A life sans electronics is unthinkable these days. We carry electronic gadgets like smartphones, tabs, laptops, e-readers, cameras, personal audio etc. with us at all times, even while, traveling 9and yes! people do carry it while hiking too!). All these gadgets guzzle battery power, and as you would have discovered by now, a full charge lasts just about a day. Hence, the need for a power adaptor, a voltage (travel) converter and/or a travel transformer become inevitable; they are your first friends in a foreign region!
Whether you are just hiking within South America, or on a camping trip to Europe, these travel accessories are a must. So, let us look at what you need to know before you buy voltage converters, transformers and adapter plugs suited for international travel, how to determine the right one, and a very handy device conversion chart.
Read on to know:
Before we discuss the utility and the right types of power adapters and voltage converters, let us briefly get an overview of the voltage difference across the world.
We, as the world, run on two types of electricity: 110/125V or 220/240V. All devices in North American run on 110/125V electricity while the rest of the world, majorly, run on 220/240V. Hence, to match the voltage of your device with the voltage of electricity in a particular region you need voltage converters and voltage transformers.
Appliances that require a higher voltage to operate will take a longer period to charge up if plugged into a lower voltage outlet like the US and Canada outlets, which is fine. But the items that need less voltage and you plug it into a European, Indian, or Australian outlet that can cause damage, electrocution, or a boom!
So, now do you understand why adapters and converters are travel necessities?
You will need them if you are traveling outside your home country. Each country has differently shaped power outlets making it imperative to use a power adapter to match your home power plugs. The number of adapters you need to carry will depend on the number of electronic devices you plan to use during your travel. It is advisable to carry at least two adapters.
Here are some common types of plug:
You can buy them online, or in travel retail shops, department stores, or even in airport retail shops.
Do not assume that adapter plugs convert electricity. They only allow your device’s plug to fit into the outlet.
Gadgets that help in the conversion of electricity are known as voltage converter (travel converter) and travel transformer. Let’s read about them.
What is voltage?
It is the measure of electrical force. And it varies with from place to place around the world. Therefore, traveling outside your native country will call for a voltage converter. Most of the hikers have voltage converters in their checklist! If you want to hike globally, you need to have an understanding for the same!
Voltage converters convert alternating current to direct current, thereby, enabling you to make use of your electronic devices or personal appliances anywhere in the world. They help in increasing or decreasing the voltage making it safe for you to use the device or appliance.
Too much voltage can cause overheating and burning out and too little voltage will result in the device underperforming and can damage the motor, fan, or heating unit.
Another mechanism to manage electricity flow, voltage transformers, commonly known as travel transformers, are used with electronic devices that have microchips and circuits for long periods of time.
Check the voltage capacity printed in the manual of the appliance/gadget; sometimes it’s written on the body of the item. If it says ‘100-240V’ with 50/60 Hz then you can use it anywhere in the world and all you may need is a power adapter.
With the same objective to regulate voltage outlet, travel converters are slightly different from travel transformers.
Travel converters are used with simple appliances that run on heating elements and use mechanical motors. They handle high power and should only be used for short periods of time- for two hours maximum at a stretch. Example: irons, hair straighter, hair dryer, etc.
On the contrary, travel transformers work with electronic devices that have microchips and circuits. They operate using lower wattages and can be used for longer periods of time safely. Example: laptops, smartphones, cameras, etc
There are a few manufacturers sell combination converters that include both a voltage converter and a transformer
The label on the back of your device or appliance will tell you it needs a converter or a transformer. You can find the label on the AC power box at the end of the power cord, or on the plug. It will also provide the key information i.e. whether the voltage (V) is single, dual or multi.
They have a 100–120V voltage range and are designed to accommodate voltage fluctuations only. They will not accommodate a 220V power supply and so they will need a converter or a transformer. Appliances like older hair dryers and irons are single-voltage devices.
These use a slash to separate the two voltages. Example: 120V/240V. Devices like electric shavers and toothbrushes, newer hair dryers and irons, coffee makers and tea kettles are common dual-voltage appliances. They do not need a converter or a transformer.
