Language Tools for Female Travelers

Visiting foreign countries can be tricky when you don’t speak the language. Navigating your way through the trains, asking for directions and ordering meals using hand gestures can get you lost or with a questionable plate of food. If you’re not fluent in the local language, there are a few tools you can pack to help you communicate with your fellow travelers.

pocket translator
Pocket Translator

Phrasebooks 

Berlitz and Lonely Planet have some of the best language phrasebooks on the market. Lonely Planet’s books coordinate with their destinations, like the Europe phrasebook, which includes Basque, Bulgarian, Croatian, Hungarian, Polish, Portuguese, Romanian, Russian, Catalan, Welsh, Spanish, Swedish, Turkish, Italian, Dutch, French and German. They also have more obscure languages than are available in your average bookstore. The Rick Steves line of European phrasebooks is also good.

>> Buy phrasebooks on Amazon

Electronic Translators

Handheld electronic translators were once the go-to device for learning languages while traveling. They are about the size of a calculator and run from $50-200. While electronic translators are more expensive than other language options, they offer multiple languages so you can re-use them on your travels. Franklin has long been the leader of electronic translators and their products come highly recommended.

>> Buy translators on Amazon

Smartphone Apps

For travelers who are carrying their smartphones, iPhone apps can do the same translations that other tools can do without carrying around as many items.

  • Word Lens: This app uses the camera on your phone to translate the words on signs. It currently works in Spanish, French and Italian. Available for both Android and iPhone. $4.99.
  • Google Translate: You can type or record words in most languages, including Arabic, Italian, German and Chinese, and translates in either direction. Available for Android and iPhone. Free.
  • Jibbigo: Jibbigo’s appeal is that the app works even when you’re not connected to the Internet. You can type or speak the language and there is no limit to how many translations you can do. It is currently available in Thai, Chinese, French, German, German to Spanish (coming soon), Iraqi (iPhone only), Japanese, Korean, Spanish and Tagalog. Available for Android and iPhone. $4.99.
  • Interpret: Another free app, Interpret translates in over 50 languages and you can share your translations on Facebook, Twitter and via email. You can also tag favorite to look up time and time again. Available for iPhone. Free.
  • iSpeak: Each language gets a separate app with iSpeak, translating between English and Spanish, French, German, Italian, Portuguese, Dutch, Polish, Swedish, Arabic, Greek, Russian, Czech, Norwegian and Finnish. Available for iPhone. $1.99.
  • Odyssey Translator Pro: Odyssey sets up its translations in ways you would look for them, like drinks, food, conversation and shopping. It also works without a wireless or data connection. Current versions include English to Spanish, English to German, English to French, English to Italian, English to Brazilian Portuguese, English to Mandarin Chinese, Spanish to English and Brazilian Portuguese to English. Available for iPhone. $4.99.
  • World Nomads: This travel insurance company also has a series of free iPhone or iPod language apps that give you spoken lessons from a native speaker with helpful words, as well as tips on visiting your destination. Available languages include Swahili, Croatian, Korean, Khmer, Aussie slang, Nepali, Dutch, Greek, German, Swedish, Turkish, Russian, Portuguese, Malay, Arabic, Lao, Hindi, Thai, Indonesian, Mandarin, Italian, Japanese, Vietnamese, French and Spanish. Available for iPhone and iPod touch. Free.

Podcasts

There are hundreds of language podcasts to listen to on the train or plane ride to your destination. You can download them free on iTunes. The Pod101 series, in Japanese and Chinese, is very popular. Audiria is one of the top Spanish podcasts

Picture Cards

Photo cards let people know what you’re looking for or to tell them about a special dietary concerns (allergies, gluten free, vegetarian). Kwikpoint‘s photo translation cards work in any country because all you have to do is point to the picture. The waterproof, lightweight cards have over 600 pictures. SelectWisely markets to travelers with allergies and other medical conditions.

Written by Caroline

Caroline Eubanks is a native of Atlanta, Georgia, but has also called Charleston, South Carolina and Sydney, Australia home. After college graduation and a series of useless part-time jobs, she went to Australia for a working holiday. In that time, she worked as a bartender, bungee jumped, scuba dived, pet kangaroos, held koalas and drank hundreds of cups of tea. You can find Caroline at Caroline in the City.

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Gear We Use

Organization

Packing Cubes – Organize your luggage with the lightweight, durable and compressible Eagle Creek Pack-It Specter Compression Cubes.


Backpacks + Daypacks

Pacsafe – Since they come with extra theft-resisting features, Pacsafe bags make you a more confident traveler. We especially love this bag.

Sea to Summit – Of all the Sea to Summit products, our most recommended is the fits-in-your-palm, super packable Ultra-Sil Daypack.


Personal Care

Nalgene Toiletry Bottles – These leak-free toiletry bottles and tubs come in all sizes – even super tiny, helping minimalists pack it all without bulk.

Turkish Towels – They’re thinner than most travel towels, and they actually cover your body! We can’t get enough of Turkish towels for travel.


Clothing

Speakeasy Supply Co. – They make the awesome hidden pocket infinity scarves that are perfect for stashing secret cash, lip balms, and passports.

Anatomie – Anatomie travel pants come with luxury prices, but they offer many benefits for travelers. See our review of the famous Skyler pants.

Travel Resources

Booking Airfare

Dollar Flight Club – Get flight deal alerts for your preferred departure airport. There is both a free and premium version (recommended for more sweet deals). Members save on average $500 USD per flight!

Skyscanner – Skyscanner is our preferred site for searching flights. They offer unbiased search results and are free from hidden fees. You can also book your hotels and rental cars.


Accommodation

Airbnb – Airbnb is the best place to book out apartments around the world. Sign up using this link to get $37 USD off your first stay booking + $14 USD towards an experience booking!

Booking.com – Search for hotels, hostels, and apartments using this one resource. Use it for flights, car rentals, and airport taxis as well.

Hostelworld – For hostels, Hostelworld remains our number one source for booking stays. Choose from straight up hostels, budget hotels and bed and breakfasts.

Trusted Housesitters – Save money on travel accommodation by becoming a housesitter. Housesitters often have extra duties, like caring for pets and gardens.

Reader Interactions

Comments

  1. Ciara says

    Duolingo is a great (free!) app that works like all the expensive software. I’ve been using it and I love it- I’ve converted my sister to it too. It only has French, Portugese, German, Spanish and Italian, but it’s definitely worth a go if you’re interested in learning to speak a language, rather than just looking for phrases to get by with.

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