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Basic Somali Phrases For Travel

Somalia’s untamed beauty is a secret whispered amongst adventurous travellers. Its landscape is an intriguing tapestry, stretching from arid deserts to a vibrant coastline.

Mastering a few Somali phrases can help transform your journey, allowing for more genuine interaction and shared moments with local people. It will offer you a glimpse into the soul of this often misunderstood land.

It’s also a gesture of respect, and the locals genuinely appreciate it. Whether it’s a shared cup of tea or a transaction in the lively markets, language is the key.

Basic Words in Somali

Somali, a Cushitic language predominantly spoken in Somalia, Somaliland, parts of Ethiopia, Kenya, Djibouti, and Yemen, is steeped in a deep linguistic tradition.

Your Somali language journey starts with these basic words. Ideal for everyday interactions, they’re a great foundation for building connections in Somalia and beyond.

  • Salaan – Hello
  • Nabad gelyo – Goodbye
  • Mahadsanid – Thank you
  • Adaa mudan / Amaahdaa – You’re welcome
  • Fadlan – Please
  • Haa – Yes
  • Maya – No
  • Subax wanaagsan – Good morning
  • Fiid wanaagsan – Good evening
  • Galab wanaagsan – Good afternoon
  • Raalli ahow – Excuse me
  • Cunto – Food
  • Biyo – Water
  • Musqul – Bathroom

See also: Backpacking in Somaliland: Something a Bit Different


Common Somali Phrases

Engage in the rhythm of life in Somalia with these common phrases. These phrases play a significant role in daily interactions and are commonly used in greetings, simple inquiries, courtesy expressions, and chats.

  • Sidee tahay? – How are you?
  • Waan fiicanahay, mahadsanid – I’m good, thanks
  • Waan ku faraxsanahay inaan kula kulmo – Nice to meet you
  • Magacaygu waa… – My name is…
  • Waan ka xumahay – I’m sorry
  • Raalli ahow – Excuse me
  • Ma i caawin kartaa? – Can you help me?
  • Waa qurux badan tahay! – How beautiful!
  • Nabad – See you
  • Nabad gelyo – See you later
  • Nasiib wacan! – Good luck!
  • Iska waran – What’s up?
  • Waar – Wow! (In surprise, disapproval or admiration)

Basic Somali Phrases for Travellers

Interestingly, Somali is an Agglutinative language. This means that it has a lot of suffixes and prefixes that are added to words to add grammatical meaning.

Words or phrases can also be joined together for more complex expressions. It’s not an easy language to master, but any efforts you make will certainly be appreciated by the local people.

The following phrases will be useful for anyone travelling through Somalia or other Somali-speaking regions.

  • Waxaan haystaa ballan – I have a reservation
  • Fadlan, musquluhu halkay ku yaalliin? – Where are the bathrooms, please?
  • _Sidee baan ku tagaa __? – How do I get to ___?
  • Qiimaha intee le’eg yahay? – How much is this?
  • Ma Ingiriis baad ku hadashaa? – Do you speak English?
  • Waan lumay. Ma i caawin kartaa? – I’m lost. Can you help me?
  • Aaway hotelka closest? – Where is the nearest hotel?
  • Ma meeshan ammaan baa? – Is this area safe?
  • Habeenkii ma meeshan ammaan baa? – Is this area safe at night?

Useful Somali Phrases for Information

When seeking information in Somalia, these Somali phrases are your go-to. Simple yet effective, they’ll make asking questions and getting answers straightforward.

  • War baa ku jira? – What’s the news?
  • Weydiinayo su’aal – I have a question
  • Tani waxa lagu dhahaa Somali ahaan maxay tahay? – What is this called in Somali?
  • Fadlan, si gaabis ah ma ku hadli kartaa? – Can you speak slower, please?
  • Somaliga si fiican uma hadlo – I do not speak Somali very well
  • Ma fahmin – I do not understand
  • Ma ku celin kartaa fadlan? – Can you repeat that please?
  • Macluumaad baan u baahanahay – I need information
  • Xafiiska macluumaadka halkuu ku yaal? – Where is the information office?
  • Tani macnaheedu waa maxay? – What does this mean?
  • Waqtigu waa maxay? – What time is it?
  • Ciwaanka emailkaaga waa maxay? – What’s your email address?
  • … Somali ku sidee baad u dhahdaa? – How do you say ____ in Somali?
  • Tan/Taasi waa maxay? – What is this/that?
  • Ma isticmaali karaa telefoonkaaga? – Can I use your phone?

Useful Phrases for Directions in Somali

Knowing a handful of directional terms can be the difference between being hopelessly lost and finding your way. The following should help.

