Essential Korean Phrases for Travelers

Hong Yonghee serves lotus flower tea at her tea-house in the countryside near Boeun in North Gyeongsang Province.

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