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Top 20 Vietnamese Phrases for Travelers

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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.

Vietnamese greetings

Phrase#English PhraseVietnamese PhraseApproximate English Pronunciation
01HelloXin chàoSeen chow
02What’s your name?Bạn tên gìBahn thane zee
03My name is..Tôi làToy la
04GoodbyeTạm 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

Phrase#English PhraseVietnamese PhraseApproximate English Pronunciation
05How much is this?Cái này bao nhiêu?Kai nei bow new
“ai” as in Thai
“ei” as in reign
06Can you lower the price?Giảm giá được không?Jam ja duk kxong
“ong” as in long
07I want …Tôi muốnToy mouan
08Excuse me … (to get the waiter and waitress attention)Em ơiEm oy
“Em” as in Emma
09I don’t eat …Tôi không ănToy kxong ein
10I’m a vegetarianTôi ăn chayToy ein chei
11Bill, pleaseTính 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

Phrase#English PhraseVietnamese PhraseApproximate English Pronunciation
12Do you speak English?Bạn có nói tiếng Anh không?Ban ko noy teen ann kxong
“o” as in hot
13Where can I get a taxi?Tôi có thể bắt taxi ở đâu?Toy ko tey bak taxi er dou
14Do you know where … is?Bạn có biết … ở đâu không?Ban ko beet … er dou kxong
15Call the policeGọi cảnh sátGoy kann sat
16Can you get me a doctor?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
17Thank youCảm 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

Phrase#English PhraseVietnamese PhraseApproximate English Pronunciation
18Excuse me, …/SorryXin lỗiSeen loy
19I don’t understandTôi không hiểuToy kxong hew
20No, thank youKhông, 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.

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.

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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What are some must know Vietnamese language phrases when traveling to Vietnam?
Nhi Nguyen
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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