I Am Lactose Intolerant/Allergic To Milk And/Or Cheese. How Do I Inform Restaurant Staff Of My Allergy In Spanish?

You asked…

I am lactose intolerant. I am allergic to milk/cheese. How do I inform restaurant staff of my allergy in Spanish?

We answered…

Allergy-ridden travellers, we hear you! I have a strange sensitivity to an ingredient found in some milk products – I can drink milk without issue, but often ice cream and other creamy products containing the item I have a sensitivity to cause a reaction. It is always hard to know what will (or will not) cause a problem when travelling, so it is always best to be safe (ie. cautious) than sorry. Fortunately, if/when travellers plan to visit popular areas (ie. San Jose, La Fortuna/Arenal, Monteverde, Manuel Antonio, Tamarindo, etc.) most individuals who work in the tourism industry (including restaurants) speak at least broken English if they are not bilingual, so travellers are most often fine to get by with their native tongue. Otherwise, in more remote areas of the country (or if you are in doubt regarding whether or not the waiter/waitress correctly understood your English request), muttering the translations provided below would be recommended.

Tengo (I have) una alergia (an allergy) a la leche y el queso (to milk and cheese).
[Teng-go ooo-na al-ur-hee-ya a la lay-chay eee el kay-so]

You could also say (when ordering),

Sin (without) leche y queso (milk and cheese) por favor (please), soy alergico {if male} / alergica {if female} (I am allergic).
[Sin lay-chay eee kay-so por fa-vor, soy al-ur-hee-ka]

As a side note, whenever I order fruit drinks at restaurants I always specifically ask for them to be made with water. Some restaurants will make fruit drinks with milk (in order to provide a creamy texture, similar to a smoothie), so to err on the side of caution I always ask for drinks to be prepared with water (the end result resembles a semi-transparent fruit juice).

One last tip, order from the dessert menu cautiously. “Wet” desserts (ie. those made with milk/cream, such as arroz con leche, tres leches, flans, etc.) are more commonly served than “dry” (cake-type) desserts, so as a milk/cream-sensitive individual, I tend to avoid these whenever possible.

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