Hola! ¿Cómo están mis amigos?
This time around for our Learning Spanish phrases series, I wanted to tackle something that you’ll definitely need if want to make the most of your vacation south of the border.
That, being some useful phrases that will come in handy when you find yourself out and about shopping for souvenirs for everyone back home or simply just looking to pick up some things for yourself.
Trust me, shopping in Mexico is something you have to try if you want to fully experience everything our neighbors south of the border can offer.
From upscale boutiques located around the resorts to quaint little flea markets that dot the city around your accommodations, shopping in Mexico is almost in itself a little adventure because you really don’t know what you may find until you head out.
Though if you want to check out the smaller shops and markets outside of the resort, and you really should, you are definitely going to want to commit a couple of these phrases to memory. Not only will they help you find exactly what you’re looking for, they’ll also help you avoid one of the major pitfalls of being a tourist on a shopping spree in Mexico, price gouging.
Though armed with these few phrases and a new confidence to speak like a local, you’ll be able to show everyone that you’re not some tourist waiting to be taken advantage of, but instead a savvy shopper who’s done this before.
So without any further delay, let’s get started and get ready to go shopping!
Or better yet, vamos a empezar y vamos de compras!
Common Spanish Phrases for Shopping Anywhere…
Opportunities to find amazing gifts for everyone back home and more than a few awesome things for yourself are pretty much everywhere. So, if you don’t want to be the person that brings back only cheesy gifts from the resort gift shop, though still definitely grab a few of those, try learning a few of these Spanish phrases that you can use pretty much everywhere.
If you have a particular item in mind that you want to buy but are unsure of the best place to find it, you can ask either your concierge or a friendly local…
“¿Conoce un lugar donde venen... (whatever particular item you would like to look for)?”
*Pronounced- "Cone-no-say un loo-gar duh-own-day ven-en"
Which means “Do you know where they sell (that particular item)?”
This phrase is even perfect for use in larger flea markets where you might want find a particular stall or particular item without having to search up and down aisles of vendors.
Once you find exactly what you are looking for, you’re of course going to want to know how much it costs…
So simply ask “¿Cuanto cuesta?” for single items. Or “¿Cuanto cuestan?” for multiple items.
*Pronounced- "Kwon-toe quest-uh" and "Kwon-toe quest-on"
Whatever the vendors answer, be prepared to do a little bit of haggling.
This is perfectly normal and acceptable, in fact, it’s often expected as most small shopkeepers and vendors will try to get the most they can for an item. Though don’t be offended that someone is trying to make you pay more, it’s simply just how business is handled most times.
So whether you’re a tourist or local, being able to haggle well will go a long way in keeping you well under budget for your shopping excursions. So before you head out, you might want to brush up on your negotiating skills in addition to these Spanish phrases.
Engaging with local vendors...
Walking around and “window shopping” is just another part of the fun in exploring the flea markets that dot the city. Though if a shopkeeper or vendor sees you, they might try to immediately close a sale and ask you what you are looking for specifically. If you simply just are browsing and haven’t seen anything you like yet, instead of saying just “no” and perhaps blowing your cover as a savvy shopper, you can drop this phrase into the conversation in its place.
“Solo quíera mirar.” Which tells them that you’re simply just looking around and haven’t decided on making a purchase yet.
*Pronounced- "Sole-oh key-air-uh me-ah-r"
Another handy phrase you’ll want to remember when you find yourself window shopping and browsing is “¿Tú tienes algun(a) (whatever item you might be looking for)?”
*Pronounced- "Two tee-en-s (hard s) al-goon..."
Which simply means “Do you have any…?”
If you've mastered a few of the above phrases and really want to take your haggling skills to the next level, Rease from Indecisive Traveler has a few tips for haggling on her blog that could come in handy.
Gained from her experience living in Puerto Rico and gleaned from years of travel, Rease offers these tips to sound a bit more natural when engaging with local vendors...
Drop a few phrases in the conditional tense to sound a bit savvier...
This can be a bit difficult to fully grasp as a beginner but essentially it boils down to using the conditional conjugation of Spanish verbs, often accomplished by taking the verb and adding "-ias" to the end.
If a vendor has given you a price that you feel could be a bit lower you could always ask them if they would instead giveyou a more reasonable price by saying...
"¿Me darías esta(n) por (whatever price you feel would be more appropriate)?"
