Tips to travel abroad without speaking the language

tips to travel abroad without speaking the language

Are you scared of travelling abroad to places where you don’t speak the language? These are some tips from a digital nomad traveller that has been around the world to places that don’t speak a lot of English: Korea, Japan, Vietnam, Spain and more! 

Google is your best friend

  • You can use google to find restaurants, take public transport and use google translate: translate with voice to chat to locals and translate photos to read signs and menus
  • Public transport on google maps has always been accurate everywhere I travel in cities and abroad – accurate predicted arrival times and the transport locations/stations
  • For driving abroad, you could see if locals recommend other maps or if google maps is the most functional one

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Use local food apps

  • Find a local app which are locals go-to for restaurant ratings: in Korea, I used Mangoplate
  • Apps that have local ratings are the most accurate as they aren’t just based on tourist taste buds
  • Sites like Yelp or google reviews may have more fake reviews as it’s easier to use and ask people that already have the existing accounts. There may also be paid systems where people buy fake reviews. These reviews may also be made up of more tourist reviews as locals will usually use their local food app to write reviews
  • Using a food app also means you get access to photos and popular dish recommendations, making it easier to order. All you have to do is show the photo to the waiter 🙂

Ordering at a restaurant with only a menu in their local language

  •  As mentioned above you can show photos of ones you saw on local food apps. Otherwise, use photos on google maps or translate their menu with google translate.
  • If there are no photos online, you can take photos of posters they have outside the shop or if you’re brave enough, you can even point at what locals are ordering (we had to do this in vietnam at a super local roadside restaurant as they didn’t have pictures on the menus either!)

Check out local events

  • Check out local events where they speak English or would like to do a language exchange with your mother tongue: you can find these on the app Meetup or Couchsurfing. Facebook also has an events feature but it may be harder to find events as it’s not as widely used as the previous two apps. Through the events, you may be able to get to know the place through the locals taking you around or doing group activities. 

Travel around with a local

  • Besides from meeting locals through Meetup and Couchsurfing, you can also join free tours/pay as you wish tours or experiences through airbnb. Cycling tours also seem to be quite popular nowadays. 
  • If you’ve been interested in the local language, there are many apps that help you to practice with locals and it would be a good opportunity to meet up for a language exchange and be guided by a local that you’ve already previously connected with! 

Learn the basic phrases!

  • Even though you don’t speak the local language, it is still nice to learn the basic phrases: how to say thank you, please and hello
  • It will definitely come in handy and give a good impression to the locals 🙂 
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