Languages in Kenya

samburu Swahili was the first native African language to get Twitter recognition

More than 60 different languages are indigenous to in Kenya. The official languages are English, which is widely spoken to a high standard in the tourist industry, and KiSwahili, an East African lingua franca that originates from the coast and spread inland along trade routes in the early 19th century. Other major languages include Kikuyu, Luo, Akamba and Maa.

Most languages spoken locally belong to two broad language families: Niger-Congo and Nilo-Saharan, spoken by the country’s Bantu and Nilotic populations, respectively. The Cushitic and Arab ethnic minorities speak languages belonging to the separate Afroasiatic family, with the Hindustani and British residents speaking languages from the Indo-European family.

Kenya’s various ethnic groups typically speak their mother tongues within their own communities. The two official languages, are used in varying degrees of fluency for communication with other populations. English is widely spoken in commerce, schooling and government. Peri-urban and rural dwellers are less multilingual, with many in rural areas speaking only their native languages.


You might also like

Changing money in Kenya

Kenya currency The Kenyan shilling (KSh) trades against most international currencies at a favourable rate. There’s no need to bring large amounts of hard currency cash or to buy shillings in advance. Major international credit/debit cards (for instance Master and Visa) can be used to draw local currency at 24-hour ATMs in most cities and beach resorts, but not in national parks and other safari destinations). Many vendors do not accept cards, however, so it’s a good idea to carry…

Kenya food and tipping

Tip your safari guides and helpers if you feel that your expectations have been exceeded, which happens often in Kenya | Credit: Sambuk Lodge Tip in local currency where possible; it may be quite difficult for locals to exchange small amounts of hard currency into Kenya shillings. Tipping is not standard at eateries or bars catering mainly to a local clientele, but that doesn’t mean a small something won’t be appreciated by the recipient. Tourist-oriented restaurants operate on…

Welcome to Kenya

The Great Migration in the Masai Mara is a highlight of a Kenyan safari Often regarded to be the ultimate safari destination, Kenya undoubtedly incorporates some of the continent’s most rewarding and exciting national parks and wildlife reserves. Best known is the incomparable Masai Mara, whose undulating green grasslands support staggering concentrations of lion, cheetah, spotted hyena and other predators. Over August to October, the Mara also hosts the world’s greatest…


Popular Kenya Safaris

These popular itineraries can be customised to match your budget and travel dates

 | Migration Safari in Kenya and Tanzania

Migration Safari in Kenya and Tanzania

See the beauty of nature's greatest wildlife spectacle on one of the grandest stages of them all...

The Uganda Hills | The complete East Africa experience (EA 13 days)

The complete East Africa experience

Enjoy East Africa's most celebrated highlights, from a snow-capped Mount Kilimanjaro, to sailing above the Serengeti in a hot-air balloon and meeting mountain gorillas...

Giraffes | Samburu’s Special Five, rhino and bongo (EA 8 days)

Samburu's Special Five, rhino and bongo

Even if you've seen the Big Five and the Great Migration, you'll appreciate the different beauty of animals like reticulated giraffe, Grevy's zebra, gerenuk and bongo...

Wildebeest Migration | The Migration River Crossings July to September

The Migration River Crossings July to September

Experience one of Africa's greatest spectacles – smell the dust and hear the noise of thousands of animals crossing the Mara River in an epic struggle for survival...

 | 10-day wilderness safari in Kenya, Zambia and Zimbabwe

10-day wilderness safari in Kenya, Zambia and Zimbabwe

Experience the best of the migration and wildlife in Kenya, then travel to Zambia to witness Victoria Falls, ending your adventure at Hwange National Park....

Lion cubs | Kenya’s top 3 southern attractions (EA 9 days)

Kenya’s top 3 southern attractions

Amboseli, Lake Nakuru and the Masai Mara are southern Kenya's superstars, the best places for your safari...

 | Masai Mara safari adventure

Masai Mara safari adventure

Explore the jewel in Kenya's crown; the wildlife-rich Masai Mara National Reserve...

Enjoying a sundowner whilst watching the wildebeest migration.  | HerdTracker Masai Mara wildebeest migration safari

HerdTracker Masai Mara wildebeest migration safari

Witness the wildebeest migration in Kenya's iconic Masai Mara National Reserve with HerdTracker...

Elephant Herd | Best of Africa Safari (EA 16 days)

Best of Africa safari

Experience the best of Africa, from the Okavango Delta – one of Africa's Seven Natural Wonders – to the endangered mountain gorillas and East Africa's Great Migration...

 | Africa’s biggest elephant and the endangered Hunter’s hartebeest (EA 7 days)

Africa's biggest elephant and the endangered Hunter's hartebeest

Search for the almost extinct hirola antelope in Tsavo East, find Africa's largest elephants and visit Chyulu Hills to see Kilimanjaro, Africa's highest peak...