Electric Adapter Tips and Advice

I think we can all agree that we are a wired world these days. If you plan to travel with your ‘must-have’ gadgets like a cellphone, tablets, camera’s, etc. you need to figure out how to plug each of them into the local power grid to charge them.

Because so many countries—and even regions within countries—developed their own electricity standards, it’s safe to say that you shouldn’t forget to pack your plug adapters and voltage converters before you leave home.

You’re probably asking yourself ‘What do I need to use my devices abroad?’  What is the difference between a plug adapter and an electric converter?

Here are some facts. First the good news: in many cases you may not need to carry much with you at all…

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HELPFUL TERMS


Plug adapters (or travel adapters)

These don’t convert electricity. They allow a dual-voltage device, a transformer or a converter from one country to be plugged into the wall outlet of another country. The plug of a U.S appliance may not fit into an outlet in a foreign country without an adapter.

 

Converters

Converters and transformers both step up [or down] the voltage, but there is a difference in use between them. Converters should be used only with “electric” products. Electric products are simple heating devices or devices that have mechanical motors.
     For example: hair dryers, steam irons, shavers, toothbrushes or small fans.

Converters are not designed for “continuous duty” and should only be used for short periods of time (1 to 2 hours). Additionally, most converters can only be used for ungrounded appliances (2 pins on the plug). Converters must be unplugged from the wall when not in use.

Transformers

Transformers also step up [or down] the voltage, but they are more expensive than converters and are used with “electronic” products. Electronic products have a chip or circuit. Transformers can also be used with electric appliances and may be operated 

continually for many days. The advantage of converters, however, is that they are lighter and less expensive.

Computers are electronic devices and therefore they must be used with a transformer, unless they are dual voltage. Fortunately, nowadays all laptop, tablet and phone chargers are dual voltage, so they can be used with only a travel adapter.

Check out our suggested Power Adapters and Power Converters below!

Here are steps to determine if you need an adapter and/or converter while traveling:

  • Verify the plug type that fits outlets at your destination.

  • Get the correct adapter plug for that outlet. This isn’t needed if you’re headed to a destination that has U.S.A.- 110v compatible outlets.

  • Verify the voltage in the outlets at your destination.

  • Verify the voltage input on each of your devices. Look for this info on its cord, plug or somewhere on the device itself.

  • Get the correct voltage conversion accessory: This isn’t needed for dual-voltage devices (many are) or if your single-voltage device matches your destination’s voltage.

 Before you go, check with your lodging provider/s:

  • Ask if they provide appliances like hair dryers, which can be challenging in getting power to if you take your own.
     

  • Your first challenge is to be sure that you can plug your device into the wall outlet. The good news is that more than 50 countries around the world have outlets that accept U.S.- style “A” plugs.

  • In places where the plug type differs, you’ll need an adapter plug that has the correct prong configuration for outlets at your destination.

  • According to the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC), there are 14 different plugs (Type A through Type N) used around the world.

Plug, socket & voltage by country

To research the plug(s) you need for any worldwide destination, check out the IEC World Plugs List, which is broken down country by country. For countries that list multiple plug types, our advice is to contact your lodging provider [or business contacts] to narrow down your choices. Or you can play it safe and get adapter plugs for all the listed plug types for a country.


     *Note: Once you are on the IEC World Plug website be sure to click-on the drop-down arrow for the country you are traveling to.

HELPFUL HINTS:

Transformers are sold in different sizes based on how much wattage they can support. You must pay careful attention to the wattage ratings of the appliances to be plugged into a transformer. The wattage rating of the transformer should always be larger than the wattage rating of the appliance to be plugged into it - (plus a 25% buffer to allow for heat build-up in the transformer or converter).

When plugging multiple items into a power strip, then into the transformer, you have to calculate the combined wattage of all appliances and the power strip, then add an additional 25% to that total.

The appliance’s voltage and wattage requirements are listed on the manufacturer’s label located on the back or at the bottom of the appliance. In some cases, the voltage and amperage will be listed, but not the wattage. If this is the case, simply multiply the voltage by the amperage rating to find the wattage rating (e.g. 230 V * 2 A = 460 W).

Always check your appliance or device for the correct wattage! If you cannot locate it consider going to the manufacturer’s website to locate additional information.

Transformers and converters only convert the voltage, not the frequency. The difference in cycles may cause the motor in a 50 Hz appliance to operate slightly faster when used on 60 Hz electricity. This cycle difference will cause electric clocks and timing circuits to keep incorrect time: European alarm clocks will run faster on 60 Hz electricity and American clocks will lose some 10 minutes every hour when used in Europe. However, most modern electronic equipment like phone chargers, laptops, printers, etc. are usually not affected by the difference in cycles and adjust themselves automatically.

       HINT:  If you happen to forget [before leaving home] to check what the local voltage for the country you’re visiting is just take out a light bulb from a lamp      and look at the base of the bulb.  There you will find all the information you need to know about what is required to power appliances/devices and then you can shop locally for what you need.  Or, you can stop at a market and look at the packaging of items like light bulbs to find what you are looking for.

We hope this article has been informative for your approaching international travel! We invite you to visit our Travel Perks - Dream Vacations Travel Banner below!

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