This could be the most valuable item a traveller could pack.

This clever T-shirt is emblazoned with 40 icons that tourists can use to communicate when they don't know the local language in whatever country they're in.

Rather than rely on helpless hand gestures or dodgy attempts at foreign phrases, tourists can simply point to the icon on the shirt to say what they're trying to get across.

The shirt was designed by the Swiss team behind the Iconspeak company and was inspired by a communication breakdown while they were travelling through Vietnam.


"We came up with the idea in 2013 when we were riding motorbikes through Vietnam and one broke down," co-founder George Horn told CNN.

He said he needed help to fix the motorbike but had ended up in a tiny village where no one could understand him in English or French.

So he and his travelling companions drew icons on pieces of paper to get their message across.

The approach was so successful, he and his mates continued to use icons during their travels.

But they then decided to have the icons printed on a T-shirt so they'd be able to communicate more easily wherever they were.

The 40 icons they chose for the shirts were carefully selected so as not to cause offence anywhere in the world - they omitted religious symbolism, for example.

They settled on icons they thought would be most helpful to most tourists, such as train, bus, hospital, airport, Wi-Fi, beer, food, telephone and clock.

There is also a love heart and peace sign to keep things extra friendly.


And they reckon the shirts really work.

"I've been testing them around Europe and my colleague Florian is right now using them in Latin America," Horn said.