directions in spanish

Getting Directions in Spanish: Never Get Lost Again

When you start studying Spanish you surely ask yourself: “What is the most useful vocabulary for me to learn?

That is a very important issue, especially for lower-level students who are just setting out for their journey in this language. 

Picking the right content – both in terms of vocabulary and grammar – will help you build strong foundations on which to advance. 

If I were to recommend a particularly useful group of words and phrases, it would definitely be directions in Spanish.  

Among the most common reasons for people to choose Spanish as their second language is to be able to communicate when they travel abroad. 

Perhaps it is even the main reason why you are studying it.

And when we travel, either for vacations or business, we tend to do a lot of sightseeing. 

Why wouldn’t we? After all, it is a perfect opportunity to get to know new places, try local food, talk to the local people. 

Yet, when we walk around a city we don’t know very well, we often get lost. 

This is when knowing how to ask for directions in Spanish comes in handy. 

Having said that, this is what I am going to show you today:

  • basic questions to ask where something is, e.g. ¿Dónde está…? ¿Dónde queda…?
  • ways to ask how to get to a certain place, e.g. ¿Cómo llegar a…?
  • most important ways to describe the location, e.g. a la derecha, a la izquierda.
  • verbs of movement that help give directions, e.g. doblar, cruzar, caminar, bajar
  • sample dialogs you can use as a reference when you need to ask for directions. 

How to ask for directions in Spanish

Let’s start with the basics.

Imagine you’re lost in Barcelona, Madrid, Buenos Aires, Santiago de Chile, or any other Latin city. How do you ask for help?

The easiest way is to use one of the basic question words in Spanish: ¿dónde? – where?

Take a look: 

🇪🇸 ¿Dónde está la calle Miraflores?
🇬🇧 Where’s Miraflores Street?

🇪🇸 ¿Dónde queda el supermercado?
🇬🇧 Where’s the supermarket?

🇪🇸 ¿Dónde hay una farmacia?
🇬🇧 Where’s a pharmacy?

All the 3 questions above start with ¿dónde?. 

The verbs you can use are either estar or quedar, and they both translate as the verb to be

Perhaps you’ve noticed that in the last example I used the verb haber.

The difference between estar and haber, in simple terms, is that with haber you ask for ANY place of a certain kind (una farmacia), while with estar you ask about a specific place (la calle Miraflores). 

In case you need another example:

🇪🇸 ¿Dónde está el Museo Precolombino?
🇬🇧 Where is the Precolombian Museum?

but

🇪🇸 ¿Dónde hay una officina de correos?
🇬🇧 Where’s a post office?

Remember, the correct use of articles is one of the common challenges English speakers have when they study Spanish, so pay extra attention to them!

Other useful questions to ask for directions in Spanish are: 

🇪🇸 ¿Hay un banco cerca?
🇬🇧 Is there a bank close to here?

🇪🇸 ¿Cómo llegar al metro?
🇬🇧 How to get to the subway?

🇪🇸 ¿Cómo llego a la estación de trenes?
🇬🇧 How do I get to the train station?

Of course, when asking a stranger for help, don’t forget to use simple courtesy words, like:

🇪🇸 Disculpa (informal, normally used with young people)
🇬🇧 Excuse me

🇪🇸 Disculpe caballero / señora / señorita (formal)
🇬🇧 Excuse me (sir, madam, miss)

🇪🇸 Por favor
🇬🇧 Please

🇪🇸 Gracias
🇬🇧 Thank you

For example: 

🇪🇸 Disculpe, dónde está el hotel Mozart, por favor?
🇬🇧 Excuse me, where is the Mozart hotel, please?

Verbs of movement to give directions in Spanish

Now, let’s move on to the most important verbs of movement you should know to understand the directions someone is giving you.

Take a look at the examples below: 

🇪🇸 Camina derecho.
🇬🇧 Walk straight ahead.

🇪🇸 Dobla a la izquierda.
🇬🇧 Turn left.

🇪🇸 Cruza en los semáforos.
🇬🇧 Cross the street at the traffic lights.

🇪🇸 Toma la segunda calle a la derecha.
🇬🇧 Take the second right.

🇪🇸 Baja 2 cuadras.
🇬🇧 Go down (the street) for two blocks.

🇪🇸 Sube 3 cuadras.
🇬🇧 Go up (the street) for 3 blocks.

All of these verbs are used in their imperative form for the pronoun

How to change them to usted?

I’ll show you a simple trick: when the imperative finishes with an “a”, change it to “e”. And the other way around: when it finishes with an “e”, replace it with “a”. 

🇪🇸 Dobla ()
🇬🇧 Turn

🇪🇸 Doble (usted)
🇬🇧 Turn 

🇪🇸 Sube ()
🇬🇧 go up

🇪🇸 Suba (usted)
🇬🇧 go up 

The trick doesn’t work with all Spanish imperatives, but it works with the verbs in our examples. 

More complex directions in Spanish

For those of you who have been studying Spanish for quite some time, I have also prepared some more complex phrases. 

Let’s check them out:

🇪🇸 Tienes que volver un par de cuadras.
🇬🇧 You have to go back a few blocks.

