What did he say? Decoding directions on the street in Chile

Travel Tips — By Bearshapedsphere (Eileen Smith) on October 25, 2010 at 9:26 pm

It happens. Despite your best intentions to follow the instructions you were given in your guide, you’ve managed to either get lost beyond simple repair, or unable to easily find what you’re looking for, even though your guide indicates it should be right there.

So you follow the handy directions in this blog post about how to ask for directions in Chile. You do an excellent job, and now the person responding to you is pointing and speaking back in good Chileno (that’s Chilean Spanish to you), and it’s your job to interpret what’s being said.

Photo from savaman on Flickr.

A good start is to memorize some of the more commonly-used direction terms so if you hear them again, you’ll be better able to figure out what the person responding to you is trying to tell you.

Numbers 1-10
  • uno
  • dos
  • tres
  • cuatro
  • cinco
  • seis
  • siete
  • ocho
  • nueve
  • diez
Distances and landmarks commonly used
  • una cuadra– one block
  • una manzana– one square block
  • la plaza– the plaza or park
  • la calle– the street
  • X metros– a certain number of meters
  • la fuente– the fountain
  • el parque– the park
  • el semáforo– the traffic light
Directional Terms
  • a la derecha– to the right
  • a mano derecha– on the right hand side
  • a la izquierda– to the left
  • a mano izquierda– to the left hand side
  • derecho– straight ahead
  • en frente– across from (or across the street)
  • al final– to the end
  • al fondo– to the back
  • adelante– ahead
Important Verbs:
  • cruzar– to cross
  • caminar– to walk
  • doblar– to turn
  • girar– to turn
  • seguir– to continue
  • cruzar– to cross
  • atravesar- to cross
Other important terms:
  • justo– just, right (as in “right beside” not as in the direction to the right nor as correct)
  • al lado de (often said, al ladito de)- beside
  • ubicar– to know where something is located, often used as “ubicas
  • cerca/cerquita– close by
  • lejos– far away
  • este lado– this side
  • el otro lado– the other side

So if  you ask “Dónde está Paris-Londres? And you’re a few blocks away, on Paseo Ahumada, you’ll likely be told “Tienes que cruzar la calle. Ubicas el hotel Gran Plaza San Francisco? Está en frente. Siga al lado derecho del hotel y ahí está.

You won’t have to understand every word, but with any luck, you’ll be able to get the gist of where to go without even pulling out a map and turning around in circles.

For the entry on how to ask for directions in Chile, click here.

Tags: Chile, directions, lost, Santiago, Spanish, understand