When you first find yourself interested in foreign travel, it may be easy to stick with destinations where English is the main language spoken, unless you yourself are bilingual. The idea of traveling to a foreign country where you don’t speak the local language can be an intimidating one for even the most experienced travelers. But avoiding these places all together can serve as an injustice to yourself, as some of the most profound experiences in travel happen when we find ourselves in new, unfamiliar territory immersed within different cultures. We argue that not knowing a local language is no reason to avoid traveling to these countries. With the correct knowledge, preparation, and determination, traveling to a foreign destination can quickly become one of the most rewarding experiences of your life. We’ve compiled a list of useful tips for traveling abroad without knowing the local language.
Before your travel adventure begins, be sure that you are taking the initiative to learn basic phrases in the language to be able to navigate the destination. You will be able to find patient and helpful people wherever you go, however knowing basic phrases will become invaluable in this process. Know a few phrases around the following: basic greetings, ordering food and beverage, transportation and taxi services, where you are staying, and a phrase or two explaining your inability to fully understand the language. Meet locals halfway with your attempt, and they will generally reciprocate or point you in the right direction. Language learning apps like Duolingo or Babbel are great for this, there are also various other resources available to you with a quick search.
One of the most important things you can do before traveling to a foreign country is to use your cellular device to your advantage. First and foremost, you need to make sure that your carrier allows for international roaming or service. The worst is arriving at your destination, expecting to have phone service, only to find that you cannot connect to the internet. Most major carriers have options for this, please be sure to do your research. If you have to obtain a local and temporary phone service, figure this out beforehand. There are a few translator tools available that allow you to quickly and easily type in a phrase to get a pretty accurate translation. Google Translate is a common favorite among many, and even has an option for you to download an offline guide of basic phrases to search through if you are having trouble with phone service.
Depending on your level of comfort, it would be worth it to look up events where other travelers and English speakers gather. The MeetUp app is a great way to find local events consisting of expats, long term travelers, and even people just passing through. The nature of each MeetUp event can differ greatly, so find what works for you. Some meetings consist of groups gathering at a bar or restaurant, doing crafts, attending community events, volunteerism, and the list goes on. Expats and long term travelers may have a bit more experience and tips with navigating that particular destination without knowing the local language. They can even point you to hidden gems within the city that could greatly amplify your travel experience. You could even go a step further and register for classes that teach the local language. This is a great way to meet others who speak English, but who are also trying to learn the native tongue of the land. More importantly, this is a great way to make friends and meet new people on your travels.
Lastly, one of the best ways to enjoy your trip is to simply relax and go with the flow. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes when speaking the local language and just enjoy the experience of being in a new place. With these tips in mind, you’ll be sure to have a great time traveling in a foreign country without knowing the language.
Do you have any tips or tricks for traveling in a foreign country without knowing the language? Share them with us in the comments below!