My guide to Spanish for Peru and Bolivia

Being fluent in Spanish is essential for travel to these countries … Just joking. I had the lonely planet phrase book but didn’t use it. Here’s a few essentials.

The most important one is “toilet”. Banos (pronounced ban-yos) for Peru and bano (ban-yo) for Bolivia. Don’t expect them to be clean but if you have to pay (1 boliviano in Bolivia) then chances are they will be.

Hello, think Dora the Explorer – Hola. Next you need good morning, good afternoon and good evening. Buonos dias, buonos tardes and buonos noches in that order. Peruvians and Bolivians are very polite. They greet you with these phrases all the time.

Now to thank you. Easy. Gracias. Muchos gracias for thank you very much.

Numbers. Un, dos. One and two. Of course fingers help and if you’re exchanging currency forget it. Just get out your phone, pull up the calculator and put the number on the screen.

You can’t drink the tap water in either country so get used to asking for agua. Agua caliente is warm water and also the name of the town at the foot of Machu Picchu!

Coffee. Maybe this should be higher up the list. I drink mine white so it’s cafe con leche, coffee with milk.

Eating. This is a bit harder. It’s hit and miss if your waiter doesn’t speak English. But pollo (po-yo) is chicken, carne is meat, alpaca is alpaca (and yummy), cuy is guinea pig. I tried a lot of local cuisine including alpaca carpaccio (raw alpaca). I’m still alive, although I wouldn’t suggest you try the fermented barley water …

A few extras …

Manyana (sp) is tomorrow. I know that one from the ABBA song
Com es ta? How are you?
Bien. Good
Por favore. Please

And that’s about it. I found that most Peruvians and Bolivians in the tourist areas could speak sufficient English for me to get by. In fact, if I started out by saying buonos dias the listener often responded in fluent Spanish (thinking I could understand) and I was quickly declaring I don’t speak Spanish! This is an important tip if it really matters, for example at the airport. Being directed on to the tarmac to catch a flight to Rurrenabaque is not something you want to get wrong!

A few things that aren’t what they seem
Salida is not a salad. It means exit.
Nombre is not number. It means name. I’m telling the taxi driver I don’t have one, thinking he means my mobile number!

Now we are fluent in Spanish for Peru and Bolivia we can do this adventure!

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