Learn These 60 Basic Korean Phrases & Travel Korea Easily

Want to travel to Korea but worried you won’t be able to get around, talk to people, or buy those souvenirs you want? Don’t worry. These 60 basic Korean phrases will help you make friends, grab bargains in the markets, and enjoy the tastiest Korean dishes with ease.

Korean is a unique language with letters that look unfamiliar, but it’s actually easier to learn than English. A few basic Korean phrases and words go a long way.

From simple greetings to shopping, eating out, travelling around, and even asking for help, these simple Korean phrases pack a lot of punch and are easy enough to learn before travelling to the Land of the Morning Calm.

Now read on to start learning these easy Korean words and phrases and begin your journey to language success.

Good luck!

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Basic Korean Phrases To Travel Korea Easily 1

Understanding These Basic Korean Phrases

These basic Korean phrases for travellers have been split into 6 sections to cover the various places where you might need some Korean when travelling in Korea. There’s also a bonus section about Korean numbers.

Essential Phrases – basic phrases to talk to people and be polite.

Greetings – how to greet people, ask about others, and start chatting.

Ordering Food & Drink – how to order food, ask questions, and give thanks.

Getting Around – how to use public transportation and understand directions.

Shopping – how to check for prices, ask for discounts, and complete a sale.

Emergencies – how to ask for help in an emergency and to describe problems.

Korean numbers – how to say and understand Korean numbers.

Before covering these basic Korean phrases, I want to point out some key points about the phrases used here, how to use them, and how to speak Korean.

Person writing hangul, the Korean language

The Korean Writing System

For those who have never studied Korean and are used to a latin script, like English, the Korean writing system (hangul) can seem very confusing.

It’s actually one of the easiest to learn and you can pick it up with a few days of practice.

I really recommend learning hangul, it’ll make your trip to Korea so much easier and let you read signs, menus, displays, and lots more.

Phrases With Blank Spaces

Some sentences have blank spaces so you can add what you want in that phrase. For example, ‘I’ll have a ____’. This is a useful phrase (covered in section 3) where you can add in whatever it is you want to buy, eat, or drink.

Woman speaking through a megaphone

How To Pronounce These Basic Korean Phrases

To make it easier to learn these basic Korean phrases, I’ve included a pronunciation guide for each section.

Korean words are made up of groups of syllables, e.g. kimchi (김-치) Therefore, the pronunciation guide is in syllable groups. If you pronounce the words as you would in English, you’ll be able to speak Korean, even if you don’t understand what the words mean.

To understand how to pronounce these Korean words more naturally, try to remember these pronunciation rules:

eu‘ is pronounced like ‘oo’ in ‘boot’ but without rounding your lips.

ae‘ is pronounced like ‘ay’ in ‘pay’.

oo‘ is pronounced like ‘oo’ in ‘zoo’.

kk‘, ‘gg‘, ‘tt‘ and other double consonants are pronounced more strongly than a single consonant.

ah‘, ‘eh‘, ‘oh‘, ‘uh‘ are pronounced softly (like a in apple, not a in ace)

What Is The K-ETA? How To Apply For The Korean-ETA Online 11

Who Is This Guide For?

These basic Korean phrases are designed for people who don’t speak Korean. Many phrases are simplified, some particles are dropped where the meaning is obvious, and grammar is usually in the polite form.

When we use English, we can use many phrases for the same thing. For example, ‘Give me a pizza‘, or ‘I’ll have a pizza‘, or just ‘Pizza, please‘. The meaning is the same, but the way we say them differs.

The same applies with Korean. I’ve used basic Korean phrases for the various topics covered here. This is not only to help you learn them more easily, but also so that Koreans can understand you.

If you’re interested in learning how to speak Korean and want an excellent course that will start you on your journey, I highly recommend 90 Day Korean.

Now let’s look at the first 10 basic Korean phrases, covering the essentials.

People speaking Korean words

1: Essential Korean Phrases

If you’re only going to remember one set of basic Korean phrases, it should probably be this one. These are the most basic Korean words and phrases and if you can master these, you’ll be one step closer to travelling more easily.

