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German for Travelers: The Basics

A German Travel Phrasebook

Part of German for Beginners

Intro > Essential German > Travel Glossary > Menu Guide

You hear it all the time. Don't worry, everybody in Germany (Austria/Switzerland) speaks English. You'll get along just fine without any German.

Well, since you're here at the German Language site, you know better. First of all, not everyone in German Europe does speak English. And even if they did, how rude of anyone going there not to bother learning at least the basics of the language.

See photos of Berlin and other
German cities in our Fotogalerie.

Foto: H. Flippo

If you're going to be in a German-speaking country for a long period of time, it's obvious you'll need to know some German. But often travelers or tourists going for a brief visit forget one of the most important elements in planning their trip: Deutsch. If I'm going to Mexico, I want to know at least "un pocito del español." If I'm headed for Paris, "un peu de français" would be nice. Germany-bound travelers need "ein bisschen Deutsch" (a little German). So what's the minimum for a traveler bound for Austria, Germany, or German Switzerland?

Well, courtesy and politeness are a valuable asset in any language. The basics should include "please," "excuse me," "sorry," "thank you," and "you're welcome." But that's not all. Below, we have prepared a short phrasebook with the most important basic German phrases for a traveler or tourist. They are listed in approximate order of importance, but that is somewhat subjective. I just happen to think that "Wo ist die Toilette?" is more important than "Ich heisse..."

In parentheses (pah-REN-thuh-cees) you'll find a rudimentary pronunciation guide for each expression. But to get the sounds down well, you'll need audio input from our German Audio Lab, a tape, CD, German-speaker, or some other audio help. (See related pages below.)

Travel Deutsch
Basic German for Travelers

A Simple Travel Phrasebook
English Deutsch
yes / no ja / nein (yah/nine)
please/thanks bitte/danke (BIT-tuh/DAHN-kuh)
You're welcome. Bitte. (BIT-tuh)
You're welcome. (for a favor) Gern geschehen. (ghern guh-SHAY-un)
Excuse me! Entschuldigen Sie! (ent-SHOOL-de-gen zee)
Where's the restroom/toilet? Wo ist die Toilette? (vo ist dee toy-LET-uh)
left / right links / rechts (linx/rechts)
downstairs / upstairs unten / oben (oonten/oben)
Essential German
The bare minimum on ONE page!
German Travel Newsletter
German for Beginners
Hello!/Good day! Guten Tag! (GOO-ten tahk)
Good-bye! Auf Wiedersehen! (owf VEE-der-zane)
Good morning! Guten Morgen! (GOO-ten morgen)
Good night! Gute Nacht! (GOO-tuh nahdt)
My name is... Ich heisse... (ich HYE-suh)
I am... Ich bin... (ich bin)
Do you have...? Haben Sie...? (HAH-ben zee)
a room ein Zimmer (eye-n TSIM-air)
a rental car ein Mietwagen (eye-n MEET-vahgen)
a bank eine Bank (eye-nuh bahnk)
the police die Polizei (dee po-lit-ZYE)
the train station der Bahnhof (dare BAHN-hof)
the airport der Flughafen (dare FLOOG-hafen)
MORE > See the links below for more basic German lessons...
English-German Travel Glossary
German-English Menu Guide
German Travel Newsletter
More German Lesson Newsletters
German for Beginners
Our free online German course.

Mixing any of the above phrases-for example, "Haben Sie..." plus "ein Zimmer?" (Do you have a room?)-may work, but requires a bit more grammar knowledge than a real beginner is likely to possess. For instance, if you wanted to say, "Do you have a rental car?" you would have to add an -en to "ein" ("Haben Sie einen Mietwagen?"). But leaving it off would not prevent you from being understood-assuming you are pronouncing the basic German correctly.

You won't find too many questions in our guide. Questions require answers. If you ask a question in fairly decent German, the next thing you're about to hear is a torrent of German in the answer. On the other hand, if the restroom is left, right, upstairs, or downstairs, you can usually figure that out-especially with a few hand signals.

Of course, it's a good idea to go beyond the bare minimum if you can. Several important areas of vocabulary are relatively easy to learn: colors, days, months, numbers, time, food and drink, question words, and basic descriptive words (narrow, tall, small, round, etc.). All of these topics are covered in our free German for Beginners course.

You'll need to set your own priorities, but don't forget to learn at least some essential German before your trip. You'll have "eine bessere Reise" (a better trip) if you do. Gute Reise! (Have a good trip!)

Related Pages

Essential German
The bare minimum of basic German on a single, printable page! A phrasebook for people who don't have time to learn more.

English-German Travel Glossary
An annotated glossary for travelers headed for Austria, Germany or Switzerland.

Menu and Dining Guide
How to read a German restaurant menu. An annotated A-to-Z German-English glossary related to dining out in German Europe.

German Travel Newsletter
A free weekly newsletter especially for travel German.

German Audio Lab
Learn the sounds of German.

German for Beginners
Our free online German course.

Fotogalerie - Photo Gallery
Pictures of Germany, Austria, and Switzerland.

Part One of a previous two-part feature about German dialects.

Travel Resources and Links
A collection of information and links for travel to and in German Europe.

Wo spricht man Deutsch?
Where in the world is German spoken? Can you name the seven countries where German is the dominant language or has official status?

German Newsletters
Subscribe to a free newsletter!

German Chat


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