Pack These 80+ Basic French Travel Phrases for a Smooth Trip to France
Having essential French travel phrases on hand can totally transform your trip.
In this post, I’ll introduce you to more than 80 basic French phrases for travelers.
I’ll also give you some tips and cultural context so it’s easier to memorize some (or all!) of these French travel phrases ahead of time.
- How to Prepare for Traveling to France
- 80+ Common French Travel Phrases That’ll Take You Places
- Oui! Non! Basic French Words and Phrases
- Basic French Phrases to Introduce Yourself
- Questions You’ll Ask While Traveling in France
- Où est…? (Where is…?)
- Quel temps va-t-il faire aujourd’hui? (What will the weather be like today?)
- Est-ce que vous pourriez prendre ma photo, s’il vous plaît? (Could you take my photo, please?)
- Pouvez-vous m’appeler un taxi, s’il vous plaît? (Can you call me a taxi, please?)
- Pouvez-vous m’aider? (Can you help me?)
- French Travel Phrases for Gettin’ Around Town
- What Was That? Clarifying French Phrases
- Basic French Phrases for Shopping
- Phrases for Dining Out in French
- Going Hard(ish) in the Club
How to Prepare for Traveling to France
Find a French phrasebook for travelers
Before you travel, you’re going to want to arm yourself with a few essentials, and at the top of your list should be a really great French phrasebook. Although we’re going to prepare you with lots of helpful, common French travel phrases, it’s always good to be ready for any eventuality, and a phrasebook will act as a great backup.
Two of the best phrasebooks for French learners are the “Collins French Phrasebook” and the Lonely Planet French Phrasebook, both of which contain their own French dictionaries for your convenience.
To go beyond those two options, you’ll want to explore Lonely Planet to see what’s available. There are French phrasebooks for every corner of the French-speaking world, and some have additional features like accompanying audio files, travel guides or apps.
Research local customs
Wherever you go in France, you’ll find a whole host of things that make the area unique. Whether it’s local French cooking, events or linguistic differences, it pays to research the place you’re going and, if necessary, learn a few basic French phrases relating to whatever may be going on around you.
In Paris, for example, some museums and galleries are free to all on the first Sunday of the month, a deal worth taking full advantage of! If you want to check out the region to which you’re traveling, France.fr is a great place to do so.
And of course, Lonely Planet offers French phrasebooks and regional travel guides that can offer you insight into customs, culture, etiquette and holidays.
Make a list of activities
Just getting to France may seem like a dream come true, but unless you have some idea of how you want to spend your time, it can pass you by in a haze. Before you leave, try making a list of things you’d like to do. This way, you can adjust the phrases you learn accordingly and be ready to ask about certain exhibitions in the area, for example, or how to find a place to eat that serves a certain local dish you’d like to try.
Spontaneity is wonderful, but a little planning doesn’t hurt, either.
Use an immersion program
You can get used to hearing the French language before you leave your house with immersion programs. These are language learning programs based on exposing learners to real Frech content.
Using a program like this at home is a good way to get used to the sounds and natural speed of the language. It’s also a way to hear turns of phrases, filler words and slang—basically, parts of the language that are rarely taught in textbooks. Learn these, and your French will sound much more natural.
One example of an immersion program based on authentic French videos is FluentU. This program pairs native French videos with French and English subtitles with on-demand definitions, as well as other learning tools.
Click or tap any word for an instant definition, isolated pronunciation, memorable picture and grammar info. There are also flashcards and quizzes to make sure you remember all the words you’ve learned.
You can easily search videos by level and subject, so you can brush up on areas of French culture that interest you to get inspired for your trip. For example, beginners can hear how to speak with a hotel receptionist or learn when to use tu and vous, while advanced learners can get a famous French YouTuber’s take on the French train system.
Learn polite French terms of address
The French take manners very seriously, and if you’re meeting someone for the first time, or talking to a stranger, it’s important that you address them in the right way. If you’re trying to attract the attention of someone who might be able to help you, say either bonjour monsieur/madame (hello sir/madam), or excusez-moi monsieur/madame (excuse me sir/madam). Similarly, when you enter a shop, it’s always nice to greet the shopkeeper by saying hello or good morning (we’ll give you some useful phrases to do that below).
You can get a head start on polite conversation for practical, everyday matters with ed2go’s Beginning Conversational French course. This is a short online course that prepares you for communication in places like restaurants, hotels and other typical scenarios you may encounter on your travels.
There are also different terms of address in French, and depending on how well you know someone, you’ll have to address them in a certain way. For people you know, you can say tu (you) when talking to them. This can also be used for children and animals.
