If you don't speak any Spanish at all, don't worry, many people who work in the tourist industry in Mexico speak English. However, any effort on your part to speak Spanish will go a long way towards creating a rapport between you and the Mexicans you meet. You don't have to take an intensive course - these few phrases will communicate the most important things you need to say.
Mexicans tend to be quite formal when it comes to greetings. A simple "hola" is fine among friends, but in other situations, you should change the form you use depending on the time of day.
- Before noon: Buenos días (Good morning, Good day)
- From noon until dark: Buenas tardes (Good afternoon)
- At night: Buenas noches (Good evening, Good night)
It's always polite to thank people who are providing you with a service - and even better to say it in their language. The correct response is de nada. You should also learn learn to say please: por favor.
¿Cuanto cuesta?How much is it?
Of course, if you hope to understand the answer, you'll need to have some knowledge of the numbers in Spanish. In a restaurant, ask for la cuenta.
Perhaps the most essential one is ¿Donde está el baño? (Where is the restroom?). But knowing how to ask where things are can come in handy in many circumstances. Hopefully the person answering you will point so it won't matter if you don't understand their reply!
The best way to learn Spanish is to talk with people, and the way to begin is by introducing yourself.
There are different forms to say this depending on the situation, but this is the one which works in most situations - if you're trying to get by someone and you want them to move out of your way, if you've made a faux-pas or if you're trying to get their attention.
¿Puedo tomar una foto?May I take a photo?
Some people don't like to have their picture taken, so to avoid conflicts, it's better to ask first.
No hablo español. ¿Habla usted inglés?I don't speak Spanish. Do you speak English?
As a last resort!