Break the Language Barrier! Phrases Every Traveler Should Know

[wp_ad_camp_1] Language Barriers are real. When traveling to a non-English speaking country, the most important things to take with you are your patience, your ability to go with the flow and a few key phrases in the country's language. There is no need to memorize all of these phrases, but writing a few of them out in your travel journal pre-trip and having them handy for when communication is necessary may save you a lot of time and frustration.


In the Taxi

This is often the first place you will get taken advantage of in a foreign country. Know where you’re going, what the going rate is and ALWAYS know how much the ride will cost BEFORE you get into the cab or make sure they are using the meter. You will likely get ripped off from the airport regardless or your preliminary work though, so don't beat yourself up. Just make sure that the ride from the airport is the most expensive one you take. Here are some handy phrases to know for cab rides:

How Much to ________?  (Name of your hotel, market or sightseeing destination)

Please use the meter.

To the airport please.

To hotel ______ please.

Can you take me to a good restaurant?

Can you take me to the town/village center?

Can you take me to the market?

Can you take me to the beach?

Let me out here please.

This is good.



At the Hotel

Customer service in most countries doesn't compare to that of the U.S. or Europe. Hospitality isn't always a top priority and you will often have to ask for what you need:

How much for one night?

Discount for many nights?

Can I see a room?

I need two beds.

I need two towels.

I need toilet paper.

What is the best place to eat?


At the Restaurant

Because waiters in most countries do not rely on tips, they can be quite surly, especially if they are constantly dealing with travelers. Go into your experience with a good attitude and be overly nice to your server. YOU are the one who will end up with the best experience this way. Try to say at least hello and thank you in their language, this effort goes a long way. And have an idea in advance of the type of food that will be available so you won't have to fumble your way through a lot of questions, which is frustrating for both you and the server:

Do you speak English?

I have an allergy to _____.

I am vegetarian.

Does this have gluten/dairy/nuts?

Do you have an English menu?

Do you have bottled water?

What is the best meal?

What is your favorite?


Break the Language Barrier! Phrases Every Traveler Should Know -


At the Market

Never make a purchase on your first day in-country. Take at least one day to shop around and get to know what is available, where and for how much. When you have a feel for the buying culture and begin your shopping, be polite with the vendors, but remember you have the upper hand and negotiating power. You can ALWAYS come back for an item. You have the most buying power when you are willing to walk away:

How much?

Too much.

Try to know your numbers 1-10 and have a feel for the language of the currency.

Best Price?

Do you have another color?

Thank you.

No Thank you.

I'll be back.


Getting Around

Locals in tourist towns are used to fielding all kinds of questions. The locals will know where everything is and be helpful if you approach them in a polite and non-annoying way. You may even make a new friend or find someone willing to show you around. If you do end up striking up a conversation, try to get them to write down their favorite restaurant or place of interest off the tourist path:

Where is the money exchange/ATM /Bank?

Where is the toilet?

Where is there good nightlife?

Where is hotel ____?

How far?

I am lost.

Where is the hospital?

Where is the bar?

Where is coffee?

Where can I get a taxi/bus/train?

Where is the airport?

Which way to the beach?


At Yoga Class

Fortunately, the word Yoga is the same or similar in most languages. If you have limitations or an injury, know how to communicate that before you begin a class in any new place:

I have an injury

Learn how to communicate your limitations or bring a note so the instructor can read and translate.



Don't underestimate the value in your effort to learn this handful of phrases, they go a very long way!




Nice to meet you.


Do you speak English?


Thank you.

No Thank you.

Excuse me.

I'm sorry.

I love your country!

Break the Language Barrier! Phrases Every Traveler Should Know -

In the Heat of the Moment

Here are some others to keep handy for those moments when you don't seem to be getting through:

What is your best price?

Stop the cab!

My room smells like something died in it.

I need a quiet room.

This tastes terrible.

I love your country.

I love your language.

Your country is beautiful.

Where is the best place to eat?

Please leave me alone.

Do you have anything for diarrhea?


Images via:, @nursagman, @www_tdance_net