What to Do If You Get Lost Abroad and Only Speak English

October 24th, 2013 | by Ashyln Molly

Many novice and even experienced travellers and tourists are unconsciously afraid of getting lost in a foreign country far away from a hotel or а guide. The main reasons of this fear are often lack of language skills and certain countries’ “bad” regions or seemingly strange customs. So, how should you explain to people around you what you need if you speak a language locals don’t speak or understand? What should you do if you are a new guest in a different culture?

First of all, do not panic. If you get anxious, people around you will notice it. Countries like Egypt, Turkey and United Arab Emirates are famous for regions with a large number of criminals. They usually hunt for confused tourists to make a profit, thus your panic might get you into troubles. Travel insurance policy is a good way to feel less vulnerable. Stay calm and don’t let your common sense let you down.

Second. Language barrier is not a barrier at all. The secret of speaking silently is very simple: behave like a child. Take a look at two or more small children playing together: they understand each other without words. Mothers always understand what small children want though children don’t talk. So, imagine you are a child: use gestures, emotions and spontaneity. Find a local resident and explain what you need using gestures. Hotel or street name can be enough to let the other person understand that you got lost and help you. If it doesn’t help, try to draw where you need to go with whatever you can find (pen, lipstick or stick) and draw your hotel on a paper, a napkin or on the ground.

For the greatest chance of finding your way, stay away from suspicious strangers and search for a group of tourists with a guide. Guides usually speak English and can help you with the right direction, street or bus station. No tourists around? Then take a closer look and approach an aged person (and unlikely a criminal who tries to rip you off). Aged people are usually well-wishing and ready to help, and if they don’t know themselves they may gladly ask other passersby about your destination. Third best option: women, young ladies or students, who tend to know about places, streets and buildings in a city. And undoubtedly it is safer to talk to unknown women than men (especially if you are a woman).

Whatever you do to get help, don’t take things on the chin. Do what you can with what you have, make the best of the situation and you’ll be on your way again.

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