  • … halkuu ku yaal? – Where is the…?
  • Sideen ku tagaa …? – How do I get to…?
  • Ma i tusi kartaa khariidada? – Can you show me on the map?
  • Toos u soco – Go straight ahead
  • Midig/bidix u leexo – Turn right/left
  • Way dhowdahay/way fog tahay – It’s near/far
  • Waxay ku taal geeska – It’s around the corner
  • Kani waa geeska – This is the corner
  • … jidka ku aaddan waa kee? – Which way is it to…?
  • Ma lugeyn karaa mise taksi ayaan u baahanahay? – Can I walk there or do I need a taxi?
Two men standing outside a white car on a dirt road in Somaliland

Basic Somali Phrases for Transportation

Travel around Somalia and the Horn of Africa smoothly with these transportation phrases. From local minibuses to long-distance journeys, they’ll help you get to where you need to go.

  • Taksi halkaas ka heli karaa? – Where can I get a taxi?
  • … tagiddiisa qiimaha waa imisa? – How much does it cost to go to…?
  • Waxaan rabaa inaan tago … – I want to go to…
  • Joojiyaha basaska halkuu ku yaal? – Where is the bus stop?
  • Xarunta basaska halkay ku taal? – Where is the bus station?
  • Tareenka xiga wuxuu baxayaa goorma? – What time does the next train leave?
  • … tagideedu intee le’eg tahay? – How long does it take to get to…?
  • Gegida diyaaradaha sideen ku tagaa? – How do I get to the airport?
  • Ma baskani wuxuu aadaa …? – Does this bus go to…?
  • Tikidhka safarka ee labada dhinac ayaan u baahanahay – I need a round trip ticket
  • Tikidhada halkee ka iibsan karaa? – Where do I buy tickets?

Basic Somali Phrases About Accommodation

Whether you’re looking for luxury hotels or budget guesthouses, the following accommodation-related phrases will help you communicate your needs for a comfortable and enjoyable stay.

  • Ma haysaa qolal bannaan? – Do you have any rooms available?
  • Habeenkiiba intee le’eg ayuu ku kacayaa? – How much does it cost per night?
  • Qiimaha miyaa quraacda ku jirta? – Is breakfast included in the price?
  • Waxaan u baahanahay qol laba qof ah – I need a double room
  • Ma jiraa qol laba sariir leh? – Is there a room with two beds?
  • Ma jiraa Wi-Fi bilaash ah? – Is there free Wi-Fi?
  • Ma jiraa qaboojiye hawada? – Is there air conditioning?
  • Wiishka halkuu ku yaal? – Where is the elevator?
  • Jimicsiga halkuu ku yaal? – Where is the gym?
  • Waxaan jeclaan lahaa inaan qol ballansado – I would like to book a room
  • Ma jiraa adeegga qolka? – Is there room service?
  • Qolku waa wasakh – The room is dirty
  • Waxaan dareemayaa ammaan hotelkan – I feel safe in this hotel
  • Ma haysaa qalab badalaha korontada? – Do you have a plug adaptor?
  • Waxaan rabaa qol leh aragti qurxoon – I want a room with a nice view
  • Ma jiraa seef amaanka qolka gudihiisa? – Is there a safe in the room?
  • Ma i toosin kartaa (todoba) subaxnimo? – Can you wake me up at (7) a.m.?
  • Waxaan u baahanahay sariirta ilmaha – I need a crib for the baby
  • Waa maxay waqtiga bixitaanka? – What’s the check-out time?

Helpful Somali Phrases for Shopping

Diving into the bustling markets and shops of Somalia, you’ll come across a wide array of crafts, garments, and local produce.

Enhance your shopping experience with these phrases. They’ll help you find what you need.

  • Waxaan raadinayaa… – I am looking for…
  • Qiimaha intee le’eg yahay? – How much does it cost?
  • Ma jirtaa wax dhimis ah? – Is there any discount?
  • Dhimista intee le’eg tahay? – How much is the discount?
  • Taasi aad bay qaali u tahay – That’s too expensive
  • Ma yareyn kartaa qiimaha? – Can you lower the price?
  • Ma ku bixin karaa kaarka deynta? – Can I pay with a credit card?
  • Kaliya lacag caddaan ah – Cash only
  • Ma haysaa tan cabbir ka weyn? – Do you have this in a larger size?
  • Ma haysaa tan midab kale? – Do you have this in another colour?
  • Waxaan rabaa inaan tan soo celiyo – I want to return this
  • Aqalka labiska halkuu ku yaal? – Where are the fitting rooms?
  • Raalli ahow, supermarketku halkuu ku yaal? – Excuse me, where’s the supermarket?
  • Dukaanka dharka halkuu ku yaal? – Where’s the clothing store?
  • Bac baan u baahanahay – I need a bag
  • Halka aan ka heli karo alaabada maxaliga ah? – Where can I find local products?