For strangers, figures of authority or your elders, you must use vous (you). This is a much more polite term of address, and expected when you haven’t gotten to know someone well yet.
If you’re struggling to know which one to use, always veer on the side of caution and use vous. The other person will tell you if they want you to say tu to them instead!
80+ Common French Travel Phrases That’ll Take You Places
Learning these useful French travel phrases before you go will serve as a great backup should you ever need to ask a local questions.
The ones below should help you in most tourist-based scenarios, and help to make your time in France truly memorable!
Oui! Non! Basic French Words and Phrases
Let’s start with the absolute basics.
Oui — Yes
Non — No
Bonjour — Hello (Add a monsieur — sir or madame — ma’am to be polite.)
Salut! — Hi/hey! (This is a more casual version of “hello.” You’ll hear the young folks throwing this one around.)
Au revoir — Goodbye
À plus (tard)! — See you later!
À la prochaine! — See you next time!
Bisous/Bises! — Kisses! (This is a casual way to say goodbye.)
Bonsoir — Good evening
Bonne journée! — [Have a] good day!
Bonne soirée! — [Have a] good evening!
Vous me manquez déjà! I miss you already!
Pardon — Excuse me (For example, after you bump into someone on the metro.)
Merci — Thank you
S’il vous plaît — Please
Excusez-moi monsieur/madame — Excuse me sir/madam
Parlez-vous anglais? — Do you speak English?
Comment dit-on ___ en français? — How do you say ___ in French?
Basic French Phrases to Introduce Yourself
Je m’appelle… — My name is…
Moi, c’est… — Me, I’m… (This is a more casual way of introducing yourself.)
Comment vous appelez-vous? What is your name?
Tu t’appelles comment? — What’s your name? (For when you want to keep things casual. Notice the tu form.)
Comment allez-vous? — How are you?
Ça va? En forme? — How are you? You good?
Nous sommes arrivé(e)s… — We arrived… (Use this phrase to let someone know when you got into town.)
Nous restons… — We’re staying… (Use this phrase to explain to your new potes—slang for “friends”—where you’re staying as well as how long you’re staying.)
Je vous présente… — Literally, “I present you…” (This is another way of saying “This is [my]…” when you want to introduce two people to each other.
Je suis ravi(e) de faire votre connaissance. — I am delighted to meet you. (You’ll raise some eyebrows—in approval, of course!—if you bust out this fancy French “nice to meet ya.”)
Enchanté. — Pleased to meet you.
Je parle un peu français (I speak a little French)
If you’re learning French, chances are you’ll want to practice your language skills when you go out there. However, it can be intimidating approaching a native—letting them know that you’re not fluent will really put your mind to rest!
Saying je parle un peu français will enable you to continue practicing your speaking skills, while at the same time alleviating any pressure you might feel to talk fluently. Use this phrase when you’re first starting a conversation, or want to continue talking to someone in French.
J’apprends le français depuis… (I’ve been learning French for…)
People are sure to notice your bomb accent and they’ll surely want to know how long you’ve been learning the language of love.
Je suis là pour les vacances/le travail (I’m here for vacation/work)
After you’ve made your initial introductions, it’s likely that a person with whom you’re speaking will ask about the time you’re spending in France. While many people travel to the country for vacation, this isn’t always the case, so informing the other person of your reasons for traveling can help fuel the conversation you have.
It’s likely that the other person will want to expand on the topic, so having a few words ready about your future itinerary or your job wouldn’t go amiss.
Questions You’ll Ask While Traveling in France
Où est…? (Where is…?)
Again, this is a phrase that you’ll be needing to use for a lot in France, and it pays to memorize the names of a few places, so you can get by if you’re stuck.
Here are some French phrases for travelers to build off of “où est.”
…l’hôtel? — …the hotel?
…la banque? — …the bank?
…l’aéroport? — …the airport?
…la plage? — …the beach?
Quel temps va-t-il faire aujourd’hui? (What will the weather be like today?)
Don’t forget that much of the time, the weather in France is described using the verb faire, so if the other person responds il fait beau aujourd’hui, they are saying that the weather is beautiful today.
Learning some vocabulary for different kinds of weather is a great idea before you venture out—being able to understand what sun and rain are in French will help you to listen out for all the right words.
Il fait beau aujourd’hui — It’s beautiful weather today
Il pleut — It’s raining
Il fait chaud — It’s hot
Il fait froid — It’s cold
Il fait du soleil — It’s sunny
Il fait du vent — It’s windy
Est-ce que vous pourriez prendre ma photo, s’il vous plaît? (Could you take my photo, please?)
