travel-and-learn-spanish

Want to Travel and Learn Spanish? Here’s Your Guide to 10 Exciting Options

You know that exciting feeling of possibility that comes with a new passport?

All those blank pages ready to be filled with adventures…

Well, get ready to harness that feeling if you want to take your Spanish skills to the next level.

Traveling to a Spanish-speaking region is one of the best ways to learn Spanish. It’ll immerse you in the language and get you constantly speaking, reading and communicating in Spanish.

And since Spanish is so widely spoken, there are tons of different places you can visit from Latin America to Europe to get this experience.

In this post, we’ll give you the rundown on 10 exciting Spanish-speaking areas where you can absorb the language, learn about the local culture and participate in focused study programs through language immersion schools.

So get out your passport—it’s time to book a ticket to Spanish fluency.

How Can Traveling Help You Learn Spanish?

One of the greatest reasons to visit a Spanish-speaking country is that you’ll get to hear authentic accents while also absorbing the culture and way of life. It’s about getting totally immersed in the language and picking up new communication skills in the context of real-life situations in Spanish, every single day.

You’ll enjoy sensory experiences that help you connect your body with the words and phrases you’re learning. From tasting the food, to hearing the music, to watching the passion in people’s eyes during a soccer match, there’s plenty that you can learn about Spanish when experiencing it in a country that serves it 24/7.

Plus, you’ll pick up regional Spanish and slang that you just wouldn’t get from a textbook (we’ll give a taste of some later in this post).

Before you book your ticket, check out these useful Spanish travel phrases, as well as a guide to some things you should and shouldn’t do in an immersion program.

Want to Travel and Learn Spanish? Here’s Your Guide to 10 Exciting Options

Now to the fun part! Here are 10 regions where you can take your Spanish skills to the next level. In most sections we’ll provide a primer on local linguistic quirks or slang, and there’ll also be specific words that are particular to each region presented in bold.

1. Santiago, Chile

Santiago is one of the most beautiful parts of Latin America, combining the marvels of urban architecture and the natural world. The city is shaped like a bowl as it’s contained within a large valley that’s surrounded by mountains, giving it a picturesque appearance that’s as grand as it is refreshing.

Local Language

Spanish as spoken in Chile has unique sounds that give the language a crackling energy. The busy social scene in this South American country will give you endless opportunities to practice your speaking and energize you with a stronger command of the language.

Get Immersed

Some of the most notable tourist spots include el Barrio Bellas Artes (the Fine Arts Neighborhood), which is a cultural hotspot for those with an artistic sensibility. The calles (streets) in the area have an aura that’s bohemia (bohemian) due to its free-spirited vibe, which is perfect for those looking for an escape from everyday life.

In addition to the natural beauty there, which includes parques (parks) and árboles preciosos (beautiful trees), there are cafes if you’re looking for a kick, bares (bars) if you want a copete (alcoholic drink), restaurantes (restaurants) if you’re hungry and museos (museums) if you’re looking to explore the culture of the country. You and your friends can hacer una vaca (put money together) if you’re short on cash.

During the nighttime, you can carretear (be spontaneous—this term refers to following your impulse to go partying). But if you’re looking for a more sobering experience, you can check out the Parque Bicentenario (Bicentennial Park), where you can come up with your own activities to do al tiro (on a whim) if you’re into the outdoors. Young people often frequent this park, but it’s also a nice area for the family with eateries such as Mestizo Restaurant and two lagunas artificiales (artificial lagoons).

Travel and Learn

La Escuela Bellavista Chile is an institution that offers Spanish immersion programs in Santiago. You can stay anywhere from a week to three weeks to practice Spanish in an intensive manner while also visiting the sights. Homestays are available for a truly immersive trip.

2. Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic

The capital of the Dominican Republic is a tropical oasis that features warm playas (beaches), delicious food such as dishes with plátano (plantain), aguacate (avocado) and arroz (rice). It’s known for having an incredible record with tourists because of the people there, who are friendly and chula (cool) to be around. Santo Domingo has plenty to offer those looking for an immersive experience that’ll leave them wanting more once they leave.

