The most important vocabulary to know during your trip to Tanzania

In Tanzania, people speak a language called Swahili. It might seem tricky initially but don’t worry if you don’t know it well. Most people there also speak English, which is super helpful!

The official language in Tanzania is Swahili (also known as Kiswahili), which is spoken by over 90% of the population. English has official status—it is used in foreign trade, diplomacy, and higher courts and partly as a classroom language in secondary school and higher education. Arabic is also widespread, especially in the coastal region and in Dar es Salaam. It is also the official language of Zanzibar.

There are also more than 120 other languages and dialects, which are usually spoken regionally. Most Tanzanians first learn their local tribal language. Later, in elementary school, they learn Swahili and then English if they attend secondary school. Education in secondary schools and universities is usually in English. English is quite common in Tanzania, but it is spoken in larger cities and tourist areas.

Now, even if you don’t know Swahili, you might know some words without realizing it. Like the word ‘safari,’ which means ‘journey’ in Swahili. Cool, right?

You might recognize other famous words, like ‘hakuna matata,’ which means ‘no worries’! You’ll hear that often, along with ‘pole pole,’ meaning ‘slowly, slowly.’

But don’t stress about not knowing everything. Even if you say ‘hello’ in Swahili, people will be happy you’re trying. And if you want to chat more, you can always use English, which many people understand. So, no need to fret; you’ll do just fine!

Common Swahili Words You Need To Know in SALUTATIONS

Good morning / Good evening Jambo
How are you? Habari Gani?
Fine, thank you, and you? Vizuri sana na wewe
I understand / I don’t understand Nina fahamu / Sina fahamu
Sorry Pole
Goodbye Kwaheri
Welcome Karibu
Thank you (very much) Asante sana
Excuse me Samahani
My name is… Ninaitwa
No thank you Hapana asante
Yes / No Ndiyo / Hapana
You’re welcome Tafadhali / shika

Common Swahili Words You Need To Know in Commerce

English Swahili
How much is it? Bei gani ?
It is very cheap Bei nafuu
It is too expensive! Ghali sana
Can you lower the price? Unaweza kupunguza bei
I would like to buy … this one! Ninataka nunua
I like it / I don’t like it Ninapenda / Sina penda
Money Pesa
I’m just looking around. Ninatazama tu

Common Swahili Words You Need To Know in Transportation

English Swahili
I would like to go to … Ninataka enda
Plane Ndege
Boat Mashua
Train Treni
Taxi Taxi
Bus Basi
I would like to rent … Ninataka kodi
Motorbike Pikipiki
Car Gari
Bike Baiskeli


English Swahili
Where is …? / How can I get to …? Wapi ? / Vipi enda ?
Bank Benki
Train station Stesheni
Centre Katikati ya mji
Hotel Hoteli
Hospital Hospitali
Is it close / far? Ni karibu ? / Ni mbali ?
Straight ahead Moja kwa moja
Left / Right Kushoto / Kulia
North / South / East / West nord / sud / ovest / est


English Swahili
one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten moja, mbili, tatu, nne, tano, sita, saba, nane, tisa, kumi
twenty, thirty, forty, fifty, sixty ishirini, Thelathini, arobaini, hamsini, sitini
seventy, eighty, ninety sabini, themathini, tisini
One hundred mia