The 13 Most Useful Phrases For Traveling Around Europe

If you’re going to Europe and plan on visiting multiple countries, how do you decide what phrases to learn? Which are the most important? Here we break down the 13 most useful phrases for traveling around Europe, and translate them into the six most common European languages.

When traveling to Europe, making an effort to learn a few key phrases of the local language can make a big impact on your trip. Not only will it save you a lot of frustration when you inevitably run into someone who doesn’t speak English, but it’s also generally seen as polite to the local culture — when you try to speak the local language, you demonstrate that you don’t expect the world to revolve around English. And yes, this is a particularly good courtesy to adopt even when you’re going to visit a place for only a few days. It’s also a great way to start immersing yourself into a culture! Who knows? You might end up falling in love with the local traditions and culture.

Without further ado, here are the 13 most useful phrases to learn before you travel to Europe, presented in the six most common European languages:

1. Hello

As a rule of thumb, you should at least be able to greet people in the local language — that’s just polite.

  • GermanHallo
  • FrenchBonjour
  • Russian: Здравстуйте (Zdrastvuite)
  • ItalianBuongiorno
  • SpanishHola
  • TurkishMerhaba

2. Goodbye

In many European countries, it’s actually considered rude not to address a shopkeeper when leaving. Make a good impression by getting these down, too.

  • GermanTschüss
  • FrenchAu revoir
  • Russian: До свидания (Do svidaniya)
  • ItalianArrivederci
  • SpanishAdiós
  • TurkishHoşçakal

3. I would like…

Is there anything more undignified than pointing sheepishly to a menu item when the waiter asks you what you’ll have? Order at a restaurant with your self-respect intact.

  • GermanIch hätte gern …
  • FrenchJ’aimerais …
  • Russian: Будьте добры (Bud’te dobry)… (literally: “Be so kind as…”)
  • ItalianVorrei …
  • SpanishMe gustaría …
  • Turkish: … istiyorum.

4. Where is the restroom?

Yes, you could ask “Toilet?” and you’ll probably find what you’re looking for, but for similar reasons as above, these are good to know.

  • GermanWo ist die Toilette?
  • FrenchOù sont les toilettes?
  • Russian: Где туалет (Gde tualet)?
  • ItalianDov’è il bagno?
  • Spanish¿Dónde está el baño?
  • TurkishTuvalet nerede?

5. How much does this cost?

This is especially useful when going to a flea market or other shopping venue where haggling is the norm.

  • GermanWie viel kostet das?
  • FrenchCombien ça coûte?
  • Russian: Сколько это стоит (Skol’ko eto stoyit)?
  • ItalianQuanto costa?
  • Spanish¿Cuánto cuesta?
  • TurkishBu ne kadar?

6. Do you sell…?

One of the possibly aggravating aspects of traveling is realizing that other cultures group their goods together differently. Be prepared to ask where an item is or if the shopkeeper sells it at all.

  • GermanVerkaufen Sie …?
  • FrenchVendez-vous …?
  • Russian: У Вас есть (U Vas yest’)…? (literally: “Do you have…?”)
  • ItalianVendete …?
  • Spanish¿Vendes …? (informal) / ¿Vende …? (formal)
  • Turkish: … satıyor musunuz?

7. Can I pay with card?

If you’re accustomed to paying for everything with a credit or debit card in your home country, it might surprise you that there are establishments in Europe that still only accept cash (notably, many shops in Germany). Ask first so you won’t be embarrassed later.

  • GermanKann ich mit Karte bezahlen?
  • FrenchJe peux payer par carte?
  • Russian: Можно заплатить карточкой (Mozhno zaplatit kartochkoi)?
  • ItalianÈ possibile pagare con la carta?
  • Spanish¿Puedo pagar con tarjeta?
  • TurkishKart ile ödeyebilir miyim?

8. Exit

Yes, technically this isn’t a phrase, but it’ll be plastered all over the walls. It’s also one of the most useful (and safe) things to learn before traveling to another country.

  • GermanAusgang
  • FrenchSortie
  • Russian: выход (vykhod)
  • ItalianUscita
  • SpanishSalida
  • TurkishÇıkış

9. I need help. (Help!)

Everyone hopes that they’ll never need this on their trip, but it certainly doesn’t hurt to know it anyway, just in case.

  • GermanIch brauche Hilfe. / Hilfe!
  • FrenchJ’ai besoin d’aide. / À l’aide!
  • Russian: Помогите (Pomoguite)!
  • ItalianMi serve aiuto. / Aiuto!
  • SpanishNecesito ayuda. / ¡Ayuda!
  • TurkishYardıma ihtiyacım var. / İmdat!

10. Excuse me

Again, this phrase just shows good manners. Learn it!

  • GermanEntschuldigung
  • FrenchExcusez-moi
  • Russian: Извините (Izvinite)
  • ItalianMi scusi
  • SpanishDisculpa (informal) / Disculpe (formal)
  • TurkishAffedersiniz

11. I’m sorry

Inevitably, there will be a time on your trip that you’ll need to apologize. Maybe you’ll want to ask the hotel clerk if there’s a way to bend the rules, or perhaps you made a big language faux pas and want to rectify it. Either way, this is an essential.

  • GermanEntschuldigung
  • FrenchPardon
  • Russian: Простите (Prostite)
  • ItalianMi dispiace
  • SpanishLo siento / Perdón
  • TurkishÖzür dilerim

12. I don’t understand.

Sometimes, in addition to making a confused face, it’s easiest just to tell the other person that they’ve lost you. It’s usually better for both sides if you’re clear about your confusion, rather than pretending to understand.

  • GermanIch verstehe Sie nicht.
  • FrenchJe ne comprends pas.
  • Russian: Я не понимаю (Ya ne ponimayu).
  • ItalianNon capisco.
  • SpanishNo entiendo.
  • TurkishAnlamıyorum.

13. I only speak a little [local language].

Along with the previous phrase, this comes in handy when your accent outperforms your knowledge level. A native speaker might assume you understand more than you do, so it’s always safe to have this phrase on standby (or increase your knowledge base!).

  • GermanIch spreche nur ein bisschen Deutsch.
  • FrenchJe parle seulement un peu français.
  • Russian: Я ещё плохо говорю по-русски (Ya yeshchyo plokho govoryu po-russki). (literally: I still speak Russian badly)
  • ItalianParlo solo un po’ di Italiano.
  • SpanishSolo hablo un poco de español.
  • TurkishSadece biraz Türkçe konuşabiliyorum.

If you continue your learning, you will also see the benefits of having real conversations with native speakers — like finding the locals’ favorite spots and even saving money. If you plan on spending more than a few days in a country, why not commit to really speaking the language? It can only enhance your trip!

Ready to head out on a new adventure in Europe? Thanks to our friends at Intrepid Travel, you can experience the world for less! All Babbel subscribers can enjoy a 10% savings on any Intrepid trip departing before December 31, 2018.

What're you waiting for? Start learning a language today!
Try Babbel