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4 minute read

Tech on Tour: Tips for Using Electricity on Your Travels

May 06, 2016

So you’re planning an overseas trip and hoping to bring your phone, laptop, hairdryer… all the essentials. However, because there is no standardized international electric voltage, you can’t simply plug your devices in. Fortunately, with some simple preparation you can bring your electronics and/or appliances along without worrying about frying their circuits. Here’s an overview of what you should know about electricity conversion when traveling:

  • Adapter plug:  When you’ve determined what type of sockets and which voltage your destination country(s) uses (www.worldstandards.eu/electricity.htm is a useful resource), you can pick up the appropriate adapter plug. When you arrive, just plug the device into the adapter and the adapter either into the outlet or converter.  Important note:  These plugs do not convert voltage; they simply enable the device’s plug to fit the socket.
  • Single-, multi-, and dual-voltage devices:  The United States is one of only a handful of countries with a voltage range of 100-120V; most other countries use a 220–240 voltage range. Check the label on your device to determine the voltage; if the device is single-voltage (showing only one number before the “V” on the label) and has a voltage range from 100-120V, it won’t work in most other countries without a converter, which you can get online or at most luggage or electronics stores.

Fortunately, most modern devices and electronics – laptops, e-readers, smartphones, cameras, etc. – are multi-voltage, meaning that they automatically adjust to the different voltage; their labels will read and you’ll only need a plug adapter for these. Additionally, some other travel-friendly electrical appliances – hair dryers, steam irons, hair irons, electric toothbrushes, etc. – also may be dual-voltage. These require you to manually switch the device to 220V for international use; their labels will read “120/240V.” Please note:Not switching a dual-voltage device to the proper voltage before you use it can result in damage to it and to possibly blowing fuses in the room.

  • Converter:  A converter or transformer “steps up” the voltage of your single-voltage electric appliance to make it compatible with the higher voltage overseas.

You will only need a converter or transformer if you are bringing a single-voltage device. Single-voltage electric devices (those using heat or mechanical motors, i.e. hairdryers and electric razors) will require a converter, while single-voltage electronic devices (those using chips or circuits, i.e. mobile devices and battery chargers) will require a transformer. You will need to check your appliance’s label for the voltage and the wattage (written “watts” or “W”) in order to choose the right converter.

If you have specific questions, it’s best check with the manufacturer of the device(s) you want to use. Hopefully these tips help you enjoy a plugged-in, powered-up vacation.

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