One of the most important barriers that travelers face when dealing with locals in India is language. Though the majority of people in India can speak and understand English, they may not understand your accent.
And if you speak a few words of Hindi it can save you money as street vendors tend to increase prices when they see a foreigner. They may charge as much as double for an item that you could easily get for less with some relentless bargaining.
Here are some key phrases that can make your experience in India easier. Feel free to drop me an email if you want to know something more specific firstname.lastname@example.org
Kitne ka hai (pronounced kit-neigh-kah-hay)
Directly translated, this means “how much is this?” You can use this as a generic question pertaining to items, clothes and food.
Khaana milega (pronounced khaa-na-mil-ey-ga)
Milega means “will I get” and khaana means “food.” So the phrase means “will I get food?” You can replace the word khaana with other things that you may want. For example if you are shopping and want to ask if they have different colours or sizes you can say “size milega” or “colours milega.”
Kam kardo (pronounced come-cur - doh)
This means “make it less.” You can use this when bargaining to ask the shopkeeper to give you a lower price. Be sure to ask in a calm and composed manner so that they take you seriously. You can even use this phrase if someone is playing loud music and you want them to lower the volume.
Bus stand kaha pe hain (prounounced bus stand kuh-ha-pey-hay)
“Kaha pe hain” means “where is it.” So this phrase means “where is the bus stand?” You can replace bus stand with taxi stand, auto stand, train station and whatever is relevant. If you have a specific place that you need to go you can quote the name of the place or the area to obtain directions.
Aap idhar jaoge (pronounded aap-idh-ur-jaa-oh-gay)
This means “will you go here?” You can use this when interacting with taxi drivers or auto drivers to ask them if they will go to a specific space. If you know the name of the place replace it for “idhar”, for example you can say “aap airport jaoge.”
Kitna door hai (pronounced kit-na-dur-hay)
This means “how far is it?” Kitna means how much and door means far. You can use this to ask people how far a particular location is or your taxi driver how far your destination is.
Bathroom use karsakega (pronounced bathroom use kur-suck-ay-gah)
This means “can I use the bathroom?” Replace the word bathroom with anything else that you want to use, like the kitchen or shower. If you are a female, you should say “bathroom use karsakti hoon.”
Maal kaha milega (pronounced maal-laha-mil-ay-gah)
Maal means produce, kaha means where and milega means “will I get.” Maal is a street term for drugs. If you are looking for something particular, you can replace the word maal with daaru (alcohol), charas (hash), ganja (weed), or anything else that you may need. Be careful about who you ask about this, because small shopkeepers and taxi drivers may try and sell you some bad stuff.
Tikha nahi chaiye (pronounced tee-kha-nai-chai-ay)
This means “I don’t want it spicy.” Tikha means spicy, nahi means not, and chaiye means I want. It is important to specify this before ordering if you cannot handle spicy food, as a lot of Indian food contains a lot of chilli and spice.
Bhaiya (pronounced bhay-aahh)
Bhaiya is a common term used to address someone that you do not know in India. The relevant term for a female is “madamji.” This term can be used to obtain the attention of waiter, a taxi driver, a shopkeeper, or any local person that you do not know.
Apart from these common phrases, it’s always useful to know a few good swearwords to ward off negative influences if necessary, or even just for the satisfaction of swearing at someone in their own language when they least expect it. Some common ones are ‘Chutiya,’ and ‘Bhenchod'.