“Where’s the bathroom?” and 9 other words and phrases to know before you travel abroad

Road Scholars are experienced international travelers who have learned the value of knowing a bit of their destination’s native language—that’s why we asked them to tell us the most important words and phrases any international explorer should learn before stepping on that jet to parts unknown. What they told us is great advice for other travelers, but it also reveals the priorities and intentions curious travelers take with them, and those priorities and intentions tell us why these words and phrases are important. Here are 10 phrases to know before you go!

 

 

Managing the Necessities. 

#1 – “Where’s the bathroom?” 

Obvious, right?  This important question was mentioned so often it really should be #1 and #2 on our list. 

Ask “Wo ist die Toilette?” on our educational adventures in Germany.

#2 – “Another coffee/beer/glass of wine, please!”

At the start of a busy day of exploration, or at the end of it, knowing how to order a beverage comes in handy.  But remember… if you use this phrase sparingly, you might not need to use, ahem, phrase #1 as often, either. 

Ask for “Un altro caffé/un’altra birra/un altro bicchiere di vino, per favore” on our educational adventures in Italy. 

#3 – “What does it cost?” 

Navigating foreign currency can be a challenge, and getting clarity about what things cost is an important communication skill.  Learn this question to find out everything from the cost of a subway ticket or cathedral admission to the price of a loaf of bread … or that coffee, beer, or glass of wine.       

Find out “¿Cuanto cuesta?” on our educational adventures in Spain.

 

 

Staying Safe.

#4 –“Where is/how do I get to ...?” 

Road Scholars love spontaneous discovery during free time on their programs, but, just in case, they suggest you know the name and address of your hotel.  Better yet, mark it on your map before heading out on your own.  If you forget the question you can always point at the “x” on the map and gesticulate.      

Ask “Como eu chego ao Hotel Mundial” on our educational adventures in Portugal.

#5 – “Can you help me?”  

For the most part, people like to help visitors to their city.  Knowing how politely to ask for help goes a long way.     

Ask “Kun je me helpen” on our educational adventures in the Netherlands.

 

 

Being Civil.

#6 – “Yes.  No.  Hello.  Goodbye. Good day/morning/afternoon/evening. Please.  Thank You.” 

So much of language comes down to a few simple phrases that grease the wheels of social interaction.  (Our parents taught us to say these words for a reason!)  Before you order that coffee or beer, a smile and a simple “Hello” or “Good afternoon” is essential before getting down to business.  And — everywhere — “please” and “thank you” are the magic words. 

Say Oui.  Non. Bonjour.  Au revoir.  Bonjour/bonjour/bonne après-midi/bonsoir.  S’il vous plaît.  Merci.” on our educational adventures in France.        

 

Making Friends.

#7 – “My name is [Mary].  What is your name?”    

Learning a stranger’s name and giving them yours — establishing individual identity — is the first step toward friendship.  Perhaps it’s too much to expect that you’ll become lifelong friends with someone you meet on your travels, but you never know, and your chances of doing so are far better if you begin by introducing yourself by name.  In Japanese:   

Ask “Watashinonamaeha mearīdesu.  Onamaehanandesuka?” on our educational adventures in Japan.

  • I find the phrase, "Excuse me, I am tourist ____?" to be useful in every language.  It sounds the loveliest in French.  Something like, "Excusez moi, je suis un ancien touriste. OR je suis un tourisst perdu."

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