Having a repertoire of essential French travel phrases can completely transform your trip to France. Whether you’re meeting new people, getting lost, or simply need to ask for directions, these expressions and sayings will come in handy in most tourist scenarios and make your time in France truly memorable!
In this article, we’ll introduce you to 108 basic French phrases for travelers, along with tips and cultural context to make them easier to remember ahead of time.
Oui! Non! Common French Words and Phrases
Let’s start with the absolute basics.
- Oui (Yes)
- Non (No)
- Bonjour (Hello) – Add “Monsieur” (Sir) or “Madame” (Ma’am) to be polite.
- Salut! (Hi/Hey!) – A more casual version of “hello” used among young folks.
- Au revoir (Goodbye)
- À plus / À plus tard! (See you/See you later!)
- À la prochaine! (See you next time!)
- Bisous / Bises! (Kisses!) – A casual way to say goodbye.
- Bonsoir (Good evening)
- Bonne journée! ([Have a] good day!)
- Bonne soirée! ([Have a] good evening!)
- Vous me manquez déjà! (I miss you already!)
- Pardon (Excuse me)
- Merci (Thank you)
- S’il vous plaît (Please)
- Excusez-moi monsieur / madame (Excuse me, sir/ma’am)
- Parlez-vous anglais? (Do you speak English?)
- Comment dit-on… en français? (How do you say… in French?)
Basic French Phrases to Introduce Yourself
These phrases will help you when meeting locals and trying to make French-speaking friends.
- Je m’appelle… (My name is…)
- Moi, c’est… (Me, I’m…) – A more casual way of introducing yourself.
- Comment vous appelez-vous? (What is your name?)
- Tu t’appelles comment? (What’s your name?) – Use this for a more casual setting, addressing someone with “tu.”
- Comment allez-vous? (How are you?)
- Ça va? En forme? (How are you? You good?)
- Nous sommes arrivés/arrivées… (We arrived…) – Use this phrase to let someone know when you got into town.
- Nous restons… (We’re staying…) – Use this phrase to explain where you’re staying and for how long.
- Je vous présente… (lit. “I present you…”) – Use this phrase to introduce two people to each other.
- Enchanté/Enchantée. (Pleased to meet you.)
- Je suis ravi/ravie de faire votre connaissance. (I am glad/delighted to meet you.) – Use this phrase to impress with your fancy French “nice to meet you.”
Je parle un peu français. (I speak a little French.)
If you’re learning French, it’s normal to practice your language skills when interacting with locals. By saying “je parle un peu français,” you can continue practicing while also relieving any pressure to speak fluently. Use this phrase when starting a conversation or when you want to continue speaking in French.
J’apprends le français depuis… (I’ve been learning French for…)
People may notice your French accent and ask how long you’ve been learning the language. Use this phrase to answer their question and share your journey.
Je suis là pour les vacances/le travail. (I’m here for vacation/work.)
After introducing yourself, it’s common for people to ask about your purpose in France. Use this phrase to explain whether you’re here for vacation or work. It can also serve as a starting point for further conversation about your travel plans or job.
Questions You’ll Ask While Traveling in France
Où est…? (Where is…?)
This phrase will be your go-to when navigating France. Memorize the names of a few key places so you can ask for directions if needed. Here are some examples:
- Où est…
- L’hôtel? (the hotel?)
- La banque? (the bank?)
- L’aéroport? (the airport?)
- Le guichet? (the ticket window?)
- La plage? (the beach?)
Quel temps va-t-il faire aujourd’hui? (What will the weather be like today?)
Understanding the weather is crucial when planning your activities. Here are some phrases related to weather:
- Il fait beau aujourd’hui. (It’s beautiful weather today.)
- Il pleut. (It’s raining.)
- Il fait chaud. (It’s hot.)
- Il fait froid. (It’s cold.)
- Il fait soleil/Il y a du soleil. (It’s sunny.)
- Il fait venteux/Il y a du vent. (It’s windy.)
Est-ce que vous pourriez prendre ma photo, s’il vous plaît? (Could you take my photo, please?)
Capture precious memories by asking someone to take your photo. Be polite and start your request with “excusez-moi, monsieur/madame.” If you’re in a group, replace “ma photo” with “notre photo” (our photo).
Pouvez-vous m’appeler un taxi, s’il vous plaît? (Can you call me a taxi, please?)
