Learn basic Hindi for travel in India

elephant in a temple in India

Photo of temple elephant in India by Shalu Sharma.

 A little Hindi goes a long way in India

This is a guest post by Indian blogger Shalu Sharma, who recently published a book called “Essential Words and Phrases for Travellers to India.” To learn some of the basic phrases you will need, and to buy the book, read on.

As long as you know English, there will be few communication issues in India. Most Indians know some English, however some will not be able to converse as fluently as you would prefer including taxi drivers, waiters, porters and hotel staff. This is where some basic Hindi words, phrases and sentences can come handy.

Where exactly is Hindi spoken?

Hindi can be spoken in most parts of India, especially the urban areas. It is the main language of the states of Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand, Haryana, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Himachal Pradesh and Rajasthan. Hindi is the national language of India and it is thought that 60% of India’s population speak Hindi. The other 40% can understand Hindi to some extent.

Essential Hindi Words And Phrases For Travelers To IndiaIn most North and Central Indian states where Hindi is not the main language — such as West Bengal, Gujarat, Punjab, Orrisa, Maharashtra and states in the North East — you should be able to get away with speaking Hindi. People belonging to these states have no objections to Hindi and Hindi is even taught as a secondary language.

In some South Indian states such as Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka many people will respond if you speak Hindi with them. However, two South Indian states where Hindi is not spoken, and even discouraged, are Tamil Nadu and Kerala. But, in recent years, even people from these states are watching more Hindi movies than ever before and getting to know the Hindi language. So if you were to polish up on some Hindi before going to India, it will prove to be a valuable asset no matter where you are going.

Hindi can be quite challenging for the average English speaker. It is a phonetic language, so it’s spoken as it is written. Hindi uses a lot of English words so you can often replace Hindi words with English. For example, there are no words for “station” or “doctor” in Hindi (if there is one, I am not aware of it and have been speaking Hindi all my life). Some other commonly used English words include railway, hospital, train, cycle, motor, bus, cricket, karma, thug, guru, jungle, bungalow and so on. [NOTE: some of these English words originated in India.] If you are stuck on a Hindi word, then replace it with its English equivalent.

Below are some common Hindi words, phrases and sentences widely used in India. Just pronounce the words the way they’re written.

Basic Hindi words, phrases and sentences

Hello – Namaste or Pranam

Hello Amit – Namaste Amit ji (ji at the end of the name is used to show respect)

Me – Mai

I am from USA – Mai USA se hum

Mine – Mera

This is mine – Ye mera hai

Yours – App ka

Is this yours – Kya ye aap ka hai

Who – Kaun

Who are you – Aap kaun hai

Clothes – Kapra

Where are my clothes – Mera kapra kaha hai

Tea – Chai

I need a cup of tea – Mujhe ek cup chai chahiye

Water – Paani

I need a bottle of water – Mujhe ek bottle paani chahiye

Food – Khana

Give me food – Mujhe khana do

Do you speak English – Kya apa English bolte hai

Speak slowly – Dheray boliye

Yes – Haa

No – Nahi

Please – Kripya

Thank you – Dhanevaad

More basic Hindi sentences

How are you – App kaise hai

I am fine – Mai thik hu

Nice to meet you – Aap se milkar khusi hui

Who are you – App kaun hai

What is your name – Aap ka kya naam hai

My name is Mariellen – Mera naam Mariellen hai

Where are you from – Aap kaha se hai

I am from Canada – Mai Canada se hu

Where is the station – Station kaha hai

Where is the bus stand – Bus stand kaha hai

Where is the toilet – Toilet kaha hai

Can you help me – Kya aap meri madaad karenge

What’s this – Ye kya hai

I want to buy this – Mujhe ye kharidna hai

How much is this – Ye kitnay ka hai

Lower the price – Daam kum kijiye

There are some things that make learning Hindi challenging. Hindi has gender nouns (masculine or feminine); it is perhaps the most difficult part of learning Hindi. Also, the various states of India speak Hindi differently. For instance, my Bihari Hindi is different from Hindi spoken in Delhi. It’s only when we write Hindi that we use the formal methodology. Finally, though India is a country where English is spoken widely, it is still useful to learn some basic Hindi for your travels to India. I suggest you memorize some of these key words Hindi words and phrases and don’t be afraid to use them. – Shalu Sharma

About the author

Shalu Sharma is the author of “Essential Hindi Words And Phrases For Travellers To India.” Shalu is also the editor and founder of ShaluSharma.com, a blog about travels to India. Originally from Bihar, she speaks Hindi at home.

