So you reach for the trusty phrase book you picked up second-hand on Amazon. ‘Now I can communicate with all the panache of a native speaker,' you think as you congratulate yourself on having the foresight to pack it.
That is, until you flick through the pages and realise there isn't a single useful phrase for modern travellers.
Knowing how to ask if you can send a fax or where to exchange traveller's cheques may have cut it back in the nineties, but this is 2017, pal! You need to know how to ask the relevant questions, and you don't want to sound like a robot reciting them off the page.
But what to learn beyond basic greetings and pleasantries? And unless you have the free time and cash to pay for lessons before you go, how are you meant to learn a language to begin with?
For tips, we talked to our friends at Tandem -- a nifty language exchange app that instantly connects you with a community of native speakers around the globe.
There are plenty of language apps out there (after all, this is 2017!), but none of them are quite as useful when it comes to nailing useful phrases and perfecting the accent.
These nine phrases have been cherry-picked by the seasoned travellers of the Tandem community:
1. Can you tell me the WIFI code, please?
Pouvez-vous me dire le code WIFI, s'il vous plaît?
2. Are you on TripAdvisor?
Êtes-vous sur TripAdvisor?
Photo: Franklin Heijnen/Flickr
3. I have an online booking for a room tonight
J'ai fait une réservation en ligne pour une chambre ce soir
4. Do you accept contactless?
Acceptez-vous les paiements sans contact?
Photo: ING Nederland/Flickr
5. Do you have a website?
Avez-vous un site internet?
6. Can I buy tickets online?
Puis-je acheter des billets en ligne?
7. Where can I charge my phone?
Où puis-je charger mon portable?
8. Where can I top up my phone?
Où puis-je recharger mon portable?
9. Are selfie sticks allowed here?
Est-ce que les perches à selfie sont autorisées ici?
Now you know these everyday phrases you could join Tandem and practice the pronunciation with a native speaker. With a bit of help they'll roll off the tongue like you're a native speaker in no time at all.
What's more - learning the basics of the language will make you feel more confident travelling in a new country, saving the day in tricky situations, and helping you to get the most out of your trip. And the locals always appreciate it when you've taken the time to learn a few words and phrases!
But how do you connect in the first place? It's really easy - all you have to do is download the Tandem app, log in, find someone online who speaks your target language, and invite them to chat. You can even find people who specialise in different dialects. The whole process takes minutes. And it's totally free.
In exchange you'll help your tutor with your own language, so you can teach them useful phrases like “How much is your cheapest drink?” and “Where's the nearest late-night takeaway?”.
You can download Tandem here - get a head start learning the words and phrases you actually need and, even better, learn them wherever and whenever you want.