45 Essential English Phrases Professionals Need to Know for Business Trips

So, you have an upcoming business trip to Seattle, New York, Los Angeles or London.

Let’s say you’ll be flying from Shanghai to visit your company’s main office in Seattle.

This is a very common situation, and you don’t need to worry!

Even through our 21st century technology is making online communication easy and inexpensive, traveling for business is still as popular as ever.

According to an article in The Economist, the Global Business Travel Association reports that organizations around the world spent $1.25 trillion on international business travel in 2015 alone. This figure is expected to rise even higher in 2016.

It’s no secret that business travel comes with its own set of challenges, sometimes even for a seasoned (experienced) traveler.

We’re going to help you overcome them all.

45 Essential English Travel Phrases You Need to Know for Any Business Trip

Let’s start by looking briefly at some of these challenges before we introduce a travel language guide that’s guaranteed to give you the confidence of communicating in English no matter where your business travels take you.

Dealing with time zones and cultural differences

When you first arrive at your destination, you may have to deal with (1) jetlag, which is the feeling of being tired from traveling to another (2) time zone, where the time is different from the time in your home region.

The weather, food and culture (the way things are done) may also be different from what you’re used to. The feelings of surprise and confusion you get from all these new things are sometimes called (3) culture shock. 

It’s okay if you do not like everything at the beginning of your trip. You just need to stay calm and patient. Try to understand what people are thinking and feeling, and try to think about the reasons why they have certain foods and traditions.

Getting around in a different country

Getting around in a foreign country is easy enough with (4) GPS (Global Positioning System), which shows you where you are on a map. Having a map on your smartphone, computer or other device can tell you which streets to walk or drive down to reach your destination.

Be sure to keep a great travel guide or phrasebook with you. Travel guides will tell you where to go and what to do while traveling. Phrasebooks will give you important words and phrases in the local language of the destination—in this case, in English. You can find many excellent travel guides and English phrasebooks through Lonely Planet.

The real challenge is figuring out what the most convenient (5) mode of transportation is. Modes of transportation you can take are taxis, trains, subways or buses. Which one should you take to your office or meeting? Speak to locals and to your coworkers in the foreign country and ask them for recommendations.

Communicating in English

For business travelers whose first language is not English, communicating in English can be a challenge. But English doesn’t have to be a challenge if you arm yourself with the essential (necessary) vocabulary and language structures you’ll need on your business trip.

At the Airport


Checking in

When you arrive at the airport to catch your flight, you should first go to the (6) check-in counter of the airline you’re flying with. This is where passengers place their checked bags and collect their boarding passes. A (7) boarding pass is the airline ticket that allows you to get on the plane.

(8) Checked baggage are the bags and suitcases you give to the airline to place in the cargo section of the airplane before you board. (9) Carry-ons are those bags you can carry on the plane with you.

Most airlines have a (10) baggage allowance which limits the weight of each bag. If your bags are overweight, you may be charged an (11) excess baggage fee.

You may also have heard the word luggage. Luggage is usually used in British English while baggage is used in American English. Both words are correct and can be used interchangeably.

Luggage and baggage are collective words for the suitcases and bags a traveler takes on their trip, and are therefore used only in singular form.

Seating preference

At the check-in counter, the airline staff may ask:

“What’s your (12) seating preference? Would you like an aisle or window seat?”

(13) Aisle seats are located along the aisle, or walkway between the middle sections of the airplane. (14) Window seats are located alongside the windows of the plane. (15) Middle seats are located between the aisle and window seats.

When traveling on a long flight, you might request for a seat with (16) extra legroom (extra space for your legs) so you’ll hopefully be less tired when you arrive. These are the seats located near the emergency exits (doors) of the airplane.

Boarding the plane

The (17) boarding gate is the gate where passengers go to board the airplane. There’s a (18) departure lounge (waiting room) where they can wait before it’s time to board.

Taking a connecting flight

Taking a connecting flight involves changing planes on the way to your destination. The plane you’re taking from Shanghai will stop in Tokyo where you’ll then catch your (19) connecting flight to Seattle.

This brief stop to change planes is called a (20) layover or stopover.

During check-in, you might request to check your baggage all the way from Shanghai to Seattle by saying:

(21) I would like my bags to be checked through to Seattle please.

