Last week, we spoke about the top languages to help you travel the world. As helpful as these languages are, they will only help to facilitate communication with around 60% of people on Earth. When you are travelling through several countries that have different languages, it becomes almost impossible to learn phrases from every language. So what do you do when you hit an area where you can’t speak the language? You can do your best mime impression, or you can use symbols to communicate around the world without words.
Many symbols are universally recognised around the world. If you’ve been to Europe or Australia, you’ve probably seen Brown Tourist Signs somewhere. They are a set of over 90 uniform symbols to help tourists find places of interest. You’ve also probably seen a ‘No Smoking’ sign. Anyone, no matter what language they speak, knows what that one means. Whether they take note of it is another matter. It’s infuriating how many times I’ve seen people smoking right under/near no smoking signs in countries all around the world. Smoking is bad, mmmkay!
Communicate Around the World Without Words – Transport
Unless you plan on walking everywhere in a new country, you’re going to need to take transport at some point. But how can you find the train if you don’t know how to say train? Transport options can be very regionally specific. For example, places with islands are likely to have ferry services. Many regions do not have train services. Other regions have tourist transport options like cable cars, monorails and funiculars. Here we’ve included signs for the main types of transport you would encounter in most places.
Communicate Around the World Without Words – Primary Transport
The most common forms of primary transport are planes, buses, trains and taxis. In many regions, notably Latin America and Africa, minivans and shared taxis/collectivos replace bus services. Some cities also have tram services and ferry services. Here we’ve provided symbols for all of these. If you want your own copy of these, you can click on the picture to download your own PDF and keep it on your phone to show people when you’re in a new place.
Alternative transport options involve some regional or touristy forms of transport. For instance, monorails, which are generally more of a gimmick than useful city transport. In many countries throughout Asia, Latin America and Africa, you can find Tuk Tuks, also known as Autos, Rickshaws and Kekehs depending on the region you’re in. Funiculars and Cable cars are more often than not found at touristy places. Especially when there are hills involved.
In some areas you can find water taxis in the form of Sampans, Gondolas and speedboats, among others. Sometimes, you just need to grab a bike and make your own way there.
Communicate Around the World Without Words – Services
After you’ve sorted your transport, you might need to find out where certain services are. I guess the most important things that people look for when they first get to a new place are WiFi and ATMs. To be honest, if you just say the words ‘WiFi’ or ‘ATM’, people will know what you mean in most places. If they don’t, they’ll definitely know what these signs mean!
These symbols can also help you if you’re looking for a shopping centre, a library, toilets, a museum or a stadium/Sport Centre.
Communicate Around the Globe Without Words – Where are the Tourist Sites?
When you land in a new city, you’ll no doubt want to find out where the good tourist sites are. Or you might get lost on your way to the site and need to ask a local for directions. Of course, the best place to get information is a place where the staff are likely to speak English. This would be the nearest Tourist Information Centre. If that’s nowhere near, then give these symbols a go!
We’ve covered the most visited tourist sites, including viewpoints/lookouts, churches, mosques, castles, city centres, UNESCO sites and information centres.
Communicate Around the World Without Words – Accommodation
From experience, it can often be difficult to find your accommodation in a new place. Whether you’re trying to find some accommodations for the night, or you’ve already booked a hotel, motel, airbnb, hostel, homestead, yurt/ger or a tent, these symbols should help you get there.
If you’re lucky, someone at your accommodation might be able to speak English. More often than not in off-the-radar countries you can’t rely on that to be true.
Communicate Around the World Without Words – Entertainment Facilities
So you’ve got yourself settled in and you want to check out what’s happening in town. Where can you find yourself a meal or a good cup of tea or coffee? Or maybe you want something stronger, like a beer? We’ve got some symbols for that.
We’ve also got pictures for plays, movies, concerts and karaoke because that always seems like a good idea after a beer.
Communicate Around the World Without Words When Dining
Dining in foreign countries can be rather difficult if you have special dietary needs and cannot communicate them effectively. In fact, some would say it’s a nightmare. Especially if you have allergies. It’s no fun to carefully pick at your food, or just leave it uneaten because you’re scared of what could be in it.
That’s where these symbols come in. They should all be easily decipherable for anyone. We’ve covered common allergies like nuts, pepper and dairy. There’s even one for the vegetarians that can be used in conjuction with others for vegans, as well as a no sugar one for people on Keto. If you’re a Keto Vegan with nut and pepper allergies, just go ahead and use all of them!
Communicate Around the World Without Words – Natural Sites
The best part of any trip is finding the natural gems in your destination, right? Whether it be waterfalls, desert canyons, tranquil lakes, snow-tipped mountains, meandering rivers, the beach or national parks, who doesn’t want to see it all?
Once you make it to your natural paradise, What will you do? You can use our next set of symbols to find out what activities are available there!
If you’re someone who loves a bit of physical activity, you’re almost certainly always looking for your next thrill. You’ll love these symbols then. We’ve got you covered if you want to go hiking, ziplining and hang gliding. There are also some snow sports in there, or kayaking and swimming if you prefer being on or in the water.
Now, the last activity here is probably not for everyone, but at least with this symbol you won’t have to try to work out how to mime bungy jump without injuring yourself!!
Take the ‘Communicate Around the World Without Words’ Mini e-book With You!
Do you want your very own e-book to keep handy for use when you really need it in foreign lands? Then feel free to download our mini e-book, Communicate Around the World Without Words for all the symbols above in one place. We compiled it specifically to help you on your journey, so please, enjoy! :o)
Do you only want one of the above pages? No problem. Click on any of the pictures above to download the corresponding PDF. Let me know if you find it helpful! :o)
If you want to be inspired by some things that you can do and see around the world, check out the following articles
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