Learn Some Swahili Before You Visit Us

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Simple Swahili Phrases to Know Before Visiting East Africa

Planning a trip to East Africa? Karibu! East Africa is a land of everything beautiful under the earth – picturesque beaches, amazing wildlife species, spectacular landscapes and amazing people – making the region an ultimate destination to visit in Africa.

You’ll find several hair-raising activities to indulge in, delicious food and tasty wines to sample as well as experience the unique culture influenced by the Maasai tribe. However, one of the best ways to get to know East Africa is through language. 

Swahili is a common language widely used in East Africa most especially in Tanzania and Kenya. The other East African countries of Burundi, Rwanda and Uganda use Swahili too although quite minimally.Many of the Swahili words and phrases are used frequently by the locals, and it is highly recommended that you learn the basic sayings before you visit the region.

Here are a few basic words and phrases to help you navigate the region while visiting:




  1. Hujambo? – Hello
  2. Sijambo! – I am well or I am fine
  3. Karibu – You will hear this a lot as soon as you arrive at any of the airports in East Africa. It means ‘welcome’.
  4. Asante–This translates to thank you
  5. Habari/Habariyako?–This is a greeting – how are you?
  6. Nzuri–This is the response to the above. It means ‘’good’’ or ‘well’.
  7. Habariyaasubuhi? – Good morning or how is your morning?
  8. Salama – This means ‘fine’ or ‘good’
  9. Samahani–This means ‘excuse me’.
  10. Pole – This is to say ‘sorry’
  11. Ukosawa – It means‘are you okay?’This is for asking someone if they are okay.
  12. Jinalakonani? – It means ‘’what is your name’?’’
  13. Naitwa – This means ‘’I am.. ’’ For example ‘’Naitwa Joe’’ meaning  ‘’I am Joe’’
  14. Mambo?– Also another way of saying ‘how are you?’
  15. Poa– This is the response of the above which means ‘’good’’ or ‘’I’m good’’
  16. Tafadhali– This means ‘please’




Tanzania Shillings

  1. Pesa– Refers to ‘money’.
  2. Pesangapi–This is asking ‘’how much?’’
  3. Soko – Market
  4. Polisi – Police
  5. Choo- Toilet or bathroom
  6. Matatu – Minivan or bus which is the commonly used means of public transport
  7. Hoteli – Means hotel
  8. Dawa – Medicine
  9. Daktari – Doctor
  10. Hospitali – Hospital
  11. Kitanda – Bed


Nyama choma

Nyama choma

  1. Chakula–It means food.
  2. Maji–Means water.
  3. Moto – Hot
  4. Baridi– Cold
  5. NyamaChoma- This roasted meat which is a common and popular delicacy in East Africa – mostly in Kenya and Tanzania
  6. Samaki– Fish
  7. Matunda – Fruits


Hakuna Matata

Hakuna Matata

  1. Kwaheri – This means good bye.
  2. Lalasalama – This is to say good night.
  3. Sawa– This means Okay.
  4. Nisaidie – This means help me.
  5. Sielewi- This is to say I don’t understand
  6. Ndio – Yes
  7. Hapana – No
  8. Sitaki – I do not want
  9. Picha – This means picture or photo
  10. Nipigepicha – Take me a photo/picture
  11. Rafiki – Friend
  12. Kidogotu – Just a little
  13. Baadae – Means later.
  14. Leo – This means today
  15. Kesho – means tomorrow
  16. Mimi – Used to say ‘’me’’
  17. Wewe – Used to say ‘’you’’
  18. Saa – This means watch or time
  19. SaaNgapi – What time?
  20. Nani – Who?
  21. Mtoto- Child/kid
  22. Kijana – Young man
  23. Msichana – Young girl
  24. Naweza pima hii? – Means ‘can I try this on’. This is applicable when shopping for clothes or shoes and you need to fit.
  25. Pole Pole – Means slowly
  26. Haraka– Means fast or faster. You could also say Harakisha to mean make it quick
  27. Hatari – This means danger.
  28. Rudia – Please repeat
  29. Kwanini? – This is asking why
  30. Kweli/ Ukweli – This means true or truth
  31. Nahisinjaa – I am hungry
  32. Nimeshiba – I am full
  33. Simu – means telephone
  34. Sigara – means ‘cigarrete’
  35. Usivutesigara – Do not smoke
  36. Twende – Let’s go
  37. Hakunanjia – Means ‘no entry’
  38. Kubwa – Means ‘big’
  39. Ndogo – means ‘small’
  40. Si mbaya – This is to say ‘not bad’
  41. Hakunamatata – No problem


Show off your Swahili with the Locals

Now that you have learnt a word or two in this fascinating language, you should definitely practice with the locals. East African people are renowned for being friendly and warm, try out a couple of phrases and see how they react, we are positive they won't mind at all.


We'd love to hear from you If you have anything to add to our list or would like to tell us about your experience give us a shout!

Share your experience with us! Tag @Tripindigo on your social posts #EastAfricaRocks or pop us a line on social@tripindigo.com.

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