(22) Could you please check my bags through to Seattle?

This means your bags will be sent directly to Seattle and you’ll be able to collect them there.

Taking a Taxi or Train

people travelling-business woman stopping yellow taxi

When you arrive at your destination, you’ll have to find your way from the airport or the hotel to the main office in Seattle. Oftentimes, you would have to rely (depend) on public transportation such as a taxi, train or bus to get around in the city.

Asking how to get to your destination

Naturally you may want to know ahead of time how to get to your destination. Here are some of the ways you could ask:

(23) How do I get from the Chase Bank to the main office?

(24) What’s the best way to get to the office from the Chase Bank on East Street?

You could substitute the word best with quickest, shortest, easiest or fastest.

Asking the distance to your destination

To estimate the time or distance it will take to get to your office or meeting location, you could ask:

(25) How far is it from Chase Bank to the Life Center?

(26) How long will it take to get to Chase Bank from here?

Requesting to go to a certain place

Getting from the airport or hotel to your office building or another business venue (meeting place) may involve taking a taxi, train or bus.

You could tell the taxi driver, or the ticketing staff when buying your train or bus ticket where you would like to go by saying:

(27) I’d like to go to the Plaza Tower on Lowry Road.

(28) I need to go to the Kodak Building.

(29) Could you please take me to Maynard Court?

At the Hotel


Checking in

It’s likely your company has made a hotel reservation (booking) for you ahead of your business trip. When you arrive at your hotel, all you have to do is tell the front desk staff at your hotel:

(30) I have a reservation under (your name and your company’s name).

They may ask for more information like your reservation number to complete the registration process before they give you a room number and key.

At Business Meals


Lunches and dinners play an important part in making business deals, building business relationships and celebrating partnerships.

Whether you’re attending or hosting the business meal, it’s important to know how to handle the basics of dining with your business partners.

Getting ready to order

After everyone at the table has had some time to look at the menu, the host (the person entertaining the guests and footing the bill) might check to see if they’re ready to order by asking:

(31) Shall we order now?

(32) Are we ready to order or do you need more time?

Asking for suggestions on what to order

If you’re dining at a restaurant for the first time, you might not be familiar with what to order, or what the house specialty (the dish the restaurant specializes in) is.

The best way to find out is to ask your host for suggestions on what to order:

(33) What is good here?

(34) What is the house specialty?

(35) I can’t decide what to order. What do you suggest?

Here you could substitute the word suggest with recommend.

Instead of asking a direct question, you could also say:

(36) Everything looks good. I’m not sure what to order.

Making your order

Once you have decided on your order, simply say:

(37) I’d like the Garden Salad please.

(38) I’ll have the Rice Pilaf with Grilled Salmon please.

(39) Could I have the Rack of Lamb please?

At buffet and banquet dinners (common in Asian countries), you may not have to place your individual order. Your host would likely have selected the dishes (courses) and arranged for them to be served at the buffet or banquet.

Getting ready to leave

Business travel can involve some pretty long days. After a delicious business dinner, you may signal that you’re ready to call it a day (end the day) by saying:

(40) Oh, look at the time. It’s getting late.

(41) I have an early day tomorrow.

This means you have to be up early tomorrow, possibly for more meetings.

(42) I’m feeling a little jetlagged.

Due to the time difference, you may be feeling tired and would like to get some rest.

What to say to the host/if you’re the host

At the end of a business meal, you may say this to your host:

(43) Thank you for the wonderful dinner.

If you’re the host, you could respond to being thanked for the meal by saying:

(44) It’s my pleasure.

(45) The pleasure is mine.

In normal circumstances, you would say “You’re welcome” after someone thanks you.

So there, if you pack this list of vocabulary and sentence structures on your business trip, you can be sure they’ll be useful to you anywhere you travel on business.

But before you go, here are a couple of tips to keep in mind in your business travel to other countries.

  • Speak slowly and clearly so you can be easily understood.
  • If you do not understand the other person, simply say “Could you please say that again?” or “I’m sorry, I didn’t get what you said.”

You’re all set now. Have a productive business trip.

Enter your e-mail address to get your free PDF!

We hate SPAM and promise to keep your email address safe