Top 20 Vietnamese Phrases for Travelers

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.

Greetings

English PhraseVietnamese PhraseApproximate English PronunciationNotes
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

English PhraseVietnamese PhraseApproximate English PronunciationNotes
5. How much is this?5. Cái này bao nhiêu?Kai nei bow new“ai” as in Thai

“ei” as in reign

6. Can you lower the price?6. Giảm giá được không?Jam ja duk kxong“ong” as in long
7. I want …7. Tôi muốnToy mouan“Em” as in Emma
8. Excuse me … (to get the waiter and waitress attention)8. Em ơiEm oy—-
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

English PhraseVietnamese PhraseApproximate English PronunciationNotes
12. Do you speak English?12. Bạn có nói tiếng Anh không?Ban ko noy teen ann kxong“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“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 Phrases

English PhraseVietnamese PhraseApproximate English PronunciationNotes
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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56 thoughts on “Top 20 Vietnamese Phrases for Travelers

    1. Thank you Erica! That is a great idea! Feel free to look through our Guest Columns section. We would be happy to publish you !

    1. Thank you Sinjana! While we love to pick up languages wherever we travel, this one is attributed to our Guest Contributor Nhi Nguyen from Vietnam 🙂 Thank you for pinning.

  1. 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!

    1. Thanks Andrew. We did pick up a few words when we were in Viet Nam. Getting the pronunciations is the key! We are glad our guest author for this post made the task easy by sharing English Approximations as well.

  2. 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.

  3. 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 🙂

  4. 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.

    1. Haha. Sarah, we share some of the similar experiences. When people laugh, you know something did not go right! With this posts, may be time to plan another trip to Vietnam!

  5. 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.

    1. We are so happy you would be visiting Vietnam Daniel. If you are going all the way, do make time to explore the beautiful country too!

  6. 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. We picked up quite a few Thai when we were in Thailand! Thanks for the idea. We have 4 Pin in this post and we have also written a few words on them. Please do save them for later when you visit Vietnam

    1. Thank you Jack! We are happy you would be visiting Vietnam next year. Do look up our Backpacking Guides on Viet Nam too – Backpacking Viet Nam: Hà Nội and Tràng An, Backpacking Viet Nam: Ha Long Bay and Backpacking Viet Nam: Sa Pa. They would help you plan an amazing trip!

  7. 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.

    1. Cảm ơn Hendrik. We have three Backpacking Guides on Vietnam covering Sapa, Halong Bay, Trang An and Hanoi apart from this post, if you would like to refer them for planning your travels!

  8. 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! Well for Vietnam now, you can pick from this list! Thank you!

    1. Thank you Chandni! We hope you get to travel to Vietnam soon! You could also refer to our other Backpacking Guides on Viet Nam too – Backpacking Viet Nam: Hà Nội and Tràng An, Backpacking Viet Nam: Ha Long Bay and Backpacking Viet Nam: Sa Pa. They would help you plan an amazing trip!

  9. 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 🙂

  10. 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 🙂

    1. Thank you Valentina! May be time to plan one more trip to Vietnam.. haha! Appreciate your stopping by and sharing your thoughts.

  11. 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.

    1. You are bang on Alice! We have experienced the same on our travels too! And have been laughed at for wrong pronunciations many times! Haha.

  12. 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!

  13. 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!

  14. 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. 🙂

    1. So true Anthony. Just knowing a few local words can make a huge difference. Well, now you have a few more Vietnamese Phrases to practice with your students!

  15. 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.

    1. Yes Alexander. Totally agree with you. Just a few words can make so much difference in the travel experience. Hope you get to visit Vietnam soon.

  16. 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.

    1. Thanks Medha. Those are just the right words and a good ice breaker too when visiting a new country! Hope you travel to Vietnam soon and practice a few of these. All the four phrases you mentioned are covered in here!

  17. 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

  18. 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.

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