Useful basic Vietnamese phrases to know for travelers

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The bright young generation of Vietnam

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Learning a new language is not an easy task. And not many locals can speak English. Thus, I pack in this article some phrases to help you make it easier when traveling to Vietnam. This language has five tones and every word you say with different tones will have different meanings. But trust me when I say that even when you speak with no tone, the locals will love you for your effort.

useful vietnamese phrases for travelers speak for fun vietnam saigon bike food tour saigon by night after dark vespa adventures saigonkisstours.com vietnam travel tips          Credit: Max Pixel 

Useful basic Vietnamese phrases to know for travelers

1. Addressing people

This sounds like a headache but Vietnamese is a tonal language with lots of honorifics (titles of respect). Anh means older brother and chi means older sister. Use em for yourself if you are addressing an older person. Moreover, Vietnamese locals are super generous. They don’t take it seriously if you mess it up when addressing them.

  • I = Toi
  • You = Ban
  • Male (junior) = em
  • Male (senior) = anh
  • Female (junior) = em
  • Female (senior) = chi

Put a little bit of emotion to your words when addressing the locals with the word oi. Say it Em oi, Anh oi, Chi oi to make them instantly like you.

2. Basic Vietnamese phrases for greeting

Thump up for those greeting phrases. It’s okay if you don’t want to memorize a lot of this language but use those below phrases to greet people then get a smile in return.

  • Hello = Xin Chao (Sin chow)
  • How are you? = Ban Khoe Khong? (Ban Kwe Khom?)
  • Thank you = Cam on (kahm uhn)
  • Sorry = Xin Loi (Sin Loy)
  • No Problem = Khong co gi (Khong koh zi)
  • Goodbye = Tam Biet (Tarm Byeet)
  • Can you speak English? = Ban noi tieng anh duoc khong? (Banh noi thien an durkh khom?)
  • My name is ___ =  Ten toi la ___ (Ten toy la ___)
  • What is your name? = Ten ban la gi?  (Ten bang la zi?)

3. Basic Vietnamese phrases for direction

how to get around in ho chi minh city vietnam saigon bike food tour saigon by night after dark vespa adventures saigonkisstours.com vietnam travel tips

Credit: vietnamonline.com

  • Where is the taxi rank? = Taxis o dau? (Taxis urh dauh?)
  • Where is the ATM? =  May rut tien ATM o dau? (May root tien ATM urn dole)
  • Go Straight = Di Thang (Di Thaang)
  • Go Left = Re Trai (Se chai)
  • Go Right = Re Phai (Se fih)
  • Stop = Dung Lai ( Duhng laai)
  • Go to the airport = Di san bay (Di sun bay)
  • Can I have a map? = cho toi mot cai ban do (Chor toi mot cai ban dor)
  • How far is it = Bao xa (Bao seh)
  • District = Quan (Wung)
  • Station = Ga
  • Bus stop = Tram xe bus (Tram seh butt)
  • Where? = O dau (uh dow?)
  • Wait 5 minutes = Cho nam phut (Churhn nam foot)

Check our blog for Getting Around in Vietnam

4. Basic Vietnamese phrases for shopping

Bargaining when traveling to some Asian countries is common. Vietnam is the country with lots of souvenirs to pick home for your family and friends. Shopping for clothes, handbags, shoes is also super cheap. If you want to treat yourself a bit with the shopping, prepare those below phrases.

  • How much? = Bao nhieu? (Baow nyew)
  • Too expensive = Mac Qua (Mac wa)
  • Can you reduce the price? = Giam gia duoc khong? (zam za duoc khom)
  • Do you want to sell? = co ban khong? (Cor ban kohm?)
  • I want to buy = toi muon mua (Toi mu-on mua)
  • One size larger = mot size lon hon ( Mot size lunh hunh)
  • One size smaller = mot size nho hon (Mot size nyunh hunh)
  • What do you do? = Ban lam gi? (Ban lahm zi?)

