For some reason, people either love or hate this subject in Spanish.
It is just a case of learning the key verbs and words, you don’t need to understand long complex sentences. With the whole topic of asking for and understanding directions abroad, the most important thing is to be able to understand what the Spanish words mean and to be able to listen to them and interpret into English rather than learn to say them in Spanish, unless of course you are mistaken for a local and know the area really well so you can give directions.
However, the one phrase you really do need to be able to say in Spanish is to ask how to get somewhere so here are some key ways to ask how to find places:
Perdone, ¿me puede decir …? – Excuse me, can you tell me …?
¿Dónde está ….? – Where is …?
¿Para ir al / a la …? – To get to the …?
¿Cómo se va al / a la …? – How do I get to …?
¿Está lejos …? – Is … far?
¿Está cerca …? – Is the … near?
¿A qué distancia está el/la …? – How far away is the …?
Me he perdido – I’m lost
izquierda – left
[pronounced: eeth – key – air – da]
derecha – right
Sigue todo recto – carry straight on
Toma – take
e.g. Toma la primera a la derecha – Take the first on the right
Tuerza – turn
e.g. Tuerza a la izquierda – Turn left
dobla – turn
pasa por el/la … – Go past the …
cruza – cross
al lado del/de la – next to the
delante del/de la – in front of
enfrente del/de la – opposite the
detrás del / de la – behind
entre el/la – between the
los semáforos – traffic lights
la redonda – the roundabout
el cruce – the junction / crossroads
la plaza – the square
el puente – the bridge
el río – the river
la calle – the street
la carretera – main road
la autopista – motorway
la salida – exit
Hopefully if you learn the above key words you will not get lost next time you are in Spain as you now know how to ask for directions and know enough to understand their reply, even if you don’t grasp every single word.
Remember, if you don’t quite understand what they have said, you could say:
¿Puede repetir, por favor? – Can you say it again, please?
Or if they spoke very quickly and you couldn’t keep up, you could say:
¿Puede hablar más despacio, por favor? – Can you speak slower, please?
TIP: You could try asking a local for directions even if you know the place really well, just to practice!