Important Swahili words to know before visiting Tanzania

Important Swahili words to know before visiting Tanzania: On this wonderful planet of ours, there are countless locations to discover. Beautiful locations, including famous cityscapes, snow-capped mountains, stunning beaches, and wide savannahs. When we travel far from home, we encounter individuals from various cultures, hear from various tongues, and experience an excitement for the uncharted. And where better than Africa to witness nature and wildlife in their full splendor? Africa is both a big and diverse continent. Millions of tourists from all over the world visit its historic sites, famous deserts, beaches, forests, and animal locations each year.

Up to 2,000 languages are spoken on the continent, which is not unexpected given that there are 54 countries there, each of which is unique (75 of which have more than one million speakers). Millions of people speak a variety of languages, with Swahili dominating in eastern Africa countries of Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda and D.R.C. Other languages you will experience in Africa includes Arabic, French, English, Swahili, Zulu, and Hausa, to name just a few.

Tanzania is a popular safari destination because it offers a wealth of fantastic wildlife safari in Serengeti National Park and Ngorongoro crater, stunning beaches in Zanzibar Island, and/or the heights of Mount Kilimanjaro. However, to fully enjoy the safari there and have an unforgettable experience and interaction with local people, Swahili should be one of the languages you at least know and are able to hear, say, and speak some important words in.


Tanzania’s official language is Swahili. It is estimated that there are about 200 million native or second-language speakers of Swahili across the African continent. Over 125 different languages are spoken in Tanzania alone, which has a diverse language population. Since English is widely spoken throughout the nation, you stand a high chance of having no trouble communicating anywhere you go if you speak it. The people are welcoming and courteous and will want to assist you, but knowing a few fundamentals will tremendously aid your cause. To help you get started, below is a collection of some fundamental Swahili words and phrases to learn and know when you’re considering/ planning a Tanzania safari visit.

The quality of your interactions while you go about the country will, at the very least, be improved by having a basic understanding of the language.


Learning Swahili is enjoyable since it is a fluid language. It is comparatively simple to pronounce, learn, and comprehend due to its pronunciation and tone. Of course, until you’re more comfortable with the terminology, it will feel a little odd, just like with any new language. However, you can practice your pronunciation before your trip using a variety of online resources for pronunciation, Important Swahili words to know before visiting Tanzania


Always start with a friendly greeting and crucial when meeting someone for the first time or asking for directions in a strange city!

 Let’s begin by saying “hi.” Any of the words Hujambo, Jambo, mambo, or Habari will do to say “hello” in Swahili. Elders are greeted more formally with “Habari,” while younger people are addressed more casually with “Hujambo” or “Jambo.” We advise utilizing the more polite “Habari” when approaching someone to ask them a question.

Or you can say “Habari za asubuhi,” “Habari za mchana,” or “Habari za jioni” to wish someone a pleasant morning, afternoon, or evening.

We advise staying with simple words because you won’t be able to understand much of a response. But what if someone asks you, “Habari Gani?” You can respond with “Nzuri” (good) or “Poa” to the question “How are you?”

Say “Asante” to express gratitude. You can also say “Asante sana,” which is Swahili for “very much appreciated.” Additionally, you can respond with “Karibu,” which means “You’re Welcome,” when someone thanks you.


There will inevitably be some queries when you go to a market, a nearby village, or eat somewhere new. If you can use the phrase opener “Naomba,” which means “I would like,” before words like “bus” or “sandwich,” you’ll be able to communicate information. Or, “Sitaki” for “I don’t want,” as an alternative. Additionally, you can say “Ni shingapi” to get the price of something.

When getting to know someone, you can say “Unaitwa nani?” or “Unatoka wapi?” for “Where are you from?” to find out their name. Informally, you can call your tour guide or other amiable locals “Rafiki,” which means “friend.”

