Simple Swahili Phrases To Know Before Visiting East Africa : Planning a trip to East Africa? Karibu! East Africa is a land of everything lovely on the planet, with picturesque beaches, incredible wildlife species, spectacular terrain, and amazing people, making it the best African destination. You can participate in a variety of thrilling activities, eat exquisite food and wines, and learn about the Maasai tribe’s unique culture. However, language is one of the best ways to learn about East Africa.

Swahili is a widely spoken language in East Africa, particularly in Tanzania and Kenya. Burundi, Rwanda, and Uganda are also East African countries that utilize Swahili, but to a lesser extent. Many Swahili words and phrases are commonly used by the inhabitants, and it is strongly advised that you learn the basic sayings before visiting the region. Here are a few basic words and phrases to help you navigate the region while visiting:


  • Hujambo? – Hello
  • Sijambo! – I am well, or I am fine.
  • Karibu – You will hear this a lot as soon as you arrive at any of the airports in East Africa. It means ‘welcome’.
  • Asante– This translates to thank you.
  • Habari/Habari yako? – This is a greeting. How are you?
  • Nzuri– This is the response to the above. It means ‘’good’’ or ‘well’.
  • Habari ya asubuhi? – Good morning, or how is your morning?
  • Salama– This means ‘fine’ or ‘good’
  • Samahani– This means ‘excuse me’.
  • Pole – This is to say “sorry”
  • Ukosawa: It means, Are you okay?’ This is for asking someone if they are okay.
  • Jina lako nani? – It means ‘’what is your name’?’’
  • Naitwa– This means ‘’I am.. ’’ For example, ‘’Naitwa Joe’’ means ‘’I am Joe.
  • Mambo?—another way of saying, ‘How are you?’
  • Poa: This is the response to the above, which means ‘’good’’ or ‘’I’m good”.
  • Tafadhali: This means ‘please’


  • Pesa refers to money’.
  • Pesa ngapi– This is asking, ‘’How much?’’
  • Soko: Market
  • Polisi: Police
  • Choo: toilet or bathroom
  • Matatu: minivan or bus, which is the commonly used means of public transport
  • Hoteli means hotel.
  • Dawa: Medicine
  • Daktari: Doctor
  • Hospitali: Hospital
  • Kitanda: Bed


  • Chakula means food.
  • Maji–Means water.
  • Moto-Hot
  • Baridi– Cold
  • Nyama Choma-This roasted meat is a common and popular delicacy in East Africa, mostly in Kenya and Tanzania.
  • Samaki– Fish
  • Matunda-Fruits

    Simple Swahili Phrases To Know Before Visiting East Africa
    Maasai People


  • Where: This means good-bye.
  • Lala Salama: This is to say good night.
  • Sawa: This means okay.
  • Nisaidie: This means, help me.
  • Sielewi: This is to say I don’t understand.
  • Ndio: Yes
  • Hapana: No
  • Sitaki: I do not want
  • Picha: This means picture or photo.
  • Nipige Picha: Take me a photo or picture.
  • Rafiki: friend
  • Kidogo: Just a little
  • Baadae: means later.
  • Leo: This means today.
  • Kesho: means tomorrow.
  • Mimi: Used to say ‘’me’’
  • Wewe – Used to say ‘’you’’
  • Saa: This means watch or time.
  • Saa Ngapi: What time is it?
  • Nani: Who?
  • Mtoto- Child/kid
  • Kijana: a young man
  • Msichana: a young girl
  • Pole Pole: means slowly.
  • Haraka: means fast or faster. You could also say Harakisha to mean make it quick.
  • Hatari: This means danger.
  • Rudia: please repeat
  • Kwanini? This is asking why.
  • Kweli/Ukweli: This means true or truth.
  • Nahisi njaa: I am hungry.
  • Nimeshiba: I am full.
  • Simu: means telephone.
  • Sigara: means ‘cigarrete’
  • Usivute Sigara: Do not smoke.
  • Twende: Let’s go.
  • Hakuna njia: means ‘no entry’
  • Kubwa means ‘big’.
  • Ndogo: means ‘small”
  • Si mbaya: This is to say ‘not bad’
  • Hakuna Matata: No problem/ No worry/ everything is fine.


You should definitely practice with the locals now that you’ve learned a few words in this intriguing language. East Africans are known for being nice and warm; try out a few sentences and see how they react; we’re sure they won’t mind. If you have anything to add to our list or would like to tell us about your experience, please contact us!

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