These will help you be polite and show the locals that you’re willing to learn a little bit of language when you visit their country. This can open the door to conversations and more. Plus, it’s always nice to be polite when you travel.

EnglishKorean (Hangul)
Yes
Ne
No아니요
A-ni-yo
Hello안녕하세요
An-nyong-ha-se-yo
Goodbye안녕히 가세요
An-nyong-hee ga-se-yo
Please (give me)주세요
Ju-se-yo
Thank you감사합니다
Gam-sa-ham-ni-da
Excuse me (attention)실례합니다
Shil-lye-ham-ni-da
I’m sorry최성합니다
Chway-seong-ham-ni-da
Is this OK?괜찮아요?
Kwen-cha-na-yo?
It’s OK / No problem괜찮아요
Kwen-cha-na-yo
Essential Basic Korean Phrases To Travel Korea Easily

Understanding These Essential Basic Korean Phrases

In this section I’ll explain some of the Korean words from this list that will help expand your vocabulary.

주세요 (ju-se-yo) – Please

This is a very flexible word and can be used in many situations. It directly translates to ‘please give me‘. Add any word in front of it (e.g. pizza) and you can ask for something you want to buy, receive, or learn about.

안녕 (an-nyong) – Hello & Goodbye

This is the short (informal) version of both 안녕하세요 (hello) and 안녕히 가세요 (goodbye) and can be used in both situations. 2 for the price of 1!

괜찮아요 (kwen-cha-na-yo) – OK

This is my favourite Korean word, one which I use many times each day. It’s very flexible and you can use it when you want to say you’re OK, refuse something, or tell someone that, yes, you do know how to use chopsticks.

Do you want a receipt?
괜찮아요 (no, thanks).

Can I sit here?
괜찮아요 (yes, you may).

Are you sure you can eat spicy food?
괜찮아요! (sure I can!).

Kim Jong Un meeting Moon Jae In

2: Korean Phrases For Greeting People

Now that you know how to be polite, why not learn a few words to introduce yourself and start a simple conversation?

These basic Korean phrases for greeting people will help you stand out when meeting people for the first time. After all, a nice greeting can go a long way to breaking down cultural barriers and getting to know more about Korean people when you visit Korea.

If in doubt, you can greet people with a simple ‘hello’ (an-nyong-ha-se-yo) from the previous list. I usually use this when I meet a stranger or get in a bus or taxi.

EnglishKorean (Hangul)
Nice to meet you.반갑습니다
Ban-gap-soom-ni-da
What is your name?이름이 뭐예요?
Ee-room-ee mwo-ye-yo?
My name is ____.제 이름은 __ 이에요
Je ee-room-un __ ee-eh-yo
Do you speak English?영어 할 수 있어요?
Yong-oh hal su iss-o-yo?
I can’t speak Korean well.한국말 잘 못해요
Han-gook-mal jal mot-hay-yo
Please speak slowly.천천히 말 해주세요
Chon-chon-hee mal hay-ju-se-yo
I’m from ____.저는 __ 에서 왔어요
Jo-nun __ eh-so wass-o-yo
How are you?잘 지내요?
Jal jee-nay-yo?
I’m fine, thanks.잘 지내요
Jal jee-nay-yo
Have a good day.좋은 하루 보내세요
Jo-un ha-ru bo-nay-se-yo
Korean Greeting Phrases & Words

Understanding These Greeting Phrases

In this section I’ll explain some of the Korean words from this list that will help expand your vocabulary.

영어 (yong-oh) – English language

This is the word for the English language (Korean is han-gook-oh – 한국어). Even if you can’t remember the complete phrase to ask if someone speaks English, you should be able to convey that you want to speak in English with just ‘yong-oh‘.

You might be surprised at how many people can speak English in Korea and once you’ve asked them, they will often open up and start talking more. If you’re lucky, that’ll be in English, too.

뭐예요? (mwo-ye-yo?) – What is this?

This is a really useful basic Korean phrase that can be used to ask what something is. If you want to know the name of something, simply point and say 뭐예요? – the other person should understand that you don’t know what it is.

