Top 5 Phrases To Learn Before You Travel

I’ve backpacked across 6 continents, numerous time zones, god knows how many countries and throughout it all I’ve survived as only an English speaker.

travel backpacking learn a language top 5 phrases


To a large extent I completely admit that I’m the typical English speaker – expecting people of other countries to pander to my useless language skills! I tried in vain to learn Spanish whilst living and working in Ecuador and travelling south america. I did ok but despite working as a surf coach for a Spanish School I failed miserably!

I’m now dating a Swiss girl so I’m currently trying to get to grips with German – but with a busy schedule of exploring the world it’s very much a work in slow progress! Still I’ve partnered up with the guys at Rosetta Stone to get the ball rolling!

Even still I’ve made the effort in every country I’ve backpacked to learn a few small snippets of the local lingo – it goes a long way to breaking the ice, stopping you getting ripped off and people tend to appreciate the effort. So here’s a My Top 5 Phrases To Learn before you travel a country…


  • Hello – without a doubt being able to greet someone in their native tongue is a great way to get things off to a good start. It will probably be greeted with a friendly smile – even by the most stern taxi driver – so if there’s only one thing you remember make it this!


  • How are you?  – If you’re wanting to take things a step further being able to ask someone how they are is the next stop. Even if you don’t understand the reply being able to kick start the conversation is always a good way to go. Half the time you may not even stop long enough to get a reply – but saying it in passing will help you make friends quickly.


  • Thank You – if your mother taught you any manners you’ll quickly pick this one up and again it’s just a great way to seal the deal. I’ve found after a hard bargain saying thank you like a local will get you a few freebies thrown in! And if you’re dealing with street sellers it will no doubt raise a smile, no matter how badly you pronounce it!


  • How Much – backpackers get ripped off all the time, especially if you charge in all guns blazing with a wallet stuffed full of cash. Being able to say hi and then “how much” always gets sellers on side. They’ll take you with a pinch of salt, more cautious of the fact you know what you’re doing. I don’t mean this in a bad way but it’ll certainly make getting a better deal alot easier.


  • Where is…? you’re in a new country, you have no clue where you are and you need to find your hostel. Knowing how to ask for directions will be an epic help! Even if you finish off the sentence in English at least they know you’re lost and you’re trying to find something!


Have you learnt or are you learning some new language for your travels? Any hints or tips!?


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Blogger and Photographer at Backpacker Banter
Chris is a surfer, photographer, traveller and writer from Devon in the UK and In 2009 he ditched 9-5 life and headed off to backpack the world. When he’s not in the water catching some waves he’s busy exploring with his camera or blogging over and Top 5 Travel

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