Essential French Travel Words and Phrases for a Bon Voyage

Your bags are packed, your boarding pass is in hand and your passport is in its special place for safekeeping…

You flip through the pages of a magazine and snack on the M&Ms you bought at the airport convenience store until you hear the boarding announcement. Your heart skips a beat as you gather your things. France is (literally) just a flight away, and you can hardly wait to skip alongside the Seine and say hello to the Eiffel Tower!

Of course, Paris is always a good idea, but it is also rewarding to explore beyond the beaten path. France has many gems for every taste: magnificent mountains, bewitching beaches, cozy coves and vibrant villages for anyone wishing to explore. Attention: if you venture off the well-trodden trail, a little French could come in handy, especially if you find yourself in a place where not much English is spoken. Here is a guide to the essential words and phrases that will guarantee a bon voyage no matter where you go!      

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At the airport

Alors, you’ve landed in Roissy Charles de Gaulle or Orly with hopefully no hiccups (or travel turbulence) and now it’s time to navigate a new land. Here are some essential airport terms to make your journey just as sweet as the destination. 

Porte d’embarquementGate
Carte d’embarquementBoarding pass
Livraison des bagagesBaggage claim
Transports en comunPublic transport
Billet simpleOne-way ticket
Billet aller-retourRound trip ticket

Some helpful phrases

Puis-je vérifier votre passeport ?  Can I check your passport?

Est-ce que j’ai besoin d’un visa ?  Do I need a visa?

Vous n’avez pas besoin de visa.  You don’t need a visa.

Nous voyageons ensemble.  We are traveling together.

Je voyage avec un enfant.  I am traveling with a child.

Est-ce que mon vol a du retard ?  Is my flight delayed?

Est-ce que mon vol est annulé ?  Is my flight canceled?

Est-ce que cette place est libre ?  Is this seat taken?

J’aimerais changer de place, s’il vous plaît.  I would like to change my seat please.

Je ne trouve pas mon bagage.  I can’t find my suitcase. 

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At the train station

France boasts a vast and efficient railway system that crisscrosses the country much like our body’s own circulatory system. It’s comfortable, convenient and a great way to see the French countryside without the hassle of renting a car – not to mention you get to avoid the endless airport lines! Here is some vocabulary that will come in handy at the train station.

GareTrain station
Hall d’embarquementDeparture lounge
Grandes lignesLong-distance trains
VoitureTrain car
GuichetTicket office
ArrêtTrain stop
TerminusLast stop
Retard Delay
À l’heureOn-time
Contrôle des billetsTicket control

Some helpful phrases

Où est la gare ?  Where is the train station?

À quelle heure est le prochain train ?  What time is the next train?

À quelle heure est le dernier train ?  What time is the last train?

Où est-ce que je peux acheter un billet ?  Where can I buy a ticket?

J’aimerais aller à…  I would like to go to…

In the city

Paris, like many other French cities such as Bordeaux and Marseille, has its origins in ancient history. A group of Celtic fishermen called the Parisii settled on the Île de Cité back in the 3rd century BC, and thus Paris was born. Of course, the city has evolved and modernized over the centuries (most notably thanks to le Baron Haussmann), but navigating the city can at times feel a bit medieval. 

To make the most of your stay, here are some handy phrases to help you out in a pinch. Just don’t forget that it’s always nice to add a little s’il vous plaît (“please”) for extra politeness points when asking for a helping hand.

Où est… ?Where is…?
Pouvez-vous me montrer sur une carte ?Can you show me on a map?
Pouvez-vous répéter, s’il vous plaît ?Can you repeat, please?
Parlez-vous anglais ?Do you speak English?
Comment dit-on… ?How do you say…?
Combien coûte… ?How much is…?
Puis-je avoir… ?Can I have…?
Savez-vous… ? / Connaissez-vous… ?Do you know…?

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At a hotel

Most hotels, especially in larger cities, make it a point to hire multilingual staff, but you can never be too sure, particularly when it comes to the night shift. Since it’s always better to be safe than sorry, we have included some hotel vocabulary to ensure a smooth séjour.

Auberge de jeunesseHostel
Réserver une chambreTo book a room
Il y a de la place / Il n’y a pas de placeVacancies / No vacancies
Frais de serviceService charges

Some helpful phrases

Bonjour, j’ai une réservation.  Hello, I have a reservation.

J’ai réservé une chambre pour (une, deux, trois…) personne(s).  I reserved a room for (one, two, three…) person/people.

Je n’ai pas de réservation. Avez-vous des chambres disponibles ?  I don’t have a reservation. Do you have any rooms available?

Je voudrais une chambre pour une / deux personnes.  I would like a room for one / two person/people.

Avez-vous une chambre avec la climatisation / le chauffage ?  Do you have a room with air conditioning / heating?

At a restaurant

French gastronomy is known far and wide for its quality, diversity and innovation – it is the essence of l’art de vivre à la française. From the natural wine of the Loire valley and the champagne caves of Reims to the butter capital of Bretagne, it’s a delicious introduction to French culture. Plus, we all know the quickest way to the heart is through the stomach! Eat to your heart’s content with the help of these restaurant-related words and phrases.  

French English
MenuFixed-price menu
ApéritifsPre-dinner drinks
PlatMain course
Carafe d’eauPitcher of tap water
Le plat du jourToday’s special(s)

Some helpful phrases

Bonjour, une table pour une/deux/trois personnes, s’il vous plaît.  Hello, a table for one/two/three person/people, please.

Avez-vous une carte en anglais?  Do you have a menu in English?

Pouvons-nous commander?  May we order?

Je voudrais…  I would like….

L’addition, s’il vous plaît.  The bill, please.

If you’re more into drinking than eating, don’t forget to check out our survival guide when in a French bar.

Why settle for an amuse-bouche when you can get the full formule? Try Frantastique, our online French lessons free for 7 days! Bon appetit!

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