100 basic Vietnamese phrases for a smooth travel (Updated 2023)

Knowing basic Vietnamese phrases is undoubtedly a privilege for travelers. The closer you get to the locals, the more you are unlocked from the country's hidden gems, hospitality, and also discounts.

Vietnamese people are renowned for their hospitality and generosity. Though the country's secondary language is English, only a minority uses it daily, especially in suburban areas. Knowing basic Vietnamese phrases is undoubtedly a privilege for travelers. The closer you get to the locals, the more you are unlocked from the country's hidden gems, hospitality, and discounts.

100 basic Vietnamese phrases

Though the Vietnamese language uses Latin alphabets, mastering it is not a cake due to the tone system and its variation. As a result, you get a lot to learn and practice. But, not to fear, you don't necessarily invest that much effort for a 2-weeks trip; we are about to get you covered with these essential, quick basic phrases to nail your first trip to this beautiful country.

Top things to do in Vietnam

Basic Vietnamese phrases for greetings.

Like many other Asian countries, Vietnamese people do not hug or kiss someone they meet for the first time. Most people don't feel comfortable with it, especially older folks. However, Vietnamese are fast at picking up new things, so you can do this next time after explaining them. For your first impression, use a friendly wave or handshake together with these greeting phrases.

  • Hello (politely) = Xin chào (Sin chow)
  • How are you doing? = Bạn khoẻ không? (Ban Kwe Khom)
  • Thank you = Cảm on (kahm uhn)
  • Sorry = Xin lỗi (Sin Loy)
  • No Problem = Không có gì (Khong koh zi)
  • Goodbye = Tạm biệt (Tarm Byeet)
  • No, Thank You! = Không! Cảm ơn (Khom, kahm uhn)
  • Can you speak English? = Bạn nói Tiếng anh được không? (Banh noi thien an durkh khom)
  • How old are you? = Bạn bao nhiêu tuổi (Ban ban nyew twoi)
  • I am __ years old = Tôi  ___ tuổi (toy ___ doyy)
  • What is your name? = Tên bạn là gì? (Ten bang la zi)
  • My name is ___ =   Tên tôi là  ___ (Ten toy la ___)

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Coffee shop building complex
Saigon's famous local hub for coffee and restaurant. Photo by jet dela cruz / Unsplash

Basic words to address people

Children’s smile
Age and gender define how you address someone in Vietnam. Photo by MI PHAM / Unsplash

When addressing younger people, regardless of gender, you use "em," and for yourself, you use "tôi." If you are addressing an older person, or in a formal scenario, you use "chị" for female and "anh" for male. In general, Vietnamese are very understanding and tend to forgive foreigners if they mix this up.

  • I = tôi /toy/
  • You = bạn /ban/
  • Female (junior) = em
  • Female (senior) = chị /ji/
  • Male (junior) = em
  • Male (senior) = anh

Basic Vietnamese phrases for direction and transportations

Vietnamese traffic is one of the attention-catching topics for first-time travelers—as one of the countries with the most scooters in the world, traveling through the city by scooter is a must-try experience. Public transportation and modern ride-hailing Apps are also available for your choices. Learn these essential phrases to get your driver better navigation of your destination.

This was my favorite memory and experience in Vietnam. We traveled from Hoi An to Hue via motorbike along the hai van pass. It was absolutely breathtaking and led to some unreal views and vistas.
Vietnam's primary vehicles are scooters. Photo by Jordan Opel / Unsplash
  • Where is the taxi rank? = Taxi ở đâu? (Taxis are dauh?)
  • Where is the ATM? =  Máy ATM ở đâu? (May ATM urn dole)
  • Go Straight = Đi thẳng ( Di Thaang)
  • Go Left = Rẽ trái (Se chai)
  • Go Right = Rẽ phảo (Se fih)
  • Stop = Dừng lại ( Duhng laai)
  • Go to the airport = Đi sân bay (Di sun bay)
  • Can I have a map? = Cho tôi một cái bản đồ ( chor toi mot cai ban dor)
  • How far is it = Bao xa (Bao seh)
  • Far = Xa (seh)
  • Close = Gần (Gunh)
  • Downtown = Trung tâm thành phố (Trumh tam tan fo)
  • District = Quận (Wung)
  • Station = Ga
  • Bus stop = Trạm xe bus (Tram seh butt)
  • Where? = Ở đâu (uh dow?)
  • Wait 5 minutes = Chờ năm phút (Churhn nam foot)

Basic Vietnamese phrases for shopping

While shopping in the traditional Vietnamese market, negotiating, or so-called "bargaining," is a fascinating experience for foreigners and locals. Chances are you get an excellent price or at least avoid being ripped-off with a 2-3 times marked up rate; you better know how to "bargain" in Vietnamese.

