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5 Spanish Phrases You Need To Know Before Coming To Ecuador

Photo by Mor.

Whether you’re planning a trip, a move, or have just arrived, language is an important factor to consider.  Before coming to Ecuador, you should at least know some Spanish. Read on to discover the must know basic phrases, when you need to know more than the basics and how to make language learning easier.

Welcome to Ecuador

Ecuador is a Spanish-speaking country. Its official language is Spanish. Of course, Ecuador is also home to numerous indigenous languages. Ecuador’s 22 languages include Achuar-Shiwiar, Cha’palaachi, Cofán, Colorado (Tsachila), and Cuaiquer, as well as nine varieties of Quichua, Secoya, Shuar, Siona, Tetete, and Waorani.

Why You Need To Know Some Spanish… 

A person can get by in Ecuador, however, with a limited knowledge of Spanish. Many Ecuadorians speak English. Indeed, most locals who speak English have a wonderful grasp of the language.

Yet it is still advisable to know at least a few Spanish words. For example, an emergency situation could crop up and proper communication could be a matter of life and death.

Besides, taking time before the move to learn even some basic expressions is a sign of respect for your new home. As visitors or new residents, people must be willing to embrace this different and distinct culture.

When You Need To Know More… 

Even a limited knowledge of Spanish will help in adjusting to this major move. Anyone traveling to remote areas of the country though will need to know more Spanish. If you are volunteering at Ecuadorian Reserves, other bilingual volunteers could help with translation.

If you are planning to volunteer for an extended length of time and do not know any Spanish, it is best to take at least a week of lessons before starting the venture. You will always feel less of an outsider if you can communicate with locals in their own language.

How To Make it Easier

If one finds it difficult to remember the most useful Spanish words and phrases, there are ways to make it a little easier for yourself. Carry a cheat-sheet or small dictionary or install one as an app on your phone. An English/Spanish phrase book or similar tech application can be a valuable tool – especially during the first days in Ecuador.

You will find that locals are understanding about your language challenges. Mumbling, gesturing, hesitation – and mistakes – are all part of adjusting to a different language in a new country. Everyone is bound to make mistakes. Yet no doubt a friendly Ecuadorian can make you feel at ease and help you find the right words.

What You Need To Know Overall 


The most common greeting in Ecuador is a handshake with direct eye contact and a smile. While shaking hands, use the appropriate greeting for the time of day.

Buenos Dias! (Good Morning)  

Buenas Tardes! (Good Afternoon)  

Buenas Noches! (Good Evening)

Close acquaintances and friends may greet one another in a much more tactile manner. Men might embrace and pat each other on the shoulder (“abrazo”), and women could kiss once on the right cheek. Always let the Ecuadorian determine when to move to this level of formality.

Refer to people by the appropriate title (Senor or Senora) and their surname. Generally, only close friends and family use first names. Once someone uses your first name, it is a sign that you can refer to them in the same way.


Me llamo… (My name is…) 


Most of us know a few basic Spanish words – even if we have never traveled to a Spanish-speaking country. We pick them up in pop culture, such as from television and social media, in books and music, or through acquaintances and friends of Spanish origin.

We cannot, however, dismiss the importance of these simple phrases. They will stand you in good stead as you make your home in Ecuador. Therefore, make sure that they roll easily off your tongue.

Sí (Yes)  

No (No)  

Hola (Hello!)  

Adios (Goodbye!) 

Good Manners 

Whatever the culture, good manners are never out of style.

Por Favor (Please) 

Gracias! (Thank You!) 


Even just knowing basic phrases as outlined above can give you a tremendous advantage in communicating with people speaking a foreign language. These important phrases are the first step in establishing effective communication.

And none will serve you better than knowing how to say “Sorry” when needed for everything from bumping into someone accidentally to clearing up a misunderstanding.

Lo Siento (Sorry!) 

5 Must-Know Sentences 

  1. Getting Around 

Necesito ir a …(I need to go to …)  ¿Cuánto es elpasaje? (How much is the fare?) 

  1.  Bank 

¿Dónde está el banco? (Where is the bank?)

  1.  Restaurant 

¿Puedo ver el menú? (Can I see the menu?) 

  1.  Shopping 

¿Cuánto cuesta? (How much does it cost?) 

  1. And If Ever Needed…The All-Important Must-Know Sentence… 

Estoy perdido/a. (I’m lost.)

7 Responses

  1. I remember very little from HS Spanish and a few tourist trips to Mexico, but to me, you left out the most important sentence! Donde el bano? (or Donde la bana) – Where is the bathroom? It’s a key corollary to another important sentence – Una mas cerveza, por favor. (Another beer, please).

    1. Jeffrey Berchenko: In Spanish to ask for the bathroom is: Dónde está el baño? (NO la bana) if you say “la baña” nobody in Spanish understand. To ask for another bear is: Otra cerveza más, por favor. I think it is easier to use Google translate in the cellular phone and to show it.

  2. English speakers are confused by “Me llamo…” It means literaly “I call my self.” “Hola” is better spoken to children or friends. For people you don’t know so well just say “buenos” with a nod and smile. If close by, a light quick handshake is appropriate. If you offer your hand to someone who is working and his or her hands are dirty, they may extend the arm with the hand down. In that case touch lightly their wrist with your closed hand. When meeting someone for the first time, shake hands lightly and say “mucho gusto”. or “un gusto” (a pleasure). Women sometimes offer a kiss upon meeting greeting. But remember this is a pseudo kiss, don’t make contact with your lips. Upon meeting a woman for the first time just a handshake is appropriate too.

  3. Saying these phrases is one thing. Understanding the answers you get back is a whole other thing. I remember proudly trotting out my (very limited) Spanish the first time I set foot in an airport in Latin America: “Donde es el bano?” The lady I spoke to answered in rapid Spanish with a local accent that sounded nothing like the carefully pronounced Spanish I had listened to in my Spanish course, and bingo, I was lost. She took one look at the expression on my face and switched to English. My advice is, people appreciate you making the effort to use whatever little Spanish you have, but it’s better to start off with the disclaimer that, “Lo siento, pero, hablo muy poco espanol. Por favor, podrias hablar mas lento?” or however the correct way is to say, “I don’t speak much Spanish. Can you please speak slowly?”

  4. These are quite basic and would be needed for any Spanish speaking country- Are there any uniquely Ecuadorian phrases or vocabulary that you could share also? thanks!

  5. Hello, I’m from Ecuador – Manabí
    The phrases they should use and the way they say it is very important. Regarding the vocabulary is very different on the coast, mountains
    In the coast they speak more calm and clear in the mountain they speak more sung.
    I do not know if I understand

    Hola soy de Ecuador – Manabi
    Las frases que deben usar o la forma como la digan es muy importante. Respecto al vocabulario es muy diferente en la costa, sierra y oriente ecuatoriano.
    En la costa hablan mas pausado y claro en la sierra hablan mas cantado.
    No se si me he hecho entender.

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