South Korea is a wonderful place to explore that really is off the beaten path in the truest sense of the term. Outside of Seoul, you’ll be hard pressed to find other western travelers, even at the more popular tourist destinations.
This country isn’t much like anywhere else – it dances to it’s own tune – that’s what makes it such an intriguing destination and a difficult one. The trouble is, outside of Seoul, very few South Koreans speak English. This can make travelling confusing and difficult at times. Fortunately, by learning just a few key phrases, you can confidently venture where even the boldest of monolingual backpackers fear to tread.
In our experience phrase books are pretty useless for the absolute beginner in Korean so we’ve put together a list of our most used Korean phrases for travelling. It’s by no means comprehensive, but these are the phrases that we find ourselves using again and again when we travel. We can’t imagine how anyone gets by without them. With this list, a bit of mime, patience and a good sense of humour, we think you’ll be able to get around just fine. If all else fails just grab a passing teenager, most of them speak at least a little English as they have to study it at school.
The middle column is just a pronunciation guide, it’s not the correct way to write these words using the alphabet.
English Pronunciation Korean
Hello Ahn-yong-hass-eh-yo 안녕하세요
Goodbye Ahn-yonghee-geh-seh-yoh 안녕히계세요
Thankyou Gam-sa-hamnida 감사합니다
Is this OK? Gwen-chahn-ah-yo? 괜찬아요
It’s fine/no problem Gwen-chahn-ah-yo 괜찬아요?
Excuse me (getting attention) Cham-shi-mahn-yo 잠시만요
My name is Bob. Cho-nen Bob imnidah 저는 Bob 입니다
Yes Yeah 예
No Ah-nee-oh 아니요
Accommodation Sook bahk 숙박
Guesthouse Geh-suh-tuh Ha-ooh-suh 게스트 하우스
Minbak (similar to guesthouse) Min-bahk 민박
Hotel Hoh-tel 호텔
Is there a hotel? Hoh-tel iss-oh-yo? 호텔있어요?
Where is the hotel? Hoh-tel oh-dee-yeh-yo? 호텔 어디에요?
Do you have a room available? Bang-iss-oh-yo? 방 있어요?
Can I look at the room? Bang pwa-doo-teh-yo? 방봐도돼요?
Do you have a fan? Son-poong-ki iss-oh-yo? 선풍기있어요?
Is there air-conditioning? Eh-con iss-oh-yo? 에어컨 있어요?
How much does it cost? Ol-ma-yeh-yo? 얼마예요?
It doesn’t work. An-dweh-yo 안되요
Aircon Eh-con 에어컨
Electric fan Son-poong-ki 선풍기
Restaurant Shik-dang 식당
Pork Dweh-ji 돼지
Fish Seng-son 생선
Beef Soh 소
Duck meat Ori 오리
Chicken meat Duck 닭
Vegetarian Chaeh-shick 채식