Swahili (KiSwahili) For Travelers

Useful Swahili Words for Travelers to East Africa

If you ever plan to travel to East Africa, more precisely to Kenya, Tanzania, Zanzibar, Rwanda or Uganda it will come in handy to learn some Swahili words. Once you know these very basics of the language your travel experience will the better for it. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain when the locals hear you making an effort. Swahili is one of the most spoken African languages and it is internationally recognised as the key language of communication in the East African region.

The usage of Swahili words can be traced back to the first millennium AD and although today the number of Swahili speaking people is estimated to be well over 50 million, it’s the mother tongue of only about 5 million. Swahili is mainly used as a second language or s lingua France by speakers of other native African languages. Swahili is the national language of Tanzania and Kenya and it is widely used in Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi and even the eastern part of Congo. Swahili was originally spoken by indigenous people along the coast and on the islands as it was the main language of coast trade. In the 7th century it was heavily influenced by the Arabic traders and even the word Swahili means “coastal” in Arabic.


+ Greetings

• Hello = Jambo / hujambo / Salama

• How are you? = Habari gani

• Fine (response) = Nzuri

• Goodbye = Kwa heri / Kwa herini (more than one peson)

• See You Later = tuonane baadaye

• Nice to meet you = Nafurahi kukuona

• Goodnight = Lala salama

+ Getting around

• Where is the ... = ni wapi ...

• Airport = uwanja wa ndege

• Bus station = stesheni ya basi

• Bus stop = bas stendi

• Taxi stand = stendi ya teksi

• Train Station = stesheni ya treni

• Bank = benki

• Market = soko

• Police station = kituo cha polisi

• Post Office = posta

• Tourist Office = ofisi ya watali

• Toilet/bathroom = choo

• What time is the ... leaving? = inaondoka saa ... ngapi?

• Bus = basi

• Minibus = matatu (Kenya); dalla dalla (Tanzania)

• Plane = ndege

• Train = treni/gari la moshi

• Is there a bus going to ...? = Kuna basi ya ...?

• I'd like to buy a ticket = Nataka kununua tikiti

• Is it near = Ni karibu?

• Is it far = Ni mbali

• There = huko

• Over there = pale

• Ticket = tikiti

• Where are you going? = Unakwenda wapi?

• How much is the fare? = Nauli ni kiasi gani?

• Hotel = hoteli

• Room = chumba

• Reservation = akiba

• Are there any vacancies for tonight? = Mna nafasi leo usiko? (Kenya: Iko nafasi leo usiku?)

• No vacancies = Hamna nafasi. (Kenya: Hakuna nafasi)

• How much is it per night? = ni bei gani kwa usiku?

• Mosquito net = chandalua

+ Animals

• Animal = wanyama

• Buffalo = Nyati / Mbogo

• Cheetah = Duma / Chita

• Cow = N'gombe

• Elephant = Tembo / Ndovuh

• Giraffe = Twiga

• Goat = Mbuzi

• Hippo = Kiboko

• Hyena = Fisi

• Leopard = Chui

• Lion = Simba

• Rhino = Kifaru

• Warthog = Ngiri

• Wildebeest = Nyumbu

• Zebra = Punda milia

+ Civilities

• Yes = Ndiyo

• No = Hapana

• Thank you = Asante

• Thank you very much = Asante sana

• Please = Tafadhali

• OK = Sawa

• Excuse me = Samahani

• You're Welcome = Starehe

• Can you help me? = Tafadhali, naomba msaada

• What is your name? = Jina lako nani?

• My name is = Jina langu ni ...

• Where are you from? = Unatoka wapi?

• I'm from .. = Natokea ...

• May I take a picture? = Naomba kupiga picha

• Do you speak English? = Unasema kiingereza?

• Do you speak Swahili? = Unasema Kiswahili?

• Just a little bit = Kidogo tu!

• How do you say in Swahili? = Unasemaje ... kwa Kiswahili

• I don't understand = Sielewi

• Friend = Rafiki

+ Food and Drink

• I'd like = nataka ...

• Food = chakula

• Hot/cold = ya moto/baridi

• Water = maji

• Hot water = maji ya moto

• Drinking water = maji ya kunywa

• Soda (soft drinks) = soda

• Beer = bia

• Milk = maziwa

• Meat = nyama

• Chicken = nyama kuku

• Fish = sumaki

• Beef = nyama ng'ombe

• Fruit = matunda

• Vegetables = mboga

+ Days and Numbers

• Today = leo

• Tomorrow = kesho

• Yesterday = jana

• Now = sasa

• Later = baadaye

• Every day = kila siku

• Monday = Jumatatu

• Tuesday = Jumanne

• Wednesday = Jumatano

• Thursday = Alhamisi

• Friday = Ijumaa

• Saturday = Jumamosi

• Sunday = Jumapili

• 1 = moja

• 2 = mbili

• 3 = tatu

• 4 = nne

• 5 = tano

• 6 = sita

• 7 = saba

• 8 = nane

• 9 = tisa

• 10 = kumi

• 11 = kumi na moja (ten and one)

• 12 = kumi na mbili (ten and two)

• 20 = ishirini

• 21 = ishirni na moja (twenty and one)

• 30 = thelathini

• 40 = arobaini

• 50 = hamsini

• 60 = sitini

• 70 = sabini

• 80 = themanini

• 90 = tisini

• 100 = mia

• 200 = mia mbili

• 1000 = elfu

• 100,000 = laki

+ Health

• Where can I find a ... = Naweza kupata ... wapi?

• Doctor = daktari/mganga

• Hospital = hospitali

• Medical Center = matibabu

• I'm sick = mimi ni mgonjwa

• I need a doctor = nataka kuona daktari

• It hurts here = naumwa hapa

• Fever = homa

• Malaria = melaria

• Headache = umwa kichwa

• Diarrhoea = harisha/endesha

• Vomiting = tapika

• Medicine = dawa