Generous local vendors on Mekong Delta. Photo by Falco Negenman / Unsplash
  • How much? = Bao nhiêu? (Baow nyew)
  • Too expensive = Mắc quá (Mac wa)
  • Can you reduce the price? = Bớt được không? (Boat duoc khom)
  • Do you want to sell? = Có bán không? ( cor ban kohm?)
  • I want to buy = Tôi muốn mua (Toi mu-on mua)
  • One size larger = Một size lớn hơn ( Mot size lunh hunh)
  • One size smaller = Một size nhỏ hơn (Mot size nyunh hunh)
  • *You are so pretty = Em đẹp quá (Em dep wah)
  • *You are so handsome = Anh đẹp trai quá (Anh dep wah)

*One of the most cheeky but practical tips to earn your stuff at the best price is to give local vendors a friendly compliment. If you say something nice like "you are so pretty", they willingly consider a more affordable price.

Basic Vietnamese phrases for restaurants or coffee shops

Vietnamese people love flavorful dishes. However, when it comes to drinks, Vietnamese have a huge sweet tooth. So it's apparent that they season their food with a handful of spices & flavors, especially sugar. Make sure you ask in advance what your dishes contain and ask for a customized version. To get exactly what you want, you'll need those phrases to communicate with the waiters.

On the road, Ha Giang Loop
Typical Vietnamese street food vendor set up. Photo by Frankie Shutterbug / Unsplash
  • Excuse me (to waitress) = Em ơi (for younger lady); Chi oi (for a senior)
  • Excuse me (to waiter) = Anh ơi
  • I am hungry = Tôi đói bụng (Toi doi bhung wa)
  • What is it? = Cái gì vậy? (kai zi vai)
  • The bill please = Tính tiền (Din ting)
  • May I have the menu =  Cho tôi cái menu được không (cho toy khai menu duuc khom)
  • I am allergic to peanut = Tôi dị ứng với đậu phộng (Doi yi ung voy dau fong)
  • I can not eat pork = Tôi không ăn được thịt heo (Toi khom an duo tit hehll)
  • I am vegetarian = Tôi ăn chay (Toi an chayh)
  • I would like to have this = Cho tôi cái này ( Chor toi kah nai)
  • Chicken = Gà (Gar)
  • Rice = Cơm (Gurm)
  • Rice Noodle = Bún (Bumg)
  • Egg noodle = Mì (Mee)
  • Pork = Heo (Heyoh)
  • Beer = Bia
  • Beef = Bò (boh)
  • Cold = Lạnh (Langh)
  • Hot =  Nóng (noong)
  • No Ice = Không đá (Khom dar)
  • No sugar = Không đường (Khom dueng)
  • Not spicy = Không cay (Khom kay)
  • 1 more = Thêm một cái (tem mop kai)
Banh Can is food street of Dalat city.
You should try it once in your life when you come here.
Vietnam offers a rich culinary experience for travelers. Photo by gau xam / Unsplash

One more thing as your meal ends, don't hesitate to ask for waiter and waitresses for the bill as they're likely never stop at your table as long as you call them.

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Basic Vietnamese numbers

The Vietnamese numbering system is straightforward, and once you get the hang of numbers 1-10, you can say any number up to 99. Unlike English, numbers above ten are told as if you just put the two numbers together. So, for example, 25 would be hai name, which translates to two five.

Photo by Danilo Borges / Unsplash
  • 1 = Một (moat)
  • 2 = Hai (high)
  • 3 = Ba (bah)
  • 4 = Bốn (bone)
  • 5 = Năm (nom)
  • 6 = Sáu (shao)
  • 7 = Bảy (by)
  • 8 = Tám (tom)
  • 9 = Chín (chin)
  • 10 = Mười (mooy)
  • Ten = Mươi (mooy)
  • Hundred = Trăm (charm)
  • Thousand = Nghìn (ngeen)
  • Currency (Đồng) = dong

Basic sizes & color

  • Big = Lớn (lungh)
  • Small = Nhỏ (N-yor)
  • Medium = Vừa (vurh)
  • Less = Ít (Eet)
  • More = Thêm (temh)
  • Long = Dài (yai)
  • Short = Ngắn (nhang)
  • Blue = Xanh dương (San yoong)
  • Red = Đỏ (Dorh)
  • Yellow = Vàng

Basic Vietnamese phrases for emergency

  • I need to see a doctor = Tôi cần gặp bác sĩ (toy can gap back szi)
  • I am sick = Tôi bị bệnh (Toy bee benh)
  • I need to go to the hospital = Tôi cần đi bệnh viện (Toy can di ben vien)
  • I had food poisoning = Tôi bị ngộ độc thức ăn (Toy bee nyo doc thuch an)
  • I was robbed = Tôi bị cướp (Toi bee cuoop)
  • Call the police = Gọi cảnh sát (Goi gang sack)
  • Help me = Cứu tôi với (Coo toy vuyh)

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