Swahili in Tanzania


A sign indicating a public phone line

Mobile phones are becoming increasingly popular and in-house phones are getting more and more common, but many people still rely on pay phones, telegrams or letters for long distance communication. There are two types of pay phones with two phone card companies. They are not interchangeable, so it is a good idea to buy both types of phone cards, which can be purchased in many places -- post office, pharmacy, street stalls, etc. You must have a phone card because the pay phones do not accept coins or credit cards. To use a pay phone, insert the phone card into the appropriate slot. The amount of units remaining on the card appears in the window. A voice prompt then asks you to choose English or Swahili as your language and then leads you through phone usage. When you hang up, the phone card is returned to you. For long calls or international calls, it is a good idea to use the phone booths in the post office where customers can simply pay cash at the end of the call. Remember that formulaic greeting/parting etiquette governs phone conversations as well as interactions in person, so be prepared to talk for awhile or you risk being perceived as rude (for specifics, see the Greeting/Parting section of this website).


  • "Using a Pay Phone"
    No transcript
  • "Buying a Phone Card"
    No transcript
  • "Making a Long Distance Call"
    No transcript
  • "Asking for a Phone Number"
    No transcript
  • "A Casual Phone Conversation"
    No transcript


Click on the text to hear the spoken phrase.