Basic Tourist French Phrases

Valorie Delp
Basic French Tourist Phrases
Download a Printable List of Phrases

Going to France soon? The French have an undeserved reputation for being 'snooty' - especially in Paris. However, by making an effort to learn a few travel-oriented phrases before your trip, you'll be able to communicate well enough to discover more than a few French people who are exceptionally hospitable and willing to help.

Getting Around

The best way to travel through France is generally by train. However, depending on where you are going and what you're doing, you may want to rent or take a cab. The following are a few phrases that can come in handy.

Taking the Train

The train is the easiest way to get around in Paris, the surrounding neighborhoods, and through France. It is relatively cheap, and most people use it to travel through Europe as well. The following phrases may come in handy.

French Pronunciation English
The Train Station
Est-ce que c'est le bon quai pour le train de. . .(Paris, Marseilles, etc.) eh-skuh say luh bohn kay poor luh trehn duh Is this the right platform for the train to. . .
Est-ce que la place est prise? eh-skuh lah plahs ay preez Is this seat taken?
Je voudrais l'horaire. zhuh-voo-dray l'oorair I'd like the schedule.
Je voudrais un billet en aller retour pour. . . zhuh-voo-dray uhn-bee-yay ehn-ah-lay ruh-toor poor... I'd like a round trip ticket to. . .
Je voudrais un billet en aller simple pour... zhuh-voo-dray uhn-bee-yay ehn-ah-lay sahm-pluh poor... I'd like a one way ticket to. . .
Où est le guichet? ooh-ay-luh-gee-shay Where's the ticket counter?
Où sommes-nous? oo sum-noo Where are we?
Quand part le prochain train pour kahn pahr luh proh-shehn trehn poor. . . When does the next rain for ____ leave?
Quel est le tarif jusqu'à Paris? kell-ay luh-tah-reef zhuh-skah Pah-ree How much does it cost for a ticket to Paris?

Taking a Cab

If you're not willing or able to take the train, a cab is your next best bet. You'll pay more, but at least you won't get lost. Additionally, most taxicab drivers, at least in Paris itself, speak some English.

French Pronunciation English
In the Cab
Combien est-ce que je vous dois? coh-bee-ehn eskuh zhuh voo dwah How much do I owe you?
Est-ce que vous pouvez m'emmener à. . . eh-skuh voo poo-vay muh-muh-nay ah Can you take me to. . .
Je suis pressé(e). zhuh-swee-preh-say I'm in a hurry.
Je voudrais aller à zhuh voo-dray ah-lay ah I'd like to go to. . .
Pouvez-vous m'attendre? poo-vay voo mah-tahn-druh Can you wait for me?
Tourner à gauche/droite toor-nay ah goe-sh/dwot Turn right/left

Renting a Car

Renting a car is generally only advisable for tourists who want to traverse the country. With that said, if renting a car is in your plans, the following translations can be helpful.

French Pronunciation English
Traveling by Car
Dois-je payer par kilomètre ? dwah-zhuh pay-yay pahr kee-lo-met-ruh Do I pay by kilometer?
Je voudrais louer un voiture s'il vous plaît zhuh voo-dray loo-ay uhn vwah-toor see-voo-play I'd like to rent a car please
L'assurance est-elle comprise ? lah-soor-ahns et-ell cohm-preez Is insurance included?
Le plein s'il vous plaît. luh plehn see-voo-play Fill it up, please
Où est le station-service le plus proche? oo ay luh-stah-see-ohn luh ploo prosh? Where is the closest gas station?
Où puis-je prendre la voiture ? oo pwee-zhuh prohn-druh Where do I pick up the car?
Quand dois-je la rendre ? kahn dwah-zhuh lah rohn-druh When do I have to return the car?

Out and About

Dining Out

Regardless of your business in France, you will need to eat while you're there. Something to remember is that tipping is strictly optional in France - it is completely acceptable to not leave a tip.

Ordering in French
French Pronunciation English
J'ai terminé zhay tair-mee-nay I am finished
Je vais prendre zuh vay prohn-druh I'll have. . .
Je voudrais zhuh voo dray I would like
L'addition, s'il vous plaît lah-dee-see-ohn see-voo-play The check please
Je n'en peux plus zhuh nohn puh ploo I'm full
Je vous écoute zuh vooz-ay-coot What would like (less formal)?
la carte lah cahrt What American speakers would call 'the menu.'
le menu luh meh-noo The fixed-price menu; offers two or more course meals for a fixed price
Servis compris sair-vee cohm-pree service charge included (takes the place of a tip)

At the Hotel

Remember in France that you may need to request a bathroom and shower in your room if that's what you expect. It is not at all uncommon for guests to have to share a bathroom or walk down the hall to the showers.

French Pronunciation English
Accomodations
Avez-vous une piscine? ah-vay voo oon pee-seen Do you have a pool?
Complet cohm-pleh There's no vacancy.
Je vais payer en espèces zhuh vay pay-yay ohn eh-spehs I'll pay cash
Je voudrais être réveillé à six heures zhuh voo-ray eh-truh ray-vay-yay ah seez-ur I want a six o'clock wake up call.
Je voudrais une chambre à deux lits zhuh voo-dray uhn shom-bruh ah duh lee I'd like a room with two beds
Je voudrais une chambre avec une douche dans la chambre. zhuh voo-dray oon shom-bruh ah-vek oon doosh dahn la shom-bruh I'd like a room that has a shower in it.
Quelle est l'heure limite d'occupation ? kell ay lur lee-meet doh-coo-pah-see-ohn When is check-out?

Daily Activities

These phrases come in handy no matter where you are, or what you're doing.

French Pronunciation English
Miscellaneous Useful Phrases
Combien coûte. . . cohm-bee-ehn coot How much does ______ cost?
Je cherche. . . zhuh shairsh I'm looking for. . .
Je suis perdu zhuh-swee pair-doo I'm lost
Où se trouve. . . oo suh-troove Where is. . .
Pouvez-vous m'aider? poo-vay voo med-ay Can you help me?

If you need help downloading the printable, check out these helpful tips.

Resources for Learning Basic Tourist French Phrases

Having something with you such as a translator can help greatly, especially if you're going to need to get around on your own. Below are a few recommended resources:

  • Useful Expressions in French for the English Speaking Tourist: The title is pretty self-explanatory and the phrases are indeed useful. If you can only purchase one thing and you want a book, this is the book to purchase.
  • Rick Steven's French Phrase Book: This book, all in all, is pretty good for basic tourist phrases and is a little less pricey than the aforementioned selection. It is easy to use as well.
  • The Electronic Phrase Book: If you'd rather purchase an electronic option, this is your best bet. If is very small, so it will fit well in your purse - and it will look like you're using your smartphone instead of looking things up!

It is, of course, okay to dig out a dictionary to look up terms that you need help with. Generally, you'll find that the French are quite delighted when someone attempts to use the language, and will be very helpful.

Basic Tourist French Phrases