천천히 (chon-chon-hee) – Slowly

This word is perfect for when you want someone to slow down, such as when someone is talking too fast or your taxi driver is driving too fast.

Another useful basic Korean phrase to remember in these situations is palli-palli (빨리빨리), which means ‘hurry up’. Korea has been described as a palli-palli culture – always busy!

Korean menu

3: Korean Phrases For Dining Out

You can’t travel to another country and not try the delicious local dishes! Korea has a wide range of culinary treats just waiting for you.

Fortunately, many restaurants have picture menus, like the one above. They often have English translations, too, which can really help.

If in doubt, point to something and say ‘ju-se-yo‘ (please). This simple Korean phrase will help you get what you want most of the time.

EnglishKorean (Hangul)
Please give me a menu.메뉴 주세요
Men-yu ju-se-yo
Is there an English menu?영어메뉴가 있나요
Yong-oh-men-yu-ga in-na-yo?
Is this spicy?이거 매워요?
Ee-goh may-wo-yo?
Not spicy, please.맵게 하지 말아주세요
Mep-geh ha-ji mal-a-ju-se-yo
I’ll have a ____.__ 주세요.
__ ju-se-yo
How much is it?얼마예요?
Ol-ma-ye-yo?
Please give me the bill.계산서 주세요
Gye-san-soh ju-se-yo
Bon appetit!많이 드세요
Ma-nee do-se-yo
That was delicious.잘 먹었습니다
Jal mog-oh-soom-ni-da
I have a nut allergy.너트 알레르기가 있어요
Nuh-teu al-le-loo-gi-ga iss-o-yo
Korean Dining Phrases & Words

Understanding These Phrases For Dining Out

In this section I’ll explain some of the Korean words from this list that will help expand your vocabulary.

매워요 (may-wo-yo) – Spicy

This is a Korean word you’ll definitely want to learn if you love spicy food (or can’t stomach it). When a Korean dish is red, it’s more than likely going to be spicy. If you want a spicy dish, you can point at a dish and ask mae-wo-yo? (is this spicy?).

알레르기가 있어요 (al-le-loo-gi-ga iss-o-yo) – I have an allergy

If you need to say you ‘have an allergy to something’, then say the thing you’re allergic to, followed by this phrase. For travellers with special dietary needs, it would be a good idea to find the word of the food you’re allergic to before travelling.

Want More Dining Out Phrases?

For more basic Korean phrases about eating out and ordering food, including more about health and dietary requirements in Korean, check out this article with 60 more Korean phrases.

KTX train in Korea

4: Korean Phrases For Transportation

Travelling in Korea is a lot easier than you might think. Many signs at airports, train stations, subways, and on buses, are in English. They’re sometimes in Chinese and Japanese, too.

Korea is a very modern country when it comes to transport and there are a lot of different transport options, including high speed trains (KTX), subways, and buses.

These phrases will help you avoid getting lost and help you find your way around. Remember, if you get really stuck, you can always use gestures.

EnglishKorean (Hangul)
Where is the __?__ 어디예요?
__ oh-dee-ye-yo?
Where is the train station?기차역은 어디예요?
Gee-cha-yog-un oh-dee-ye-yo?
Where is the toilet?화장실이 어디예요?
Hwa-jang-shil-ee oh-dee-ye-yo?
Is there a __ near here?여기 근처에 __ 있습니까?
Yo-gi goon-cho-ay __ is-soom-ni-ka?
Go right.오른쪽 가세요
Oh-reun-jjok ga-se-yo
Go left.왼쪽 가세요
Wen-jjok ga-se-yo
Go straight ahead.직진 가세요
Jik-jin ga-se-yo
Here.여기에
Yo-gi-ay
Please take me to __.__ 가주세요
__ ga-ju-se-yo
Please stop here (in a taxi).여기서 세워 주세요
Yo-gi-so say-wo ju-se-yo
Korean Transportation Phrases & Words

Understanding These Korean Phrases For Transportation

In this section I’ll explain some of the Korean words from this list that will help expand your vocabulary.

어디예요? (oh-dee-ye-yo?) – Where is?