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27 Responses to Learn basic Hindi for travel in India

  1. CII Tourism Fest 2013 October 9, 2013 at 3:00 am #

    This is such an incredible posts for tourists. Many tourists suffers due to lack of Hindi knowledge, especially when they visit rural areas. This post covers most of the basic words which could be used to make a conversation with people by foreign tourists.

    • Shalu Sharma October 9, 2013 at 12:02 pm #

      Thank you for your complements. I think learning some basic Hindi when coming to India can make a huge difference. Thanks for your comment.
      Shalu Sharma recently posted..Indian chai at the roadsideMy Profile

  2. Prasad Np October 9, 2013 at 4:23 am #

    Hi Shalu: Good to see you here on Breathedreamgo. You have an impressive collection of Hindi words here.
    Even here down south in Hyderabad and Bangalore if you just know English and Hindi you can easily converse with most shopkeepers, Auto/taxi drivers and Hotel staff..

    All the best for the success of the book.
    Prasad Np recently posted..Hyderabad Metro RailMy Profile

  3. nishant October 9, 2013 at 6:56 am #

    Well she said guru thug karma are english words?lol…they are Sanskrit(or Hindi)…theres Hindi for station and doctor too but ppl don’t use it…may be in some backward villages ppl use Hindi for them or their own language…doctor’s Hindi is “ved” anyways..:)

    • Shalu Sharma October 9, 2013 at 12:10 pm #

      I actually said there are common words and not English words. I think you mean “vaid” not Ved (Ved = Vedas) for doctors. Vaids are not doctors but medicine/herbal men. That word is never used for doctors.
      Yes there is a word of station, do let me know what it it. I am also from the village of most backward state of Bihar. People there use the word doctor for doctor and station for station. Thanks for your comment.
      Shalu Sharma recently posted..Things you wanted do know when visiting an Indian home for dinnerMy Profile

      • nishant October 9, 2013 at 2:14 pm #

        vaid and ved is same if you pronounce miss. right? You did same in your translation above. Anyays, villager don’t really know doctors. They call ved(vaid) as person who makes them ok by giving medicines. Simple as that. It was my concept miss. Well don’t think i did not like your article or something like that. yes i did like. But i had some problems so i said. :)…

        • Shalu Sharma October 12, 2013 at 8:24 am #

          No its not. Both are two different words and even pronounced differently. Even in the villages, a person suffering from a serious illness would not go to the “vaid” and rather go to a doctor. Most villages have doctors. Vaid is a person who gives out herbs (not medicines) and treats minor illnesses and not to be confused with a doctor.
          I would still like to know the Hindi word for station.
          Shalu Sharma recently posted..Essential Hindi words and phrases for travelers to India ebookMy Profile

      • Nishant October 9, 2013 at 3:48 pm #

        Sorry for reply again. Can’t see previous msg.. not even as “pending” or something. well i misunderstood one thing. You said “common english world like karma guru thug etc”. I misunderstood that. I thought you were saying these are english words which are commonly known.. 🙂

  4. Nik October 9, 2013 at 9:47 am #

    just one point…if you ask questions in Hindi people will respond in Hindi and you wont understand the reply..e.g. “How much is this”!!

  5. Veena October 9, 2013 at 10:07 am #

    Hi Mariellen and Shalu,

    A great article, and I think you touched on many of the important Hindi phrases to know before traveling to India. As someone who knows only very basic Hindi and lived in India for the better part of 5 years, many of these basic phrases got me through my daily life.

    The only thing I would like to point out is the statement early in the article about Hindi being the national language of India. There is actually no national language; Hindi and English are the official languages, and there are a number of recognized languages [Marathi, Bengali, Kannada, Tamil, etc] as well. It’s a small thing, but it’s one of those things that tends to stick in the craw of south Indians [including myself].

    As always, I continue to enjoy your blog and the articles you post about traveling in India so that I can relive my own glory days walking the streets of Bangalore and Bombay. I look forward to many more informative posts in the future from you and hopefully from Shalu as well.

