Foreign travel often means needing to get by in a foreign language. While no one is expecting you to master the language before you go, your vacation will be made so much better by learning a few key phrases in a foreign language. You’ll find experiences more rich and interactions more authentic when you make the effort to learn the local lingo. Use this list to get you started with the essentials.


“Hello” and “Goodbye”


Greetings are the first place to start. They are important in all cultures, and knowing a few words of greeting in the native language is guaranteed to get a smile from the locals and make you feel like you’re getting a full experience.


“Please” and “Thank You”


Words of gratitude are key to respectful interactions, and people will be thankful when you attempt these simple phrases. Adding “sorry, I don’t speak (insert language here)” and “excuse me” to this list will make an even better impression and help smooth over any misunderstandings.


“I Want…”


You need to feed yourself while traveling, and that means being able to ask for what you want. Learn how to ask for what you want. You might consider adding a few key food and drink words such as water, beer, and local food names to make things easier.


“Where is the bathroom?”


As the old saying goes, “traveling expands the mind and loosens the bowels.” Traveling to foreign countries can expose us to local bugs that could potentially cause some tummy trouble. You may need to be able to find the bathroom in a hurry, so definitely learn this phrase!




No one wants to imagine having trouble while traveling, but you should always be prepared in the event of an emergency. We suggest learning how to say “help” and “I need a doctor/pharmacy/hospital” in the local language in the event you find yourself in need. Just knowing these phrases and keeping them in your language back pocket will be reassuring.


This is a very basic list but will give you a good start toward interacting with the locals. It doesn’t take much time or effort to learn basic phrases, but the positive impact this will have on your travel experience is huge. The more phrases you learn before you go, the easier it will be to get what you need. Save your energy for exploring and enjoying your vacation by learning a few key phrases in a foreign language.