Important Swahili words to know before visiting Tanzania
Important Swahili words to know before visiting Tanzania

Learning some common question words like “Nini” (what), “Lini” (when), “Wapi” (where), “Kwa Nini” (why), “Nani” (who), and “Gani” (Which) may be helpful. Additionally, “Tafadhali,” which means “please,” can be used to make a very courteous request of someone, Important Swahili words to know before visiting Tanzania


You will sample many regional dishes and hear many different names for the food you are eating. You should also have the phrase “ladha,” which means tasty, at the ready. If you’re eating in restaurants, English is probably spoken there, but if you’re out and about getting a bite to eat in a local cafe, knowing a little more Swahili might be useful.

After saying “Naomba” (Japanese for “I would like”), follow it up with what you want to eat or drink. For instance, if you want a beverage, say “Naomba maji” for water or “Naomba kahawa” for coffee drink. Here is a small list of popular foods and beverages in Swahili and English:

  • Food- chakula
  • Coffee – kahawa
  • Tea- chai
  • Beer – bia
  • Maji- water
  • Drinking water -maji ya kunywa
  • Milk- Maziwa
  • Meat-nyama
  • Chicken – kuku
  • Fish, Samaki
  • Beef-nyama ng’ombe
  • Fruits-Matunda
  • Vegetables – Mboga-Mboga


You will have a knowledgeable English-speaking personal guide with you while on a safari. But if you’re going somewhere by yourself or taking a side trip, learning a few navigational words will be helpful.

 The Swahili word meaning “where is” is the finest place to begin. That’s simple—just ask, “Ni wapi?” For instance, you can ask, “Soko liko wapi?” or “Where is the market?” to find out where the market is. The following is a list of locations you might ask to be found:

  • Bank – benki
  • Market-Sokoni
  • Toilet- choo
  • Bus stand – bas stendi
  • Train station – stesheni ya treni
  • Post Office-Posta
  • Police station-Kituo cha polisi


For the majority of us, an African vacation wouldn’t be complete without the opportunity to observe wildlife in its natural setting. Once more, being familiar with the most frequent words you’re likely to encounter will make communication on safari easier to understand.

 The word “Angalia,” which means “to view” or “see,” will therefore be something you hear frequently. Try to hear it. Your tour guide may yell, “Angalia Tembo,” which is Swahili for “Look, an elephant.” Or “Angalia, Simba,” which means “Look, a lion is here.” You won’t want to miss a simba, even if elephants are very simple to locate on your own. Here are the Big Five’s Swahili and English names:

  • Elephant-Tembo
  • Buffalo – nyati
  • Lion-Simba
  • Rhino – kifaru
  • Leopard – chui‍

 And to add to your vocabulary:

  • Giraffe – twiga
  • Cheetah – duma
  • Hippo-Kiboko
  • Hyena-Fisi
  • Warthog – ngiri
  • Wildebeest, Nyumbu
  • Zebra – pundamilia


Here are some additional terms and phrases to help you and your guide communicate effectively as you enjoy your Tanzanian safari, in addition to the ones already mentioned:

  • Use the Swahili phrases “Ndiyo” or “Hapana” to express “yes” or “no,” respectively, Important Swahili words to know before visiting Tanzania
  • Nod your head and say “Sawa,” meaning “OK,” when you agree with someone. And knowing the phrase “Sielewi,” which means “I don’t understand,” is always a good idea.
  • You can introduce yourself by saying “Jina lako ni nani?” or “Unaitwa nani?” when someone greets you. You can respond, “Natoka (where I’m from),” and let them know where you’re from if they inquire, “Unatoka wapi?”

To conclude:

Your experience of a safari will be significantly enhanced if you put in a little extra time and effort to learn as much as you can about the lovely Swahili language. In addition to maybe guiding you on the correct route, we promise that learning a few words of Swahili will make someone smile.

 Fortunately, whether or not you are fluent in the language, you can get by quite fine on a Tanzanian safari. Our local guides at Focus East Africa Tours are always available to help you with any inquiries, necessary translations, or other advice.

What are you still holding out for? Please get in touch with us to start planning your personal safari right away. Your tastes and expectations for your safari will be carefully considered as we arrange your experience together. We will be pleased to help, whether it’s for a solitary journey, a honeymoon with your significant other, or a family safari.