Immersion is truly one of the best ways to learn a language—many would argue it’s the only way.
English has the third largest number of native speakers in the world, following Mandarin and Spanish. Though many people speak English as their native language, it is very common as a third language. Since it has become such an important language for media, international politics and business, it is estimated that it is the most widely-spoken language overall.
What does that mean for travel? It means that you, as an English-speaking traveler, have the opportunity to go to many places around the world and practice your English! But, what would you say to the English speakers you meet while traveling?
Check out these helpful travel phrases!
76 English Phrases Every Traveler Needs to Learn
Greetings (things that you say at the beginning of a conversation) seem straightforward and easy for English learners. However, they are essential to conversation. You need good greetings to be understood well while you are traveling an English-speaking country. Check out these most common ones.
Good morning. This phrase is used as a standard greeting for English speakers in the morning. It is not super formal, but speakers should definitely use it when communicating with others they do not know or people of authority (teachers, police, important people). Further, this phrase is only used until 12 p.m. (noon). If you try to use it in the afternoon, you might get a few funny looks.
Good afternoon. So, you made a mistake and tried using good morning after 12 p.m.? Good afternoon is the phrase you should use, and though the line between afternoon and evening is a little blurry, you can use this phrase until 5 p.m.
Good evening. Evening generally takes place between 5 p.m. and 10 p.m., some say evening goes right until the moment you fall asleep. In any case, this phrase is used for that period of time after dinner.
Hello / Hi / Hey. Don’t want to be confused about what time of day it is? You can use these phrases. Hello has the highest formality and should be used for people you don’t know or in formal situations. Hi is slightly less formality, but I wouldn’t use it for people in authority. Hey should only be used for friends and family.
How are you? / How is it going? This question normally comes after the greetings above, and it is used to ask someone how they are feeling. Though a speaker is asking, it’s normally bad etiquette to go into too much detail. Simply saying “good” or “not so good” as a response is generally enough.
At the Airport
When you go to an English-speaking country, your first encounters of English will probably be at an airport. Check out these phrases to make checking into your flight (letting the airline know you have arrived) a breeze!
I would like… This phrase is the standard and polite way to say that you want or you would desire something. For example, if you’re thirsty, you might say “I would like some water.”
What time is my flight? Airports are not always great for communicating travel times, but this question will help make sure you don’t miss your flight and you get to your English-speaking destination.
What airline am I flying? An airline is the company which owns the plane you’re flying on.
Where is my gate? A gate is the point of entry to the airplane, and it is the place where you will wait before boarding your flight.
Where is the restroom? A restroom is a place where you go to freshen up and use the toilet. This phrase has many variations, and countries call this room many different things: a bathroom, a washroom, the toilets.
How much does the magazine cost? Who wants to travel without some entertainment? By asking how much a particular magazine (a book-like publication with short articles) costs, you can figure out how much money you have to pay for it. You can also replace the word magazine with other words for items you might want to buy: water bottle, snack (a small meal) or book.
Check out more airport vocabulary here.
On the Airplane
So, you’ve made it through the airport, and you’re on the airplane. Check out these phrases for having a good flight.
Are meals included? A meal is a collection of food served at one time. Not all airlines provide meals, so it may be good to ask if you’ll be fed on your flight.
May I have something to eat/drink? You’re meals aren’t included? Use this phrase to get some food or a drink anyway.
May I purchase headphones? What good is the television on the plane if you don’t have any headphones (devices that you can plug in to hear the TV)? Ask the flight attendant (the person working on the airplane) if you can buy a pair.
What time is it? This is a standard question for figuring out what time of the day it is. This may be a useful question to ask when you are flying over different time zones.
After the airport and the airplane comes the most stressful experiences for travelers: customs. This is the part where you have to explain why you have arrived in a country and tell officers what your intentions are. But don’t stress! These phrases will help you out.
I have a connecting flight. If you’ve arrived in a country where you will not be staying, this is how you say you will be boarding another plane to go somewhere else.
I am traveling for leisure. If you’re traveling for fun or for vacation, use this phrase to let the officer know.
I am traveling for work. If you’re traveling on behalf of your company or you are on business, this phrase will tell the officer that.
I will be here for ___ days. In the blank, give the number of days you will be at your English-speaking destination.
I am visiting family. If you have family members at your destination, the customs officer will want to know this. Make sure you tell them the name and address of your family if they ask.
I am staying at _____. The customs officer may ask you where you will be sleeping at your destination. Have the name of your hotel ready.
Arriving at Your Destination
After the air travel comes the real fun part: your destination (the place where you are visiting). These common phrases will help you get around and explore.
Do you have a map? Using a map (a picture guide of your destination) will definitely be helpful to find things around your destination like a restaurant, attractions (tourist locations that you want to see) and even your hotel.
Where is the currency exchange? A currency exchange is a place where you take the money you use in your own country and get it changed to the money they use at your destination.
Where is the bus stop? Finding a bus stop will be especially helpful if you want to find a cheap way to get around. Asking “where is this bus going?” will also be helpful to know if you’re heading to the right place.