Check our blog for Getting Souvenirs in Vietnam

5. Basic Vietnamese phrases for dining out

From street-side eats to the luxurious restaurants and cafes, Vietnam is one of the heavens for the foodie. Note that the local drinks may be a bit too sweet to Western standards, make sure you tell the sellers when ordering. Prepare some useful basic Vietnamese phrases  of these phrases while dining out will help.

  • Excuse me (to waitress) = Chi oi
  • Excuse me (to waiter) = Anh oi
  • What is it? = Cai gi vay? (Kai zi vai)
  • The bill please = Tinh Tien (Din ting)
  • May I have the menu = cho toi cai menu duoc khong (Cho toy khai menu duuc khom)
  • I am allergic to peanut = To di ung voi dau phong (Doi yi ung voy dau fong)
  • I can not eat pork = toi khong an thit heo (Toi khom antit hehll)
  • I am vegetarian = Toi an chay (Toi an chayh)
  • I would like to have this = cho toi cai nay (Chor toi kah nai)
  • Chicken = Ga (Gar)
  • Rice = Com (Gurm)
  • Rice Noodle = Bun (Bumg)
  • Egg noodle = Mi (Mee)
  • Pork = Heo (Heyoh)
  • Beer = Bia
  • Beef = Bo (boh)
  • Cold = Lanh (Langh)
  • Hot =  Nong
  • No Ice = Khong da (Khom dar)
  • No sugar = Khong duong (Khom dueng)
  • One more please = them 1 cai (Tem mop kai)

food-tour-motobike-ho-chi-minh-city

6. Numbers in Vietnamese

It helps to know how to say numbers in Vietnamese when ordering or bargaining. Here, the basic numbers you should know.

  • 1 = Mot (Mobh)
  • 2 = Hai
  • 3 = Ba
  • 4 = Bon (Bumh)
  • 5 = Nam
  • 6 = Sau
  • 7 = Bay
  • 8 = Tam
  • 9 = Chin
  • 10 = Muoi
  • 1, 2, 3.. Cheers = Mot Hai Ba Zoo (Mobh Hai Ba Zooo…)

7. Basic Vietnamese phrases for emergency

  • I need to see a doctor = toi can gap bac si (Toy can gap back szi)
  • I am sick = Toi bi benh (Toy bee benh)
  • I had food poisoning = Toi bi ngo dau thuc an (Toy bee nyo doc thuch an)
  • I was robbed = Toi bi cuop (Toy bee cuoop)
  • Call the police = Goi canh sat (Goi gang sack)
  • I need to go to the hospital = Toi can di benh vien (Toy can di ben vien)
  • Help me = Cuu toi voi (Coo toy vuyh)

8. The art of body language and your love for life

Regarding about the body language and the art of getting what we want, my mom is a genius. She traveled to Thailand with some of her friends who are also in their mid-aged. None of them speak a little English or Thai language but they all got what they want by just using the body language and pointing.

Me: I speak Vietnamese. What’s your superpower?
Mom (laughing): I speak… mmm body language 

To sum this language guide up, I would love to encourage you to speak at least some greeting phrases to get what you want or simply to be friendly with the locals (not the scams sellers in this case).

You will notice that although the local people really want to get to know and show their friendliness to you, their lack of English makes them shy to speak. Speak at least Hello, Thank you, Good bye (Xin Chao, Cam On, Tam biet) since you deserve the smiles in return from the locals and get the sincere connection with the country.

Last but not least, I send to you this photo of the Vietnamese children. These cheerful faces will brighten up your day!

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Credit: kytrangho via pixabay

To get the truly local experience and bond with the young generation of Vietnam, learn more about this girl team in Saigon who ride the scooter to the local areas and taste the authentic food.

Wish you have some fun when practicing the language. Finally, don’t forget to share the experience with me in the comment below.

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Natalie Vo
Natalie Vo
100% Vietnamese, my passion is traveling and running projects related to tourism. I'm here to share what I know about Vietnam for travelers.

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