Chances are someone at the customs desk knows basic English, unless you’re travelling to a remote country. Still, “certain phrases are helpful especially for immigration and customs officials where clarity is crucial,” says Sharon Schweitzer, international protocol expert and founder of Protocol & Etiqutte Worldwide. Ones to know: “Do you speak English?” and “I have nothing to declare in my baggage, no fruit or vegetables.”
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If you have a food allergy, it’s vital that you know the specific words to describe what your allergic too, says Schweitzer. Simple phrases can save your life, such as: “Does this have nuts, eggs, sugar, gluten?” and “I am allergic to _________.”
In a locale where you can’t rely on your iPhone for directions, these phrases will come in handy. Know how to say and understand: “Excuse me, please, where is ______?” and “Do we turn left, right, straight ahead?”
Crossing time zones can be a bit tricky when it comes to getting over jet lag—and punctuality. Handy phrases include: “Excuse me, what time is it,” or “Do you have the time?”
To avoid coming across as a rude tourist, consider learning how to say these phrases to ensure a gracious interaction from locals and avoid these behaviours that are considered rude in other countries. “Familiarizing yourself with how formal the culture is can save you some embarrassment,” says Schweitzer. Put these phrases on your list to learn: “Please”, “Thank you”, “Excuse me”, and “I’m sorry.”
Knowing words like “hospital,” “medical emergency,” “heart or cardiac,”; “sickness,” and understanding a country’s EMS system can save you in an emergency situation. “Along with these phrases, make sure to save emergency numbers, copies of traveller’s insurance, and embassy information in your phone,” says Schweitzer. Commit these phrases to heart: “Where is the hospital?””Call an ambulance,” and “He/She has___”
In some countries, using credit or debit cards isn’t as common as it is in the United States. “Knowing how to ask if they take credit cards before being seated at a restaurant will save you the embarrassment of realizing you don’t have enough cash on hand when the check comes around,” says Schweitzer. Try these: “Do you accept credit cards?” or “Where is the Bureau de Change or Money Exchange?”
Knowing how to ask where the nearest bathroom is always useful, says Schweitzer. Since this question is often prompted by urgent needs, make sure you lean ahead of time: “Can you please lead me to the nearest toilet?”
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Being familiar with the pronunciation of words like train, plane, bus, automobile, ship, ferry along with station, airport, terminal, parking lot, dock, port and harbour is important when it’s time for you to bid adieu. Also familiarize yourself with major transport stations names so you can ask for them specifically. Phrases to learn include: “Is this the way to___?”, “When is the ___ arriving?”, and “I need to buy a ticket.”
There’s an app for that
Go-to app Google Translate works well with Western languages, and has a special function for Eastern languages. “The app has many features such as: translating the words by just taking a picture, allowing you to star and save commonly used phrases, and a speaking function that listens and translates voice commands,” says Schweitzer. If/when you don’t have access to Wi-Fi or data, you may want to invest in the ili. “It’s a promising instant translation device that is being released in late 2017 supporting English, Chinese, and Japanese,” says Schweitzer.
Originally published as Commit These Phrases to Memory Before You Travel to a Foreign Country on ReadersDigest.com.