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Top 20 Vietnamese Phrases for Travelers

For Vietnam’s allure, it’s no surprise that world travelers have it on top of their bucket list. What many overlook is the ability to communicate with locals. In their language. Nhi Nguyen, a tourism professional, recommends these must-know top 20 Vietnamese phrases for travelers visiting her country.

Vietnamese is a language with many tones and an alphabet of 29 characters, which might be a challenge for beginners. But, when you visit Vietnam for a short time, there is no need to learn them all. Below are my top 20 recommended Vietnamese language phrases that travelers must know. Just learn the basics.

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Vietnamese greetings

English PhraseVietnamese PhraseApproximate English Pronunciation
1. Hello1. Xin chàoSeen chow
2. What’s your name?2. Bạn tên gìBahn thane zee
3. My name is …3. Tôi làToy la
4. Goodbye4. Tạm biệtTam bee-it

These phrases are pretty basic Vietnamese greetings for the beginners and yet polite and good enough for you to impress the locals. To say hello or goodbye, you can also put your hand up, waving it from side to side at a signal, or a simple smile will do.

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Shopping and dining phrases

English PhraseVietnamese PhraseApproximate English Pronunciation
5. How much is this?5. Cái này bao nhiêu?

Kai nei bow new

Notes:

  • “ai” as in Thai
  • “ei” as in reign
6. Can you lower the price?6. Giảm giá được không?

Jam ja duk kxong

Notes:

  • “ong” as in long
7. I want …7. Tôi muốn

Toy mouan

8. Excuse me … (to get the waiter and waitress attention)8. Em ơi

Em oy

Notes:

  • “Em” as in Emma
9. I don’t eat …9. Tôi không ănToy kxong ein
10. I’m a vegetarian10. Tôi ăn chayToy ein chei
11. Bill, please11. Tính tiềnTin teen

Before buying or using a service, you must always ask for the price to avoid being overcharged. It is also advisable to learn about the market price of things you want to buy before you go shopping. This will also make you more confident when bargaining (using phrase no. 6 and showing the number you want to bargain with your fingers) to get a good deal as well.

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To buy something in markets or order something in restaurants, it is best to use phrase no. 7 and point at the thing you want on the shelves or the menu. To ask for the menu, you can simply say “menu” and the staff will understand. And don’t be too surprised when you have to shout out to get the waiters or waitresses attention in some local restaurants.

If you have special diets or food allergy, you should let the restaurants know in advance using phrases no. 9 or 10. And when you check out, say “Tính tiền” to the staff and they will bring the bill to you.

Asking for help in Vietnamese

English PhraseVietnamese PhraseApproximate English Pronunciation
12. Do you speak English?12. Bạn có nói tiếng Anh không?

Ban ko noy teen ann kxong

Notes:

  • “o” as in hot
13. Where can I get a taxi?13. Tôi có thể bắt taxi ở đâu?Toy ko tey bak taxi er dou
14. Do you know where … is?14. Bạn có biết … ở đâu không?Ban ko beet … er dou kxong
15. Call the police15. Gọi cảnh sátGoy kann sat
16. Can you get me a doctor?16. Bạn có thể gọi bác sĩ cho tôi không?

Ban ko tey goy bak shee cho toy kxong

Notes:

  • “ch” as in church
  • “o” as in hot
17. Thank you17. Cảm ơnKam earn

It is not that hard to find someone who can speak English when you visit Ho Chi Minh City or other major cities in Vietnam, so it is best to ask if someone can speak English. If their answer is yes, you can simply explain your situation and ask for help in English.

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But if you are really confident with your language skills and want to practice the Vietnamese language vocabulary, you can use simple phrases like no. 13, 14, 15, and 16 to ask for the taxi stands, direction, police and medical help. When asking for direction, you should write the name or the address of the place on a piece of paper and show it to them. It is best if they can draw a map for you when you don’t feel like having a stranger walk you to the place. And to show your gratitude, a simple thank “Cảm ơn” is enough.

Other Vietnamese phrases

English PhraseVietnamese PhraseApproximate English Pronunciation
18. Excuse me, …/Sorry18. Xin lỗiSeen loy
19. I don’t understand19. Tôi không hiểuToy kxong hew
20. No, thank you20. Không, cảm ơnKxong kam earn

You can say “Xin lỗi” when you want to say sorry for doing something like bumping into someone, as well as to catch attention, making way in a crowd, etc.

What if the Vietnamese locals speak with you in Vietnamese, but you don’t understand them at all? Tell them “Xin lỗi, tôi không hiểu”, shake your head or hands as a way to say “I don’t understand”

In case you don’t want to buy something some local sellers offer you, simply say “Không, cảm ơn” and walk away.

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Final thoughts on top 20 Vietnamese phrases for travelers

Don’t be shy to use our top 20 Vietnamese language phrases when visiting Vietnam. Vietnamese people are really friendly and will be very impressed if you can speak (even only a little) of the language. As a traveler, you can use a combination of the verbal and body language to communicate better. We hope these phrases and advice can help you break the ice and get closer to the local.

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Have you tried any of these phrases when traveling to Viet Nam? Would you like to suggest alternate pronunciations or add any other to this list? We would love to hear from you.

