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Last updated at 12:40 BST, Thursday, 18 July 2013

Staff blog


About the blogger

Jen is a producer at BBC Learning English. In this week's blog she explains how some key phrases can be useful when you're travelling.

Travelling abroad

Hello readers. Jennifer here.

Knowing the right vocabulary and phrases can be very important when travelling. If you find yourself in trouble, having some key phrases can get you out of hot water - something which I needed on a recent trip to Italy.

I was visiting Cinque Terre with a friend. The area is on the west coast of Italy, and features picturesque villages hidden between mountains and a beautiful coastline. You can walk between the villages through the mountains or along the cliffs, or you can travel by the regional train service, which runs fairly regularly.

On the day I was due to return to England, the heavens had opened and it was raining very heavily. I ran to the station and was due to catch the train at 10.08am to return to Genoa; I would fly back to London from the airport there the following morning.

Stormy weather in Cinque Terre, Italy

It rained heavily in Cinque Terre

However, when I arrived at the station, there was obviously a problem. Lots of people were waiting on the platform and staring at the arrival and departure boards. It seemed that there were problems with the trains caused by the wet weather. There were no trains leaving, and lots of other passengers were in the same boat. The problem was, I can't speak Italian.

The arrival/departure board

The arrival/departure board. Would my train ever arrive?

I needed to ask these things:

"What is the problem?"
"How long will the train be delayed for?"
"When is the next train to Genoa?"
"How can I get to Genoa if I can't use the train?"

Unfortunately, I had to sit in silence and try to understand what was going on.

I sat for two hours - the delay was driving me up the wall, so I went and had a coffee in the station: any port in a storm. The departure boards were still showing a delay. I was very worried that I would be stuck and that I would miss my flight.

Suddenly, out of the blue, a train pulled in. There was still nothing on the departure boards, and I still couldn't speak to the station staff, as they only spoke Italian. I had no idea where the train was going, or if it was the right one, but I took a leap of faith. I ran and jumped on it! I really hoped it wasn't the end of the road for my journey home!

Jen on a train

Was this the right train?

Luckily for me, it was the right train, and I was finally on track again. I found out later that the rain had caused flooding in the mountain tunnels, so most of the trains couldn't pass through.

The moral of the story is: learn your key vocabulary and phrases before you go on holiday - you never know when you might need them!


to be in hot water

to be in trouble or danger


beautiful (when describing a landscape)

the heavens had opened

it started raining


a landing alongside railroad tracks

arrival and departure boards

the screen which announces where trains are going to and at what time

in the same boat

having the same problem/ in the same situation

driving me up the wall

making me feel angry

any port in a storm

any safe place in a difficult situation

out of the blue

something that happens suddenly and unexpectedly

a leap of faith

trusting that something is right

on track

going in the right direction


lesson/ something that can be learned from an experience

End of Section

Now tell us what you think

There are a number of transport-related idioms in this text - can you work out what they are? Can you use them in a sentence?

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