You don’t need to be a fluent Spanish speaker to visit Peru, but of course it is always a good idea to know a bit of the local language. A lot of people in Peru speak both Spanish and English, especially in touristic areas. At restaurants, you can speak either language and most likely be understood. If going on tours or treks around Peru, some guides may speak only Spanish. Check out tours with our experienced guides who are perfectly bilingual, and can speak to you in English but also understand the local cultural and lingual context.
Peruvians are very polite, and will always be sure to wish you a good day. It is customary to both greet and leave a friend or acquaintance by touching your right cheek with their left, and making a kissing sound.
Mucho gusto = Nice to meet you (can be said when or after your meet someone new)
Buenos días = Good morning
Buenas tardes = Good afternoon
Buenas noches = Good evening/ night
¿Qué tal? / ¿Cómo estás? = How’s it going? / how are you?
Muy bien, gracias = Very well, thank you
¿Y usted? = And you? (formal)
¿Y tú? = And you? (informal)
¡Chao! = Bye! (Common in Latin America)
¡Adiós! = Bye!
¡Nos vemos! = See you!
¡Hasta luego! = See you later!
¡Hasta mañana! = See you tomorrow / until tomorrow!
Gracias, muy amable = Thank you very kindly
Most restaurants have menus in both Spanish and English and will ask you which you’d prefer. If you want to be extra adventurous and order in Spanish, know these words and phrases!
¿Puedo tener? = Can I have
Para mí = For me
¿Algo para tomar? = Something to drink? To drink?
Sin = without
Con = with
En lugar de = instead of
¡Qué rico! = So delicious!
Phrases and words popular in Peru
If you want to really up your game, you can look into learning Peruvian slang/jargon. There are tons of words and phrases that are only popular in South America, the Andes, and Peru. A lot of everyday Spanish in the Andes of Peru comes from Quechua, which everybody seems to know a little bit of.
Chévere = great, awesome, fantastic, cool
Listo = Ok / alright
Chamba = work
Porfa/ Porfi / Porfis = shortened, informal way of saying please (por favor), can mean like pretty please
Al toque = right away
¡Apurarte! = hurry up!
Chupar = to drink
Chela = beer
Trago = drink
Un par de chelas = a couple of beers (usually more than a couple)
Flaco = boyfriend
Gorda = girlfriend
¡Miércoles! = shit! (literally Wednesday, sometimes used to say shit!)
Casero/a = if you frequent a restaurant and they know you, they may call you casero, and you can call them this as well
Mami/mama = usually used by women to other women, a term of respect and endearment
Mamacita = more like sexy, literally little woman. Usually less romantic
Bróder/pata/wayki = different ways to say bro/friend/amigo. Usually used by men. Bróder comes from the English word brother, pata is like pal, and wayki is Quechua.
Still looking to impress and connect with your Spanish ability? Practice before your trip using online tools like Duolingo and Fluencia. Google translate and SpanishDict are two great apps for translation help that can also work without data/WiFi for those desperate situations. You can also check out the many Spanish schools in Peru to explore options for classes.