This basic Korean phrase is very helpful not only for transportation, but also shopping and when you need to find a bathroom.

Want to go to Gyeongbokgung Palace? Point to a picture of it and ask ‘oh-dee-ye-yo?‘. These other Korean phrases will help you understand the directions, too.

가주세요 (ga-ju-se-yo) – Please go (somewhere).

This phrase is used to ask someone to ‘take you somewhere’. As mentioned, ‘ju-se-yo‘ means ‘please’. The ‘ga’ part of this phrase is from ‘ga-da‘, the verb for ‘to go’.

You can use ga-ju-se-yo whenever you want to go somewhere. Usually in a taxi. Jump in, tell the driver ‘Seoul-yog (Seoul Station) ga-ju-se-yo‘ and they’ll take you straight there.

Save Money On Transportation

When you travel in Korea, don’t forget to pick up a T-Money Card. This transportation card makes travelling around Korea a real breeze and you can also use it to pay for things in shops and restaurants.

Selection of Korean hanbok at a traditional market

5: Korean Phrases For Shopping

Shopping in Korea will be a lot easier with these basic Korean phrases, whether you’re in a department store or trying to buy some delicious Korean street food.

Learning to give your opinion about how cheap or expensive something is shows the shop owner you know a good price and can get you a big discount.

The traditional markets in Korea are great places to get some bargains on local and international brands. You’ll also find some of the best food available here and a window into traditional Korean culture.

EnglishKorean (Hangul)
How much is it?얼마예요?
Ol-ma-ye-yo?
Please give me a discount.깎아 주세요
Kka-kka ju-se-yo
It’s cheap!싸요!
Ssa-yo!
It’s expensive!비싸요!
Bi-ssa-yo!
Do you have __?__ 있어요?
__ iss-o-yo?
Do you take credit cards?카드 받으세요?
Ka-duh ba-do-se-yo?
Please give me a refund.환불해 주세요
Hwan-bool-hay ju-se-yo
Please give me an exchange.교환해 주세요
Gyo-hwan-hay ju-se-yo
Please give me a bag.비닐봉지 주세요
Bi-nil-bong-ji ju-se-yo
Please wrap it for me.포장해 주세요
Po-jang-hay ju-se-yo
Korean Shopping Phrases & Words

Understanding These Korean Phrases For Shopping

In this section I’ll explain some of the Korean words from this list that will help expand your vocabulary.

얼마예요? (ol-ma-ye-yo?) – How Much?

This is a basic Korean phrases you can use for so much – ordering food, shopping, asking for taxi fees, and more. Want to haggle for a new bag in the market? Ol-ma-ye-yo? Want to know the cost of a train to Busan? Ol-ma-ye-yo?

싸요! (ssa-yo!) & 비싸요! (bi-ssa-yo!) – That’s cheap! & That’s Expensive!

You can use these Korean phrases in the traditional markets when you want to haggle. After asking how much something is (and hearing it’s too much), reply with ‘bi-ssa-yo!’ and start to walk away. The vendor, no doubt impressed by your Korean skills, will start to haggle, and lower the price (if you’re lucky).

Seoul police mascots in Myeongdong, Seoul

6: Korean Phrases For Emergencies

Crime rates in Korea are very low, but you can never be too careful. Hopefully you will never need to use these emergency Korean phrases, but they are here for you just in case.

If you need to get some medicine, then visit one of the many pharmacies located throughout any city. You can’t miss them, they have a big green + sign outside.

There are separate numbers for emergency services in Korea.

