8 phrases you should always learn in different languages, according to Travel Directors

by | 21 Feb 2023

Travel teaches us so much. New foods, new cultures, new sights and new languages. To mark International Language Day, we asked our expert Travel Directors Philip, Meagan and Lola some phrases you should learn before your travel. Masters of language and experts at traveling regularly with guests across borders, they know how to help you get the most out of your trip.


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Simple and basic, learning these words goes a long way. “To be able to go into a shop and say hello and good morning makes a real impact,” says Philip. Fluent in English, Italian and French he enjoys helping guests out with basic phrases to learn and important words.

“Even if you can’t manage much, a ‘bonjour’ in France or an ‘ahoj’ in Czech will go a long way. Guests feel a sense of achievement and locals feel respected.

“In some languages there are formal and informal versions of greetings. For example, in Italy you would say ‘buongiorno’ for good morning or good afternoon, and ‘arrivederci’ for goodbye in the more formal sense, but you would use ‘ciao’ for both with family and friends. I find the Italians and Spanish very forgiving with language, the fact that you tried is very much appreciated.”

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A useful building block for language, the phrase ‘I would like’ can get you a myriad of thing.

“This is one of the most useful phrases you should learn. I teach guests how to order a cup of coffee or bottle of wine for example,” says Philip. “I find it very useful in Spain when we are in the more remote areas. Here many people don’t speak any English and the guests are delighted when they can order a ‘boccadillo de queso’ (cheese sandwich) or a ‘café con leche’ (white coffee).

“Being able to communicate is a great achievement. It also makes a big impact on the places we visit. Just making the effort with these phrases to learn for travel really makes the locals happy.”

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As well as directly translatable phrases, many languages use filling words, the equivalents of ‘well’, ‘so’ and ‘then’, which you will hear extensively.

“My travels in Italy particularly stand out for me with regards to ‘filling words’ as guests are curious about them,” says Meagan. “The local experts are excellent here and tend to have quite strong accents and very Italian idiosyncrasies. So even when speaking English, they would be using these Italian words.

“For example, in Italian they use ‘allora’, and in French ‘alors’ to mean ‘well, so, then’. Regularly dropped into sentences, guests are often curious as to what they mean. So, I talk about these words and their usage as we enter different countries to get them prepared.”

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Something a Travel Director is often saying, and a tour group is often hearing is the local phrase for ‘let’s go’.

“This is definitely one of the phrases you should learn,” Meagan says. “In Spain guests will often be hearing ‘vamos’. Or ‘On y va’ in French and ‘andiamo’ in Italian. This is something else that I teach my guests as we cross over borders so they can listen out for it and understand from the get-go.”

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“When it is someone’s birthday on tour, I always get our guests to sing Happy Birthday in the language of the country we are in,” says Philip. “When you sing happy birthday in French, Spanish or Italian it is fairly straight forward, it is the same tune with the words changed a bit. ‘Joyeux Anniversaire’ in French, ‘Tanti Auguri’ in Italian ‘Compleanos Feliz’ in Spanish and ‘Zum Geburtstag viel Glück’ in German. I find that guests generally enjoy the challenge.

“One that is more complicated is the Netherlands. They don’t actually sing happy birthday, they don’t use the same words, not even the same tune. Their song in called ‘Lang zal ze leven’ which means ‘long shall she/he live’. I was very lucky to have a Dutch driver when I needed to sing this, so we sang it together!”

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“I always insist that we toast in the language of the country we are in,” says Philip. “It’s one of the most inclusive phrases you should learn.

“There is something quite special and bonding to be able to all toast together in the local language. So, it is ‘santé!’ in French, ‘salud!’ in Spanish, ‘prost!’ in German. When traveling in Switzerland we toast in four languages, French, German, Italian and we say ‘eviva’ in Romanche.”


“This is incredibly useful when traveling” says Spanish native Lola, “and is something we will all need to ask at some point!”

“In Italian you ask ‘Prego, dove se trova il bagno?’ and in Portuguese “Onde está o banheiro, por favor? When in Spain there four distinct regions, each with a different way to say ‘toilet’ but the phrase “Por favor, donde está el aseo?’ will work every time.”

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“Simple, yet highly effective when communicating in a different language, asking ‘where is?’ is an important phrase to learn,” Lola says. “The person you are talking to can then gesticulate the answer, through pointing or maybe drawing a small picture. It is amazing how far just a few common words can get you in a conversation.”

“If you were looking for a Cathedral or a Museum for example, in Spanish you would ask ‘Por favor, donde está la catedral, el museo?’ In French ‘S’ il vous plaît, où se trouve la cathédrale, le musée?’ and in Portuguese ‘Disculpe, onde se encontra a catedral, o museo?’

More than just masters of language, Insight’s Travel Directors are your friend overseas. Ensuring you have a seamless, stress-free journey they take care of every detail. And, as destination experts, they all have all the insights to bring the sights to life and pique your interest at every turn. Why not take a look at our worldwide collection of premium guided tours?

If you can think of any other useful phrases you should learn, let us know in the comments!


I'm a writer, editor and interview specialist with a lifetime's love of travel. There’s nothing more inspiring to me than meeting, and writing about, the world's leading destination experts and travel industry insiders. The thing I love most about writing for Insightful is that I'm always learning something new.