Jet setting to the other side of your own country, let alone around the globe, can be a daunting experience for many. Whether you’re traveling for work or for pleasure, there are endless hurdles to be overcome; hotel bookings, foreign food, culture shock, jetlag, you name it.

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One thing above all that can get in the way of a successful and productive trip, however, is language. Here are a few ways you can make communication easier for yourself when flying abroad.

1. Planning Ahead for Your Trip 

The first step to overcoming language barriers in the modern day begins in your pocket. Smartphones are one of the modern day’s most popular tech devices, with an estimated 2.5 billion in circulation worldwide. And for good reason.

The number of apps and hacks at your disposal when you have one on hand is endless – so, embrace technology and load up your pocket PC with tools in preparation for your trip. Foreign languages can be made easy with the right downloads and software.

Want to know how to order room service at 2 am or ask for a beer at a bar? Get yourself something like the Travel Phrasebook app. Want to pick up basic vocab and grammar? Consider Duolingo.

Certain websites and phone numbers can also be handy to have saved to your phone. Should the worst come to the worst and your flight is cancelled or delayed, there are services that can help you find compensation without the language barrier.

Take the Flightright website, for example, with their two minute compensation search service. They have a breakdown of recent flight situations and stats that might just prove invaluable when abroad and surrounded by a foreign language. EU regulation means that the law is on your side in such circumstances but it always helps to come prepared.  

2. Getting Around Town 

One of the biggest stumbling blocks when abroad is getting about within a city or region itself.

Asking for directions is key – and while the apps and language tools on your smartphone mentioned above can be helpful, portable tech has finite battery life. Sometimes, you might just need a little mime.

Want to know where the nearest train station is, or the local library, or a bathroom? Photos, hand signals and gestures are your next best bet.  

Body language is universal for the most part; even if you can’t speak a local native tongue, the way you present and carry your body says a lot. You can speak with your hands and you can speak with your head.

This kind of communication is especially important in business situations abroad, where, hopefully, you want to show a certain degree of respect.

So: relax. Let your shoulders drop. Smile. Give a firm handshake, or bow (where appropriate). In Asian countries, physical contact, in general, can vary to a great degree. It’s certainly worth doing some research wherever you’re headed before touchdown to ensure you don’t make anyone uncomfortable. 

3. Making the Most of Your Stay 

There’s no shame in asking for help, nor in hiring it! Many countries have tourist and travel agencies available that can either provide a physical, real-life tour guide at a cost, or just the right amount of maps, pamphlets, and notes to allow you to become your own.

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Between a tour guide’s potential English and your own knowledge of the local language, many of the barriers which language can set in place are easily broken down, allowing you to make the most of your stay. No bumbling about. Not getting lost.

What’s more, you’ll have the opportunity to get to know a destination from the inside out. Nobody knows your own hometown like you do, right? The same goes for tour guides, wherever you may be in the world.

Travel is almost never plain sailing. There are so many variables and possible problems to overcome that it can be daunting to even try – but, certainly, don’t let language be the thing to put you off.