Local Language

If you’re looking to stand out from other foreigners, tell the locals qué lo qué (it roughly translates to “what’s up”). If you agree with something, tell a local ta jevi (“sure thing,” or “that’s cool”).

Get Immersed

One place worth visiting is la zona colonial (the colonial zone), which is an area that has a combination of the country’s history and its modern scene. It has scenes from the 1844 independence from Haiti in which el trabucazo (a blunderboss shot) was set off to mark the country’s independence.

It also has iglesias católicas (Catholic churches) in honor of the country’s religion. The zona (zone) has romo (rum), jevitos y jevitas (preppy men and women), as well as plenty of merengue, salsa and bachata (three dancing styles popular in the country).

A famous restaurant in the country is Adrián Tropical, which has mangu (mashed plantain, often served with fried salami and onions), mofongo (another plantain dish), bacalao (a fish stew with cod), moro (rice and beans cooked together), yuca frita (a dish with a fried root) and more.

Travel and Learn

There are several immersive programs to learn Spanish in this country, one of which is through el Instituto Intercultural del Caribe.

You’ll take a placement test to see how far along you are in learning the language, and you’ll get placed in a class along with others looking to learn español while absorbing this vibrant culture. The school offers group courses, mini-groups, private lessons and more.

3. Puerto Vallarta, México

There are many places in México where you can learn the language and have a good time; we’d recommend Puerto Vallarta if you like the beach, stunning panoramas and a tolerance for people of all walks of life. Puerto Vallarta is known as la ciudad más amigable del mundo (the friendliest city in the world) due to the inclusive mentality there, which is very popular among the LGBT community.

Local Language

You may hear people say ¿qué pedo? (what fart?) and find it confusing, but the phrase really means “what’s up?” If you step into the middle of traffic, someone may yell aguas! (be careful!). Learn more about Mexican phrases here.

Get Immersed

Mahi mahi is popular in Puerto Vallarta, as well as other dishes with pescado (fish), such as huachinango sarandeado (red snapper marinated with a pepper-based paste). The Bahía de Banderas is a bay on the beach that has great hotels, clubes (clubs) and opportunities to bucear (snorkel).

You can even chacharear (hang out and chat to pass the time) or eat tacos, burritos and enchiladas by the playa (beach). There are plenty of goods that tourists and natives enjoy there, including tabaco (tobacco), frijoles (beans), maíz (corn), mango and sandía (watermelon).

You might also visit the nearby Jardín Botánico Vallarta (Vallarta Botanical Garden), which is a 20-acre botanical garden featuring the vegetales, frutas, árboles y plantas (vegetables, fruits, trees and plants) of the area. You’ll see beautiful local orquídeas (orchids) and other flores (flowers).

This area is known for its celebration of Día de Muertos (Day of the Dead), which you can experience with your compas (buddies) on November 2. It’s a holiday during which the dead are honored with floral arrangements. Es la neta (it’s awesome), as some would say in Mexico.

Travel and Learn

Spanish School Vallarta offers three-week immersion programs with three days of teaching a week. This school prioritizes learning that’s fun and engaging, and you’ll be working with native Mexican Spanish speakers. There are four levels of instruction offered.

4. The Canary Islands, Spain

The Canary Islands make up a Spanish-speaking region off the western coast of Africa. Here you’ll find beautiful weather and beaches and delicious food. With postres (desserts) such as mousse de gofio (egg- and milk-based mousse), you may find yourself añugado (when the food you ate won’t go down). There’s plenty to do in this location, which is one of the most underrated parts of Spain and Europe.

Local Language

Vale (it goes) is a phrase that people use to agree with you, or say that they’re on board with what you’re suggesting. On the opposite side of the spectrum is ¡qué va! (how goes), which means “no” with more intensity.

