How to Travel Internationally When You Don’t Speak the Language

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Knowing how to travel internationally the right way makes a big difference for your trip or vacation. It is important to try and have the main things figured out before you arrive at a foreign destination. Doing so will ensure you have the most relaxing and stress-free experience possible.

You might need to take some time to explore online the area you’ll be visiting. Book your tours and creating your itinerary a few weeks in advance can be another way to make sure you need to do as little as possible once you arrive at your destination. And of course, one of the most important aspects to keep in mind is the language barrier.

If you don’t speak the language of the country you are planning to visit, then you could face some troubles upon arrival. There is a way to get around this, however. Obviously, it is not realistic to learn an entire language before a trip, but you can prepare yourself by using a few tips listed below.

Here is everything you need to know to navigate a foreign country without knowing the language!

Research Before Leaving

You shouldn’t visit a foreign place before doing some of your own research on it first. Even the most laid-back, go-with-the-flow travelers do a little research beforehand. You should take some time to find out as much as you can about the country before you arrive. What is the culture like there? What are some restaurants you want to try or activities you want to engage in? Put together an itinerary ahead of time to make navigating the country easier for you. Write down the names of the places so you can ask about them if needed.

You should also write down a few common phrases in the language. For example, be sure you know how to say the following phrases:

  • Thank you
  • No thank you
  • Where is…
  • Where is the bathroom
  • Hello
  • How much is…

Consider writing down any medical conditions you have as well. In case of an emergency, you’ll want the doctors to know about these conditions. Keep these phrases written down on index cards and carry them with you everywhere you go.

Make Use Of Your Accommodation’s Staff 

Your hotel’s concierge or hostel receptionist can be a great resource! After all, who knows more about a place than the people who live and work there? Staff at a hotel or hostel will usually be able to speak English and are experts in hospitality and travel. If you need to know how to get to a specific place, then you can rely on the concierge to help you. They can give you directions and answer any other questions you might have as well.

If your hotel’s concierge can’t help you, then don’t hesitate to walk into a different hotel nearby and ask the concierge there for help. When you find a hotel that can help you, be sure to take a business card and keep it handy.

If you stumble across any trouble, you can contact them for more help.

Point Without Offending

Pointing to where you need to go is a good way to navigate, but pointing can be offensive in some countries. To point without offending anyone, point without using one finger.

Instead, if you need to point in a direction, you should point using your entire hand. Keep your palm flat and have your thumb out to the side to indicate which direction you’re pointing in.

Print Out Flashcards

It may also be beneficial for you to print out flashcards with pictures of popular objects on them or translations of certain words that you might need to know. As corny as it sounds, it can be very useful. After all, you definitely used flashcards in school. Why not use them in real-life applications as well?

Of course, we do live in the age of widespread technology. If you happen to have a SIM card, you could always just use your phone. When in need, you can simply pull out the picture of a certain object and show it to a native. They’ll then be able to point you in the right direction or help you find what you need.

Use Two Maps

You might feel tempted to carrying around a map of the area in your own language. This is fine to do, but be sure you have a map in the foreign country’s language as well. This is something that not many people think of, but if you are in a place like Thailand or Sri Lanka where they use different alphabets entirely, then your driver might not even be able to read the Latin alphabet. And when street names get long and tricky, the odds of you pronouncing them correctly get even more slim.

The locals will be able to help you more often and better if you show them a map in their language. You can circle on the map where you need to go and have them help you. If needed, you can always compare it to your other map in your language to help you understand it better.

Take Advantage of Google Translate

Google translate is a great tool to have when visiting a foreign country. Google translate works by allowing you to either type in what you want to say or speak it. Once you have the phrase you want to say, you can then choose the language you want it translated to.

Google will type out the translation and speak it as well. Using this tool is an easy and convenient way to communicate with the locals. One question still remains, however: can you use Google translate offline?

You might not have any service when exploring a different country. Luckily, you can use this tool without the internet, which is a wonderful feature!

Relax, Smile, and Stay Polite 

The last thing you should keep in mind is to relax, smile, and stay positive! Don’t allow yourself to become frustrated or flustered. Take a deep breath and if one person can’t help you, someone else will.

Remember that a simple smile can go a long way. A smile is a universal sign of kindness and locals will be more willing to help someone who is kind and polite to them.

Following these tips is how to travel internationally the right way! You don’t need to be fluent in the language to navigate the country.

Keep these tips in mind, and you’ll have a great experience!

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