Travel Advice/Travel Tips - Converters
and plug adapters
Most countries in the world operate using power supply delivery systems
that are incompatible with the power system used in the U.S.
- If you plan to travel internationally, you will not be able to use
electronic devices from home safely (either operate from a plug or
recharge) unless you use a voltage converter to connect them to the
local power supply.
- Please note, that even though your device’s plug may fit the socket,
the socket may not provide the correct voltage and could harm your
- Some devices are "universal" and can run on power supplies
- Check your product's "user guide" to determine whether you will need
a voltage converter at your destination outside the U.S.
Power converters are available in different power handling
- We recommend a converter with a capacity of 1600 watts, which should
handle hair dryers, curling irons, clothes steamers, and appliances with
similar power requirements.
- If you will be using low voltage appliances (e.g. PDA’s) you may
need a low voltage transformer. See our article on
Low Voltage Transformers.
Figure 1. A power converter and
plug adapter kit.
In addition to differences in voltage, most countries have standardized
on various electric sockets that are incompatible with the type of plug
used in the US and Canada.
Be sure to invest in a good power converter and a selection of plug
adapters that will fit sockets around the world. In general, there are
four types of foreign wall outlets:
- Round pins for Europe, Middle East and parts of Africa
- Flat angled blades used in Australia, New Zealand and China
- Three pronged blades used in Great Britain, Ireland and parts of
- Two pin flat parallel blades used in the US, Canada, Mexico, the
Caribbean, and parts of South America.
The power converter and plug adapters are available in boxed sets. Make
sure the instructions contain a map or a list indicating which plug
adapters are used in specific countries.
Remember, the plug adapter and the power converter
are used together.
- First, insert the plug adapter into the socket
- Next, insert the plug blades (sometimes these are round posts)
located on the back of the power converter into the plug adapter.
- At this point, you can safely plug your appliance into the familiar
looking plug socket on the front of the power converter.
Do not use only the plug adapter, as this will not convert the local
power to a type that can be used by your electronics.
- If you simply “plug in”, the most likely result will be that your
electronic device’s internal components will fry.
- Some appliances, such as shavers, include a voltage switch (either
manual or electronic) that allows them to work with either 110 volts
(the US standard) or 220 volts (the international standard).
- These devices may require an adapter plug to connect to the
Be prepared for challenges when using power plugs.
- Many European hotel rooms do not have extra empty sockets and
sometimes you must unplug a lamp before you can connect your converter
- In many hotels, the sockets are located behind the bed headboard or
other locations difficult to access.
- Finally, in some countries, electric sockets are shaped like a
recessed thimble with the plug at the bottom of the well.
- Often the depth of the recessed fixture will require the
connection of a second plug adapter to extend it for use with the
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