Get Immersed

The main place for tourists to visit is the island of Tenerife, which welcomes millions every year. There are fiestas there such as Carnaval, a 10-day party down the streets of the island including a romería, which refers to a journey toward Rome.

These are done by caballo (horse) and they include plenty of activities such as danza (dance), palo canario (a fighting sport with sticks), windsurfing and kitesurfing, boliche (bowling) and the opportunity to eat plenty of bizcocho (sweet bread) and drink garimba (beer).

You’ll also find macizos (massifs, or small groups of mountains) on Tenerife—they add a touch of natural beauty to the land. The area itself is volcánica (volcanic), which includes Cueva del Viento (Cave of the Wind), the largest lava tube in the European Union.

If you’re looking to soak in some culture, check out el Auditorio de Tenerife (the Tenerife Auditorium), which is home to jazz festivals, or la Orquesta Sinfónica de Tenerife (the Tenerife Symphony Orchestra).

Notable desserts you can enjoy here include cortado natural (coffee with natural milk), leche condensada (condensed milk) and other thick sweets that allow you to hartarte como un cochino (stuff yourself like a pig).

Travel and Learn

Canarias Cultural offers an immersive program with the option to live with a host family in the region. This school has about 50 to 60 students split into learning groups of 10. The teaching method is focused on grammar and textbooks, but with the ultimate goal of getting students prepared to communicate with native speakers in any situation.

5. Medellín, Colombia

Medellín is a lively city in Latin America that also has a gruesome past, marked by the reign of terror that drug kingpin Pablo Escobar had over the country. However, there’s much more to the Colombian city as it has beautiful parks and plazas, delicious coffee, yummy dishes and some classy nightlife locales.

You can rumbear (go out to party) with your friends, then visit a local eatery to take care of your guayabo (hangover) the next day.

Get Immersed

If you’re looking for a rumba that’ll also take you through the scenes, we recommend dando una vuelta a la manzana (going around the block) and exploring el Eslabón Prendido (the Tipsy Link) downtown where you can go salsa dancing.

There’s a fonda (a type of music) club called Dulce Jesús Mio (My Sweet Jesus), which is a parody of the rest of the bars in the area, as well as a milongas (tango bar) called el Patio del Tango (Tango Patio) serving both food and music.

You might find yourself jincho or jincha (drunk) at the end of the night, and there are plenty of eateries in the city that’ll help to balance you out including dishes such as ajiaco (a potato-based soup with white meat) and mondongo (pig tripe soup).

You can learn about Escobar with some organized tours that visit places relevant to his history. It’s a good thing to do when you’re parchando (hanging out) or want to know more about the dark cloud that surrounded Medellín for many years. You might see the apartment called Monaco where the Cali cartel detonated a car bomb to assassinate him and failed, as well as the city of Itagüí where he’s buried.

Travel and Learn

Colombia Immersion is a Spanish school that provides an immersive program, with an emphasis on participating in the local community. There are Friday night language exchanges where you can meet and speak with locals, as well as educational field trips. The school’s housing options include homestays.

6. Buenos Aires, Argentina

Buenos Aires is one of the most visited cities in the Southern hemisphere due in part to its likeness to Europe. Many call it the Paris of South America.

Local Language

You’ll be mostly familiar with the Spanish in Buenos Aires, but there are some slight variations. You’ll hear vos instead of  (you), sos instead of eres ([you] are) and you can go out with your ches instead of your amigos (friends). The Argentine version of Spanish is cutesy and easy to pick up, adding a touch of romance to your life with both the language and the sights you’ll see in the city.

Get Immersed

Don’t be a boludo (a lighthearted word for idiot) by skipping the culture that the city has to offer! There’s so much to see, including the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes (National Museum of Fine Arts), which has quite the collection of European and Argentine artists. The place is copado (it has a good vibe) and it won’t cost you a lot of guita (money). And don’t miss what the world-renowned opera house Teatro Colón (Columbus Theater) has to offer!

