Sara Sees the World’s Essential Spanish Guide

Spanish Guide

So you wanna travel south of the border. You wanna experience new cultures, beautiful beaches, and incredibly delicious food. But you’ve got one problem… you don’t speak a speck of Spanish. Fortunately many of the people you’ll encounter (especially in bigger or more touristed cities) will speak some level of English. However, you will find that English speakers can be sparse in more rural areas.

It’s always good to freshen up on a language before you travel somewhere, or if the language is completely new to you, learn some basic phrases. The locals will appreciate your effort and it’ll be helpful in situations where you can’t find any English speakers.

So here it is! Sara Sees the World’s Essential Spanish Guide!

Essential Conversation:

Hello: Hola, buenos días

Goodbye: Adios, ciao

Thank you: Gracias

You’re Welcome: De nada

Please: Por favor

Sorry: Lo siento

I don’t understand: No comprendo

Do you speak English?: Habla inglés?

I’m from…: Soy de…

Excuse me: Disculpe

I’m looking for…: Busco…

Essential Questions:

Where is…?: Dónde está…?

What is…?: Qué es…?

At what time…?: A qué hora…?

How much?: Cuanto cuesta?

Essential Places and Objects:

Bathroom: baño

Restaurant: restaurante

Check: la cuenta (in Ecuador we always had to ask for the check, or else they wouldn’t give it to us)

Taxi: taxi

Bus: bus

Train: tren

Hotel room: habitación

Essential Food:

This really depends on the region you’re visiting as different locations have vastly different food options. Although many touristy restaurants in cities will have menus in both Spanish and English, smaller restaurants will be all Spanish. If you want to know what you’re eating, read up on your Spanish food vocabulary before you leave.

Bottled water: agua en botella (in Ecuador, we had to specify sin gaz to get regular water. Otherwise it was con gaz, or sparkling water)

Coffee: café

Milk: leche

Tea: té

Beer: cerveza

Wine: vino

Juice: jugo

Orange: naranja

Apple: manzana

Tomato: tomate

Eggs: huevos

Cheese: queso

Butter: mantequilla

Beans: frijoles

Bacon: tocino

Ham: jamón

Chicken: pollo

Meat/beef: carne

Pork: cerdo

Hot dog: salchicha

Fish: pescado

Seafood: mariscos

Garlic: ajo

Rice: arroz

Peanut: cacahuate

Onion: cebolla

Mushroom: champiñones

Lettuce: lechuga

Salad: ensalada

Corn: maíz

Burger: hamburguesa

Potato: papa

French fries: papas fritas

Carrot: zanahoria

Cake: pastel/torta

Cookie: galleta

Ice cream: helado

Salt: sal

Pepper: pimiento

Without: sin

As a vegetarian it was super important for me to look out for meat words on the menu. Our friend Mido couldn’t eat pork because of his religion and when he ordered a burger containing both bacon and ham, we stopped his ordering right away and pointed out the words tocino and jamón on the menu.

This list contains everything I feel is necessary to get along in a Spanish-speaking country. What do you think? Did I miss any phrases you can’t travel without?

What to watch tonight: The Wonder List

Need a quick fix for your wanderlusting heart while you’re stuck at home? I’ve got one for ya.

The last 6 weeks Bill Weir, a journalist who has seen a lot in his travels, has taken me on a journey all around the world to disappearing places. Sunday nights at 10pm I’ve religiously tuned in to CNN to see where he’d take me that week. First it was Vanuatu to see one of the last unspoiled paradises on earth, then to the Galapagos to look at the efforts being made to save the endangered species of these special islands. Bill Weir has also taken his viewers to Ikaria, Greece (where the life expectancy is incredibly high), India, the Dead Sea, and Venice.

What I love about this show is that it looks at the real issues these places face. Is tourism damaging the Galapagos? Is the Dead Sea really shrinking? What will become of Venice when it eventually floods? Are the people of Vanuatu open to tourism, or will it harm their way of life?

Tonight’s 2-hour season finale will look at the Alps and the Everglades. I know I’ll be tuning in at 9pm! Will you?

You can catch up on episodes and clips here:

This is one of the first travel shows I’ve really gotten into. Any suggestions for my next Netflix travel show binge? Let me know!

A layover in Ukraine? Sure!

I’m always checking flights for my Eurotrip this summer and today I came across a great deal… $341 from Paris to New York. Not quite as great as the $280 I got for my flight to Europe, but still a good deal. The only “problem” is a long layover in Kiev, the capital of Ukraine.

Am I crazy for considering a 16-hour layover in Kiev? I don’t think so. But Ukraine hasn’t had the best press (at least in the US) in the last year. With the plane crash of Malaysia Airlines’ MH17 and Russia and Ukraine blaming each other for it, tensions are high between these two countries. Russian forces are occupying Crimea and the US Government has issued warnings against traveling to the eastern parts of the country.

I could also pay $10 more to have just a 1-hour layover in Kiev. So why choose an overnight one in this “dangerous” country?

Well, one big reason is the 1-hour layover flight starts at 5:50am and I’m no morning person. But I also want to show my friends and family that Kiev is safe. The capital is actually 600km from the “danger zone.” (Not to mention Kiev is dirt cheap! $5 for a private room in a hostel!)

Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

The real question is why wouldn’t I want to go to Ukraine? I want to be a traveller, not a tourist. I want to see and experience places not everyone goes to. I want to take chances and leave my comfort zone (I have zero knowledge of the Cyrillic writing system, so street signs will be a pain to figure out!).

So for 16 hours, I’m going to leave my comfort zone (and the airport) and explore Kiev. And I’m really, really excited about it!

Monkeys and Rain (and more rain) in Puyo


After two days in Baños, Emily and I decided to take a day-trip to Puyo, a small Amazon town which is actually the capital of Pastaza province. We took the short hour-long bus ride to this town for one thing, really: monkeys. Ever since reading about the Monkey Rescue Center in Puyo I was determined to get there on my Ecuador trip. But that’s all we ended up doing there, and to be honest it was a little disappointing.

I didn’t love Puyo. I hate admitting that so much. Maybe if the weather was better and we had more activities planned, I would’ve liked it more. But when we got there we couldn’t even find a place to eat. The downtown was dirtier than the other towns we’d visited in Ecuador and the buildings were not picture-worthy. When we finally found a cafe to sit down at, the two girls running the restaurant didn’t know they had smoothies on the menu and looked baffled trying to make Emily’s sandwich. It was weird.


It also rained on us the whole time. I should’ve expected this though… I mean, we were technically in a rainforest town. But oh, how I hate the rain.


We took a taxi through the downpour to the monkey sanctuary, which is a few miles out of town. We were the only visitors at the time we were there. There are a few monkeys that roam around the sanctuary that I’ve read like to greet tourists, so I was really hoping one would come sit on my shoulder and we’d become BFFs forever and ever. But that didn’t happen 😦 The monkeys we saw out of cages stayed up high and never came down to greet us.

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So Emily and I roamed around the grounds for a while taking a peek at all the monkeys, turtles, and birds they had. I couldn’t help but get a little close to some of them. I didn’t see the “no touching the monkeys” sign until we left… oops.



They had a line of cages with smaller animals like snakes and guinea pigs. There was a rotting guinea pig in one of the cages. Decomposing. It was awful and something I wish I’d never seen.

I got a weird vibe from this place. It was weirdly deserted the whole time we were there and the guinea pig thing really threw me off. Emily and I jumped on the next bus back to Baños and never looked back. I’m sure there are a ton of adventures to be had in Puyo, we just didn’t find them that day.