The first time you try to start a conversation with a stranger while you’re abroad may be a little awkward. You might be shy or embarrassed or afraid to make a mistake. But as with anything, after a couple of attempts you will likely build your confidence and expand your comfort level. To help your conversation-initiating skills, here are four surefire ways to fearlessly start conversations with strangers while traveling abroad.

1. Introduce yourself

Say hello or excuse me and introduce yourself. Use eye contact to your advantage and smile. From there it’s just a matter of thinking on your feet to follow up and continue to engage in conversation – this is something you will get better at the more you try it.

Consider approaching a group of people instead of an individual. Strangers can be shy too, and individuals may be more comfortable when they’re not singled out. Plus, more people means more opportunity for connections.

2. Ask questions

Ask for help, directions, suggestions, or recommendations on food, attractions or activities. It’s essential to engage people and the best way to do that is to get them talking. Ask questions about something you observe. Ask what life is like for them. Don’t forget to be a good listener so you can learn more about them.

3. Talk about yourself

Listening to the answers to your questions is obviously important – and just as important is sharing a little bit about yourself. Share a favorite pastime. If you share a common interest, ask for a recommendation. Finding something in common can be a starting place for a conversation to blossom.

4. Create a cheat sheet

Sounds lame, but a cheat sheet can really come through for you in a pinch. Create a cheat sheet in your cell phone (or even on a piece of paper) and carry it with you wherever you go. Even if you only refer to it discreetly from time to time, you’ll learn a lot just by preparing it. This will help you not only to initiate great conversations abroad but to follow up and improve your chances of making real connections with the people you meet.

Create your cheat sheet with ideas for scenarios you are likely to encounter in your destination and in general travel situations to be as prepared as possible. Include talking points about yourself (topics you are interested/comfortable to share) as well as questions you can politely ask a stranger.

Here are some suggestions to get you started. Choose options that you feel most comfortable with and personalize them to suit your unique situation:

  • Offer help if you see someone in need: Excuse me, do you need assistance?
  • Excuse me. My name is (blank). I’m visiting here from (blank). What is your name? (Listen and remember what they say.) I’m interested in doing/ learning/ seeing/ trying (blank). Would you happen to have any suggestions?
    • If you are comfortable: Would you care to join me?
  • Excuse me. I overheard you say something about (blank). Would you mind telling me something more about it?
  • Offer a compliment/observation; follow up with a question: What a cute dog; do you live around here? I like that umbrella; where did you buy it? That food looks delicious; what is it called on the menu? I noticed that you (blank); would you mind telling me (blank)? I like (blank); can you recommend a place to go for it?
  • Are you from around here?
    • If not: Neither am I. I’m from (blank). My name is (blank). Where are you from? What brings you here?
    • If so: I’m not familiar with here. Can you recommend (blank)? I’m staying in (blank) part of the city. Do you live nearby or have a recommendation for (blank)?
  • I did (blank) or saw (blank) and thought (blank). Is that typical? Is it something you are aware of/ enjoy/ like/ participate in?
  • What do you do? What do you think about (blank)?
  • Have you ever been to (blank)? What is your favorite thing to do/ place to eat/ activity in the location/ weekend pastime /nearby travel destination, etc.?
  • My favorite music is (blank). I enjoy (activity). My favorite things to do include (blank, blank and blank). I like (blank) style food.
  • I work as a/an (occupation).
  • Can you recommend a good restaurant, place to stay, nightclub, museum, activity, attraction, place to shop for (blank) place to go hiking/swimming/listen to music/dancing, etc.?
  • Ask for help. Can you please help me find a particular location, figure something out, etc.?
    • Where can I find (blank)?
    • What does (blank) mean?
    • In the local language: Excuse me. My name is (blank). I’m not sure how to say this in (language), do you know how to speak (my language)?
    • Can you help me, please?
    • I’m trying to find (blank) location. Is it nearby? Can you point me in the right direction?
  • I already went (here) or tried (this), and I really liked it. Have you been there/ done that?
    • If yes: What did you think about (detail or in general)? Can you recommend anything similar?
    • If no: Oh! I recommend you check it out/ try it.

If you are traveling in a place where you don’t speak the language or are a little shaky with your comprehension, prepare your cheat sheet with your native language and local language together. This way you can be confident about what you are saying.

With these four conversation tactics at your disposal, you can take your next journey with greater confidence. Getting ready to talk to strangers is a great way to be a fearless global citizen and build a network of new connections—even burgeoning friendships, wherever you travel.