Amazing Terms for Giving and Asking for Directions in Swahili

October 10, 2023 No Comments
Directions in Swahili

Navigating through Swahili-speaking regions can be an enriching experience filled with cultural discoveries and breathtaking scenery. However, to fully explore these locales, it’s essential to understand the basics of giving and asking for directions in Swahili. 

In this blog, we’ll be unveiling the essential Swahili terms and phrases that will help you confidently maneuver through cities, towns, and villages. Whether you’re seeking the nearest market, the way to a historic landmark, or simply trying to find your hotel, grasping these fundamental terms will ensure your journey is as smooth as enjoyable. 

Terms for Giving and Asking for Directions in Swahili

Directions in Swahili: Top (Kilele)

“Kilele” in Swahili refers to the top or summit of an object or location. It can describe the highest point of a mountain, a building, or any other elevated surface. When giving or asking for directions, “kilele” helps indicate a destination’s peak or highest point.


“Nenda juu ya mlima hadi kufika kilele, utapata mtazamo mzuri ya eneo lote chini.” This Swahili sentence says, “Go up the mountain until you reach the summit; you’ll have a great view of the entire area below.” It’s a common way to provide directions to someone who wants to reach the top of a mountain or hill.

Directions in Swahili: Bottom (Chini)

“Chini” means the bottom or lowest part of an object or location. When giving directions, it indicates a destination’s lowest point or where something is situated at a lower level.


“Maduka ya kahawa yapo chini ya jengo kuu la ofisi.” 

Translation: “The coffee shops are at the bottom of the main office building.” It’s a straightforward way to direct someone to a specific location within a building or complex.

Directions in Swahili: Up (Juu)

Directions in Swahili

“Juu” means the upward direction. It’s used in giving directions to indicate that the destination is at a higher level or elevation.


“Chumba chako cha kulala kipo juu, panda ngazi hadi kufika huko.” 

Translation: “Your bedroom is upstairs; climb the stairs to get there.” It’s a straightforward way to guide someone to an upper-level location.

Middle (Katikati)

“Katikati” refers to the middle or center of an object or location. It’s used to describe a place’s central point.


“Duka la vitabu liko katikati ya barabara, huwezi kushindwa kuliona.” This Swahili sentence means, “The bookstore is in the middle of the street; you can’t miss it.” It’s a helpful term for directing someone to a centrally located destination.

Directions in Swahili: Front (Mbele)

“Mbele” signifies the front or forward direction. It’s employed when giving directions to guide someone to a location ahead or in front of a reference point.


“Kituo cha basi kiko mbele ya jengo la benki, unaweza kutembea kwa dakika chache tu.” 

Translation: “The bus station is in front of the bank building; you can walk there in just a few minutes.” It helps someone locate a destination in relation to a prominent landmark.

Back (Nyuma)

“Nyuma” means the back or rear direction. It’s utilized when giving directions to lead someone to a location that’s behind or at the rear of a reference point.


“Ofisi ya posta iko nyuma ya soko la mjini.” 

This Swahili sentence means, “The post office is behind the town’s market.” It’s a straightforward way to direct someone to a location situated at the back of another prominent place.

Side (Upande)

“Upande” represents the side or lateral direction. It’s used when providing directions to guide someone to a destination on one side of a reference point.


“Choo cha umma kiko upande wa kushoto wa uwanja wa michezo.” 

This Swahili sentence says, “The public restroom is on the left side of the sports field.” It helps someone find a location on a particular side of a given area or facility.

Directions in Swahili: East (Mashariki)

Directions in Swahili

“Mashariki” in Swahili refers to the cardinal direction of the east. It is the direction where the sun rises in the morning. Understanding directions like “mashariki” is essential for navigating in Swahili-speaking regions and locating places with respect to the rising sun.


“Njoo mashariki kabisa ya mji, utaona duka letu la kahawa upande wa kushoto.” Translation: “Come to the easternmost part of the town, and you will see our coffee shop on the left side.” “mashariki” guides someone to a specific location by indicating the eastern direction.

West (Magharibi)

“Magharibi” is the Swahili term for the cardinal direction of the west, where the sun sets in the evening. Understanding “magharibi” is crucial for orienting oneself and locating places with respect to the setting sun.


“Chuo kikuu kiko magharibi mwa jiji na unaenda huko kwa kuchukua barabara ya kuu.” 

Translation: “The university is in the west of the city, and you can get there by taking the main road.” Here, “magharibi” helps indicate the western direction to reach the university.

