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Speak like a local: How to ask for the bill around the world

30 July 2019 Data Insights

We’ve all struggled with the local language while trying to pay for a drink, meal, or gift on holiday. And many of us have unfortunately resorted to a mix of mime and loud, broken English when our phrasebooks or Google Translate didn’t cut it.

Whereas knowing how to ask for the bill like a local, not an app or dusty book, might have given us the confidence to fly through those awkward moments with some elegance and our egos intact.

We have the solution: common holiday phrases translated into 19 languages by native speakers, turned into handy infographics.

Use our graphics to speak like a local and save yourself frustration when it’s time to pay in Spain, Greece, India, and beyond.

Can I have the bill, please?

Knowing how to pay is vital when you’re away. Whether you’re struggling for the cheque in a restaurant or shopping for groceries at the village market, never get tongue-tied again.

Our simple pocket guide can be used to help you pay the bill across some of the most commonly encountered languages, offering a helping hand when you just can’t find the words.

Travel tip #1

Familiarise yourself with local tipping culture, so as not to get blindsided with additional surcharges. If there is no service charge included within your bill, it is usually good etiquette across many European countries and around the world to tip your waiter or waitress 10-15%.

Do you take cards as well as cash?

Often, carrying cash around with you on holiday can become an inconvenience, especially if your trip is a long one and you dread having to look after bundles of notes. So, it’s not uncommon for some of us to leave paper money at the hotel or avoid exchanging currency altogether. Even if you do stuff it into your safest pocket, you could soon run out.

Instead, it can be helpful to know if a place accepts debit or credit cards before you commit to buying anything, saving you both time and embarrassment after your meal or at the checkout. Luckily, you can use our translations guide to avoid any confusion with the locals while on your travels.

Travel tip #2

Consider using a travel money card while abroad and control your spending from your mobile. Use a travel card – such as those from Revolut, or travel-ready debit cards from app-based Monzo or Starling – for competitive exchange rates on purchases and ATM cash withdrawals. You could even be able to freeze your card via your app if it’s suddenly gone missing.

Do you take contactless payment?

While contactless card readers are commonplace in the UK, and across much of Europe, they might only be in the early stages of adoption or even unused in some corners of the world. A bit of an issue if you rely on Apple Pay or Google Pay to complete your transactions.

For this reason, we had 19 native speakers make it simple for you to confirm with your cashier whether you’ll be able to use your contactless payment method, to spare your blushes abroad.

Travel tip #3

Before you buy a ticket for public transport, check whether you could use your contactless card to hop on and off the bus, tram, or metro instead. Popular city break locations such as Milan and Prague have embraced the quick and easy payment method, saving you the hassle of stumbling your way through a conversation at the ticket office.

Can I have a card machine, please?

No need to frantically waggle your card at your waiter or cashier. Learn how to request the card machine next time you’re out at a restaurant, bar, or shop.

Speak the local language and make it clear you’re paying by card. Our infographic can help you out whether you’re stopping by a shop while backpacking around Thailand or at a bar whole on a long weekend in your favourite European city.

Travel tip #4

When using your card abroad, you will be given the option to either pay in sterling or the local currency. As a rule of thumb, you should always pay in the local currency as it actually works out cheaper than converting to pounds.

Can I have a beer/prosecco, please?

After a day of spending and blending in with word-perfect translations, you’ll deserve a drink. Being able to ask for a beverage without a language struggle can make all the difference when you’ve got a thirst for your tipple of choice.

Whether it’s a traditional German beer or glass of Italian fizz you seek, effortlessly order your next drink all over the world with our quick-access translation guide.

Travel tip #5

When you next find yourself in a bar abroad, consider picking something a little different to your usual order. Experience the culture and get a taste of the area with a local beer, wine or spirit and come home with a new favourite drink.


With the languages of Britain’s top-30, most-visited, non-English-speaking countries covered, take our translations guide with you when you next head out internationally. Whether making a fleeting visit or taking the trip of a lifetime, curb your anxieties and improve your local language skills.

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