When you are packing for a trip abroad, you think about the clothes, shoes, accessories, and gear you may need for every situation in which you will find yourself. For Vietnam that means layers, strong walking shoes, a money belt and any other creature comforts to make sure you feel prepared and can enjoy your holiday fully.

That being said, there is one thing that you can’t physically pack in your luggage that will add to your comfort and ability to fit in with the locals once you land in Vietnam: speaking their language. Picking up just a few words and phrases will help you get where you need to go and will show locals that you are considerate of their language. Just trying to speak their language will often get you farther than an abrupt greeting in English. Here is a quick guide of 10 phrases and words that you will want to learn, practice and use while on holiday in Vietnam.

Culture Notes

Like many South East and East Asian languages, Vietnamese is a tonal language. This means there are six different tones that can change the meaning of a phrase. The language boasts an incredible 11 vowels, making it one of the richest languages in the world.

Vietnamese is the national language and is spoken throughout the vast majority of the country. Pronunciations of words can vary significantly between northern and southern inhabitants and there are three specific dialects associated with regions of Vietnam, namely northern, southern and central dialects.

It is also important to pay attention to the age of the person with whom you are speaking in relation to yourself. Vietnamese culture places a lot of importance on respect for elders, and so there is a complex system of words, greetings and phrases that are used to address people. When you are travelling, use the generic “tôi” for referring to yourself and “ban” for others (translates to “friend). It is not disrespectful and will help you make yourself understood.


Vietnamese: Xin chao!

Phonetic pronunciation: Sin chow!


Vietnamese: Tam biet

Phonetic pronunciation: Tam byet

What is your name?

Vietnamese: Ban ten gi

Phonetic pronunciation: Ban thane zee

My name is…

Vietnamese: Toi la

Phonetic pronunciation: Thoy la

Thank you

Vietnamese: Xin cam on

Phonetic pronunciation: Sin gahm un

You’re welcome

Vietnamese: Khong co’gi

Phonetic pronunciation: Khom go zee


Vietnamese: Vang

Phonetic pronunciation: Vung


Vietnamese: Khong

Phonetic pronunciation: Khome

Excuse me

Vietnamese: Xin loi

Phonetic pronunciation: Seen loy

Feeling more prepared? Ready to try your hand at Vietnamese? Take this guide with you for a quick refresher course if you need it along the way and get ready for the holiday of a lifetime as you spend time and get to know modern-day Vietnam and all the wonders it has to offer. Protect the rest of your journey with a travel insurance policy that is tailored to your needs, from Cover-More.

Image courtesy of Flickr user Justin Jensen