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How to say hello in Swahili: Our top 25 useful words

Do you know how to say hello in Swahili? This is one of the first questions our expert travel guides at Tanzania Specialist get asked by our clients upon arrival to Tanzania. Being able to greet local people during a trip to Tanzania is one of the simplest ways to gain a more authentic travel experience. No matter how basic the words are, learning how to say hello in Swahili allows you to communicate with a new culture. 

In Tanzania, Swahili (also known as Kiswahili) is the first language of most locals. Although your Tanzania Specialist guides always speak fluent English – and the majority in the tourism business also speak English extremely well! – it is still well worth learning a few words of the local language. Here we take a look at some of the most important phrases to learn in Swahili before your trip to Tanzania.


Swahili phrase book and tanzania guide book lonely planet


How to say hello in Swahili

Karibu Tanzania! This means welcome to Tanzania and is probably one of the very first Swahili phrases you will hear upon arrival in Tanzania. But how do you reply?

Habari – Hello

Asante – Thank You 


A lot of words in Swahili are pronounced phonetically – and guide books like the Swahili phrasebook from Lonely Planet spell out any tricky words in an easy to digest way! Just a little bit of effort can go a long way in understanding these casual exchanges from the friendly people of Tanzania. Making the effort to speak the local language will always be viewed as a sign of interest and respect towards the culture, even if half the words are completely mispronounced. 


tanzania specialist coffee tour with guest and tanzania guide

1. Say hello in Swahili

How to say hello in Swahili as well as how to say please and thank you in Swahili! A few manners always go a long way.

Hello Habari
How are you? Habari yako / Habari gani?
(Very) fine thank you/Cool Nzuri (sana) / Poa / Safi
Please Tafadhali
Thank you (very much) Asante (sana)
Welcome Karibu
Goodbye Kwaheri
Good night  Lala salama
Ok Sawa


2. Directions & useful words

Useful local phrases when it comes to directions and getting around Tanzania.

Left Kushoto
Right Kulia
Front Mbele
Behind Nyuma
Up Juu
Down Chini
Let’s go! Twende!
Hotel Hoteli 
Car Gari
Where is the shop/supermarket?  Kiosk/supermarket iko wapi?


3. Animals 

The Big Five are the five emblematic wild animals of the East African environment. What trip to Tanzania is complete without a Tanzania safari adventure to see the magnificent animals of the wilderness? 


Elephant Tembo
Buffalo Mbogo
Rhino Kifaru
Lion Simba
Leopard Chui


Congratulations, you now have that much more Kiswahili vocabulary in your pocket – and you should now know how to say hello in Swahili! Ready to start planning your custom vacation in Tanzania? Get in touch with Tanzania Specialists and begin brushing up on your Swahili now!