    Best,
    Veena

    • Shalu Sharma October 12, 2013 at 8:13 am #

      Hi Veena

      When I say, its the national language, I mean that most people in India are able to speak or understand the language. Many anti-Hindi groups get aggressive when it comes to Hindi and the Hindi speaking people. Language has always a contentious subject in India. There are large number of people who have problems with the Hindi language. Even the states have been divided on languages lines. Nowadays, many Indians are even ashamed to speak Hindi, they would rather speak English than Hindi.
      Shalu Sharma recently posted..My top 8 unforgettable moments in IndiaMy Profile

  6. Renuka October 9, 2013 at 12:36 pm #

    Very helpful post! I think if we all globally accept and learn each other’s languages, it would much easier to grow together and become a better world!
    Renuka recently posted..Why I Like Travelling ‘Solo’My Profile

  7. Ramkumar October 10, 2013 at 3:12 am #

    As Veena said, There is no “National Languages” for India. Hindi is one of the Official languages. But Hindi is widely spoken as addressed in this article.

  8. Theresa October 12, 2013 at 1:52 pm #

    Namaste,
    I would just like to add a comment, I backpacked solo, and with a couple of words, and not near as much as above, I managed to find my way from Delhi, to Jaipur, to Agra, Varanasi, Gorakphur and then went to Nepal.. I travelled by bus, train and so forth, and must say I never had ANY problem… The people in general were great, and they understood English very well, but I prefer to know a bit.. at least to say good day, good night, Thank you, No Thank you and so forth, the very basic.. it does help a lot, and takes you a long way! Loved Incredible India!!

    • Mariellen Ward October 12, 2013 at 2:29 pm #

      Thanks Theresa, I appreciate your comment and I realize it is in the light of all the negative publicity surrounding travel in India. I, too, have had overwhelmingly positive experiences with travel in India.

      Though you can travel without knowing Hindi, or any of the other languages of India, it does help to know some, in my view. It opens some doors, and some hearts!
      Mariellen Ward recently posted..A Tale of Two Countries: IndiaMy Profile

  9. Andy October 15, 2013 at 5:41 pm #

    I think that learning a few of the local phrases goes an incredibly long way, especially in places like India that are not Western. We can all benefit from connecting with others linguistically.
    Andy recently posted..Workout in MadridMy Profile

  10. Tyana October 17, 2013 at 5:23 am #

    Marillen i had read your blog and it was a quite good and interesting. And in the last conversation i found that Nishant and shalu were being crazy . And Nishat what do you know about village people they really don’t know the difference vaid and doctor, do you think that at the present time villagers dont know about the difference vaids and doctors. So my dear you are wrong. Please correct your words and people learn from their mistakes.

  11. Tyler Muse October 31, 2013 at 6:59 pm #

    Indian people are incredibly friendly and open. When I spoke just the few basic phrases I knew in Hindi, their faces lit up and I received that classic Indian smile and head nod. I cannot recommend this enough, you’re spot on. Thanks for the list of phrases, I’ll have to pass this on!

  12. Chris November 5, 2013 at 2:58 am #

    Very well written article and excellent tips! I highly recommend people traveling to India read this! 🙂

  13. Pranav Chandra November 6, 2013 at 5:07 am #

    Very interesting and informative read. Thank you for this, it will be of great use.

  14. Rachit Aggarwal November 14, 2013 at 9:01 am #

    Nice post.

    I feel there is Hindi word available for Doctor called “Chikitsak.”

    Please correct me if I am wrong.

    Regards
    Rachit
    Rachit Aggarwal recently posted..MahaShivratri celebrations at Brahma Kumaris, Shanti SarovarMy Profile

  15. shineindiatrip December 30, 2013 at 7:14 am #

    Nice and informative blog… must help many travelers while their trip in India

  16. Mel May 10, 2015 at 6:42 am #

    The translations need a few edits: (a) Mai USA se hum actually translates into ‘I from USA we’ so you may want to correct that (b) the translations do not not account for the speaker’s gender which is important to ensure (c) the english translations are not phonetically accurate in some places which could make it difficult to be understood

  17. Kitkat Words June 25, 2015 at 7:12 am #

    Worth reading your blog and it really helped me to get idea about Vocabulary Words English To Hindi . Keep sharing such good stuff ahead..

  18. Bits May 13, 2016 at 8:15 am #

    Still list is incomplete.

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