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12 Tips for Traveling in Countries Where You Don’t Speak the Language

Although it may be easy getting around in countries where English is understood to some degree, there are many countries where English is scarce and getting around isn’t quite as easy as it may seem. Here are some tips that might help:

1. Learn 10 basic words

You may find it surprising just how much can be accomplished from knowing a few simple words. Words such as “Hello”, “Goodbye”, “Thank you”, and “Where is” “How much…?” can show locals you have made an effort, resulting in beneficial responses.

2. Smile

Yes, it’s that simple. In almost any country smiling goes a long way. (Just be sure to know which countries are not accustomed to smiling at strangers).

3. Speak with hand gestures

Hand gestures often help get the message through to others. If you feel you have offended someone, the Namaste gesture is usually seen as a sign of peace and respectfulness in most countries.

4. Carry a notepad and pen

Drawing pictures is another way to communicate with someone. You can draw what you want, and they can respond in the same way.

5. Use a translator app

There are many apps that allow you to translate text and even speech. The Google Translate App is one of them.

6. Plan your trip from the airport to your hotel

Getting off the plane is when you are the most tired and disoriented. Airports usually have English signage which can assist you with getting to the right places. You should also consider arranging a shuttle or hotel transfer service to meet you at the airport.

7. Get directions from the right people

On the street, the most likely to speak English would be a young, professionally dressed person. You could also walk into a hotel or store and ask an employee there.

8. Carry your hotel business card in the local language

By carrying this with you, you can always show someone where you want to go and they can assist you.

9. Carry a map in the local language

These maps are usually handed out at hotels. Ask the concierge to circle your destinations to make it easier to communicate when asking people for directions.

10. Ask the hotel concierge for names and addresses

Doing this will allow you to show the addresses and names to people who will understand how to get there.

11. Record your route

This is particularly useful when you can’t read street signs. Taking a photo every now and then will help you identify where you are and where you have been when trying to find your way around the same area or back to your hotel.

12. Find people who want to practice their English

If you want to find someone who will want to speak to you in English, university campuses or bookshops are a great start.


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