How to Know to Use an Adapter or Converter for Foreign Travel

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Wall outlet adapter
Wall outlet adapter (Image: nine56/sxc.hu)

Traveling abroad can prove difficult for people who carry a lot of electronics with them. North American power outlets output 110 volts at 60hz, while most other countries in the world use outlets that output 220 volts at 50hz. The power outlets themselves are also configured differently in that they take different shaped plugs. Very simply, what this means is that most of your devices and power cords won't work if you take them abroad. Luckily, a variety of devices have been created to fix this problem.

Things You'll Need

  • Voltage converter
  • Power transformer
  • Outlet adapter

Buy a voltage converter if you plan on using something like a hairdryer or clothes iron. Voltage converters will make up the difference between the voltage needed by the device and the voltage available from the outlet, allowing these devices to work like normal. A standard voltage converter is only meant to be used for short periods of time, which makes them ideal for these types of situations.

Use a transformer for larger devices like televisions and personal computers. Transformers operate essentially the same way as a standard voltage converter but are intended to be used for longer periods of time with devices that use larger amounts of power.

Buy a wall outlet adapter. The plugs on North American wall outlets are flat, so all of the power cords for devices sold in America have flat pins. Wall outlets in Europe and Asia have flat plugs which will not work with American power cords. A wall outlet adapter will allow you to plug your American power cords into European and Asian wall outlets.

Tips & Warnings

  • To make sure your electronic devices will work properly when traveling abroad it is recommended that the voltage put out by the transformer or converter you buy is capable of handling 50% more wattage than the device you'll be using it will. For example, if you are using a transformer with a laptop computer that needs 500 watts of power to run, your transformer or converter should be capable of handling at least 750 watts.

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