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!

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.

IMG_5725 copy

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.

Adventures in Baños


Baños has taken the crown as my favorite spot thus far in Ecuador. I loved it there so much! I had heard that the town was touristy, but I really didn’t mind. I loved that it was such a small town you could walk from one end to another in 20 minutes. The roads were narrow and cars went slow so you could cross the street without facing near-death like you would in Quito. I mean, yeah, on every street there were about four tour agencies trying to grab your attention, but that meant there was plenty to do (and you could ask around to find the best bargains)!

Baños is a small town about 3 hours from Quito where the Andes meet the jungle. It’s surrounded by more than 60 waterfalls and is at the base of an active volcano, Tungurahua. There’s so much to do there… you can go hiking, relax at one of the many thermal baths, go biking, go canopying, go zip lining, go rafting, or even get an hour long massage for only $20! The possibilities are endless.

Day 1

Emily, Mido, and I set right off on our first morning in Baños to Casa del Árbol, a treehouse up in the mountains. The treehouse is becoming well-known for its two swings that let you soar over the valley below and catch a glimpse of Tungurahua Volcano. You’re only held in the swing by two ropes, one in the front and one in back of you. But in Ecuador, todo es posible, nada seguro.




The swing was exhilarating and made for some great photos.

There was also a guestbook for visitors to sign, full of languages I couldn’t decipher. Mido translated one that was in Arabic for me though!


Our taxi driver was the nicest guy ever. He stopped on our way down the mountain to show us views of Baños and some waterfalls.


A nice view of Baños

That afternoon we decided to check out the Ecozoologico, or the zoo. It was alright, nothing special in my eyes. There were a lot of stairs. And I got to see the elusive, exotic deer… not like I see any of those at home!

While waiting for the bus back to town from the zoo, we wandered around and found a zip lining place. For $5 a person, we decided to go for it and before we knew it we were on a cable car going across a river to where we’d be zip lining from. It was fun! And a lot cheaper than the other options we came across in town.



Day 2

After breakfast a nice French toast breakfast we had to say goodbye to Mido as he returned to Quito 😦 One of my favorite things about this trip (and traveling in general) was meeting new friends from around the world. I loved learning about their cultures and just getting to know them. I now have friends from Egypt, Germany, Switzerland, Sweden, and of course, Ecuador. I can’t wait to make more connections on my future trips!

Anyway, Emily and I decided to bike the Ruta de Cascadas next, a 17km “downhill,” “easy” ride to see some of the most beautiful waterfalls in Ecuador. Everyone we talked to and every blog I read told me this was a beginner’s level bike ride, all downhill. Yeah, right. As a lazy college student I don’t exercise, like, at all, so maybe this ride was harder for me than it was for others… but it was hard! It was definitely not all downhill. For the most part, yeah, but there were some points where I had to walk my bike up the hills. Also, the road we were biking on is the main road between Baños and Puyo. AKA, it was busy!!! Being the terrible biker I am, there were times when I thought I was about to get run over, panicked, and jumped off my bike to the side of the road. I honestly didn’t feel safe… the cars were driving way too close to us bikers, especially the big buses and trucks. No me gusta.


BUT! I’d actually recommend this experience to everyone. For only $6 to rent a bike for an entire day, it’s definitely worth the money. And the final waterfall is absolutely amazing. Seriously though, pictures and videos don’t do it justice.IMG_5661


El Pailon del Diablo is a 328 foot tall waterfall on the Pastaza River that impresses everyone who visits it. I’ve never seen so much water fall so hard from such a height… and be so close to it! There are two entrances to the different sides of the waterfall and I recommend trying out both. They both go right up to the falls and offer incredible views. Both sides cost about a dollar to get into, and they’re both insanely long (but worth it) trails. SO MANY STAIRS! You will sweat.


If you have to choose a side though, go with the one that leads to the Grieta del Cielo. This is at the end of the trail and to get to it you have to climb through a TINY uphill cave (awesome, scary, dangerous, worth it). Once you exit the crawlspace you’re RIGHT THERE at the waterfall. Like, you’re getting splashed. It’s awesome.

IMG_5650 IMG_5645

And if you’re not up for biking the treacherous 17km from Baños to see the waterfall, bus tours are making trips there constantly.

To catch a ride back to Baños (no way was I biking back!!) Emily and I paid 2 dollars to ride in the back of a camioneta, along 10 other people and their bikes. Didn’t seem like the safest option, but hey, this is Ecuador!


I don’t know how, but a few people fell asleep on the 30 minute bumpy ride. I was too busy watching the bikes to make sure they didn’t fly off the truck or into us.


Baños won me over big time. You never run out of things to do there… and every day’s an adventure. Bottom line: visit if you get the chance! You won’t regret it!


I leave tomorrow and arrive in Quito on Monday. And of course I’m sick as a dog. I either have the worst case of the flu ever or really bad side effects from my Typhoid vaccination pills 😦 So one of my travel fears has come true before my trip has even started: getting sick. I’ve already stocked up on every medicine I could think of for every possible malady out there so hopefully I’ll get over whatever illnesses I inevitably get quickly.

