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40 Chinese Phrases Every Backpacker Will Find Useful While Visiting China

If you’re heading to China and you haven’t been before, it can be helpful to speak some of the languages. While English teaching might be a popular profession for foreigners in China, you might be surprised to hear that a lot of the locals can’t speak it. In fact, some sources state that only around 1% of the Chinese population can speak English.

Chinese letters written

Of course, learning a whole language just for heading on holiday is a lot of work. You don’t have to worry too much in big cities in China, although the people may not speak English most tourist spots have English menus and signs for tourist since people visit from all over the world. But if you want to go to more rural areas that are off the beaten path, that might be a different issue.

That’s why we’ve narrowed it down to a few different situations you’ll probably encounter. Follow the phrases below, and you’ll almost definitely be able to navigate them without any problem.

Remember, Chinese is a very different language from English, so if you’re having trouble trying to pronounce it accurately, don’t worry. Before you head to China, it might be a good idea to check some of the phrases below and find out how they can be pronounced correctly. Good luck!

Chinese Phrases for Introductions

What could be more important than introducing yourself? Make sure that you know exactly how to tell people your name and where you’re from in easy to understand Chinese. This is especially important in China. The locals will be impressed and very grateful for the effort you have made.

Nǐ hǎo – Hello!

Wǒ jiào… – My Name is…

wǒ shì yī gè (Country) – I am a (country person)

yīng guó rén (English) měi guó rén (American) bō lán rén (Polish)

Chinese Phrases for Navigating Conversations

So you’ve introduced yourself, but now the other person keeps speaking. It’s ok, they’re just curious, but you’re starting to wonder what you can say next. You might be able to understand a little bit of what they’re saying, but you’re not entirely sure. Try these phrases to navigate your way through the conversation. Mix it up with hand gestures for full effect.


Nǐ huì shuō yīngyǔ ma? – Can you speak English?
Nǐ huì shuō zhōngwén ma? – Can you speak Chinese?
Wǒ hànyǔ shuō dé bù hǎo – I don’t speak Chinese well
Tīng bù dǒng – I don’t understand
Wǒ zhīdào – I understand
Wǒ bù zhīdào – I don’t know

Bù hǎoyìsi – Sorry
Zàijiàn – Goodbye

Chinese Phrases for Finding Where to Go

You’re lost! You didn’t think this would happen. In fact, you knew you followed the guidebook and the map correctly, so why are you here?

Street in China

No worries look like you’re going to have to ask some Chinese people for help though. Don’t worry, and it’s easier than you might think. As long as you can get the grammar right, you should be on your way to making it to your desired destination in no time!

… Zài nǎ’er? – Where is….

Wǒ mílùle – I’m lost

Yòubiān – Right
zuǒbiān – Left
zhí zǒu – Straight

Wèishēngjiān zài nǎ’er? – Where is the toilet?

Chinese Phrases for Eating

Dinner time! China has some of the best food in the world (if you don’t mind us saying), but that doesn’t mean much if you can’t eat it.

Food stand in China

Here are some Chinese phrases for how to make it clear you’re hungry or thirsty.

Wǒ yào chīfàn – I want to eat
wǒ hěn è – I’m really hungry
wǒ hěn kě – I’m really thirsty
zhè shì shénme? – What is this?

Wǒ yào tā chī de – I want what they are eating
wǒ bù chī ròu – I don’t eat meat

Chinese Phrases for Money and Buying

Whether it’s food, drink, clothes, a car… you’re probably going to end up having to buy something in China at some point. If you’re in a market, you’re going to want to put on your best bargaining face, Chinese sellers can be ruthless.

Below you’ll find some of the top phrases for making sure that you can get the best price possible for exactly what you want.

Duōshǎo qián? – How much is it?
Wǒ yào zhège – I want this one

Wǒ kěbù kěyǐ shì – Can I try this on?

Qǐng gěi wǒ dà hào de – Can you give me a bigger one?
Tài gui le! – Too expensive!
Kěyǐ piányí yīdiǎn ma? – Can you go a little cheaper?

Chinese Phrases for Finding a Place to Stay

The evening has come, and it’s time to settle in. Maybe you found a hotel earlier in the day, and maybe you are just looking for one now. Whatever the case, you’re going to need a couple of phrases to help you find a hotel, get checked in, and sign into the Wi-Fi.


Luckily for you, we’ve put together a list of the most useful phrases to do all of these things when it comes to finding a place to stay. Remember, in China, only some hotels are allowed to accept foreign guests. Make sure to check with the hotel before you book up to ensure you’re allowed to stay there.

Jiǔdiàn zài nǎ’er? – Where is a hotel?

Wàiguó rén kěyǐ rùzhù ma? – Can foreigners stay here?

Duōshǎo qián yī wǎn – How much for one night?

Wǒ yào bànlǐ rùzhù – I want to check in.

Qǐngwèn, zhè li yǒu wifi ma? – Does this place have wifi?

Chinese Numbers

You might be surprised by how often you’ll actually need to use numbers while in China. They come up quite a lot.

Chinese lantern

Make sure to pay attention to the format for making numbers. For example, if you want to say 20, you need to say the 2 first, then say 10. It’s just like saying two tens. The same goes for all other numbers above 10.

Yī, èr, sān – 1, 2, 3
sì, wǔ, liù – 4, 5, 6
qī, bā, jiǔ, shí – 7, 8, 9

Èr shí – 20

Èr shí yī – 21

Hope these tips and phrases will help you on your trip!

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Cez Krol

Travel blogger at eTramping
Cez lives in China like a local for the past 4 years. Apart from speaking the language, he loves to discover more about this unique country of extreme contrasts. He shares his China experiences here at Sublime China and on his blog eTramping, so go and check out what's out there for you in China.
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