Your big trip to Germany is fast approaching.
But is that list of German phrases you printed out going to last throughout the vacation?
Are you worried about sounding silly or even insulting Germans as you try to speak their language?
Traveling is one of the best parts of life, but you can quickly turn a fantastic trip to Berlin into a nightmare if you get lost or say the wrong thing to the wrong person.
We’ve outlined hundred of German phrases for travel, but to avoid any catastrophes, you’ve gotta check out the ultimate list of German resources for travelers.
Why It’s Important to Learn German for Traveling
Many folks speak English throughout Europe, so what’s the point of learning German? To start, you may need to conduct business while in a German speaking country. If not official business, it’s wise to understand the language so you don’t get taken advantage of or spend too much money while traveling.
Travelers also get to enjoy trying the best local cuisines and checking out the coolest landmarks, but it becomes a little tricky if you can’t at least ask where the good stuff is located.
German is spoken as the first language in various countries throughout Europe, making it essential even if you plan on venturing out of Germany. Austria, Luxembourg and Switzerland all use forms of German as the first language. Not to mention, some people speak German in Belgium, Poland, Romania and Russia.
Guides for Practicing German Before a Trip (or Referencing During a Trip)
A trusty guide fits in your backpack or purse, and it serves as a way to reference words and phrases that don’t sound familiar to you during your travels. Physical guides work well because you generally only need one, and they provide that tangible feeling, always reminding you to brush up on vocab while in a cab or to pull it out of your pocket when ordering lunch.
Guides are most useful when they keep up with modern phrases, so I recommend the following books to communicate comfortably while traveling to German.
You can’t go wrong with Rick Steves, since the man has traveled all over Europe (numerous times), hosted his own travel show and written dozens of bestselling guides for European travel.
From ordering a bratwurst in Munich to introducing yourself to new people in the Rhine Valley, “Rick Steves’ German Phrase Book and Dictionary” outlines the most common everyday phrases to further improve your travel lingo. It also comes with phonetic spellings, currency information, rail transportation guides and a cheat sheet that you can tear out and slide in your pocket.
The idea behind the “German Survival Guide” is to give you confidence to speak with people while traveling through Germany and Austria. The book excels by talking about cultural points such as the Autobahn, grocery stores, ice cream parlors and more.
The guide shows you how to interact with people at these locations, with vocabulary and basic German instruction. Travel and study tips are scattered throughout the entire guide, making it a rather helpful book for your travels if staying in Germany or Austria for quite some time.
This is one of my favorite German phrasebooks because it has a huge section for decoding restaurant menus and ordering food properly. The 3,500-word two-way German-English dictionary is always handy for looking up the right words.
Another area to help you feel at ease while traveling is the cultural manners section, which prevents you from embarrassing other people or making them feel uncomfortable.
Lonely Planet at large has tons of German phrasebook and travel guide options available on their site. Read these ahead of time to know what to expect wherever you go. Read them during your travels and keep them in your backpack to whip out at a moment’s notice. Whenever there’s German around you, you can pick up the language.
Context and manners are extremely important when going to Germany, just like they are in every country. If you insult a person’s language, why would they talk to you in return?
The “Perfect Phrases” book details the proper words and phrases to use while traveling, while also discussing faux pas and how they can hurt your conversation.
This guide may not help you much with your pronunciation, but it’s an essential tool to bring with you while traveling in German speaking countries. The “Point It” book has 1,300 images and words, so you can point at the images when your speaking abilities fail.
For example, point to the picture of a chicken when ordering at a restaurant.
German Apps for Travelers
I love a good tangible travel and language guide, but an app serves as a viable replacement, because it’s almost always in your pocket and you don’t have to weigh down your bag with multiple books. Not to mention, the apps generally offer audio to hear how to pronounce certain words and phrases.
Here is a wonderful list of German travel reference apps.
Some of the more advanced German learning apps are best for advancing your skills before travel. Therefore, the options on this list have a strong focus on assisting you while in German-speaking countries. The Learn German Free app is designed to boost your speaking capabilities while traveling.
The visual guide has carefully categorized section like greetings, eating, romance and health. The app has over 800 common German phrases, and the German-speaking parrot pronounces everything for you.
