When walking the Camino, you will be walking through and staying in towns where Spanish is spoken (of course, which Camino route you pick will determine how much time you spend in Spanish-speaking towns). If you are not a Spanish speaker, learning some helpful words and phrases will allow you to better communicate with the locals. Below, we provide vocabulary and phrases that will help you as you walk the Camino. These words and phrases fall under the following categories: related specifically to the Camino, related to ordering food, getting somewhere, lodging, and socializing.
A Note about Spanish Pronunciation
Spanish pronunciation is overall very straightforward. An “A” is pronounced like the “A” in Apple, an “E” sounds similar to the first “E” in Elephant, an “I” is pronounced like the “ee” in Need, an “O” sounds similar to Oh, and a “U” is pronounced like the “ou” in Lou. Vowels will always be pronounced in this way. One exception is that when a “GU” or a “QU” are followed by an “I” or “E”, the “U” then becomes silent. This is why in the word albergue, the “U” is not pronounced.
Consonants will be pronounced as in English. One exception is that when there is a “LL”, it sounds more like a “Y” than an “L”. Another exception is that a “C” followed by an “I” or an “E” sounds like an “S”.
General Camino Vocabulary
Some helpful words that will likely come up, and which are pretty specific to the Camino include those in the table below.
Words and Phrases Related to Ordering Food
Besides walking, eating will likely be one of your main tasks each day. You will start with breakfast (desayuno, pronounced deh-sah-YOO-noh). Along the way, you might stop for lunch (comida, pronounced coh-MEE-dah, also referred to as almuerzo, pronounced ahl-moo-EHR-zoh). You will end the day with dinner (cena, pronounced SEH-nah).
The simplest way to order something would be to point to the item you see (for example, a granola bar), and say uno, por favor (pronounced OO-noh, por-fah-VOR), which means “one, please”. You can do the same when ordering from a menu by taking the menu and pointing to the meal you would like. Menus very often include English translations of the menu items, so reading through the menu and identifying what you would like should not be a problem. But if that is not the case, to ask if they have an English menu, you say Tiene un menú en inglés? (pronounced tee-EH-neh oon meh-NOO ehn een-GLES?).
If you are vegetarian, you can say Soy vegetariano (pronounced soy ve-heh-tah-ree-AH-noh). To indicate that you do not eat something, you can say No como [insert food of choice] (pronounced no COH-moh [food of choice], which translates to “I don’t eat [food]”), and to request a meal that excludes something, you can say Sin [insert food of choice], por favor (pronounced seen [food of choice], por fah-VOR), which translates to “Without [food], please”. As a vegan or vegetarian, you might have to indicate that you do not eat certain items, or request that certain items not be included in your meal. Some of these food items are summarized in the table below.
Some additional words that might come up as you purchase food include:
*A pilgrim’s menu is a two- or three-course meal offered to pilgrims at an affordable price.
Once you have eaten your meal, you might say La cuenta, por favor (pronounced lah coo-EN-tah por fah-VOR), which means “the check, please”, or you might say Cuánto es, por favor? (pronounced coo-AHN-toh es por fah-VOR), which translates to “how much is it, please?”.
If you are getting your food at a grocery store (supermercado, pronounced soo-pehr-mehr-CAH-doh), it’s fairly straightforward, as you will bring your items to the cash register and then pay the amount on the screen. One thing some cashiers might ask you (especially in the larger cities) is whether you want your items placed in a plastic bag (bolsa, pronounced BOL-sah). Some stores will charge extra for providing a plastic bag. We had a reusable bag that we always brought with us.
When ordering and paying, numbers will come in handy. Numbers from 1-10 are in the table below.
Words and Phrases Related to Getting Somewhere
You will spend most of your day walking, and there might be times when you will need help or directions. The words and phrases below will help.
The days of the week might be useful, especially when trying to book a taxi, train, or bus. These are listed below
Words and Phrases Related to Lodging
Depending on when you arrive at your albergue, you might not need to interact much with the warden or employees there, other than to pay for your accommodations. You might arrive at a time after having had dinner, and just plan to go straight to bed. But, there will be other times when you will have questions about laundry, food, or other necessities. See below for words and phrases you might need.
When paying for your accommodations, you might have to ask “How much do I owe?” (Cuánto debo?, pronounced coo-AHN-toh DEH-boh), or “How much is it?” (Cuánto es?, pronounced coo-AHN-toh es?). For paying cash or credit card, you can use the same words and phrases used when paying for food.
Words and Phrases Related to Socializing
At some point, you might be interacting with other pilgrims when you cross paths either as you walk or at the albergues. The following words and phrases will help you navigate these social interactions.
We hope the words and phrases provided here will be helpful to you as you walk the Camino. Do not be discouraged if you do not speak Spanish - you will still be able to enjoy your time walking the Camino! Also, it is very likely that you will find other pilgrims who speak both English and Spanish and will be able to help you should you encounter any problems.