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Do I need to know the language?

While knowing a few key phrases can go a long way when visiting another country, it is not necessary to feel like you need to take a language class before you go.

Traveling to a different country, especially a non-English speaking country, can be a great eye-opening experience. It can also come with a little stress and discomfort when it comes to speaking to people and getting around town. However, when I work with a client, I listen to understand their level of comfort with the country they would like to visit and design a vacation that suites their needs. Here are just a few tips for getting around a country where everyone doesn’t speak English.

  1. Take a cruise : If you have never been out of the country or are particularly concerned about knowing the language, take a cruise. There are many cruise destinations from Europe to Asia and even parts of Africa.

    The benefit of a cruise is most cruises booked from the United States are targeted towards US travelers.

    This means that the primary language on board will be English and the customs on board (like bathroom facilities, dining customs, sunbathing customs, etc.) will all be familiar to you. In addition, the shore excursions that I arrange for you would also be with companies that are tailored for the US traveler.

  2. Take a guided tour : Another way to see the world and still feel very much at home is to take a guided tour. The first thing people think about when they hear guided-tour is pre-arranged group tours. Yes, these pre-arranged tours are great and will get you an amazing journey for the money (not to mention you get to meet some cool people). However, if you would like to avoid the groups, there are private guided tours. In these tours, you will have someone to help with hotel check-in/check-out, escort you to all of your tours, and many times meals are also included. While the group tours are not customizable (unless you are planning for a private group tour), the private tours are fully customizable.
  3. Take a semi-guided tour : If you are a little more adventurous, but still would like assistance while on your trip, try a semi-guided tour. This option will be less expensive than a private fully guided tour, but still has some of the perks.

    A semi-guided tour is one where I personally arrange for different tour operators to meet with you throughout your trip. This type of trip gives you a lot of flexibility.

    You can have free days where you explore on your own and a mix of private day tours and group day tours. You can pick and choose to customize the trip to meet your needs. All tours will start out with transfers (either group of private) to and from the airport, to give you a chance to get to your hotel and gain your bearings. This also gives you someone you can ask questions of. In addition to the people that I will bring together to meet your needs, you will also receive an online travel guide that offers insights about the places you are going and helps suggest places and restaurants to visit while you are on your own.

  4. Hotel and flights only please : For those who are more adventurous, you can always do hotel and flights only. With this type of trip, I will arrange for you to get to your location (which in multi-city trips could also include train) and a place to stay. After that, you can seek your adventure as you please. I will provide you with a travel guide to help with your journey. Of course, I can always book excursions for you throughout the trip as well.

No matter what type of trip you choose, I do always recommend knowing a few phrases. Not only is it good for getting around, it also makes you feel good (and makes the locals respect you more) if you try a little.

Key phrases like “hello”, “goodbye”, “where is the bathroom?”, “excuse me” and “thank you” will take you far.

There are several ways to learn a few phrases:

  1. Google : of course you can Google anything 🙂
  2. Google translator : this handy app will translate anything you type in. If you have wifi or a data plan, you can actually translate during your trip.
  3. Language books : There are several guide books that offer translations in them. My favorite is A Language Map by Kristine K. Kershu because it is portable and has only the key phrases you might need in any situation.
  4. Pictorial language guides : These little pocket-sized guides are great when you are out and about. The just have photos on the pages that you can point to when you are trying to communicate.

The bottom line is, don’t let not knowing a language prevent you from having an amazing adventure!

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