5 Phrases to Help You Get Around Town

Have you ever traveled in a foreign city and realized, despite knowing English well, you didn’t quite know how to say some of the things you needed to in order to get around? A Turk recently told me, “English is no longer a second language that people learn, it’s the world’s language and you have to learn it.” It doesn’t matter where you go – Europe, Asia, South America, the Middle East – whether English is the native language or not, English will be the key to getting around and communicating effectively. Here are some English phrases that you might not be familiar with that will help you as you navigate the foreign cities of the world while on vacation! Click here if you missed last week’s blog with phrases to help you with your hotel stay!

To get started, some phrases to help you get someone’s attention:

  • “Excuse me?”
  • “Pardon me?”
  • “Sir?/Ma’am?”
  • “Could I ask you a question?”
  • “I’m sorry to bother you…”

Notice most of these phrases end with a question mark, despite not really being a question.  If the tone of the phrase sounds like a question, it shows that you’re trying to get their attention, and not asking to be excused, pardoned, etc.

Now we’ll go over some phrases that will help you with the basics of getting around:

1) “Do you have a restroom/bathroom?”

Do you have a restroom/bathroom? (American English)/”Do you have a water closet/loo?” (British English) – having lived in a foreign country, I know how important it is to know the culturally appropriate correct word for this! One of these should do the trick for you.

2) “Where is the nearest Metro stop?”

This is an ever important piece of information that you might have to rely on locals for, especially if you don’t have cell service.

3) “Where is the best…?”

This phrase allows you to insert whatever kind of place you’re looking for. For instance, you can ask, “Where is the best hamburger joint?” if you’re looking to eat a good burger.

4) “How much is…?”

Use this phrase when trying to find out the price of something. Like the one above, you insert the object or item that you are interested in. “How much is the sea bass?”

5) “How far is it to….?”

Ask this if you’re trying to find out the distance to somewhere. You can ask “How far is it to the beach?” Or you can add “from” into your sentence. For example, “How far is it from my hotel to the beach?”

Finally, the following bonus phrase has the potential to lead you to places and experiences you might not have otherwise experienced:

If you’re interested in seeing parts of the city that tourists don’t often see, you could ask a local where some sites, restaurants, cafe’s, etc. that are “off the beaten path.”  For example, “Is there a nice beach that’s off the beaten path?” or “Do you know of any good restaurants that are off the beaten path?”  Sometimes being in the midst of it all is fun…but sometimes you just want to get away from the crowds and see places like the locals.  And this phrase can help you achieve that.

Check your skills with this short quiz:

1. What phrase should you use to find out the cost of a cup of coffee?

2. How can you get someone’s attention?

3. If you wanted to find out how long it would take you to get from Buckingham Palace to Big Ben, what could you say?

4. What could you say to get advice from a local on the best place to get a burger?