Where can I find a taxi? No bus? That’s fine: take a taxi. It is also called a cab in some places.
I would like to go to _____. Fill in the blank with the place you want to go, and you’ll be on your way.
Do you know where this hotel is? If you get lost, always try to find you’re way back to the hotel.
I don’t understand. This phrase will help native English speakers know that English isn’t your first language. You can also say “I don’t speak English very well” and ask them to “please speak slowly” if you’re still having trouble.
At the Hotel
Aside from your flight, the next more important thing while abroad is your accommodation, and if you’re staying in a hotel and not with friends or family, the following phrases will come in handy.
Does the room have a bathroom? As noted before, bathroom is another word for restroom (so is washroom and toilets), and it’s always good to know whether your room has a private bathroom (one that only you use) or a shared bathroom (one that people from multiple rooms use).
How many beds are in the room? This question will also be helpful to know if there are enough places to sleep for the number of people in your hotel room.
I would like one queen bed, please. A queen bed is one that allows two people to sleep comfortably on it.
I would like two double beds, please. Two people can sleep on a double bed, but sometimes, only one person sleeps in a double bed so they have extra space.
What floor am I on? A floor in this situation refers to the level of the hotel.
Where are the elevators? In the event that you’re on a high floor, you may want to use the elevator (the device that lifts and lowers you between floors of the hotel) to help you get to your room.
How do I access the Internet? Some hotels may have WiFi (wireless internet connection), and should you want to use it, you’ll have to ask how to access it. You could also ask “what is the password for the WiFi?”
Is there free breakfast? Some hotels include a small breakfast free of charge. Ask at the reception desk about this.
My room needs towels. Most of the time, housekeeping (the people who clean the room) will make sure that you have everything you need. Should they forget, ask for towels or bed sheets or toilet paper.
My room is messy, and I would like it cleaned. Should the room not be clean, don’t be afraid to ask to have it cleaned again.
How do I call for room service? Room service means that someone will come up to your room to deliver food and sometimes even alcohol.
How do I call down to the front desk? The front desk is another word for the reception desk. Most are open all day and night, and if you need something, you should call down to these people first.
Vocabulary for the airport and your hotel is fine, but you traveled to visit a new place! Check out these phrases to help you out while you’re exploring.
Where can I find a grocery store? Grocery stores are places where you can buy food if you don’t want to eat in restaurants.
Where is the hospital? A hospital may be needed if you or someone you’re traveling with gets sick or injured.
Where can I find a restaurant? Tired of making your own meals? Heading to a restaurant will be a good way to try local cuisine.
Where is the bank? If you run out of money, you may need to go by a bank to get more.
How do you get to ____? Using this phrase will help you determine how to get to the places you wanted to visit.
How far is it to _____? This phrase will help you figure out whether something is close enough to walk to or if you should take a taxi or a bus.
Directions. While asking for directions, people will use these phrases to help you get where you want to go:
- It’s to the right. This means that what you want is to the right-hand side.
- It’s to the left. This means that what you want is to the left-hand side.
- It’s straight ahead. This means that you’re heading in the right direction and you should keep going.
- It’s at the corner. A corner is a spot where two roads intersect.
- It’s two blocks ahead (or three blocks, or four…). A block is a section of road between two intersecting streets.
At a Restaurant
After a long day exploring, food is always a welcome break. Check out these helpful restaurant phrases and this post about ordering food.
A table for two/four. The number indicates how many people will be eating with you at the restaurant.
I would like to drink… Finish this phrase with the name of the drink you want, and your thirst will be quenched. Popular drinks are water, soda pop (carbonated sweet drinks), beer and wine.
May I see a menu? A menu will help you decide what you want to eat.
I would like to order ____. Fill in the blank with an item off of the menu or one of these items:
- I’ll have soup. Soup is a common way to start meals.
- I’ll have a salad. If it’s too warm for soup, try a salad.
- I’ll have a hamburger. Hamburgers are quite common restaurant foods. Make sure to let the server know what you want on it though.
- I’ll have chicken. Don’t eat beef? Try some chicken.
I’ll have an appetizer. An appetizer is a small dish you eat before the main course.
I would like dessert. A dessert is a sweet dish you eat after the main course.
May I have the bill? The bill indicates how much you have to pay after you eat the meal. Make sure to ask for this. At some restaurants, the waiters will not bring it to your table unless you ask.
Even with careful planning and these phrases, you may encounter some problems. Here are some phrases to help you out if something bad happens.
I have lost my passport. If you’ve lost your passport, you’ll need to find an embassy for your home country. Use this phrase and fill in the name of your country in the blank: where is the embassy for _____?
Someone stole my money. If someone stole your money or something else from you, you’ll need to contact the police. In the United States, you can call 911 on a phone.
Help! If something bad is happening to you, calling out this word will get people’s attention and will get you assistance.
Hopefully, you won’t need any of those phrases for emergencies. It’s better to be prepared, anyway!
Enjoy your trip!
And One More Thing…
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