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Language|Travel tips

Travel Swahili: Useful phrases

In our last post I highlighted all the things to do on our African Safari bucket list and since I love learning new languages for our trips, I thought it’d be fun to share some useful travel phrases for that trip of a lifetime.

Kenya’s two official languages are Swahili (or Kiswahili) and English, but I always think it’s fun to learn a few basic phrases in the native language and be able to better understand what’s happening around us as we travel. Swahili is also spoken in Tanzania, Uganda, Congo, Mozambique, and other East African countries. Certain Swahili phrases might sound familiar to Disney fans as some basic words made their way into songs and character names (Rafiki translates to friend and Simba literally means lion) in The Lion King.

If you’re visiting Africa with a tour group, they’ll most likely help out with communicating with the locals, but with any language or visit to another country, it’s the attempt that counts and generally at least earns you a smile!

Looking for some basic Swahili phrases for travelers? These greetings, expressions, and phrases are a great place to start:

Swahili greetings

ENGLISH                                                       SWAHILI

Hello, how are you?                                     Hujambo, habari (informal)

I’m fine                                                           Sijambo

Good morning/afternoon/evening          Habari ya asubuhi/mchana/jioni

Good night                                                    Usiku mwema

Goodbye                                                        Kwaheri

Polite expressions in Swahili

Yes                                                                 Ndiyo

No                                                                  Hapana

Thank you                                                    Asante

You’re welcome                                          Karibu

Excuse me/sorry                                        Samahani

Please                                                           Tafadhali

No problem                                                 Hakuna matata

Danger, watch out                                     Hatari

Swahili questions, directions, travel, and shopping

How much?                                               Shillingi ngapi?

I want….                                                     Ninataka…

Water                                                          Maji

Do you speak English?                           Unasema kiingereza?

How was your safari?                             Habari za safari?

Where is…?                                              Ni wapi…?

Toilet                                                         Choo

Airport                                                      Uwanja wa ndege

Bus station                                               Stesheni ya basi

Train station                                            Stesheni ya treni

Taxi stand                                                Sendi ya teksi

Hotel                                                         Hoteli

How much is the fare?                           Nauli ni kiasi gani

I’d like to buy a ticket                            Nataka kununua tikiti

Days and time

Now                                                          Sasa

Today                                                       Leo

Tomorrow                                               Kesho

Yesterday                                                Jana

Have you gone on an African safari in Kenya? What travel phrases came in handy for your travels? Tell us in the comments below!

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Hey, I'm Stephanie! I'm a copywriter living in beautiful Denver with my husband Rick, and our dog Rocco. I love traveling, writing, reading, and being outside as much as possible - unless I'm on the couch binge watching Stranger Things with a glass of wine! Thanks for reading and being a part of the adventure with Back to the Passport! ❤️


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