With the summer vacation season fast approaching, you might have a trip planned for Germany (Munich, anyone?), Austria, Switzerland or parts of Italy. And if you don’t speak any German, you might want to learn some of the language. At least have a few German travel phrases on stand-by. In my experience, locals always appreciate you trying to speak to them in their mother tongue. And believe me — I’ve said all the wrong things at all the wrong times.
But practice makes perfect! Sure, you might not use the exactly correct term or your pronunciation might not be perfect but just making an attempt goes a really long way. Trust me!
Here are a few German travel phrases and words that you’ll want to memorize before your next trip to Germany or Austria.
Likely you’re already familiar with Danke thanks to Wayne Newton. “Danke” is German for “thank you.” If you don’t know any other German-language words or phrases, at least practice saying “danke.” You should know this word at a bare minimum.
Pronunciation Guide: Don-ka
Once you know how to say “thank you” then you’ll want to know how to say “please.” Even if you don’t know what it is you’re ordering or the word for the item you’d like in a store, you can point and say “bitte.” Being polite will get you a long way.
Pronunciation Guide: Bit-ah
Thank you and please are extremely helpful. And so is “excuse me” or “entschuldigung.” It’s a long word so just take it slowly. It can be used as “excuse me” or “pardon me” if you bump into someone or if you need to ask someone a question.
Pronunciation Guide: Ent-shool-dee-gung
Whether you are in a taxi or just get lost on the street, know how to ask where your destination is. Simply ask “wo ist…” and then state your destination. For example, “wo ist der Hauptbahnhof?” means “where is the central train station?”
Pronunciation Guide: Vo ist…?
Was ist das?
The point-and-ask technique never fails, trust me. If you don’t know the word for something or just aren’t sure what something is, just ask “was ist das?” or “what is that?”
Pronunciation Guide: Vas ist…?
Was kostet das?
Similarly, if you see something that you would like to purchase and would like to know the price you can point. Simply point at the item in question and ask “was kostet das?,” or “what does this cost?”
Pronunciation Guide: Vas cause-tet daahs?
Ich hätte gern…
Whether you’re getting food in a restaurant or on the street, it helps to be able to order what you’d like. By prefacing your order with “Ich hätte gern…” you’re telling someone, politely, what you would like. The phrase literally means “I would like…”
Pronunciation Guide: Eek het-ta gerrn…
Wo ist die Toilette?
Eventually, you’re going to need to use the WC. That’s short for water closet, or bathroom. If you don’t see signs or can’t find the lavatory on your own, you’ll want to know how to ask. With “wo ist die Toilette?” you’re, literally, asking “where is the toilet?” The phrase is direct and informative.
Pronunciation Guide: Vo ist dee Toy-let-ah?
Meals in Germany and Austria can be as leisurely of an affair as you would like. Your waiter or waitress won’t be regularly checking in with you to make sure that your food is satisfactory or your drinks are filled. If you need a refill, you’ll need to wave the wait staff down. The same goes for when you’re ready to leave. Simply catch your waiter or waitress’ eye and say “Bezahlen bitte,” or “check, please.”
Pronunciation Guide: Bit-zalen bit-ah
Sprechen Sie Englisch?
If you only know some basic words and phrases, you’re likely to exhaust those pretty quickly. If you need to have a more in-depth conversation with someone you might have to find a common language. In Germany and Austria, English is a good bet. Simply ask “sprechen Sie Englisch?” or “Do you speak English?”
Pronunciation Guide: Spreck-hen Zee Eng-lish
Other Resources for German Travel Phrases
If you want to know more than just a few simple German travel phrases for your trip or just for fun, there are some great resources available on the internet for free. I’ve collected dictionaries, helpful apps and informative resource books and put together a list.
Want to learn more than just basic German travel phrases? Check out my posts on learning the German language!