Maybe St. Basil’s Cathedral beckons you.
Maybe you want to ride the Trans-Siberian Railway.
Maybe you just really like good vodka—everyone needs a hobby.
Regardless of your reason for visiting Russia, one thing remains true: You’ll need to learn some Russian travel phrases.
When you’re traveling, it’s important to speak (or try to speak) at least a little of the local language. After all, it’s necessary for clear communication and it’s an important sign of respect.
Luckily, when you’re traveling to Russia, you have a lot of options to help you gain the necessary skills. Russian translator apps are a vital tool for once you’re in Russia. They provide a quick and easy way to look up any phrases you need on the spot. Russian dictionary apps are also helpful for looking up individual words. Before you go, Russian learning apps are also a good tool to prepare yourself. Many of them feature vocabulary lists focused on travel phrases that you can study ahead of time.
Whatever your plans, the following words and phrases will get you off to a great start as you prepare for your trip to Russia!
Why Learn Russian Travel Phrases?
Some Russians don’t speak English, but you’ll still need their help. While many Russians speak at least some English, others don’t, and you’re likely to encounter some of those Russians who don’t speak English. Rather than relying on using hand gestures, knowing a few key Russian phrases can help save you time, frustration and embarrassment.
Even if someone speaks English, it’s more polite to at least attempt to speak a little Russian with them. Assuming everyone will speak English with you is asking a lot of them. Trying to speak Russian will show respect. This will also make people who do speak English that much more willing to go out of their way to speak it with you and help you out.
Learning Russian travel phrases will open new doors and opportunities for your travels. If you only know English, you’re perpetually doomed to sticking to hotels, restaurants and tourist destinations intended for international visitors because these places are more likely to have someone on staff who speaks English. However, if you have those limitations, you’ll miss out on a lot of culture. Knowing some travel phrases will allow you to hang out where locals hang out.
How to Learn Russian Travel Phrases
Target specific words and phrases that you know you’ll likely use
Think about the words and phrases you use when you travel within your home country. Chances are good that you’ll need to use those same words and phrases if you travel to Russia, as well as a few more.
What do you intend to do in Russia? What destinations do you want to visit? Do you have any special needs like dietary restrictions? Considering these things will help you see what sorts of words and phrases you might need. You can then target them for additional studying.
Create DIY vocabulary and phrase lists
Based on your target words, make a list of vocabulary and phrases. You can craft it to study at home or even format it to use on the go when you travel.
For a particularly helpful DIY travel vocabulary list, you might try organizing it in the order in which you would likely use these words or phrases. For instance, consider putting together a list for how to order at a restaurant, but put them in order of courses. That way, you can read straight through your list without having to search for the right entry.
Study the phrases before you go
There are a few ways to go about this:
- Repeat the phrases often. The more often you repeat them, the more easily you’ll be able to say them when you’re traveling. You can even run through mock conversations, saying all the necessary phrases in order. This is an important confidence builder.
- Do listening activities. For instance, Russian flashcard apps often offer spoken flashcards. The more you listen to the words and phrases, the more likely you are to be able to pronounce them yourself. With enough practice, you’ll even be able to use the phrases without having to refer back to a dictionary, translator or vocabulary list.
- Enlist a friend to engage in basic conversation practice. Even if your friend doesn’t speak Russian, it can help to have them give you English-language prompts which you can respond to in Russian. This will give you the practice you need to speak confidently and clearly.
- Print out the phrase list below. You can use it to practice at home, or use it in a pinch during your travels. Don’t know how to pronounce something? Simply point at the word or phrase.
- Use FluentU. FluentU is an easy, all-in-one solution for learning practical phrases at any level, as it takes real-world videos—like movie trailers, music videos, news and inspiring talks—and turns them into personalized language lessons. You can use the words and phrases in the list below to create a customized flashcard set with the FluentU Plus plan, or simply look for videos on topics that you find interesting or useful.
Use audio to practice the pronunciation
Since you’ll actually be saying these words to people, it’s important to focus on correct pronunciation. Here are a few tips to do that:
- Type any word or phrase into Google Translate to hear it being spoken aloud. You can type phrases in English and see and hear the Russian translation, or you can type the word in Russian for the English translation. You can play audio of any word or phrase. Plus, if you click it a second time, it will say it more slowly, which is great for nailing down tricky sounds.
- To help you out, the word/phrase headings in the phrase list below are linked to their Google Translate entries, where you can hear them being spoken and review translations and transliterations. Be sure to check them out!
- Many audio translations are also available from Forvo. These translations are provided by native speakers, and many words/phrases have multiple different audio examples. This way, you can compare and contrast how pronunciations vary between regions and/or speakers. Plus, the website offers translations spoken by both men and women. Listening to translations provided by someone of the same gender as you can make mimicking the pronunciation easier.
31 Russian Travel Phrases to Know Before You Go
Здравствуйте means “hello.” For a common word, the pronunciation may be a bit daunting for beginning speakers. However, once you’ve listened to it a few times and broken it down into shorter chunks, it’s not as difficult as it seems at first blush.
Привет is an informal “hi.”
3. Меня зовут…
This means “My name is…” Simply tack your name onto the end to introduce yourself.
This is the formal version of “What is your name?” When interacting with strangers, it’s usually best to be formal.
5. Доброе утро
6. Добрый день
7. Добрый вечер
Пожалуйста does double duty as both “please” and “you’re welcome.”
“Sorry” or “excuse me”
This can also mean “sorry” or “excuse me.”
12. До свидания
Пока is an informal “bye,” sort of like the English-language “bye bye.”
This is the formal version of “Do you speak English?”
“I speak Russian poorly.” It may sound self-deprecating, but you can use this to clarify that you don’t speak much Russian.
16. Я не понимаю.
This means “I do not understand.” This is an invaluable phrase for when you can’t quite figure out what someone means.
Где уборная? means “Where is the restroom?” while Где туалет? means “Where is the toilet?” Either phrase is appropriate.
18. Сколько за ночь?
How much per night?
This is the formal phrase for “Do you have rooms available?”
I have a reservation.
What time is checkout?
Do you have this menu in English?
This means “Please give me…” From there, you can add the name of an object or simply point if possible.
What do you recommend?
26. Есть ли у вас…?
This phrase is the formal version of “Do you have…?”
27. Я возьму это.
I will take it.
How much does this cost?
One ticket, please.
Stop here, please.
Regardless of why you’re traveling to Russia, be sure to learn these helpful travel phrases. Safe travels and enjoy your adventure!
And One More Thing…
Check out FluentU to prepare for your trip the smart way—with real-life language taught in context.
FluentU takes all kinds of real-world videos and turns them into language learning experiences, as you can see here:
Didn’t catch something? Go back and listen again. Missed a word? FluentU makes native Russian videos approachable through interactive captions. Tap or click on any word to see a definition, in-context usage examples, audio pronunciation, helpful images and more.
Access a complete interactive transcript of every video under the Dialogue tab. Easily review words and phrases with audio under Vocab.
Don’t stop there, though. Use FluentU’s quizzes to actively practice all the vocabulary in any video. Swipe left or right to see more examples of the word you’re on.
And FluentU always keeps track of vocabulary that you’re learning. It uses that vocab to give you a 100% personalized experience by recommending videos and examples.
If you liked this post, something tells me that you'll love FluentU, the best way to learn Russian with real-world videos.