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Nhi Nguyen

Nhi is a content marketing team leader at i Tour Vietnam. The company provides fun and adventurous private tours in Ho Chi Minh City led by a team of internationally certified tour guides. On our tours, you will be able to discover Vietnamese food, experience Vietnamese culture, learn Vietnamese history, and even ride a motorbike to places off-the-beaten-path!

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62 thoughts on “Top 20 Vietnamese Phrases for Travelers”

  1. This is so helpful! I should probably share some Filipino greetings too and helpful phrases for tourists! thank you for sharing!

  2. Amazing! Did you learn all this on the go or referred to a book while traveling? Pinned this for future reference

  3. I’m glad you shared this! I hate travelling and meeting people who just expect everyone to speak English. I always feel like it’s important to make an effort and learn some basic words. Nice work!

  4. Wow,
    I never tried learn Vietnamese phrases. Did you practice with local people?
    I’m very curious of their reactions

  5. This is a genius idea! When I was learning German there weren’t a lot of sounds like or phonetic ways of saying it, you just kind of had to guess or talk to somebody else who knew, which is really hard to do if you’re just sitting around with a bunch of other kids learning all the same stuff and then you try to go to Germany with your newfound knowledge and embarrass yourself! And easy to read blog with easy learning of the catch phrases would have been so helpful.

  6. Very helpful! I always like to learn how to say basic things in the language of the country I’m visiting. Thanks for sharing!

  7. Layla - Alial Travel Gal

    I absolutely LOVE this! Especially the effort you’ve gone to writing the approximate english pronunciation – SO helpful! Thanks – bookmarking this for when I visit Vietnam 🙂

  8. Great post, wish I had found this before I went to Vietnam. The phrase book I had didn’t offer the approximate English pronunciation which really would have helped. Made the locals laugh though with my dreadful mispronunciation.

  9. I have to go to Vietnam for a friends wedding next year and was worried about the language barrier. It seems the language has many tones and nuances, but like you said, there’s no need to learn them all. Thanks for the great tips.

  10. This is great. I remember my biggest worry when visiting Thailand was the language and I can only assume the same would be an issue for Vietnam. I love how you broke down the language on common phrases a traveler would use and even gave me a pronunciation key so I wouldn’t sound like a total buffoon! You should create a PDF that we could download from the site that I could laminate and carry with me when we head there!

    1. Thank you Eric for your kind words. Appreciate your idea. We have a few pins here with words written on them for a starter 🙂

  11. Xin chào! I am planning to visit Vietnam hopefully next year and yes I really appreciate to also speak at least a bit in the mother tongue of the country that I visit. Your article gives a very good overview of some helpful phrases for everyday. Especially that you also mention the English Pronunciation is really good, that helps to learn the phrases even faster.

  12. Nice guide! I am ashamed to say that I am one of those people who only learn to say ‘Hello’, ‘Thank you’ and ‘Goodbye’ when travelling. But I am bilingual so usually, I always find someone speaking French or English around.

    1. That’s Great Claire. Those are three most important words. Helps to get the conversation going! Thank you for sharing.

  13. This is so useful for first-time visitors. Understanding the locals can be a real struggle if the only language you speak is English. I experienced this on my own skin 🙂

  14. I wish I had this article with me on my trip to Vietnam a couple of years ago! It would have been extremely useful. Well done for coming up with such an informative article 🙂

  15. Being able to communicate in the language of the country you are visiting is so important, even a phrase or two can change your entire interaction. These are great phrases to know. I would butcher them, but at least would give it a try.

  16. Vietnam is one of the south east asian countries where you will have a tough time communicating with the residents ! this is indeed a good post for all the travellers as all of these would probably be the main phrases we’ll use. Thanks for sharing this out!

  17. We were in Vietnam very recently and I have to admit the language barrier was tricky at times! We’ll be back again for sure (love the food!) and so this set of phrases will be sooooo helpful. Thank you!

  18. I used to teach English for a Vietnamese company. But the only Vietnamese that I ever learned was ‘Toi la / Em la …’ both which mean ‘I am….’. So I would introduce myself by saying: ‘Toi la Tony’. Then the students would ask me if I spoke Vietnamese and I would have to say no. 🙂

  19. Never been to Vietnam, but its sure on my list. But your pictures are great and for me it really provided me a virtual visit.

  20. Hmm, I was wondering how much of the language I need if I go there. I guess the basics are good to know before you go.

  21. It’s always great to learn the basics of a language when you’re travelling to that country. I especially learn how to say – hello, thank you, do you speak English, and sorry. However, 20 phrases sound like a bit too many to me, I’d probably not be able to remember so many ! Thanks for the guide though, it’s always easy to refer back to it when I need.

  22. They say it always great to learn a bit of the local language when you visit a new country. This is not just for making life easy but as a mark of respect to the new destination. Some great words to start with like name and whereabouts makes the perfect start and you have shared some of these. Great post if you looking to visit Vietnam in the coming days or months. Handy

  23. These phrases are very useful! Learning these phrases bridges the gap between you and the locals. And also gives good impression as well when you travel. In Asia, we don’t mind speaking the language not fluently as long as you make an effort to try.

  24. Ženja | Bearly Here

    Thanks for this, that’s very helpful. We travel to Vietnam from time to time, and yet the only thing I ever learned was how to say “thank you”. Hope next time I will know more!

  25. This is such a useful post – great idea and thanks for sharing! I’ll be sure to bookmark this for my trip to Vietnam next year!

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