Perhaps the most exciting thing you can do in this city is check out Estadio Antonio Vespucio Liberti and La Bombonera, where legendary soccer teams River Plate and Boca Juniors play. The rivalry is fierce with the stadiums carrying about 67,000 and 50,000 spots respectively, featuring two great teams looking to see who’s the capo (the best). Take the bondi (bus), have a birra or tinto (beer or red wine) and enjoy a game between these juggernauts of international football—maybe even light up a pucho (cigarette).

Travel and Learn

Ecela Spanish has a great program located in the Recoleta neighborhood of Buenos Aires. This school provides lots of flexibility to students, with classes starting any time of year and running from one week to four months, depending on what you’re looking for. You’ll get the most out of the city with the school’s excursions to soccer games, tango lessons and more.

7. Caracas, Venezuela

The current political climate and social unrest makes this journey significantly riskier and more complicated right now, but I’m making this recommendation based on trips I took in less challenging times. Be sure to check your home country’s travel advisories for this country—many of which are advising against non-essential travel here at the moment—and let’s keep our fingers crossed that the situation will improve sooner rather than later.

Caracas is a city unlike any other, as it’s located in South America but is culturally very similar to the Caribbean. Some of the popular foods include sancocho (a stew with vegetables, chicken, pork, beef and roots), mondongo (pig tripe), carne a la parrilla (beef on the grill) and other food items that you can find across the Dominican Republic and other parts of the Caribbean.

Get Immersed

One of the national treasures worth visiting is the Iglesia de San Francisco (Church of Saint Francis), which is where el Libertador (the Liberator) Simón Bolívar was buried. He had plenty of guáramo (courage), leading the country away from the maldad (evil) that had overtaken it and helping to restore independence in Venezuela. Follow this visit with a trago (drink) at Juan Sebastián Bar, which has a combination of Latin Jazz, habanera rhythm and Afro-Cuban jazz.

If you’re looking to absorb the culture, go with a pana (friend) to see the Leones del Caracas (Lions of Caracas), the baseball team that plays in Caracas’ Estadio Universitario (University Stadium).

Although getting there may be a ladilla (annoyance) due to how congested it gets, you’ll want to get there somehow. Venezuela’s soccer team has improved over the years, but baseball is still number one in the nation’s capital. Caracas fans aren’t flojos (softies) as they’re passionate supporters of their team.

Empanadilla, also known as empanada, is another item worth trying here. It’s a fried flour item with either cheese or chicken inside, making for a delicious snack.

Travel and Learn

IPSA has a great program to immerse yourself in the city, while taking an intensive course in one of four levels (from beginner to upper-advanced). This school has super small classes with no more than five students. You can take anywhere from 10 hours of class to 40 on a given week.

8. Miami, Florida

Miami is one of the most visited cities in the world thanks to its sandy beaches, peppy crowds and an overall good time vibe that transcends the town. The South Beach area is the perfect location to visit if you’re looking to stay in the U.S., but still wish to speak Spanish everywhere you go. Plus, there’s plenty to do out in the town other than checking out the beaches.

Local Language

This is a great spot to pick up Spanish-English phrases such as “cógelo con take it easy,” which roughly translates to “take it with take it easy.”

Get Immersed

If you’re a yuma (a foreigner who’s white or blonde), find a local acere (friend—from Cuban Spanish) who’ll teach you the ropes and take you to American Airlines Arena. Baloncesto (basketball) is one of the sports that’s been adopted by Cubans and other Hispanics and Latinos who have migrated to the area.

As Pitbull says, don’t hesitate and dale (go with it) if someone asks you to see the Miami Heat do their thing. After the game, go to Havana Harry’s in Coral Gables and have a cubano (Cuban sandwich), which is the iconic sandwich of Miami. Make sure you try the tostones guayberos (plantain chips) as well, which come with pork and barbecue sauce.

