Temperature, distance, and weight measurements in South America are different than those used in the United States and United Kingdom. Online resources can easily calculate metric conversions for you, but sometimes you’ll be without a smart phone or internet connection to do so. While traveling, the following conversion tips will come in handy on your trip.
Metric Conversion Tips
Celsius to Fahrenheit: Feeling hot, hot, hot?
It’s a gorgeous day in Lima, Peru’s capital city. What’s the temperature in Celsius?
Photo by Ana Castañeda Cano
From locals telling you the daily weather forecast to planning what to wear on a daily excursion, the topic of temperature comes up frequently while you travel. South America countries refer to temperature in Celsius: what does that mean for you?
Use this simple conversion to figure out a close approximation of Fahrenheit: multiply the Celsius temperature by 2 and then add 30.
( _ C x 2) + 30 = ? F
(30 C x 2) + 30 = 90 F
Here’s a helpful temperature guide.
Cold – scarf, gloves and a jacket
about 40 F
exact 41 F
Temperate -pants and short sleeves
about 70 F
exact 68 F
Hot – shorts, bathing suit and sunscreen
about 90 F
exact 86 F
Kilometers to Miles: Going for distance
The famous Inca Trail in Peru is mapped out in kilometers.
Photo by Olearly/Flickr
Trails and road signs in South America are marked in kilometers. For travelers who “think in miles”, figuring out the distance of a long trek, for example, can be frustrating without a way to bridge the metric difference.
To calculate kilometers to miles in your head, consider the following:
For every 5 kilometers, substitute 3 miles
For every 8 kilometers, substitute 5 miles
Look for ways to use the divisors 3, 5, or 8 when making conversions.
You’re approaching KM 16 on a long trek.
8 km is about 5 mi
So, 16 km is about 10 mi.
Only 46 km until you reach your destination
5 km is about 3 mi
So, 46 km is a little more
Click here to convert kilometers to miles and vice versa.
Kilograms to Pounds: Being weight conscious
Buy fresh fruit and vegetables in South America by the kilo.
Photo by Worldwidegifts/Flickr
In South America, many travelers will visit a local market to purchase souvenirs and may buy something to eat. Here, vendor prices of fruits, vegetables, and grains are generally marked per kilo, not per pound. For an outing to the market, a visual representation of 1 kilo is helpful when determining how much of something you’d like to buy.
1 kg is about the weight of a 1-liter bottle of water
1 kg is about the weight of 1 pineapple
1 kg is about the weight of an average text book
To convert pounds to kilograms, subtract the first digit from the total number of pounds and divide by two.
55 pounds, subtract 5 (the first digit) from 55 (the total number of pounds)
This gives you 50. Divide by two to get 25 kg.
55 pounds = about 25 kilograms (exact amount 24.85 kg)
Click here to convert kilograms to pounds online.
Following the pilot’s instructions, you put your seat back and tray table in their full upright and locked position. The voice on the intercom chimes in again with the weather conditions – 30 degrees and clear blue skies. Rationalizing that 30 degrees Fahrenheit is way too cold for a summer day in a city so close to the Equator, you’re reminded that South American countries use a different metric system. But now that you know some helpful conversion tips you’re prepared to begin exploring South America!
Britt is a California native who left her home to explore South America and now lives in Peru. She’s just a little obsessed about planning getaways with her family, scuba diving, and trekking.