Helpful Somali Phrases for Dining Out

Taste the flavours of Somalia with these dining phrases. Navigate menus, order dishes, and enjoy the rich culinary traditions of the region.

  • Ma heli karaa miis laba qof ah? – Can I get a table for two?
  • Ma ii tusi kartaa menu-ga fadlan? – Can you please show me the menu?
  • Cuntada maalinta waa maxay? – What is the dish of the day?
  • Waxaan jeclaan lahaa… – I would like…
  • Ma iigu talin kartaa wax? – Could you suggest something for me?
  • Maxaad ku talinaysaa inaan cuno? – What do you recommend to eat?
  • Waxaan xasaasiyad ku qabaa… – I’m allergic to…
  • Ma cuntadan waxaa ku jira…? – Does this dish contain…?
  • Ma leedahay ikhtiyaarada khudaarta ama vegan? – Do you have vegetarian/vegan options?
  • Hilib/kalluun/caano ma cuno – I don’t eat meat/fish/dairy
  • Tani ma ku habboon tahay khudaarta? – Is this suitable for vegetarians?
  • Kani waa maxay? – What is this?
  • Waan ka helay – I like it
  • Fadlan, ma ii keeni kartaa biilka? – Can I have the bill, please?
  • Waa macaanayd! Mahadsanid – It was delicious! Thank you
View of the arid landscape of Somaliland from Sheikh mountain

Somali Question Words

Level up your conversations with these Somali question words. Essential for deeper interactions, they’ll help you gather information, initiate conversations, and learn more about Somalia and its people.

  • Maxay? – What?
  • Xagee? – Where?
  • Goorma? – When?
  • Yaa? – Who?
  • Maxay sababtu tahay? – Why?
  • Sidee? – How?
  • Kee? – Which?
  • Immisa? – How much?
  • Imisa? – How many?
  • Yaa leh? – Whose?
  • Immisa/Imisa? – How much/How many?
  • Ma tahay…? – Is it…?
  • Ma karaa? – Can
  • Ma yeeli doonaa? – Will
  • Kani waa maxay? – What is this?
  • Yaa kan? – Who is that?
  • Sidee bay tahay? – How is it?
  • Maxay sababtu tahay? – Why is it?
  • Maxay sababtu u tahay tan? – Why this?
  • Maxaa ku jira …? – What is in …?
  • … xagee ku taalaa? – Where is …?
  • Ma jiraa …? – Is there a …?
Sunset in Somaliland from the window of a car

Numbers in Somali

Understanding the Somali numbering system is useful in a wide range of scenarios, especially when it comes to transactions, discussing times, and navigating transportation.

Below is a list of simple numbers along with some larger ones:

  • Eber – 0
  • Koow – 1
  • Labo – 2
  • Saddex – 3
  • Afar – 4
  • Shan – 5
  • Lix – 6
  • Toddoba – 7
  • Sideed – 8
  • Sagaal – 9
  • Toban – 10
  • Kow iyo toban – 11
  • Labo iyo toban – 12
  • Saddex iyo toban – 13
  • Afar iyo toban – 14
  • Shan iyo toban – 15
  • Lix iyo toban – 16
  • Toddoba iyo toban – 17
  • Sideed iyo toban – 18
  • Sagaal iyo toban – 19
  • Labbaatan – 20
  • Sodon – 30
  • Afar iyo sodon – 40
  • Konton – 50
  • Lix iyo konton – 60
  • Toddoba iyo konton – 70
  • Sideed iyo konton – 80
  • Sagaal iyo konton – 90
  • Boqol – 100
  • Kun – 1,000
  • Toban kun – 10,000
  • Boqol kun – 100,000
  • Milyan – 1,000,000

To create numbers in between these, you generally combine the tens and units. For instance:

  • “Twenty-one” is Labbaatan iyo kow (20 + 1)
  • “Thirty-two” is Sodon iyo labo (30 + 2)

For numbers in the hundreds and thousands, you combine the hundreds or thousands with the tens and units. For example:

  • “One hundred and twenty-three” is Boqol iyo saddex iyo labbaatan
  • “Two thousand and nineteen” is Labo kun iyo sagaal iyo toban

See Also

Check out some of my other posts on learning languages for travel:

Final Thoughts

Now you can speak a bit of Somali, it’s time to practice what you’ve learnt. Let these phrases guide your adventures and open up a new world of cultural experiences.

Speaking the same language as your hosts is a great way to make friends and break down barriers. And you never know who you’ll meet along the way!

Lastly, if you want to take your Somali learning to the next level, try reading some of the articles on BBC News Somali.

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  • I’m Alex Tiffany.  Former corporate city robot; lifelong travel addict.


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