasas un Oxxo. (Go straight for two blocks; then turn left and pass by an Oxxo.)
- De ahí, cuatro cuadras a la derecha y pasas otro Oxxo. (Then, walk 4 blocks, turn right and pass by another Oxxo.)
- Y, finalmente, cruzas el puente y, dos Oxxos después, ahí es. (Lastly, cross the bridge, pass by two more Oxxos, and you’ll be there.)
A cultural fact is that there are a lot of convenience stores in Mexico. They’re called Oxxo and since there are plenty all around cities, it is very common to use them as a reference when we want to go somewhere.
- en frente del Oxxo (in front of the Oxxo)
- contra-esquina del Oxxo (corner against the Oxxo)
- pasando el Oxxo (Passing by the Oxxo)
Oxxos serve as a great reference due to their color. So, don’t be surprised next time you go to Mexico and you hear a local referring to them.
Mis amigos, I hope you enjoyed our lesson today and if you did, don’t forget to leave me a thumbs up! Also, don’t forget to watch our Free Spanish Training to understand more about our chunking method and how it works to make you speak fluent Spanish in a more efficient and faster way.