Basic Vocabulary to Get You Started
Attractions — places for tourists to see
What attractions should we see while we’re here?
Make sure you go see the Statue of Liberty and the Empire State Building!
Business district — also called the financial district, this is the center of the city where most offices are located
Avoid the business district at 5:00 PM. There’s a lot of traffic!
Entertainment district — an area that has lots of clubs, bars, theaters, etc.
Let’s go to the entertainment district tonight. I’m ready for some fun!
Dining district — an area with a lot of restaurants
You’re looking for a nice restaurant? The dining district is two blocks away. There are lots of good places to eat!
Custom — something that people do as part of their culture
Can you tell me if I need to tip here? I don’t know the customs of this country.
Highlight — best part (of something) or an important part of an event or period of time
The Statue of Liberty was the highlight of our trip.
Scenery — the setting for a place, natural beauty that you see around a place
The scenery around the city is lovely.
Surroundings — all of the things around you
Be aware of your surroundings at all times so you don’t get lost.
Depart — leave, take off
We’ll depart from the hotel at 11:00 AM.
Arrive — come to a place, reach a destination
We’re going to arrive at the airport in about 15 minutes.
Recommend — give advice, suggest
Can you recommend a good restaurant?
Sit back and relax — a common phrase to tell people to have a good time
Sit back and relax and we’ll have your drinks out shortly.
Phrases to Check for Understanding
Double-check what you heard
If you work in the tourism industry, you probably have experience with miscommunication.
As a guide, host or receptionist, it’s your job to make sure that you’re double-checking for understanding. These phrases are simple and quick ways to make sure you and your guest are on the same page.
- I heard you ask (about flights). Is that correct?
- So, you said (you wanted to visit the ruins), right?
- Okay, I understand that (your flight leaves at 3 PM). Is that correct?
Take the time to ask for clarification with these phrases
Even though you’re both speaking English, your guest may use vocabulary that you’re unfamiliar with. Likewise, they might have an accent that’s difficult for you to understand. Here are some polite ways to ask them to repeat or clarify what they said.
- I’m sorry, I didn’t quite understand that. Can you say that again?
- Pardon my English, but I didn’t quite understand that. Can you say that again?
- I’m sorry, but I didn’t catch that. Can you describe what you mean?
Invite your guests to ask questions with these phrases
Some cultures encourage people to be outspoken, while those from other parts of the world prefer people to act in a more reserved manner. Make all of your guests feel welcome by encouraging them to ask questions.
- Does anyone have any questions?
- Yes, sir/ma’am? Do you have a question?
- Please feel free to raise your hand any time if you have a question.
- So, any questions?
- For (authentic cuisine, family activities, etc), I recommend…
- My favorite place is…
- Personally, I suggest…
Tourist: Excuse me, do you know a good place for ice cream?
Guide: Oh, yes. For really good ice cream, I recommend “Maria’s.” It’s located about six blocks from here, and it’s my favorite place. Personally, I suggest the chocolate cherry flavor, but they’re famous for their award-winning lemon flavor. I think your family will like it.
Tourist: Great, thanks!
Providing directions and describing places
- Turn left
- Turn right
- Go straight
- Stop at the…
- Continue until…
- Take the (subway, bus, etc.)
- Follow the signs for…
Points of reference
- At the traffic light
- At the next (street, light, block, etc.)
- In (five) blocks
- Near the (hotel, beach, station, etc.)
- On the main plaza
Tourist: Can you tell me how to get to the theater?
Guide: Sure! The theater is near the train station. You need to go straight down this street for one block. At the next street, turn left. Continue until you see a sign for the theater, in about five blocks. If you’re lost, you can follow the signs for the train station. Does that make sense?
Tourist: Yes, thank you!
Here’s a helpful video to practice basic phrases for giving directions.
Using simple “ice breakers” to make friendly small talk
Here are some phrases that you can use when you want to get to know the tourists a little bit better.
- So, are you enjoying your time in (Paris) so far?
- Tell me, what is your favorite part of the city so far?
- I’m curious, do you think this city seems friendly?
- Tell me, what do/did you think of the (architecture, food, beach, festival, etc.)?
Looking for more ways to practice? If you work in the hotel and hospitality industry, practice your English for hotel management, or learn hotel and hospitality vocabulary from movies.