You should also go out to a top club such as E11EVEN MIAMI, where the crowd está vola’o (it’s amazing). The downtown Miami location has tapas, camarón (shrimp), chorizo and a drink menu that includes the cuba libre (rum and coke), of course. If you end up drinking too much, you may take off your flip flops and end up with a pata sucia (dirty foot). You might face people down the street calling you pobrecito (poor man) if this happens.

Either way, your time in Miami will be tremendo (spectacular) and you’re expected to embullarte (get excited).

Travel and Learn

Ceves Spanish School is one of several Spanish immersion program in this Latin-American hub of the U.S. Courses range from a “fast-track” option to extra-immersive or private classes.

9. Montevideo, Uruguay

Uruguay is one of the most liberal parts of Latin America and the rest of the world. The general sentiment in Montevideo is national pride and an appreciation for your fellow man or woman.

The ex-president of the country was considered among the poorest presidents in the world, and this is by choice as he happily gave out most of his wealth to those in need. Life in Uruguay is pretty bárbara (great) thanks to these reasons, as long as you avoid the cana (police).

Get Immersed

Much like in Argentina, Uruguay has a storied history of soccer, including two World Cup victories. Many celebrated with fasos (cigars) in 1930 as the country won the inaugural tournament at home. El Estadio Centenario (Centennial Stadium) is the home of the first victory, and it’s perfect for you to take a güacho or güacha (boy or girl) to see the golero (goalie) and the rest of the players. You may be called a machete (cheap person) if you’re not willing to spend, but don’t fret as it’s cheap to morfar (eat) in Montevideo.

Uruguay is also known for its empanadas, including at a place called Empanadas las Cibeles, where they serve large empanadas with a variety of fillings. You can always take the ómnibus (bus) to check out the many historic theaters in town, or go out to places such as La Ronda where you can listen to old vinyl records while sitting at a table and enjoying candombe (a dance with African influences).

Travel and Learn

One of the best places to study Spanish in an immersive environment is Academia Uruguay, which will teach you plenty about the language and Uruguay’s culture and some of its history. This school also offers a volunteering opportunity that’ll get you practicing your skills while participating in the local community. Classes cater to several skill levels and are all taught entirely in Spanish.

10. San Joaquín de Flores, Costa Rica

If you’re looking for a retreat away from the hustle and bustle of city life, there’s a Costa Rica location that’s perfect for you. San Joaquín de Flores is a city in the province of Heredia, but it’s very much within driving distance of San José.

Local Language

You’ll meet plenty of ticos y ticas (men and woman) uttering the words pura vida (it means “pure life,” but it serves as a hello or goodbye greeting) while you stroll through the natural beauty of this area.

Get Immersed

This Costa Rican location has a beautiful church with a relaxed atmosphere where the climate is tropical and you’ll be able to absorb the natural beauty of volcanic mountains. Life is quite tuanis (cool) and you may even find yourself immersed in mejenga (a pick-up soccer game). If you’re looking to enjoy San José, take the bus over and check out El Steinvorth, a venue where you’ll see plenty of rocking jupas (heads). The drinks are delicious and the hipsters are aplenty in this bar.

There’s also the opportunity to snorkel or enjoy the fresh breeze of the land while lying on a hammock or tent outside. Don’t worry, there’ll be plenty of guachimán (security guards) protecting you if you’re out on the town. And also make sure you find a good group of friends to have your back if te jalas una torta (you mess up). Find some nice guaro (booze) to take with you as you return to San Joaquín de Flores and ready yourself for a treat unlike any other.

Travel and Learn

CPI is a school that has Spanish immersion programs in three locations of Costa Rica, including San Joaquín de Flores. This is an especially great option for anyone learning Spanish for professional reasons, with programs for medical Spanish, Spanish for social workers, business Spanish and more.

 

There’s something unique about each of these areas, but the only way to truly learn about them is to get up and go! Happy travels!

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