When public transportation has stopped running, getting home can be a challenge. Use this phrase to ask for assistance from the staff at a venue. They usually have information about local transport and can help you find a taxi quickly. Remember to thank them for their help.
Pouvez-vous m’aider? (Can you help me?)
In case you encounter any trouble in France, it’s important to have the right words to ask for help. Use this phrase whenever you need assistance or directions. French people are usually willing to help learners with their language skills, so don’t hesitate to ask.
Où est l’ambassade américaine? (Where is the American Embassy?)
Although emergencies are rare, it’s better to be prepared when traveling. If you run into trouble or need to replace a lost passport or ID card, knowing the location of the American Embassy can be helpful. Use this phrase to ask for directions to the embassy if needed.
French for Travelers to Get Around Town
While exploring France, you’ll need some additional directions to help you get around. Use these phrases to make your way through the country:
- Où est le métro? (Where is the metro?)
- Où sont les taxis? (Where are the taxis?)
- Où est la sortie? (Where is the exit?)
- C’est près d’ici? (Is it close by?)
- C’est loin? (Is it far?)
- Est-ce que ce bus passe par…? (Does this bus pass by…?)
Emmenez-moi à cette adresse, s’il vous plaît. (Take me to this address, please.)
Use this polite phrase when taking a taxi. It’s a helpful way to communicate your destination to the driver.
Je vous dois combien? (How much do I owe you?)
After a taxi ride, use this phrase to ask the driver how much you owe. It’s important to be prepared to pay and avoid any confusion.
Puis-je avoir un plan de la ville, s’il vous plaît? (Can I have a map of the city, please?)
When visiting a tourist office, use this phrase to ask for a map of the city. If you specifically need a public transit map, ask for a “plan du métro” instead.
Je cherche… (I am looking for…)
This phrase is useful when searching for specific places or items in a French city. After “je cherche,” simply state what you’re looking for, such as a bus, a taxi, toilets, or a hospital.
What Was That? Clarifying French Phrases
Je ne comprends pas. (I don’t understand.)
If you find yourself struggling to understand someone, it’s perfectly fine to say “je ne comprends pas.” Don’t hesitate to excuse yourself and ask them to repeat what they said:
Parlez plus lentement, s’il vous plaît. (Speak a little slower, please.)
If someone is speaking too fast for you to understand, kindly ask them to slow down. Saying “parlez plus lentement, s’il vous plaît” shows your willingness to continue the conversation at a pace you can follow.
Basic French Phrases for Shopping
While in France, you’ll likely do some shopping. Use these phrases to help you navigate the experience:
- Je suis à la recherche d’un… (I’m looking for a…)
- Non, je regarde pour l’instant. (No, I’m just looking for the moment.)
- C’est pour… (It’s for…)
- Combien ça coûte? (How much does this cost?)
- Puis-je commander cela sur l’Internet? (Can I order this online?)
- Je voudrais payer en liquide/espèces. (I would like to pay in cash.)
Est-ce que vous acceptez les cartes étrangères? (Do you accept foreign cards?)
It’s important to be aware that payment methods may vary in France. Some smaller establishments may not accept foreign cards. Use this phrase to check if they accept foreign modes of payment. Additionally, if you’re from North America, you can ask if they accept non-chip cards: “Acceptez-vous les cartes sans puce?” This ensures a smooth payment process.
À quelle heure est-ce que cela ferme? (What time does it close?)
Especially during the summer months, it’s important to check the closing times of shops and attractions. Use this phrase to inquire about closing times. Similarly, if you want to know when a place opens, ask “à quelle heure est-ce que cela ouvre?” These phrases are essential for your travel planning, so make sure to learn them in advance.
Phrases for Dining Out in French
French cuisine is famous worldwide, so dining out in France is a must. Use these phrases to enhance your dining experience:
- Une table pour 4, s’il vous plaît. (A table for 4, please.)
- Le menu, s’il vous plaît. (The menu, please.)
- La carte des vins, s’il vous plaît. (The wine menu, please.)
- Est-ce que le service est compris? (Is the tip included?)
- C’est trop bon! (This is so good!)
- J’ai bien mangé. (I ate well/I’m full.)
- Je suis répu/repue. (I’m satisfied/I’m full.)
On prend l’apéro ensemble? (Let’s have an apéritif together?)