Anyway, I’m so excited yet still TERRIFIED to leave tomorrow! I know I’ll have a great time, but Quito isn’t exactly the safest place in the world.

I’m terrified of:

1. Getting sick, which has already happened

2. Getting mugged

3. Getting kidnapped (someone send Liam Neeson if this happens!)

4. Getting lost in translation, or lost in general

5. Having something stolen

6. Accidentally eating meat because I can’t read the menu well enough (silly, I know, but I’m being serious here)

7. Get really, really homesick. Especially for my dogs.

Despite these fears I know I’ll have the time of my life. Hopefully I’ll look back at this post and think how silly I was to be so scared of such an awesome journey. Right? Right.

Hello world!

I start my Ecuadorian adventure in 9 days. WHAT. It still doesn’t feel real, at all. But mark my words, this will not be my last globetrotting experience! To hold myself accountable, I’m posting my bucket list of things I want to accomplish in my 20s on the Internet where it can never be deleted. This way I HAVE to do everything on this list! And I really can’t wait…

1. Backpack Europe

This is my plan for next summer. And it’s gonna happen. I can’t wait to see Paris and Prague and Barcelona and the Cinque Terre and Istanbul and visit my long-lost sister in Austria all with my best friend in the whole wide world. To say I’m excited is an understatement.

2. Teach English abroad

This is my dreammmm. Working with kids and living abroad? How could it get any more perfect?!

3. Live in a Middle Eastern country

When I tell people I want to do this, they look at me like I’m crazy. But I’m sort of fascinated with the Middle East and I really want to experience a year or two living there. Somewhere not in the middle of a war though, obviously.

4. Visit India

Who doesn’t want to see India?! The country’s so huge and there’s so much to see and do. I also love how they treat their animals (most of them, anyway). I love cows.

5. Spend the night on the Great Wall of China

I had no idea you could do this until I saw it on a blog somewhere. I just wanna bring a sleeping bag and camp out… on the Great Wall of China. NBD.

6. Drive the Ring Road in Iceland and see the Northern Lights

Iceland looks so so so beautiful from what I’ve seen in photos. And I love that you can drive around the entire country in just 10 days. Super doable.

7. See the Angkor Wat

Cambodia is so jam-packed with living history I can barely handle it. I just want to walk through the temples and talk with the people and learn Khmer and see some elephants. That’s all.

8. Volunteer at a sloth sanctuary in Central America

Because animals are one of the most important things to me and I want to do everything I can to help them. And because, well, SLOTHS!!!

9. Speak a foreign language fluently

I’m working on it! I’m FAR from fluent but I’m proficient(ish) in Spanish and French thanks to my wonderful high school foreign language teachers. I would love to teach French or Spanish someday and help others discover their passion for languages.

10. Visit Dakar, Senegal

I really just want to visit Africa in general. I have this dream of buying a car in Cape Town, driving it all the way to Cairo and selling it there. But I feel like visiting Dakar is a little more realistic. I’ve been obsessed with Senegal since I did a project on it my freshman year of college. Plus I can practice my French there!

11. Trek the ‘stans

So a while ago I became obsessed with the Sporcle “Countries of the World” game and when I discovered there were countries like Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan I just had to look them up. I already have this trip planned out on my account.

12. Stay in a ger in Mongolia

This will conclude my ‘stans journey! I just think this would be the coolest experience ever.

13. Teach in Japan

I want this so bad!!! Not only are teachers respected a lot more in most parts of Asia than in the US, but Japan is just stinkin’ beautiful. I won’t have to go to DC to see the cherry blossoms! And maybe I’ll pick up a little Japanese.

14. Start a family

This isn’t travel related, but since it’s my bucket list, I have to add it. This is a must for me.

15. Visit an island nation in Oceania

I obviously have to go to Australia and hold a koala, but I definitely want to visit one of the smaller countries there, too. Nauru would be cool… it’s so tiny! Or Tonga to see some whales.

16. Hike the Inca Trail

I’ll be so close, yet so far this January. I wish I had more time in South America this trip, but I’m staying in Ecuador for my month there. To see Machu Picchu would be incredible.

17. Thoroughly explore Greece

Because I’m OBSESSED. Meteora, Athens, Mt. Olympus, Crete, Santorini… I’m in love with a country I haven’t met yet. I want to experience every part of this beautiful place.

18. Go to a Christmas Market in Europe

I’m a shopaholic and I love Christmas. Need I say more?

19. Experience a true Russian winter

I’ll probably regret this one once I get there. But I feel like if I can survive a Russian winter, I can get through anything. I have lived in Maine… how much more snow could there be in Russia?

20. Go to Socotra Island in Yemen

I was hooked the first time I saw pictures of this otherworldly place. It literally looks like another planet and I want to explore it NOW.

This is in no way an exhaustive list. There are still so many places I haven’t even heard of and will eventually NEED to explore! I have the worst case of wanderlust ever. I just want to go!