When you travel abroad, how do you prepare for the best experience possible? Do you search online for the must-see places and best restaurants, read an article or two on travel safety, and call it a day? If you want to make the most of your trip, you should also learn some essential travel terms and phrases.
Knowing a handful of travel words and phrases in your destination’s native language gives you more freedom to explore. Had I traveled to Japan without taking the time to learn some basic Japanese, I would have been too intimidated to get off the beaten path.
Even in the world’s most visited cities, assuming English is enough to get by is a big travel mistake.
How to Learn Short Travel Phrases
Before every international trip, I spend 10-15 minutes a day for a week practicing the phrases below. I also spend 30 minutes or so on the plane/train reviewing these phrases so they’re fresh in my mind.
I use a mix of Google Translate, web search, and YouTube to help me learn the words and proper pronunciation. Combining Google translate with a web search for “how to say [phrase] in [language]” is critical, as Google Translate is known to give the wrong translation out of context. For example, typing in the word “bill” could return the translation for a law document instead of the restaurant tab. It’s always best to cross check words with multiple meanings.
If you don’t have Google Translate already on your phone, install it before your trip. You should also download the language’s dictionary for offline use. Then, add the phrases below to your phrasebook by translating them in the app and tapping the star button. The whole process takes about five minutes, and you can refer back to the spelling and pronunciation whenever you need!
Finally, if you’re traveling with others, don’t rely on someone else to speak the local language. If you get separated from that person, you’ll be on your own for communication.
Without further ado, here are 23 phrases to learn in any language before traveling abroad.
General Travel Terms and Phrases
- Thank You
- You’re Welcome
- Excuse Me
- Do you speak [language]?
- I don’t understand
- I need help
Tourist Words for Getting Around
- Where is…?
- Does this go to…?
- Which way to…?
- Train Station
Food and Dining Travel Phrases
Note: If you have dietary restrictions, you should also learn the words for those items as well.
- I would like…
- What do you recommend?
- The bill, please
Save me for later!
Beyond Basic Travel Phrases
If you’re like me and really love learning languages, expand your study beyond these essential travel phrases. Personally, I never visit a new country without knowing the local word for “coffee”.
Apps like Duolingo and Memrise turn language learning into a game. Both have dozens of languages to choose from and cover vocabulary, grammar, and pronunciation. Each app takes a slightly different approach to how information is presented, so I actually use both simultaneously when practicing a new language.
What travel terms and phrases do you find essential? Let me know in the comments section!