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

Depending on where you’re travelling to, a language barrier could or could not be an issue.  You might find that many people speak English or it might feel like no one speaks English. Countries and major cities that get a lot of tourists are often English friendly. Once you start going to smaller towns and villages, and to countries that are less popular with tourists, you will find less and less people that speak English. But don’t let this scare you! Getting off the beaten path can be a great thing.

There are some beautiful places that are yet to be overrun with tourists. Don’t let language barriers stop you from getting out to explore the world!


Use Your Body Language  

Sometimes you can say a lot by not saying anything. If you’re at a restaurant or store and want something, you don’t need to know how to ask for it. Just point to it and the locals will understand.

Careful! Make sure you research the customs for the country you’re visiting before you travel. Certain gestures mean different things in different countries. You don’t want to offend anyone so do some research before go on your trip to determine what different gestures mean.


Bring Pictures of Where You’re Planning on Going

If there’s somewhere you want to go, and you need directions, point to a map or to a picture of the location to communicate where you are trying to get to.


Use Your Smart Phone – Maps

Another difficulty with being in a place with little to no English is being able to read signs and directions. Download maps and directions ahead of time so that you can access them offline.

If you are taking public transport, write down the number of stops till your destination. This way you can count stops and know where to get off even if you don’t understand what is being said.



Find a translation app that you can download and then use while offline. Even if the translations are not 100% correct it’s still going to be better than nothing.

You can also bring a phrasebook with you and highlight certain words and phrases that you think you will need to use a lot. If you can’t pronounce them then you can point to the highlighted word or phrase.

If you’re looking for language cards, NeatPack sells Foreign Language Travel Cards in 8 languages!

Use these translation tools for simple words and phrases to increase the chance of a better and more accurate translation.

Learn a Few Simple Phrases

Before going to a foreign country, learn a few useful and basic words. Even just knowing how to say ‘thank you’ and ‘excuse me’ can be helpful. Often people will be surprised and happy to hear you use a word in their language. This often results in people being more friendly and willing to help you out.

Alannah has a serious case of itchy feet and incurable wanderlust! Originally from Canada, Alannah went on her first international trip at the age of fifteen to Paris France. Since then, her passion for travel and adventure has continued to grow. She has currently been to over 30 countries and lived in 3. She writes a travel blog where she shares her adventures and tips for travelling solo and travelling on a budget.