I’ve traveled to over 40 countries now, and I’ve managed to stay safe, get fed, and have friendly encounters everywhere I’ve gone with only 23 words and phrases. Sometimes I learn a little more, but this set of words keeps me alive just fine.
I’ve weeded out all the stuff you don’t need, and boiled travel communication down to this essential list. You’ll want to add any food items that are essential to your life (beer, wine, coffee) and phrases specific to your situation (like “I’m a vegetarian/diabetic/can’t have gluten”).
Tip: Tuck this “pointing dictionary” in your bag. Its astounding number of simple pictures will help you ask for everything from a bathroom to a hamburger to a doctor without any language skills at all.
23 Essential Travel Phrases To Get By In Any Country
- Thank you
- Hello (some countries only have the greetings below)
- Good Morning
- Good Afternoon
- Good Evening
- One of these/those
- How much is it?
- The check (use with “please” of course)
- Water (maybe add coffee/tea/beer)
- What do you recommend?
- Do you speak English?
- I’m sorry
- Excuse me
- Is there/do you have
- Is it possible
- Finished (more useful than you’d think. Comes up as a question or statement in restaurants and stores, as in “it is gone, we are out of it.”)
Extra Credit: If you are a fast study, or you have plenty of time, add the numbers 1-10 to your flashcards, along with a few landmarks like 20, 50, and 100. But between your fingers, the calculators most shopkeepers have on hand to show you numbers, and the readout on digital cash registers, you can get by without them.
See 5 Steps to Language Learning for Travelers for more on essential communication.
Want to learn more? Udemy has tons of language courses for travelers.