Electrical Outlet and Converter Information For International Travelers
Before you use your electrical appliances in another country, you need to check the voltage in that country and the type (s) of plugs and outlets used there. A table of this information may be found using the links in the resource box below.
If the voltage is the same in both your home country and your destination country, you may only need a plug adapter so that your appliance can be properly plugged into the wall. If the voltage differs, converters are available to change line voltage from one amount to another. The type of converter depends on the appliance you are trying to use. Non-heating appliances such as electric razors can operate with a 50-watt converter, while heating appliances such as hair dryers, irons, coffee makers and larger appliances require a 1600-watt converter. You can also purchase combination converters for both types.
For those from the US traveling to destinations that use higher voltages, look for "step down" converters from 230V to 120V. Travelers to the US will likely need a transformer to convert the lower line voltage into the higher voltage their appliances require.
In addition to voltage, the frequency at which power is generated may also differ-typically from 50 Hz to 60 Hz. While it is possible to convert voltage, it is not possible to convert frequency. Using appliances at the incorrect frequency could cause damage and even fire. (For more information on frequency variations, please refer to the resources below).
Given the complex nature of safely using your electrical appliances abroad, it may make the most sense to buy that hair dryer or electric razor in-country, or traveling with battery-operated appliances instead.
Fortunately, many portable devices today – from computers to MP3 players to mobile phones – come with power supplies built for use in almost any part of the world. Look for a section on the manufacturer's label that looks something like this:
INPUT: AC 100V- 240V ~ 1.0A 50/60 Hz
This shows that the device was designed to be used over a wide range of voltage levels and at different electrical frequencies. In this particular example, the device can accept nominal voltage anywhere from 100 volts to 240 volts and can operate on either a 50 Hz or 60 Hz system. It is designed for alternating current (AC). (Like most appliances, it should not be used on a direct current, or DC system – DC electrical systems are not common, but some may still exist.)
If your device has a label with these parameters, all you need is a plug adapter.
If you must take other types of appliances with you abroad, and none of the mentioned alternatives are possible, then look for travel-size dual-voltage appliances that can run on either 110 V and 220 V currents. Make sure the switch is on the proper voltage for the country you are in before using the appliance.
For information on different electrical systems, including plugs, outputs, voltage and frequency and by country, visit the websites listed below.