🇪🇸 Maneja todo recto hasta el final de la calle.
🇬🇧 Drive straight ahead until the end of the street.

🇪🇸 Camina derecho hasta que llegues al puente.
🇬🇧 Walk straight ahead until you get to the bridge.

🇪🇸 El banco está a la izquierda, pasado el Mercado Central.
🇬🇧 The bank is to the left, past the Central Market.

🇪🇸 El restaurante mexicano queda a la derecha.
🇬🇧 The Mexican restaurant is to the right.

🇪🇸 El cajero está justo a la vuelta.
🇬🇧 The ATM is right around the corner.

🇪🇸 El hotel está entre la avenida Providencia y la calle Concepción.
🇬🇧 The hotel is between the Providencia avenue and the Concepción street.

🇪🇸 La catedral queda en la esquina de Huérfanos con Alameda.
🇬🇧 The cathedral is on the corner of Huerfanos and Alameda.

🇪🇸 La farmacia está al lado de la pizzería.
🇬🇧 The drugstore is next to the pizza place.

🇪🇸 La entrada al metro queda justo al frente.
🇬🇧 The subway entrance is right across the street.

It’s useful to know these kinds of phrases not only to be able to understand the directions someone gives us but also to help a native Spanish speaker when they get lost. 

To prepare yourself for real-life situations it is very important to listen to a variety of accents and pronunciation. You may not realize it yet, but this is one of the key differences between Latin Spanish and Spanish from Spain. 

Asking for and giving directions in Spanish – sample dialogues

Once you´ve built your vocabulary and you’ve learned the correct way of asking for directions, your “survival kit” is ready.

Here’s a selection of simple conversations between someone who is lost and a person helping them.

🇪🇸
A: Disculpe, ¿dónde está la calle Diego Martinez, por favor?
B: Camine derecho por dos cuadras y en los semáforos doble a la izquierda.
🇬🇧
A: Excuse me, where’s Diego Martinez Street, please?
B: Walk straight ahead for two blocks and turn left at the traffic lights.

🇪🇸
A: Disculpe, ¿dónde queda el Museo de Historia Natural?
B: ¿Ves ese edificio alto? Está justo allí.
🇬🇧
A: Excuse me, where’s the Natural History Museum? 
B: Can you see that tall building? It’s right there.

🇪🇸
A: Disculpe, ¿cómo llegó a la estación del metro más cercana, por favor?
B: Tiene que cruzar la calle y luego bajar unas cinco cuadras.
A: Gracias, muy amable.
🇬🇧
A: Excuse me, how do I get to the nearest subway station, please?
B: You have to cross the street and then go down for about five blocks.
A: Thanks, that’s very kind of you.

🇪🇸
A: Disculpa, ¿sabes cómo llegar al Palacio Real?
B: Creo que lo mejor es ir en metro. Tienes que bajar en la estación Los Leones.
🇬🇧
A: Excuse me, do you know how to get to the Royal Palace?
B: I think it’s best to go by subway. You have to get off at the Los Leones station. 

🇪🇸
A: ¿Qué tan lejos queda la Sagrada Familia?
B: Queda a unas 3 cuadras. Puede llegar caminando sin problema.
🇬🇧
A: How far is the Sagrada Familia church?
B: It’s about 3 blocks from here. You can easily get there on foot.

🇪🇸
A: Disculpe caballero, ¿sabe si hay un cajero automático por aquí?
B: No estoy seguro, pero creo que hay uno al lado de la farmacia que está allá.
🇬🇧
A: Excuse me, sir, do you know if there is an ATM over here?
B: I am not sure, but I think there is one next to the pharmacy over there.

🇪🇸
A: Disculpe, parece que estoy perdido. ¿Sabe dónde queda la Casa Rosada? 
B: Oh, me temo que está al otro lado de la ciudad. Te aconsejo que tomes un taxi.
🇬🇧
A: Excuse me, I think I’m lost. Do you know where the Casa Rosada is?
B: Oh, I’m afraid it is on the opposite side of the city. I suggest you take a taxi. 

See, so many possible dialogues! So many useful phrases to learn!

But… what if the person you ask for directions can’t help you?

Perhaps they don’t know where the place you’re asking about is.

Or they are tourists themselves.

What to say when you don’t know the directions?

🇪🇸 Lo siento pero no lo sé.
🇬🇧 I’m sorry, I don’t know. 

🇪🇸 Lo lamento pero no tengo idea.
🇬🇧 I’m sorry, I have no idea. 

🇪🇸 No soy de acá.
🇬🇧 I’m not from here. 

🇪🇸 Lo siento pero no conozco esta parte de la ciudad.
🇬🇧 I’m sorry, I don’t know this part of the city.

In case this happened, you’d most probably answered: Thanks anyway!

In Spanish, you’d say: !Gracias de todas formas!

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Joanna Lupa

Joanna Lupa

Polish by birth, Chilean by the turns of life. Has spent 20 years in that beautiful South American country working as a language teacher and translator. Has taught Spanish and English to students of all proficiency levels. Passionate about languages, books, and traveling. A mother of 2 trilingual teenagers.