Everyone loves a souvenir, and it’s likely that you’ll take your camera along with you to capture precious memories. In touristy zones, natives are used to being asked to take photos, but if you’re going to do it, it’s especially nice to be able to inquire in French.
In order to ask, simply say excuse-moi monsieur/madame, est-ce que vous pourriez prendre ma photo, s’il vous plaît? If there are a group of you, then replace ma photo (my photo) with notre photo (our photo).
Addressing someone by the equivalent of “sir” or “madam” in French is generally expected, so if in doubt, err on the side of being over-polite—the person taking your photo is much more likely to accept your request!
Pouvez-vous m’appeler un taxi, s’il vous plaît? (Can you call me a taxi, please?)
Getting home in France when public transport has stopped running can be a real worry, and unless you’re right next to a taxi stand, it can be very difficult to find a cab. If you’re at a venue late, ask one of the staff pouvez-vous m’appeler un taxi, s’il vous plaît?
Staff are likely to have all the information about local transport and taxis and normally will be able to supply you with one in no time at all! As usual, thank the person for their help and address them in the most polite way you can.
Learning about other forms of transport will also help you to no end, especially when you’re searching for a way to get home.
Le bus — the bus
Le train — the train
Le bateau — the boat
Le car — the coach
La voiture — the car
Pouvez-vous m’aider? (Can you help me?)
In the unlikely scenario that you get into trouble when in France, it’s really important to have armed yourself with the right words to get out of a bind. Even knowing pouvez-vous m’aider? (can you help me?) is incredibly handy.
Of course, just because you need help doesn’t mean you’re in trouble, and sometimes, you might just need directions. The above phrase can be used in those scenarios, too, and is a great way to identify people who are able to speak French and who know their way around town.
French Travel Phrases for Gettin’ Around Town
Où est le métro? (Where is the metro?)
Où sont les taxis? (Where are the taxis?)
Où est la sortie? (Where is the exit?)
C’est près d’ici? (Is it close by?)
C’est loin? (Is it far?)
Est-ce que ce bus passe par… (Does this bus pass by…)
Emmenez-moi à cette adresse, s’il vous plaît. (Take me to this address, please.)
Use this polite phrase with your taxi driver before you hand over that crumpled sticky note with François’ address on it.
Je vous doit combien? (How much do I owe you?)
After your chauffeur de taxi (taxi driver) has so graciously driven you to François’ place, you’ll have to pay up.
Puis-je avoir un plan de la ville, s’il vous plaît? (Can I have a map of the city, please?)
Use this phrase when you roll up to the office de tourisme (tourist office). You can also ask for a public transit map specifically:
Puis-je avoir un plan du métro, s’il vous plaît? (Can I have a metro map, please?)
Je cherche… (I am looking for…)
Je cherche is another handy French travel phrase, especially if you’re traveling for the first time in a French city. Unlike in English, where we say “I am looking for,” the French don’t use a preposition (“for”) after the verb, and simply follow this phrase with what they’re searching for.
…le bus — …the bus
…un taxi — …a taxi
…les toilettes — …the toilets
…l’hôpital — …the hospital
What Was That? Clarifying French Phrases
Je ne comprends pas (I don’t understand)
A necessity if you’re trying to make conversation with a native, je ne comprends pas will serve you well if you ever get stuck.
Often, French people are so pleased to find a foreigner who’s able to speak in their language that they’ll get a little carried away and enthusiastically try to start a complex conversation. While situations like these are incredible if you’re a learner, they can also be very intimidating.
Don’t worry if you don’t understand. Simply excuse yourself, say that you don’t understand and if you would like to continue the conversation, try the following French phrase:
Pouvez-vous répéter, s’il vous plaît? — Could you repeat that, please?
Parlez plus lentement, s’il vous plaît (Speak a little slower, please)
For French learners, the coveted native speed of speaking can seem unattainable, and while you can learn to understand it over time, it does take a little adjusting to. If you’re speaking to a local and would like them to speak a little more slowly, it’s better to just ask them, rather than suffering in silence.
Saying parlez plus lentement, s’il vous plaît will let your speaking partner realize they might be going a little too fast for you, but that you would still like to continue.
If you’d like them to go back over something they’ve been talking about, saying pouvez-vous répéter? once more is a great way to have them re-cover a topic that might have gone over your head.
Don’t worry about seeming rude—French people are very willing to help learners with their language skills, and will likely have no problem adjusting their speed.
Basic French Phrases for Shopping
Je suis à la recherche d’un… — I’m looking for a… (A great line for engaging the chipper shop girl, practicing your French and finding gifts for the folks back home.)