Directions in Swahili: North (Kaskazini)

“Kaskazini” in Swahili represents the north’s cardinal direction, which is often associated with the North Pole or the North Star. Understanding “kaskazini” is essential for navigation and finding places in Swahili-speaking regions.


“Kama unataka kwenda kaskazini mwa mji, tembea moja kwa moja hadi utakapofika kwenye uwanja wa mpira.” 

This Swahili sentence means, “If you want to go to the north of the town, walk straight until you reach the soccer field.” Here, “kaskazini” guides someone to the northern part of the town.

South (Kusini)

“Kusini” is the Swahili term for the cardinal direction of the south, which is often associated with the South Pole. Understanding “kusini” is vital for navigation and providing directions in Swahili-speaking regions.


“Soko kubwa liko kusini mwa kituo cha basi, unaweza kufika huko kwa kutumia njia ya chini ya reli.” 

Translation: “The big market is located south of the bus station, and you can get there by using the underpass.” Here, “kusini” indicates the southern direction to reach the market.

Outside (Nje)

“Nje” in Swahili means outside or outdoors. It is used to describe a location or area that is not within a building or a confined space.


“Kama unataka kupata hewa safi, nenda nje ya nyumba yako na ukae kwenye bustani.” 

This Swahili sentence means, “If you want to get fresh air, go outside your house and sit in the garden.” Here, “nje” indicates the direction of the outdoor space.

Directions in Swahili: Inside (Ndani)

Directions in Swahili

“Ndani” in Swahili means inside or indoors. It is used to describe a location or area that is within a building or a confined space.


“Joto liko juu leo, nenda ndani ya nyumba ukae kwenye chumba cha hewa baridi.” Translation: “It’s hot today, go inside the house and stay in the air-conditioned room.” Here, “ndani” indicates the direction toward the interior of the house.

Beside (Kando)

“Kando” in Swahili translates to beside or next to. It is used to indicate the proximity or location of something in relation to another object or point of reference.


“Maduka mengi ya kahawa yako kando ya benki kuu, utayapata kwa urahisi sana.” 

This Swahili sentence means, “Many coffee shops are located beside the central bank; you will find them very easily.” Here, “kando” indicates the position of the coffee shops in relation to the central bank.

Directions in Swahili: Corner (Kona)

“Kona” translates to “corner” in Swahili. It’s a fundamental term when providing or seeking directions. Corners serve as landmarks, helping you pinpoint specific locations within a city or town. Swahili speakers often use corners as reference points when giving directions, making it easier for travelers to find their way.


“Tafadhali nipe maelekezo ya jinsi ya kufika kwa duka la vitabu. Je, nifuate hadi kona, kisha nigeuke kushoto?” 

This Swahili sentence means, “Please give me directions on how to get to the bookstore. Should I go straight to the corner and then turn left?” It illustrates the use of “kona” in seeking directions.

Distant (Umbali)

Umbali” means “distant” in Swahili. When asking for directions, it’s essential to understand how far a place is from your current location. “Umbali” helps you gauge the distance and decide whether it’s a feasible journey by walking, driving, or using public transport.


“Je, duka la mboga lipo umbali gani kutoka hapa?” 

Translation: “How far is the vegetable market from here?” It demonstrates how “umbali” is used to inquire about the distance to a specific destination.

Surrounding Environment (Mazingira Yanayozunguka)

“Mazingira yanayozunguka” refers to the surrounding environment or area. Understanding the mazingira yanayozunguka is crucial when providing or following directions, as it helps you identify landmarks and navigate your way effectively.


“Duka la vitabu liko kwenye mazingira yanayozunguka uwanja wa michezo. Unapopata uwanja wa michezo, utakipata duka la vitabu upande wa kulia.” 

This Swahili sentence means, “The bookstore is in the surrounding area of the sports field. When you reach the sports field, you will find the bookstore on the right side.” It illustrates the use of “mazingira yanayozunguka” to describe the vicinity or surroundings when giving directions.


Incorporating essential Swahili terms for giving and asking for directions into your travel toolkit opens up a world of possibilities for exploration and connection in Swahili-speaking regions. These simple yet powerful phrases bridge language barriers, enabling you to navigate confidently and engage with locals on your journey. 

Whether you’re discovering the hidden gems of a bustling city or exploring the serene landscapes of coastal towns, these linguistic skills enhance your travel experience. It’s about discovering the heart and soul of the places you visit and forging meaningful connections.

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I'm an elementary school teacher who loves what she does! I enjoy creating resources in my Native language "kiswahili". My goal is to spread the beautiful language of "Kiswahili" inside and outside the classroom. Thanks for stopping by! Read More

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