Using Electrical Items Abroad – Plug Adapters and Converters

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If you’ve ever been abroad before, you’ll know that different countries have their own electrical sockets, and that getting an electrical item from your country to work in another can sometimes be a bit of a pain.

European electrical outlets, for example, require a 3 pin plug, whereas U.S. electrical outlets require a 2 pin plug (meaning one cannot work in the other).

If you do plan on using electrical items overseas it’s important you know what kind of voltage is used in the country you’re going to and what kind of electrical plug adapters you’ll need so that you can use your electrical appliances safely and properly.

First of all, it’s time to answer one very important question:

Do I Really Need to Bring Any Electrical Appliances?

Plug adaptorA lot of the electrical appliances that you’ll might need on the road can be bought locally (meaning you don’t have to worry about voltage/plug size) or may be supplied by the place you’re staying (e.g. most hotel rooms will supply a hair dryer for you).

Another option is to buy battery-operated appliances that don’t require charging.

Also, an electrical razor or toothbrush you can easily buy a non-electrical version and safe yourself some hassle.

If you’re thinking of taking an electrical appliance abroad and it’s not necessary, your best bet is usually just to leave it at home (particularly if it’s bulky and expensive).

If you are buying appliances specifically for your trip, it’s a good idea to look for ones that can run on both the 110 volt and 220 volt systems. This cuts out the need for electrical current converters and means that you only have to worry about getting the right sized plug adapter.

Electrical Converters

The first thing to find about when taking electrical appliances abroad is whether the voltage used in the foreign country is different to the voltage used at home.

Is this really a big deal? It can be. For example, The United Kingdom runs on 220 – 240 volts, whereas the United States runs on a 100-120 volt system.

For a full list of voltages used in each country, check out this page.

To find out what voltage your appliances work at, check your owner’s manual or check to see if it’s written on the power supply.

If it turns out that the voltage used in another country is different to the one your appliances are made to run at, you’ll need to buy an electrical travel converter to convert the voltage for you.

Note that many new appliances (particularly laptop computers and cell phones) are designed to run at both 110-120 volts and 220-240 volts, meaning it’s unlikely that you’ll need to buy a converter (as these are the two standard voltages throughout most of the world).

Electrical Adapter Plugs

In some cases, you might find that two countries operate on the same voltage, but that the electrical outlets are different shapes (meaning they take different shaped plugs). This is a fairly easy problem to solve, so if this is the case you’re in luck.

This is where electrical plug adapters come in handy, as they allow you to change the shape of your plug without altering the voltage.

For a detailed list of which electrical plug adapters you’ll need for which countries, check out this webpage.

Where Can I Buy Electrical Adapters and Converters?

Once you know which kind you need (by referring to the website above) you can easily find one online, or they can be bought in most travel shops or electrical stores (such as RadioShack).

These items are fairly cheap, and should never set you back more than $20.

Related posts:

  1. How to Use Your Cell Phone Abroad (Without Breaking the Bank)

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