An “apéro” is a beverage one drinks before a meal. It’s typically alcoholic, such as whiskey, vodka, or pastis. Invite your companions for an apéritif by using this phrase.
Je voudrais… (I would like…)
“I would like” is a phrase you’ll use frequently when ordering food or making purchases. It’s helpful to have a few options memorized so you can confidently order. Here are some examples:
- Je voudrais un café. (I would like a coffee.)
- Je voudrais une bière. (I would like a beer.)
- Je voudrais une baguette. (I would like a baguette.)
- Je voudrais de l’eau. (I would like some water.)
- Je voudrais l’addition. (I would like the bill.)
À votre santé! (To your health!)
Raise a toast with your French companions using this phrase. It’s customary to make eye contact while clinking glasses. You can also simply say “santé!” which means “health!” Another option is “à la vôtre!” (to yours!) when in a group or having a tête-à-tête (one-on-one conversation) with someone. For a casual one-on-one scenario, “à la tienne!” (to yours!) or “tchin tchin!” (clink clink!) are also suitable choices.
Going Hard(ish) in the Club
After exploring museums, galleries, restaurants, and cafés, it’s time to party! Use these phrases to navigate the French nightlife:
- Ça te dit d’aller boire un verre ce soir? (Want to go get a drink tonight?)
- J’ai envie de faire la fête! (I want to party!)
- On s’installe là-bas? (Let’s sit over there?)
- Je voudrais une pinte de blonde/un verre de vin. (I would like a pint of light ale/a glass of wine.)
- On va prendre la bouteille. (We’ll take the bottle.)
- On prend des shooters! (We’re taking shots!)
- Est-ce qu’il y a un after? (Is there an after party?)
- Je suis crevé/crevée, j’y vais. (I’m spent, I’m leaving.)
- Rentrez-bien! (Get home safely!)
- Je me suis vraiment bien amusé/amusée. (I really enjoyed myself.)
How to Prepare for Traveling to France
Find a French phrasebook for travelers
Before your trip, it’s essential to arm yourself with a reliable French phrasebook. While we’ve provided you with many useful phrases, a phrasebook will serve as a backup for any situation. Consider getting the “Collins French Phrasebook and Dictionary (Collins Gem)” for a comprehensive resource.
Research local customs
Each region in France has its unique customs and traditions. Before traveling, conduct research on the area you’ll be visiting. Knowing local customs, cuisine, and events will enrich your experience. Websites like France.fr can provide insights into various regions and their distinct characteristics.
Make a list of activities
To ensure you make the most of your trip, create a list of activities you’d like to do in France. This will help you tailor your phrases to specific experiences, such as visiting exhibitions, trying local dishes, or exploring famous landmarks. Spontaneity is great, but a little planning ensures you don’t miss out on anything.
Use an immersion program
Prepare for your trip by using an immersion program that exposes you to real French content. These programs help you get used to the sounds and natural speed of the language, while also teaching you idiomatic expressions and slang. By familiarizing yourself with authentic French, you’ll sound more natural during your travels.
Learn polite French terms of address
Politeness is highly valued in French culture. It’s important to address people correctly, especially when meeting someone for the first time or talking to a stranger. Understand when to use “tu” (informal) or “vous” (formal) based on your relationship with the person. When in doubt, it’s safer to use the more polite “vous” until instructed otherwise.
Traveling to France is an exciting adventure that can be enhanced by learning basic French phrases. With these essential expressions at your disposal, you’ll navigate the country with ease and create lasting memories. Bon voyage!
What are the essential French travel phrases for tourists?
- We’ve provided a comprehensive list of 108 essential French travel phrases in this article. They cover common words and phrases, introductions, questions, directions, shopping, dining out, and enjoying the nightlife.
How do I ask for directions in French?
- For asking directions, use the phrase “Où est…” followed by the location you’re looking for. You can ask for places like the metro, taxis, the beach, and more.
How can I prepare for a trip to France?
- To prepare for your trip, we recommend arming yourself with a French phrasebook, researching local customs, making a list of activities you’d like to do, using an immersion program to practice French, and learning polite terms of address.
What is the best way to learn French phrases for a trip to France?
- The best way to learn French phrases for a trip to France is to practice regularly using a combination of resources such as phrasebooks, language learning apps, and online courses. Immersion programs that expose you to authentic French content are also highly effective in familiarizing yourself with the language.