Learn French When You Travel in French

No matter your reason for traveling to France – be it an Atlantic crossing or European travels – mastering some essential French phrases will enhance the enjoyment of your experience and help ensure an effortless trip.

Language knowledge is indispensable when traveling, and knowing French will come in handy on many occasions. Be sure to familiarise yourself with how to say please and thank you in French, as well as some general travel phrases and vocabulary.


As soon as you travel in France, it is essential that you learn the essentials of greetings and introductions. Bonjour will serve as your initial greeting whether entering a shop, encountering someone on the street, meeting your tour guide at hotel or simply greeting someone passing.

At other times during the day, use bonne journee or bonsoir – French phrases meaning good afternoon and good evening respectively. Additionally, the French add some formality by using vous instead of tu when greeting those you know or who may be older than yourself.

Use informal phrases such as comment ca va and que vous allez bien? to inquire how people are faring. Both mean how are you and can initiate lighthearted conversations.

Welcome friends with a casual greeting like “coucou” which can also be heard as “hey”. However, this might be too informal to use at work or other more formal settings.

If you are just beginning, or looking to practice your pronunciation more, try speaking more slowly if possible (pray for slower speech). This will let your speaking partner know that their pace may be too rapid for you and that something may have been missed out recently. Furthermore, this strategy may also help practice pronunciation skills.

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No matter whether you plan on travelling by foot, car, train, or plane it’s essential that you understand how the French transportation system works when making travel plans. Also important will be learning the languages necessary for communicating with staff as you travel in French.

Learn this phrase before visiting France – ou se trouve la station de metro la plus proche? (Where is the closest subway station). Not only will this help with asking for directions but knowing the language also will come in handy when visiting new locations! Additionally, learning the French words for ticket and cost will make traveling much simpler!

Most large towns feature comprehensive bus services. Long distance coach buses operated by companies like BlaBlaCar and Eurolines also provide long distance travel – these options may be ideal for rural areas where train networks may be limited or nonexistent.

If you’re traveling through rural France at all, renting a car could be worth your while. Renting is an efficient and safe way to explore its breathtaking countryside – plus, flying may cost more. Just remember the rules of driving in France such as wearing your seat belt and passing on the left before starting your adventure – then enjoy France, known for its wine, cheese and croissants!


Shopping can be intimidating in French, yet everyone must do it – particularly when traveling to Paris (pronounced par-is) and other major French cities where fashion reigns supreme. Therefore, it’s advisable to memorize some basic French shopping phrases before embarking on your trip so you can navigate this aspect more smoothly and without frustration.

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As soon as you walk into any store or boutique, it is polite to greet the clerk with a warm smile and “Bonjour, Monsieur/Madame.” Not greeting in this manner can be considered rude and set an unpleasant tone for your shopping experience. Additionally, seek permission before touching merchandise as this shows your courtesy and respect towards others.

At a guichet – where you purchase metro tickets – the correct phrase to say is je voudrais un billet aller simple/retour pour X, where X represents your train destination. Additionally, pharmacies (pronounced phara-syn) allow customers to ask for un rhum or un traitement de diarree (pronounced diar-ree-uh).

Window shoppers will likely enjoy French term “leche vitrine”, used to indicate they aren’t interested in purchasing anything immediately. Should they decide to make a purchase, expect plenty of theatrical flourishes: your humble item may well come back wrapped and ribboned as though an Olympic gold medal winner had presented it!


In restaurants, bakeries, shops or cafes where French is spoken it’s customary to greet staff by saying bonjour when entering. Your waiter may then greet you by asking “One table for (1-4 people)?”

When ordering, most French diners tend to select from le menu and leave it up to their waiter to select something delicious and well-balanced. They seldom request substitutions (je suis allergique a…) as this would seem bizarre and time wasting in France; additionally they avoid asking for doggy bags as this too seems strange and time wasting.

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