This post is also available in: Português

(This post is probably useless. The original is in Portuguese, which makes sense. If your level of English is poor, you will not understand that. If it is good, you will not need that. But as we translate everything, why not the extra work 😉 at least now you know what we think on the suject????!)

Well, yes and no. There is no way we can give you a direct answer to that as it depends on many facts. One of them is the kind of traveller you are. Speaking English will surely save you from many difficult situations. However, to conclude from it that non English speakers cannot travel, that is something totally different.

English to communicate with locals:

Two south koreans protesting in Seoul

South Koreans protesting, apparently (2015)

Even though English is the official international language, what we realise from our 2 years and a half travelling around the world, is that local people hardly speak at a conversational level. In fact, we communicate with many local people we met just by mimic (and trust us, it works!).

We believe that having great will power and open heart, everything works out. We always remember, for instance, when we spent a night in Georgia on someone’s house, drinking their local spirit (something like vodka, they call it chacha) and cheering at the best Georgian style. On that night, even not speaking the same language, we spoke about love, family, death, culture and history… we hugged each other and felt emotional. He spoke Russian to us and responded back in English. Did the chacha help the communication? No doubt! But similar things happened to us before and after that too.

drinking in Georgia

The night at our new Georgian friend’s house, when we spoke with no words!

As we hitchhiked quite often and slept on people’s house who we had just met on the way, we found ourselves in this situation which we could not communicate well with the person, and yet had incredible experiences.

On the other hand, once in South Korea, the cashier of the bus station could not understand us, even though we were pretty much just saying the name of the city we wanted to go. She replied in Korean only, then panicked with the situation and simply SOLD US A TICKET TO ANOTHER CITY. Really, that happened. We realised the bus passed the city we wanted and we stopped at a few next. That means, to speak English doesn’t necessarily mean you will succeed on your travels.

English to communicate with other travellers:

people on Stand-up Paddle in Malawi Lake

Group of South Africans, Canadians, Brazilians, Spanish and Polish!

At the same time few local speak English, the complete opposite happens with the traveller community. Amongst groups, gathering, hotel/hostel, bares, etc… English is the most spoken language and, not being able to participate in these random meetings will definitely have a negative impact on your trip. Most of the coolest tips we got during our travel came from other travellers.

If you, like us, believe that the best part of the journey is to meet new people, you will agree on, not being able to communicate with others will for sure curb considerably your experience.

Signs, directions and information:

Smoking area in Morocco

Arriving in Marrakech

Another point which can be stressful, is not being able to understand traffic signs or information at airports. Even in countries less open to tourism, such as Iran, there are important information in English. Therefore, be always aware, observe people around you and, whenever you aren’t sure about something, ask for help.

Once in Russia, for instance, we were completely lost in the metro station (they are huge – and stunning though – but immense, see here) and before Sochi, there were many concerns about signs translated to English.

Metro in Russia

The immense metro stations in Russia

We decided to ask someone the way out of there. Even though no one speaks English, we managed to find a person who speaks Spanish (emoji looking up) and sort ourselves out. That means, don’t be shy and on the difficult moments go asking people around you. Somebody will eventually help you ????

*Check it out “The wonderful Russian metro stations you need to know!” 

But anyway, all of that was said but nothing answered: After all, do you need to speak English to travel?

huge traffic signs in Italy

Imagine driving and having to make sense of that!

The conclusion is no. You don’t really must speak English to travel (Yaaeee). But understand that you will go through some difficult moments and very likely will not enjoy as much if otherwise.

However, if you are planning a big trip and make a lifestyle out of it, like us, we definitely recommend an English course before starting it all. If you know very little, learn some basic and keep on learning on the go.

promotion in the market

We are still trying to understand this massive deal (it does say offert)

To learn a new language is always useful and many doors can open for you because of that. Do not give up, though. It will look very hard at the beginning, but eventually, you will be talking and all the hard work, as always, will pay off. Eventually, you will find yourself making new friends, arranging new adventures to destinations you have never imagined, all in English with English speakers friends.

Tips for all travellers/tourists:

window of metro saying women only in persian

The underground in Tehran, Iran

– Learn basic words in English and in the local language before arriving;

– Download the Google Translator App which makes instantaneous translation (see other apps every traveler should have!);

– To communicate, speak slowly and use body language;

– Always smile. When you smile, people are more likely to help you;

– Be open to difficult moments. As we said before, they will happen, a lot, whether you speak English or not.