Basic Vietnamese for Travelers: Essential Phrases You Need to Know

When in Vietnam, although English is widely spoken, especially in the main tourist spots, it wouldn’t hurt to learn a few basic words to help you get by. Tom fondly recalls running out of petrol on his motorbike while they were in the middle of nowhere late at night. Luckily there was a guy passing through who spoke absolutely no English.

After 10 minutes of explaining and playing a one-sided game of charades, the guy rescued him by turning up with a small bottle of petrol.

Moral of the story-learn the basics and save yourself the awkwardness of putting your charades skills to a test.

vietnam scenery

Vietnamese 101: The Basics

Remember to always be polite when asking for something. Vietnamese people are naturally quiet and polite so raising your voice or speaking in a boisterous tone might turn them away. Remember, a smile is your biggest asset. Use it when interacting with people!

Yes – vang (north), da (south)

No- khong

Thank you- Cám ơn

I’m sorry- Xin lỗi

Can you help me?  Ban co the giup toi duoc khong?

No problem/you’re welcome  Khong co gi

Do you speak English?  Ban co noi duoc tieng Anh khong?

Where’s the… toilet?  Nha ve sinh… o dau?

Floating market Vietnam

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Trending Tours in Vietnam

While in the country, there are loads of different tours that you can do so as to better understand this uniquely fabulous culture. Here are a few of our top recommendations.

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Basic Greetings in Vietnamese

Master these words and you will surely be able to get a grin from any local. Vietnamese people love talking to foreigners and we’ve found them to be very welcoming, despite what other people say.

Hello– Xin chào

Goodbye- Tạm biệt

How are you?  Ban co khoe khong?

vietnamese woman

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Basic Vietnamese for Eating and Ordering Food

Alongside with Thai food, Vietnam is one of the highlights of any culinary street food experience in Southeast Asia. From steamy hot bowls of Pho to delightful rolls of fresh spring rolls. The food in Vietnam is high up on my list and is definitely worth exploring.

Nothing too spicy, please-  Lam on moi thu khong qua cay

I’m vegetarian-  Toi an chay

Hot (spicy)-  Cay

How much?  Bao nhieu?

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Editor’s Note: Check out our post on What to Eat in Vietnam

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Basic Vietnamese for Shopping

How much is it?- Bao nhiêu tiền?

It is too expensive- Mắc quá

Do you have something cheaper?- Bạn có cái nào rẻ hơn không?

Basic Vietnamese to Impress and Gain Street Cred

Một, hai, ba, Bốn, năm, sáu, Bảy, tám, chín, mừơi (one to ten)

trời ơi- (pronounced as choy oi) – Oh my god/ Oh sh*t!

Hey, friend- Này!, Ê!

I’m hungry/ thirsty- Tôi đói / khát

Can I have a beer please? – Cho tôi xin một vại bia được không

I like you- Tôi thích em

Would you marry me?-  Em hãy cưới anh nhé? (to be followed by…)

I’m just kidding- Tôi chỉ đùa thôi

vietnam beaches

If you’re REALLY serious about learning Vietnamese, here are a few tips: 

Practice Makes Perfect- Either you practice with local friends or you practice with people online, there is no better way than to learn a language than by interacting with native speakers. Listen to their diction and pronunciation and don’t be afraid to ask them questions. Most of them would be more than happy that you are taking the time to actually learn their language.

Get a teacher or enroll yourself in a program- Vietnamese isn’t as easy as English as certain words can look exactly alike but mean two different things depending on how it is pronounced. There are loads of online courses which offer you basic lessons, walking you through the proper pronunciation and grammatical lessons while still being very affordable.

Don’t be Afraid to look like a fool- In Ecuador, I spoke to everyone is Spanish…even if I barely knew any Spanish. I would go to the local markets, speak to the fruit and vegetable vendors, interact with the bus drivers speaking to them even if I knew I looked like a fool.

The good thing is, once you get past the whole “I’m too shy to try” phase, you will be more open to asking for help and learning from others. Learning a language is supposed to be a way for you to speak and understand more about another culture so don’t be too self-conscious. Chances are, they will laugh with you and not at you!

Transportation and Safety Around Vietnam

If you’re traveling around the country, we recommend using Bookaway or 12Go website to view bus, boat, and train schedules ahead of time. We’ve used these websites all over Asia and it saves us the hassle of lining up in travel agencies or bus stations.
Alternatively, you can also travel around via motorcycle which is what my partner, Tom did for 6 weeks. Check out his article on Vietnam by Motorbike

Travel Must: At the risk of sounding like your parents, make sure you get travel insurance before hitting the road. Trust us, it’s one of those things you don’t want to leave home without. We recommend either World Nomads or Safety Wing, depending on the type of traveler you are.

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Travelling to Vietnam? Here are some basic Vietnamese phrases to help you get around

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