Headed to Canada? An easy way to convert kilometers to miles

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By Ron Dalby
Driving to Alaska means you have to first drive through a large part of Canada, a real treat. However, Canada is a separate country with differing customs, and, for about 40 years now, uses the kilometers of the metric system instead of the miles that Americans are so familiar with.

The basic thing to remember is that kilometers are shorter than miles so there are more of them. The ratio is approximately 100 kilometers equals 60 miles.

Decades ago my father taught me a fairly simple way to figure things out in my head. His words were, “Multiply the number of kilometers by six and drop the last digit.” For example, if a sign indicates your destination is 350 kilometers away, multiplying by six yields 2,100. Drop the last digit and you have 210 miles, a figure that is correct within a kilometer or two. Or if a speed limit sign in a school zone says 30 KPH, this formula will yield 18 MPH.

Ron Dalby is the author of Guide to the Alaska Highway.

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Jim
4 months ago

Since most US speedometers have a dual scale, with kph in smaller numbers on an inner circle, just calculate distances by comparing the two scales; i.e., 62 mph = 100 kph, thus 62 miles = 100 km (or vice-versa). This only works, of course, while you’re driving and have a speedometer handy to look at.

Valerie Bainbridge
1 year ago

An easier way to roughly convert a distance or speed from measurement in kilometers to measurement in miles is to utilize this much easier to remember method:
simply ..’CUT THE GIVEN NUMBER IN HALF AND ADD TEN PERCENT OF THE ORIGINAL GIVEN NUMBER’
e.g as pertains to speed, say 100 kph to mph by applying the above method..100/2 = 50 then adding 10% =10 thus the speed limit computes to 60mph ( 50 + 10 =60)
e.g.. as pertains to distance say, 350 kilometers…. 350/2 =175 plus 10% =35 calculates to 175+35 =~210 miles
The same method works for either speed or distance. SO MUCH EASIER and FASTER than multiplying by .6 etc. etc. blah blah blah!

Now to convert from miles to kilometers it’s just a tad more mind-taxing but not too difficult. How?
Simply take the original mlles or MPH figure and add 75% (or 3/4 of the original figure.
e.g for mph to kph say, for example sake 60mph… so, 60 plus 45 (75% or 3/4 of 60) adds up to 105kph. Not exact, but not far enough off to win you a speeding ticket in most of Canada, even on a bad day 😉
e.g. using the distance in the first example above, 210 miles to kilometers calculates like this 210 + 157.5 (3/4 or 75% of 210) = 367.5. This calculation is a bit further off, but hey!… when you’ve already driven 350 kilometers, will another 17.5 REALLY be that more intolerable?? 😉

Happy Trails!

Bob p
4 months ago

Of course unless you’re driving a vehicle that is over 50 years old you could just look at the speedometer since they have displayed mph and kmh for many years. If you’re driving a relatively newer vehicle there is probably a selector button on the dash that will change the read outs to killermeters. You have to be careful of those. Lol

Cindy Martin
1 year ago

We’ve lived in Europe where Kilometers are also used. We just multiply the Kms by .6 and it works out fine. To reverse and go from miles to Km you have to multiply the miles by 1.65 and that gets you pretty close. Each Km is .6 of a mile or just over half a mile. 2 Kms is 1.2 miles. Isn’t math fun?

Steve Heye
1 year ago

I use this rhyme to help remember the Metric temperature scale:
30 is hot, 20 is nice, 10 is cool and Zero is ice.

Bill Fisher
1 year ago

When we went through Canada in 2017 and took the Alaska Highway as soon as we entered Alberta I set our Garmin to kilometers and used it as our speedometer. Worked great.

Wolfe
1 year ago

Um… “the ratio is approximately 100km:60mi,”… or 0.6, or multiply by 6/10 or, multiply by 6 and divide by 10… how is this a trick? I’m more likely to forget the 1.6 and 0.6 factors than how to do basic math from there.

Also, most speedometers have dual scales, and most GPSes auto convert units by location…

Wolfe
1 year ago
Reply to  Wolfe

If you have trouble remembering 6’s, track runners/parents might remember the 4s of a school track being 1/4mile and 400meters.

Dan
1 year ago
Reply to  Wolfe

Instead of multiplying by 6 THEN dropping the last digit, it would be easier to drop the last digit first THEN multiplying by 6. So 350KM would then be 35 multiply by 6 = 210 miles.
As far as speed goes, Wolfe is correct in that the speedometers show both speeds.
But the formula works well with figuring out how far you want to travel, say to pre-plan your trip and knowing where to plan your fuel stops at since you probably already know how far in miles you want to go.