As you’ll notice in the full app name, this gem is best for use in cities like Berlin, Munich, Frankfurt, Hamburg, Cologne and Weimar. The phrasebook is free, but you can upgrade to receive all of the phrases and words for your travels.
I like this app because it works as a quick reference. The main page shows categories like numbers, general conversation and transportation. Once you select a category and phrase, it gives you the option to hear a spoken version and slow down the audio for better understanding.
The Wie Geht‘s app provides a few lessons with audio tracks, each of them useful while moving around the world. It has a travel section, filled with options like directions, talking about languages, meeting people, weather, shopping, money and more.
Membership is required to get most of the content. The app is formatted like a class, but feel free to skip around and use the examples when you come across a moment when they are needed.
The German Travel Guide app is not going to help you much with your German learning, but it may prevent you from getting lost.
The app works online and offline, with detailed maps for navigating cities like Berlin, Munich and Hamburg. Check out weather, time and fun suggestions while moving around the cities.
FluentU is best for learning German before your travels, but I’d like to recommend one app for brushing up on your German the week before, and even for bringing with you on the plane ride there. FluentU takes real-world videos—like music videos, movie trailers, news and inspiring talks—and turns them into personalized language learning lessons.
With video levels from beginner to native, and topics ranging from arts and entertainment to health and lifestyle, there’s something for everyone. You can even download videos on the app, so that you’ll be able to continue practicing even when you don’t have WiFi or phone service (aka on your flight!).
A quick look will give you an idea of the diverse content you can find on FluentU:
Watching a fun video, but having trouble understanding it? FluentU brings native videos within reach with interactive transcripts.
You can tap on any word to look it up instantly. Every definition has examples that have been written to help you understand how the word is used. If you see an interesting word you don’t know, you can add it to a vocab list.
And FluentU isn’t just for watching videos. It’s a complete platform for learning. It’s designed to effectively teach you all the vocabulary from any video. Swipe left or right to see more examples of the word you’re on.
The best part is that FluentU keeps track of the vocabulary that you’re learning, and it recommends you examples and videos based on the words you’ve already learned. This is a level of personalization that hasn’t been done before.
Websites and Printable Sheets with German Travel Lingo
Want a free list of common phrases that you can print out and stuff in your pocket? Maybe you’re already in Germany and don’t have the time to order or find a guidebook. Use the following webpages and printable sheets for free and compact travel phrases and words.
- 134 Super Useful and Common German Travel Phrases and Words
- German for Travelers – The Basics
- Fodors German Travel Phrases
- The Essentials of German Words and Phrases for Traveling
- Germany: Important Phrases
- Words and Phrases for Traveling Around Germany
- Travel Phrase – German
- Learning German PDF
- Glob Tourism – German Phrasebook
Handheld Devices for Quick Translations
The final resource for communicating in German while traveling is the handheld translation device. These aren’t always that helpful in improving your German (therefore I recommend using other resources first), but a handheld device may just get you out of an emergency.
The Nyrius LT12 translates 12 languages, and German is one of them. The volume selection and auto-off features help with overall control, and the device speaks phrases aloud.
I like this device because it saves your favorites while traveling, and it uses a password so no one else can delete things.
The Franklin 14 uses a native German speaker to translate your phrases.
The QWERTY keys are ideal for typing fast, which is always the case when translating someone else’s words. Toggle quickly between the two languages to decide which one you want to use at that moment.
I know that not everyone wants to fork over the cash to buy a brand new handheld translator—especially considering many of them are way too expensive. Therefore, I recommend checking out this Gizmodo article to see if you have the hardware required to turn your phone into a translator.
And that’s it! With the help of a pocket guidebook, a few handy apps, some websites and even a handheld translator, you shouldn’t have any problems speaking to Germans during your travels. Keep in mind that I would always recommend going with a guidebook or app as you primary German word/phrase reference tool. Consider a handheld translator only for emergencies.
That said, have fun with it all, and really try to remember the words and phrases you look up—to strengthen your German knowledge further.
If you liked this post, something tells me that you'll love FluentU, the best way to learn German with real-world videos.