*Pronounced- Me dahr-ee-us es-tah(tahn) poor...
Which loosely translates to "Would you give me this (these) for..."
This is perfect for setting yourself apart from other typical travelers while showing the vendor you're an experienced shopper.
Rease also offers a bit of advice for what to do if a vendor doesn't want to offer lower prices, which is simply thank them and walk away. The sight of you leaving might convince them to agree to a better price.
If you can practice these phrases and use them well without stammering, you'll be well on your way to becoming a savvy shopper and the owner of some souvenirs worth taking back home.
Spanish Phrases for Buying Clothes…
One of the most prevalent items you’ll see beyond many of the kitschy knick-knacks sold in vendors stalls is authentic Mexican clothing.
A lot of the stalls and vendors in little flea markets will often have a wide variety of shirts, hats, dresses, and anything else you could imagine, sometimes even brand name items! So if you’re out for a bit of clothes shopping or looking to add a bit of Mexican flair to someone’s wardrobe back home, you’ll definitely want to practice a few of these phrases.
More than likely you’ll probably find something you like but maybe it won’t be the right size you’re looking for.
In those cases, you could ask the vendor “¿ Hay esta en otras tallas?” which just means if they have any other sizes available.
*Pronounced- "A es-tuh en o-try-us tie-yuhs"
Of course, it helps to tell them what size you might be looking for so…
Use “Pequeña” for small, “Mediano" for medium, and “Grande” for large.
*Pronounced- "Pee-kwen-yuh", "Me-dee-on-yo", and "Grawn-day"
Though if you are still unsure about a certain size…
You could always ask to try an item on by simply asking “¿Puedo probármelo(a)?” or, if you would like to be a bit more proper and polite, “Quesierra probarlo, por favor.”
*Pronounced- "Kay-see-air-uh pro-bar-low pour fah-vor"
Spanish Phrases for Grocery Shopping
It should come as little surprise but you’ll find Mexican supermercados are very much the same as the grocery stores we enjoy back home, though with everything being weighed in kilograms and of course being in Spanish. Though much like any large chain grocer, you’ll be sure to find a wide selection of meat, fruit, vegetables, and plenty of snacks.
And with a quick run through shopping should be a breeze, though if you are in a bit of hurry or curious as to where something may be, you could always ask an employee…
“¿Tienes (whatever particular item you want)?”
Which simply means “Do you have…?”
Say for instance you wanted to grab a bit of creamer for your morning coffee and didn’t really want to set out on an epic search to find it, just find the nearest employee and ask them…
“¿Tienes medio y medio (Half & Half) crema para café?”
*Pronounced- Tee-n-es meh-dee-oh e meh-dee-oh cr-eh-mah pah-rah cah-fey
Or better yet you could ask…
“¿Dónde está medio y medio?”
*Pronounced- Duh-own-day es-tah…
Which just means “Where is the Half & Half?”
Or say you wanted to try our amazing recipe for margaritas...
You could use the same phrase though substitute medio y medio for…
- Límones (Lee-moan-es)- Limes
- Azúcar (Ah-sue-car)- Sugar
Then simply find some tasty tequila, you’re not going to want to skimp on the best part though so get something a bit in the mid to high price range. And then find some triple sec which generally should be called triple sec even south of the border, though if you are having a bit of trouble you could ask for licor de naranjas (Lee-core day nuh-rawn-yas) instead.
After securing everything you’ll need for a killer margarita, get ready to pagar, or pay, at the register and get that blender going!
If your trip to the local supermercado requires a bigger shopping list than simply things to make awesome margaritas then simply remember a few of these common items and you’ll be all set…
- Carne (Car-neigh)- meat, usually beef
- Pollo (Poi-yo)- chicken
- Fresas (Fr-es-ahs)- strawberries
- Tomates (Toe-mah-teys)- tomatoes
- Leche (Le-ch-ay)- milk
- Pan (Pahn)- bread
- Aguacates (Ah-wah-cah-teys)- Avocados
And there you have it...
With just a few of these phrases, you can go out on a shopping spree without looking like it's your first rodeo and still enjoy some local culture while on vacation.
As with anything, learning and perfecting these Spanish phrases takes a bit of practice so don't get discouraged and simply keep trying until you sound like a natural.
If you've mastered these phrases and want to learn some more, please head over to our other Spanish Phrases post where you can learn a few handy phrases for dining in Mexico like a local.