These items have a voltage range of 100–240V. Common multi-voltage devices include laptops, e-readers, tablets, smartphones, cell phones, MP3 players, cameras and battery chargers. These electronics do not need a converter or a transformer
Now, we have established that singled-voltage devices require converters or transformers. But the need differs for singled-voltage “electrical” appliances (irons, hair straighter, hair dryer) and singled-voltage “electronic” devices (laptops, smartphones, cameras)
Check out the table below for quick understanding:
With voltage supply varying in different countries, travellers will need to carry power adapters, or voltage converters to be able to use their electronic devices and personal appliances. The voltage supply in European countries ranges from 220 to 240 volts and 100 volts in an Asian country, such as Japan.
Choosing among adapters, converters, and transformers for international travel could get a bit confusing.
Let’s figure out-
If a device of higher voltage needs to be plugged into an outlet of lesser voltage, a power point adapter may come in handy as it speeds up the device’s charging process.
Plugging a device requiring lesser voltage into a higher voltage outlet may damage your device, or in extreme cases even blow it up. This is generally the case with hair dryers and hair straighteners, and a voltage converter that suits your power adapter helps here.
You can use a plug adapter while traveling in Mexico, or Canada.
You can use a 220- to 240-volt transformer adapter while traveling in Russia, Australia, New Zealand, China, and European and African countries.
You can plug your devices in a 100-volt transformer adapter while traveling in Japan.
Let us walk through this information in detail and country-wise.
In India, the power sockets are of type C (two round pins), D (three round pins arranged in a triangle) and M (three round pins arranged in a triangle). So, if your device or appliance is with plug A or plug B then you’ll, that’s right, need power adapters. In this country, the standard voltage is 230 V and the frequency is 50 Hz which means that if your appliance doesn’t accept 240 Volts at 50 Hertz then to plug it in without a voltage converter could cause serious damage to your appliance. You can use a universal adapter and a converter kit.
But that’s not all you need to carry while on a trip to India. Pack in a voltage regulator (or voltage stabilizer) as well. You see, India is a country with fluctuating voltage. And when this happens, the voltage can drop low and then revive with a sudden surge that can seriously damage expensive electronics.
You can use power adapters which are suitable for 120 volts power outlets. You will not need a voltage converter if your device’s voltage capacity is mentioned as ‘120-240v~50-60Hz.’ Otherwise, you will need an appropriate voltage converter. Central South America uses 110-volt circuits but, there is varied voltage in other parts. Here are voltage levels for some South American countries:
If your devices are purchased in the United States, you won’t need an adapter in countries such as Venezuela, Ecuador, Bolivia, and Colombia because American plugs are used here. You'll need either a type C power adapter with two round prongs or a type I adapter with three flat prongs in countries such as Argentina, Uruguay, and Paraguay. You will find only type C electric outlets in Chile.
120 volts is the official voltage for the United States and Canada. North America has its 2 Flat Pronged power outlets and a North American power point adapter can be used here.
The United Kingdom and Ireland
230 volts is the official voltage for the United Kingdom and Ireland and the countries operate on its own unique3 pronged power outlets. The United Kingdom or Ireland power point adapter can be used here.
230 volts is the official voltage for the rest of Europe and the region operates on the 2 pronged outlets and you will need a European power point adapter here.
Australia and New Zealand
240 is the official voltage for Australia and New Zealand and the countries operate on the 3-pronged power outlet.
Do not leave your electronic devices and appliances plugged into the power outlet while you are away from your hotel room, etc.
It is sensible to carry a power adapter kit if you are traveling to multiple countries in a single trip.
Power adapters and converters, or transformers have become important travel accessories you cannot do without. Adapters are necessary for electrical devices such as a hair dryer as well as electronics such as a laptop so that you can use them unhindered across varied power outlet types found globally. A voltage converter or transformer is required for any single-voltage device that has a voltage different from the power outlet at the destination. You can determine this by reading your device's label. So, by now, you are a well-prepared traveler. And before you drift away, check out these two popular electricity converters and adapters-
Seven Star’s World Travel Voltage Converter Adapter Kit that provides 50-1600 Watt. As the name implies, this one comes with an adapter and converter combination.
Trisonic’s International Voltage Converter that manages power at 220V to 110V, 1600 Watt. This is one of the best voltage converters for US appliances to be used overseas.
And here we wrap up our discussion on travel voltage converters.
Hoping that we were helpful, happy hiking!