Vocabulary Lesson: French for Travelers

Learn Common French Words You'll Use While Traveling

Travelers to France and other countries where French is spoken will want to learn a few basic words in the local language. It will help you on your trip (le voyage) as you make your way around and speak to people.

In this French vocabulary lesson, you will learn how to ask for directions, navigate your transportation options and rent a car, avoid danger, and enjoy local shopping and dining during your stay.

It is an introductory lesson and you will find links to other lessons so you can further your studies.

As a traveler (voyageur), you may also want to brush up on French phrases required for politeness as well as a few that are essential and let people know that you are new to the language.

Have a good trip! (Bon voyage !)

Note: Many of the words below are linked to .wav files. Simply click on the link to listen to the pronunciation.

Getting Around and Asking for Directions

Whether you are roaming the streets of Paris or decide to take a drive in the French countryside, these simple phrases are useful for those times when you need to ask for help.

Where is...?Où se trouve... / Où est... ?
I can't find... Je ne peux pas trouver...
I'm lost.Je suis perdu.
Can you help me?Pouvez-vous m'aider ?
Help!Au secours ! or Aidez-moi !

Travel Essentials

Every traveler needs know these basic words for their journey.

Important Signs You Need to Know

Travelers can find themselves in precarious situations if they don't know how to read signs. Some signs will warn you of danger while others simply draw your attention to a simple fact (like the museum is closed or the restroom is out of service).

Before you travel, memorize these simple words and phrases that are found to ensure your trip goes a little smoother.

In case you should have a medical emergency, get sick, or have a specific medical condition, you will want to review and learn French vocabulary related to ailments and illnesses.

Shops, Restaurants, and Hotels 

In your journey, you will probably do quite a bit of shopping and dining. You will also need to stay at a hotel and all of these require you . The following vocabulary lessons will help you navigate all of these situations.

As a primer to those lessons, you will find that you will need to use these two phrases when making purchases.

I would like...Je voudrais...
How much does ____ cost?Combien coûte... ?

Transportation Essentials

You will also need to rely on various types of transportation (le transport) during your trip and reviewing these French words will be very useful.

By Plane

The airport comes with an entirely new set of vocabulary that you will want to know for your arrival and departure flights.

By Subway

Quite often, you will find that a subway is a great way to get from one place to another. Familiarizing yourself with these words will help you find the subway station.

By Bus

The bus is another great form of local transportation (le transport local) and you will want to know just a few words in French.

  • Bus - l'autobus
  • Bus stop - l'arrêt d'autobus
  • Bus station - la gare d'autobus

By Train

Traveling by train is an affordable and comfortable way to get around France and trains also come with a unique set of vocabulary that you will want to study.

  • Train - le train
  • Platform - le quai
  • Train station - la gare

At the Ticket Booth

No matter which mode of public transportation you choose, a ticket is often required and you will need to visit the ticket booth (billetterie).

Renting a Car in French

If you want to break out on your own, renting a car is a great way to do it. This portion of the lesson focuses on what you will need to know about car rentals, including what to ask for and important details in the rental agreement.

When you do get in the car (la voiture), you will also want to know basic French vocabulary for driving.

  • Rental - la location
I'd like to rent a car.Je voudrais louer une voiture.
I reserved a car.J'ai réservé une voiture.

Requesting a Particular Car

You can make special requests for the car you would like to rent with a simple sentence. Begin the request with "Je voudrais..." and specify the style of car you're seeking.

I would like...Je voudrais...
... automatic transmission.... une voiture avec transmission automatique.
... manual transmission / stick shift.... la boîte manuelle.
... ecomony car.... une voiture économie.
... compact car.... une voiture compacte.
... mid-size car.... une voiture intermédiaire.
... luxury car.... une voiture luxe.
... convertible.... une voiture décapotable.
... 4x4.... un quatre quatre.
... truck.... un camion.
... a two-door / four-door.... une voiture à deux / quatre portes.

Requesting Specific Features in a Car

If you have special requirements, such as a seat for your child, begin the sentence with "Je voudrais...(I would like...) and ask for one of these.

  • Air conditioning - la clime
  • Baby seat - une nacelle bébé
  • Booster seat - un réhausseur intégral
  • Child seat - un siège enfant

Details of the Rental Agreement

It is vital that you understand your rental agreement and these questions will ensure that there is no confusion lost in translation.

  • Extra driver - un conducteur supplémentaire
  • Damages - les dommages
How much will it cost?C'est combien ?
Do I have to pay by the kilometer?Dois-je payer par kilomètre ?
Is insurance included?L'assurance est-elle comprise ?
Does it take gas or diesel?Qu'est-ce qu'elle prend : essence ou gazole ?
Where can I pick up the car?Où puis-je prendre la voiture ?
When do I have to return it?Quand dois-je la rendre ?
Can I return it to Lyon/Nice?Puis-je la rendre à Lyon/Nice ?