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Tips for Traveling without Knowing the Language

Tips for Traveling without Knowing the Language

When traveling to a foreign destination, it is normal to worry about language barriers. How are you going to order food in restaurants or ask for directions from the locals if you don’t speak the local language? Just the thought of being stranded in a foreign city can be enough to get you thinking of canceling. But, before you do that, don’t let your thought of looking silly in front of strangers stop you from traveling the world. We have rounded a few tips to help you get around easily and comfortably even when you don’t know the local language.

Use technology

Asking for directions or holding simple conversations in a different language is no longer difficult with the advance in technology. You can find translation apps that are easy to use whenever you want anything translated. If you are traveling to Croatia, for instance, Croatian to English Translate gives you access to thousands of phrases that are common in conversations to make your conversations with the locals easy. You also don’t have to worry about traveling to an area with no internet coverage. It has an offline feature that lets you translate English to Croatian and vice versa in remote areas. In addition, Google Maps is your friend if you want to find directions to your hotel, airport, or anywhere that you want to go. Moreover, if you are traveling for business and meeting with people who speak different languages, video remote interpretation provides a viable option. You can also run to it whenever you need an interpreter.

Take business cards with you

Using a taxi is one of the easiest ways to get around a foreign city. You don’t have to keep stopping on the way to ask for directions. However, it can get frustrating if the taxi driver has a hard time understanding what you are saying. This can happen if you are traveling to a country where English is hardly spoken such as Morocco. People here rarely speak English, and the alternative language is French. If you don’t speak French, having a business card of the hotel makes it easier for the taxi driver to understand where to take you. You can also write down the addresses of the places that you are visiting and show them to the drivers. Saving it on your phone is also a good option, but keep in mind that devices sometimes fail or run out of battery when you are out there.

Make use of gestures and body language

You may not speak the local language, but body language and gestures go a long way in helping the other person understand what you are saying. You can point, nod, smile or shrug to get your message across. Some locals even make it easier for tourists and other foreigners visiting the country. In Turkey, for instance, most local restaurants have photos of the food they offer on the menu. All you have to do is point at the food that you would like to eat without uttering a word. If you can, carrying symbols such as that of a toilet, market and the like also goes a long way in helping the locals understand you.

Hire a local guide

If you have the budget for it, paying a local guide is a great way to get around a foreign country. Besides showing you the local tourist sites, they come in handy when you need to interact with the locals. If you are traveling to a country such as Mongolia, where you have to travel for a long to find attraction sites on rough roads, unpredictable weather conditions, and limited basic amenities, hiring a guide can be a worthy investment. Too often, you will require the help of the locals, and a guide can help a great deal in that aspect.

Learn a bit of the language

Simple basic words in the local language can go a long way in impressing the locals. Before traveling, try to learn words such as hello, please, thank you, yes, no, and the like. You can also learn basic phrases such as “Where is the market?” “Do you speak English?” and the like. Even in a country like Laos where most people speak English and you can get by easily, learning the local language shows the locals that you value the language, making it easy for them to warm up to you.


Your dream of exploring the world doesn’t have to stop because of the language barrier. Even when you are monolingual, you can still have the best of your travels in places where your language is not spoken. Just make use of translation technology or hire a local guide. Using gestures or carrying addresses with you also helps in getting your message across. Moreover, take a step to learn the local language before traveling. Besides impressing the locals, it is also a step closer to becoming multilingual.

Travel Advisor – Europe

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