Dial 112 for the police

Dial 119 for fire & medical services

Dial 1339 for COVID-19 support

Dial 1330 for tourist support

EnglishKorean (Hangul)
Help!도와주세요!
Do-wa-ju-se-yo!
It’s an emergency!긴급상황이에요!
Gin-goom-sang-hwang-ee-ay-yo!
Where can I get help?어디서 도움을 받을 수 있나요?
O-di-so do-um-eul ba-dool su in-na-yo?
Please help me.제발 날 도와줘
Je-bal nal do-wa-jwo
Please call the police.경찰을 불러 주세요
Gyong-chal-eul bul-lo ju-se-yo
Where is the hospital?병원은 어디에 있나요?
Byong-won-un o-di-eh in-na-yo?
Please call an ambulance.구급차를 불러 주세요
Gu-goop-cha-rul bu-lo-ju-se-yo
I need a doctor.나는 의사가 필요해요
Na-neun wi-sa-ga pil-yo-hay-yo
It hurts here.여기가 아파요
Yo-gi-ga a-pa-yo
I feel sick.몸이 아파요
Mom-ee a-pa-yo
Korean Emergency Phrases & Words

Understanding These Korean Phrases For Emergencies

In this section I’ll explain some of the Korean words from this list that will help expand your vocabulary.

도와주세요 (do-wa-ju-se-yo) – Please help me

This basic Korean phrase isn’t just for emergencies. If you have heavy luggage and you want to ask for help carrying it down the stairs, you can say ‘do-wa-ju-se-yo‘ (in a calm voice). A kind Korean person will surely help out.

의사 (wi-sa) – Doctor

If you need to speak to a doctor, you can use this word to ask for help. Doctors can often speak English, at least for discussing medical problems.

약국 (yak-gook) – Pharmacy

As mention, you can find a pharmacy by looking for a big green cross sign. You’ll also see the word ‘‘ on the sign. Look for these if you need medicine.

Basic Korean Phrases To Travel Korea Easily 10

7: How To Say Korean Numbers

There are two ways to say numbers in Korean, known as the Korean system and the Chinese system. The Korean system only goes up to 99. The Chinese system is generally used more, which is why I’ll tell you about those numbers.

Whichever system you use, Koreans will be able to understand you as they mean the same thing, they might just grumble you’re using the wrong system.

Find out about how the Korean numbering system works in this article.

EnglishKoreanPronunciation
0Gong
1Il
2Ee
3Sam
4Sa
5Oh
6Yook
7Chil
8Pal
9Gu
10Ship
11Ship-il
12Ship-ee
100Beck
1,000Chon
10,000Man
Basic Korean Numbers

Learning Korean At Home

I hope you’ve found these basic Korean phrases useful and can use them to explore Korea and interact with the locals a bit more easily.

Learning a foreign language can be a massive undertaking, one that you need to devote a lot of time and effort to be successful at. But it can also be very rewarding, make you smarter, and help you travel more easily.

If you’re interested in learning how to speak Korean, then I’d personally recommend the inner circle course with 90 Day Korean – it’s the course I have been using to learn Korean.

Of course, there is more than one way to learn a language. I practice Korean in a variety of ways. Here are some of the best apps and courses for learning Korean.

Korean Class 101
Talk To Me In Korean
Memrise

Papago and Google Translate are translation apps that will translate words into Korean and also show you how to say them. I prefer Papago as it is more accurate.

One final Korean word for you to learn – ‘hwaiting‘ 화이팅, which is Korean for ‘fighting’ – or ‘you can do it’! Fighting!

Do I need to learn Korean to live in Korea?

Do You Need To Learn Korean?

No. You don’t have to learn Korean, but it will definitely help you. Even expats like myself who have lived here for a long time don’t necessarily have to learn Korean to enjoy being in Korea. If you want to know more about whether or not you need Korean to survive living in Korea, check out this article:

Basic Korean Phrases To Travel Korea Easily 11

Learn More About Korea

Understanding a language is a lot more than learning a few basic Korean phrases. You also need to understand some of the cultural and societal reasons that people speak and behave in the way they do.

Here are some of my best articles about Korean culture that will give you interesting insights into Korean society, people, and help you prepare to visit the Land of the Morning Calm.

Understanding Korean Etiquette
South Korean Culture Facts
Pre-travel Tips For Korea
Thank you sign

Share Your Thoughts

If you enjoyed reading this article, or if you have any thoughts about it that you want to share, please feel free to leave a message in the comments below. I’d love to hear your feedback about this article and the subject.

If you want to ask about other basic Korean phrases that will help you when travelling, then you can also ask in the Korea Travel Advice group on Facebook.

Korea Travel Advice Group

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