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English for Travellers: Conversation Starters for Engaging Small Talk

Imagine yourself comfortably seated on a plane or a train headed for a new and exciting destination. The stranger who just sat next to you greeted you politely and would clearly appreciate a spirited small talk which would make your journey both enjoyable and entertaining…

If the only hurdle on your way to a great conversation with a fellow traveller is a complete blank in the realm of the so called ‘conversation starters’, we’ve got you! Here are some excellent questions for making small talk with people you’ve just met on a train/ bus/plane/airport etc. You will find yourself discussing travel experiences and favourite destinations with ease and fluency, trust us!

Prepared with love by: My Personal English Coach


How to get the best out of your

Helloooo! Just a few words of support for those of you who are starting your experience in our Conversation Club and don’t feel very confident. 

Don’t worry, we’re here for you!

On this page, you’ll find the vocabulary that can help you speak with your Club Partners (other MPEC students you’ll be paired with for guided conversations).

If you feel like you need to prepare before the club session, you can review the content of this page in advance. We are your Coaches and we know you well! We know that using Idioms & Phrasal Verbs can be a real challenge, so those are often the language elements we’ll suggest you use 🙃

After the preparation (you’ll find both the vocabulary and the conversation questions on this page), we invite you to participate in the Club session. You have received an email with the ZOOM link for the session:

On Tuesdays, the Club takes place from 7:00 PM to 7:30 PM, and on Thursdays, from 1:00 PM to 1:30 PM. If you haven’t received the access instructions via email, please, get in touch with us:

If you want to practice more after the Club session, you can come back here to do the Follow Up activity (at the bottom of the page). Are you ready? Let’s begin!


Idiomatic Expressions Related to Places

  • On the map: Definition: Well-known and recognized; significant or important. Example: “After hosting the international summit, our town is now firmly on the map as a global conference destination. 🗺️🌍”
  • Off the beaten track: Definition: Away from the usual or popular tourist routes; less well-known and explored. Example: “We decided to go off the beaten track and explore the remote villages in the countryside. 🏞️🌄”
  • In the middle of nowhere: Definition: In a remote, isolated, or faraway location with very few amenities. Example: “Our camping spot was beautiful, but it felt like we were in the middle of nowhere with no phone signal. 🏕️🌌”
  • A stone’s throw away: Definition: Very close in distance; a short walk or distance away. Example: “The beach is just a stone’s throw away from the hotel, making it a perfect location for guests. 🏖️🏨”
  • City that never sleeps: Definition: Referring to a bustling city with a lively nightlife and constant activity. Example: “New York is often called the city that never sleeps due to its vibrant energy day and night. 🌃🗽”
  • Back of beyond: Definition: A remote, distant, and often isolated place; far from civilization. Example: “Their cabin was located in the back of beyond, surrounded by dense forests and untouched nature. 🏞️🌳”
  • The middle of the road: Definition: An average or moderate level or quality, not extreme. Example: “The hotel we stayed at was quite comfortable, nothing extravagant, just something middle of the road. 🏨🚗”
  • Off the map: Definition: In a location that is not known, recognized, or often visited. Example: “Their adventure took them off the map, exploring remote islands that few had heard of before. 🗺️🏝️”
  • One-horse town: Definition: A small and unexciting town with few attractions or activities. Example: “The place they stopped for a meal was just a one-horse town with limited options. 🏡🐴”
  • Cream of the crop: Definition: The best or highest quality among a group or selection. Example: “Their boutique hotel was definitely the cream of the crop when it came to accommodations in the area. 🏨🌟”

Phrasal Verbs To Speak About Travelling And Destinations

  1. Set off: To start a journey. Example: “We set off early in the morning to catch the sunrise at the beach. 🌅✈️”
  2. Check in: To register or sign in upon arrival at a hotel or airport. Example: “After a long flight, I can’t wait to check in at the hotel and relax. 🏨🛬”
  3. Explore around: To visit and discover different places in a location. Example: “During my trip to Paris, I made sure to explore around all the famous landmarks. 🗼🌍”
  4. Take in: To enjoy and appreciate the view or atmosphere of a place. Example: “As I stood on the mountaintop, I couldn’t help but take in the breathtaking scenery. 🏞️👀”
  5. Hang out: To spend time in a relaxed manner with friends or fellow travellers. Example: “We decided to hang out at a local café, enjoying the vibe of the new city. ☕👫”
  6. Check out: To leave a hotel or a place of interest after visiting. Example: “Before we check out of the hotel, we’re planning to visit the nearby market. 🛏️🛍️”
  7. Get away: To escape from one’s routine or daily life by going on a trip. Example: “I needed to get away from work, so I booked a spontaneous weekend getaway. 🏖️🚗”
  8. Drop off: To leave someone at a particular place, often by car. Example: “I’ll drop you off at the train station before heading to my meeting. 🚂🚗”
  9. Step off: To exit a vehicle, often used in the context of buses, trains, or planes. Example: “Once the train stops, make sure to wait for the doors to open before stepping off. 🚉🚪”
  10. Turn up: To arrive or appear unexpectedly. Example: “I didn’t expect to see them on the same flight; they turned up just as we were boarding. ✈️😲”
  11. Run out of: To deplete or use up a supply of something. Example: “We ran out of sunscreen during our beach holiday, so we had to buy more. ☀️🏖️”
  12. Check over: To review and examine something carefully. Example: “Before leaving the hotel room, I always check over my belongings to make sure I haven’t forgotten anything. 🧳🔍”
  13. Break down: To stop working or functioning, often used in the context of vehicles. Example: “Unfortunately, our rental car broke down in the middle of nowhere. 🚗🛠️”
  14. Go through: To experience or undergo a process, often used for security checks. Example: “Before boarding the plane, you’ll need to go through security screening. ✈️🛂”
  15. Settle in: To become comfortable and familiar in a new environment. Example: “It usually takes me a day or two to settle in when I arrive at a new destination. 🧳🏠”

Round 1 – Let’s Warm Up

  1. Have you been on many train journeys before? Any memorable travel experiences?
  2. I’m a huge fan of exploring new places. What’s your all-time favourite travel destination?
  3. Do you have any travel plans lined up? I’m always looking for inspiration for my next adventure! (to have something lined up = prepared, ready, in a row)
  4. Have you visited any hidden gems or off-the-beaten-path locations that you’d recommend? (hidden gems = metaphorically, unknown treasures)
  5. There’s something special about train travel, isn’t there? Any specific routes you’ve enjoyed?

Round 2: Let’s Explore it!

  1. I love hearing about travel mishaps; they often turn into great stories. Got any entertaining travel anecdotes to share? (a mishap = something that went wrong, not as planned)
  2. What’s the most stunning landscape you’ve encountered during your travels?
  3. If you could go anywhere right now, no limitations, where would you choose to go and why?
  4. I’m a firm believer in ‘foodie tourism.’ Any destinations known for their incredible cuisine that you’d recommend? (a foodie = a person with a particular interest in food; a gourmet. it can also be an adjective meaning: epicure, gourmet, gourmand, gastronome mean one who takes pleasure in eating and drinking)

Round 3: Dig Deep!

  1. Have you ever connected with locals in a way that made your travel experience particularly memorable?
  2. Travelling sometimes leads to unexpected encounters. Have you made any lasting friendships while on the road?
  3. Are you more of a city explorer or do you prefer tranquil escapes to nature?
  4. Some places are great to visit, but not necessarily to live in. Any destinations that stole your heart and made you contemplate a move?


Remember – there is always more! Here is your Follow Up video:

Be The Change You Want To See


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