Non, je regarde pour l’instant. — No, I’m [just] looking for the moment.
C’est pour… — It’s for…
Combien ça coûte? — How much does this cost?
Puis-je commander cela sur l’Internet? — Can I order this on the internet? (Because, you know, baggage allowance.)
Je voudrais payer en liquide/espèces. — I would like to pay in cash. (Because, you know, bank fees.)
Est-ce que vous acceptez les cartes étrangères? (Do you accept foreign cards?)
Be aware that paying for items when abroad may not work in the same way as at home. If you’re in a smaller town in France especially, it’s always worth checking with hotels or shop owners if they accept foreign modes of transaction. Asking est-ce que vous acceptez les cartes étrangères? will ensure that you don’t find yourself in any sticky payment situations down the line.
If you’re traveling from the U.S., asking acceptez-vous les cartes sans puce? might be more to the point. Many North American cards don’t have chip-and-pin security, and some stores in France don’t have magnetic strip readers.
Generally, most tourist destinations will be equipped to deal with foreign credit cards, but if you’re ever not sure, it always pays to double check!
À quelle heure est-ce que cela ferme? (What time does it close?)
Across France, especially in the summer months, it’s worth checking out closing times. To ask when a shop or attraction is closing, ask à quelle heure est-ce que cela ferme? to a member of the staff. Remember, French time works a little differently and is often given on a 24-hour cycle, so if someone responds with dix-sept heures (literally, “17 hours”), they mean 5 p.m.
On the other hand, to inquire when a place will be opening, ask à quelle heure est-ce que cela ouvre? (what time does it open?). Both of these phrases are really essential when traveling, so make sure you learn them ahead of time!
Phrases for Dining Out in French
Une table pour (x), s’il vous plaît. — A table for (x), please.
Le menu, s’il vous plaît. — The menu, please.
La carte des vins, s’il vous plaît. — The wine menu, please.
Est-ce que le service est compris? — Is the tip included?
C’est trop bon! — This is so good!
J’ai bien mangé. — I ate well/I’m full.
Je suis repu(e). — This one will really impress people. This is some real français soutenu (formal French), and you’ll rarely hear a young French person say something like this.
On prends l’apéro ensemble? (Let’s have an apéritif together?)
An apéritif is a beverage one drinks before eating—typically something alcoholic like whiskey, vodka or pastis, for example.
Je voudrais… (I would like…)
Je voudrais is likely to be a phrase that you’ll need to use very frequently—when ordering food, attending new places or just trying to buy something in a shop.
While most phrasebooks will contain the names of most foods and items that you would need to order, it’s worth remembering a few so that you don’t get stuck in a sticky situation! So here are a few you may want to commit to memory.
…un café — …a coffee
…une bière — …a beer
…une baguette — …a baguette
…de l’eau — …some water
…l’addition — …the bill
À vôtre santé! (To your health!)
Say this right before you clink glasses with your new French pals. Be sure to make eye contact while doing so.
You can also say santé ! (health!) tout court (full stop). À la vôtre! (to yours!) is a good option when you’re with more than one person or having a tête-à-tête (one-on-one discussion) with a distinguished gentleperson.
You’re sure to exude a certain je ne sais quoi (I don’t know what) as well as an ease with pronouns. À la tienne! (to yours!) works for casual one-on-one scenarios. Tchin tchin ! (clink clink!) has the benefit of being pretty cute and onomatopoeic.
Going Hard(ish) in the Club
You’ve done the museums, the galleries, the restaurants, the cafés… time to party!
Ça te dit d’aller boire un verre ce soir? — Want to go get a drink tonight?
J’ai envie de faire la fête! — I want to party!
On s’installe là-bas? — Let’s sit over there?
Je voudrais une pinte de blonde/un verre de vin. — I would like a pint of light ale/glass of wine.
On va prendre la bouteille. — We’ll take the bottle.
On prend des shooters! — We’re taking shots!
Est-ce qu’il y a un after? — Is there an after party?
Je suis crevé(e), j’y vais. — I’m spent, I’m leaving.
Rentrez-bien! — Get home safely! (A good phrase to keep in your pocket when you’re leaving your party animal friends in the club.)
Je me suis vraiment bien amusé(e). — I really enjoyed myself. (Did your new French pals take you on an exhilarating tour of the coins et recoins — nooks and crannies of a charming neighborhood? Then let them know that you had fun!)
Traveling to France is a thrilling and eye-opening experience.
In order to get the most out of the trip, it’s a great idea for tourists and travelers to learn some basic French phrases and words ahead of time.
These French travel phrases will have your back throughout your trip!