Most Americans are confronted with a few numeric challenges when traveling to South American countries, most of them related to money, time, and distance. Here are some tips for making conversions on your Argentina vacation.
Brush up on your multiples of 4. In recent years, the exchange rate has floated around 4 Argentine Pesos to every 1 US Dollar. When figuring how much things cost in dollars, just divide by four. A whole pizza for example, would cost around 30 pesos, so between 7 and 8 USD. Four is a nice number, especially when dealing with 100s, and it makes the mental math involved in converting from pesos to dollars, or vice versa, a whole lot easier. A further note on prices: although the cost of living in Buenos Aires and other major Argentine destinations is relatively high, by American price standards you can get very good meals for prices cheaper than what you would pay in the U.S. For other purchases, such as cocktails, Americans will find that prices are pretty similar.
You’ll frequently find that hotels, restaurants, and other services use International Time and a 24-hour clock to indicate times for reservations, check in or check out times, etc. This does not present much of a problem from midnight to noon, but things can get a bit confusing after 1 p.m. – also known as 13:00 hours. Your 9 p.m. dinner reservation – Argentines eat late! – will be recorded as 21:00 hours. An easy way to translate is to subtract 12 from the international time. For example, if your tour is scheduled to start at 17:30 hours, subtract 12, and you get 3:30 p.m. Simple enough, no?
The metric system, in use throughout South America, presents an additional mental exercise if you’re trying to keep track of distances. Ever run a 10K race? Then you know that that distance is approximately 6 miles. Another handy benchmark is 50 kilometers, which is about 31 miles. A marathon – 26.2 miles for us Americans – is commonly known around the world as 42 kilometers. When it comes to distances, rough estimations are usually sufficient, so rounding up or down is really convenient.
When buying fruits or cheese or nuts in bulk at the grocery store, Americans are used to dealing with pounds. However, everything is in kilos in the Argentine market. The good thing is that this is another relatively easy conversion as there are about 2.2 pounds in a kilo. Two kilos of oranges is just over 4 lbs.
Forget the mental math and take out pencil and paper for this one. For Americans used to dealing in Fahrenheit, understanding temperatures in Celsius is a bit more difficult. When the weather channel is showing 20 degrees Celsius, first multiply by 180 divided by 100 (or 1.8) and then add 32. Alternatively, you can multiply the Celsius measurement by 2, subtract 10%, and then add 32. (I.e., 20 x 2 = 40; 40 – 10% = 36; 36 + 32 = 68 degrees Fahrenheit.) Here are a few benchmarks to put Celsius in perspective: water boils at 100C, or 212F; average body temperature is 37C, or 98.6F; a cool day might be 10C, or 50F; and water freezes at 0C, or 32F.