When you travel abroad, you plan everything from booking great accommodation and travel options to making lists of must-see places and best restaurants. But knowing a handful of travel phrases in your destination’s native language can make your trip far more enjoyable.
English is the third most spoken language in the world and no matter where you travel, you’ll be able to use a few common words and phrases to get by. We’ve put together a list that focuses on common English words and phrases that will give you a solid traveling vocabulary base.
These are some general phrases to learn before traveling to an English-speaking country. Politeness is important, so remember to add please and thank you when needed.
Excuse me. This is used when you want to politely get someone’s attention to ask them a question. For example, “Excuse me, can you help me, please?”
I don’t understand. If you cannot understand what the person you are talking to is saying, simply say, “I don’t understand.” This will indicate to the other person to slow down or speak more clearly so you can understand. You can also use, “I’m sorry, I do not speak English.”
Good morning. This is a standard greeting for saying hello in the mornings up until 12pm (noon). It is a polite phrase that is used when speaking to people you don’t know very well or people of authority such as police and doctors.
Good afternoon. This is the polite way of saying hello to strangers or people of authority after 12pm (noon) and up until about 5pm when the afternoon becomes the evening.
Good evening. This is used as a greeting in the same context as the previous greetings for between 5pm and 10pm. You can use this phrase as a greeting for saying hello and goodbye.
Hello/Hi!/Goodbye/Bye! Hello and hi are slightly less formal ways of saying hello. These phrases can be used with family and friends. Avoid using this when greeting people of authority. The same applies to goodbye and bye.
How are you? This question usually comes after a greeting. It is an informal way of asking how someone is feeling. If you are asked this question, the best way to answer by saying well, thank you.
At the Airport
These few English phrases might make your time at the airport more enjoyable.
I would like… This is used when politely asking for something. Remember to add please at the end. For example, “I would like to book a ticket to New York, please.”
Where is the restroom/bathroom/toilet? A restroom can also be called a bathroom, a washroom, or a toilet in different countries.
Where is the departure lounge/boarding gate/baggage claim area? The departure lounge is the place where you wait before boarding the plane, and the boarding gate is where you get onto the plane. The baggage claim area is where you pick up your bags.
On the Airplane
Here are one or two commonly used English phrases that will make your flight more enjoyable.
Are meals included? Some airlines do not serve meals, so learn this English question to find out if you will be getting food on your flight.
May I have something to eat/drink, please? If the airline does not serve any food, you can use this to ask for some refreshments.
Customs can be a stressful experience for many people. You will need to explain your reason for visiting the country, where you will be staying and what you will be doing during your stay. Here are some travel phrases you may want to learn to help you get through customs smoothly.
I have a connecting flight. This is what to say if you are not staying in the country, but are boarding another plane to continue your journey.
I am traveling for leisure/work. This explains that you are visiting the country for fun or a vacation, or for work.
I am visiting family. Tell the customs officer if you are visiting family. They might ask for the name and address of your family so have this written down somewhere.
I will be here for ___ days. The customs officer might ask you how long you plan to stay in the country.This is how to tell them how many days you will be staying.
I am staying at _____. They might ask you where you are staying, so answer with the above phrase and fill in the name of the hotel.
Asking for Information
Once you have passed through customs, you might want to find the information stand at the airport if you need help exchanging money, or finding a taxi or public transport.
Where is the currency exchange? This is a place where you can exchange money from your own country into the currency of the country you are visiting.
Where is the bus stop/taxi rank/train station? This will help you find the right transport to your hotel.
I would like to go to _____. Let the taxi or bus driver know where you want to go.
At the Hotel
When you arrive at your hotel, these few phrases are sure to help you get settled.
Hello. I’d like to check-in / out. When it’s time to leave, you could also say, “what time do I have to check out?”
What time is breakfast? It’s a good idea to know what time the hotel serves breakfast.
I’d like to order room service, please. If you missed breakfast, use this to have some delivered to your room.
If you are out and about in town, learning these local language questions could help you.
How much does this cost? How much is this? This is a quick way to determine the price of any particular item when you are shopping.
Do you know where this hotel is? If you get lost, always try to find your way back to the hotel.
At a Restaurant
There are one or two basic phrases and questions that will help you when you are eating in a restaurant.
May I see a menu, please? Asking to see the menu will give you a good idea of what the restaurant serves.
I would like _____, please. Use this phrase when you have decided what you would like to eat or drink.
May I have the bill/check, please? When you are finished and ready to pay, ask for the bill or the check.
Is the tip included? It’s a good idea to read up on how tipping works in various countries before you travel so you don’t offend anyone.
Do you take credit cards? Some restaurants may only take cash, so check if you can use a credit card with this question.
Learning and using a few important travel phrases in English should be fun and will most certainly help you enjoy your travel experience that much more. Happy traveling!