How to Master 10 Essential Swahili Phrases Quickly

July 5, 2023 2 Comments
Thank You in Swahili


With its vibrant culture and stunning landscapes, East Africa is a popular destination for travelers seeking unique experiences. One country that stands out in this region is Kenya, known for its vast wildlife reserves, stunning beaches, and warm hospitality. As a traveler, learning a few essential phrases in the local language can greatly enhance your experience and help you connect with the local people. In this article, we will explore ten essential Swahili phrases that every traveler should know when visiting Kenya.

1. “Jambo” – Hello

Swahili Phrase: Jambo

Translation: Hello

When visiting Kenya, it’s important to greet the locals with a warm and friendly “Jambo.” This simple word can open doors and create connections with the people you meet along your journey. Remember, hospitality is highly valued in Kenyan culture, and a friendly greeting can go a long way in building rapport.

2. “Asante” – Thank You

Swahili Phrase: Asante

Translation: Thank you

Expressing gratitude is a universal gesture of politeness and appreciation. Whenever someone goes out of their way to help you or offers assistance, show your appreciation by saying “Asante.” The locals will appreciate your effort in speaking Swahili, and it will make your interactions even more enjoyable.

3. “Tafadhali” – Please

Swahili Phrase: Tafadhali

Translation: Please

As a respectful traveler, it’s important to include “Tafadhali” in your vocabulary. Whether you’re asking for directions, ordering a meal, or requesting assistance, using “Tafadhali” adds a polite tone to your conversation. Remember, a little kindness goes a long way, and the locals will appreciate your effort to communicate in their language.

4. “Ndiyo” – Yes and “Hapana” – No

Swahili Phrase: Ndiyo / Hapana

Translation: Yes / No

Knowing how to say “yes” and “no” is essential for clear communication in any language. In Swahili, “Ndiyo” means yes, while “Hapana” means no. These simple words can help you navigate through various situations, whether confirming a# 10 Essential Swahili Phrases for Travelers


Are you planning a trip to East Africa? Whether you’re exploring the vibrant streets of Nairobi or embarking on a thrilling safari in the Serengeti, knowing a few basic Swahili phrases can greatly enhance your travel experience. Swahili, also known as Kiswahili, is the lingua franca of East Africa, spoken by millions of people in countries like Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, and Rwanda. In this article, we have compiled a list of 10 essential Swahili phrases that will come in handy during your travels.


When visiting a new country, it’s important to learn how to greet the locals. Here are a few essential Swahili greetings:

1. “Jambo” or “Hujambo”

These greetings are the Swahili equivalent of “hello” and “how are you?” respectively. It’s a polite way to initiate a conversation and show respect to the locals.

2. “Asante” or “Asante sana”

These phrases mean “thank you” and “thank you very much” respectively. Expressing gratitude is a universal gesture, and these expressions will be greatly appreciated by the locals.

Directions and Transportation

Getting around in a foreign country can be challenging, but knowing a few Swahili phrases related to directions and transportation can make your journey smoother.

3. “Wapi choo?”

If you need to find a restroom urgently, this phrase will save the day. “Wapi choo?” means “Where is the restroom?” and will help you locate the nearest facility.

4. “Ninataka kwenda…”

This phrase translates to “I want to go to…” and can be followed by the place you wish to visit. Whether it’s a restaurant, a hotel, or a tourist attraction, using this phrase while communicating with a taxi driver or a local will ensure you reach your destination.

Food and Dining

Exploring the local cuisine is an exciting part of any trip. Master the following Swahili phrases to enhance your dining experience:

5. “Chakula kizuri”

This phrase means “delicious food.” Use it to compliment the chef at a restaurant or when appreciating a home-cooked meal. It will surely bring a smile to the faces of those around you.

6. “Nina njaa”

When hunger strikes, convey your message by saying “Nina njaa,” which translates to “I am hungry.” Locals will understand your need for food and can recommend nearby eateries.

For more swahili phrases related to food please check out learn food in Swahili.

Emergency Situations

Though we hope you won’t encounter any emergencies during your trip, it’s essential to be prepared. Here are a couple of Swahili phrases that may come in handy:

7. “Nisaidie!”

This phrase means “help me!” Use it to attract attention or call for assistance in case of an emergency. Ensure you memorize and practice this phrase to use it effectively when needed.

8. “Wapi hospitali karibu?”

swahili phrases

In case of a medical emergency, this phrase will be valuable. It translates to “Where is the nearest hospital?” It’s always better to be prepared, and knowing this phrase can save precious time in seeking medical help.

Shopping and Bargaining

If you’re an avid shopper, these Swahili phrases will prove invaluable during your shopping adventures in local markets and boutiques.

9. “Bei gani?”

When shopping, you’ll often come across items without price tags. To inquire about the price, say “Bei gani?” which means “How much does it cost?” This phrase will help you initiate a conversation with the vendor and negotiate if needed.

10. “Punguza bei kidogo”

This phrase translates to “reduce the price a little.” It’s a useful phrase for bargaining, especially in markets where haggling is customary. Polite negotiations can often lead to better deals and a thrilling shopping experience.

For more words relating to trading in Swahili please have a look at learn trade in Swahili


By learning these 10 essential Swahili phrases, you’ll be equipped to navigate through East Africa with ease. Locals appreciate the effort travelers make to learn their language, even if it’s just a few phrases. Swahili is a beautiful language with a rich cultural heritage, and engaging with the locals in their language will undoubtedly enhance your travel experience.


  1. Q: Can I get by in East Africa without knowing Swahili? A: While English is widely spoken, knowing a few Swahili phrases can greatly enhance your interactions and cultural experience.
  2. Q: Are there any resources to help me learn more Swahili phrases? A: Yes, there are various language learning apps, online courses, and travel guides that offer Swahili language lessons.
  3. Q: Will locals appreciate my attempts to speak Swahili? A: Absolutely! Locals are often delighted when travelers make an effort to learn their language and will gladly help you improve your Swahili.
  4. Q: Are these Swahili phrases specific to a certain country in East Africa? A: Swahili is widely spoken across East Africa, so these phrases should be useful in countries like Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, and Rwanda.
  5. Q: How long does it take to learn basic Swahili phrases? A: Learning the basics can be accomplished in a relatively short time, as long as you practice regularly and immerse yourself in the language.

If you are interested in learning Swahili, check out my” learn Swahili: transport” product here on my TPT store! 

Besides the products linked above, I have many other activities in my TPT store that are designed to teach Kiswahili while having fun! 

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Learn Swahili Transport | BOOM Cards Learning

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I hope you have found this helpful! If you have questions or are looking for something in particular, please comment or reach out to me! 

Tutaonana baadaye! (See you later!) 

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  • […] you can practice your pronunciation and see the words come to life. Try it out, speak a simple Swahili phrase, and watch as the app transforms your voice into Swahili syllables. You’ve joined a virtual […]

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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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