Swahili Lesson on Traveling Around Town

One of the most useful categories of vocabulary to learn when preparing to visit a country in which people speak your target language is transportation.  No matter where you end up going or what you are doing there, it can be useful to know at least something about the most common types of transportation in the area, and vocabulary is a good place to start.  Learning about the possible modes of travel can also provide a window into the topological or geographical features of an area.  In East Africa, there are some Swahili words that depend upon the country.  For example, the large vans and mini buses with designated routes around the major cities and that rose to fill the need for public transportation in this region are known in Kenya as matatus and in Tanzania as daladalas (pictured above).

Below are the Swahili words for more types of transportation you might encounter while in this region:

Swahili English
Ndege Airplane
Teksi Taxi
Daladala/matatu Large vans/mini buses
Basi Bus
Bajaji Auto rickshaw
Pikipiki Motorcycle
Baisikeli Bicycle
Lori Truck
Gari Car
Trekta Tractor
Feri/kivuko Ferry
Boti/mashua Boat
Meli Ship
Kwa miguu By foot
Treni/gari moshi Train

Key phrases that might be useful for traveling around town:

Swahili English
Kituo cha basi kiko wapi? Where is the bus station?
Vipi ninaweza kwenda kituo cha daladala? How can I get to the daladala station?
Nauli kiasi gani? What’s the fare?
Ni mbali kutoka hapa? Is it far from here?
Safari njema! Have a safe trip!
Tunaenda uwanja wa ndege gani? Which airport are we going to?
Ninaenda kati kati ya mji. I am going downtown/to the city center.


Icon for the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License

Resources for Self-Instructional Learners of Less Commonly Taught Languages Copyright © by University of Wisconsin-Madison Students in African 671 is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.