Travelling for the first time? Heading somewhere new and don’t know how you’re going to keep your phone charged or hair straightened? Here’s a comprehensive guide to all things travel adapters…
Do I need a travel adapter?
If you’re travelling away from your home country or region of the world then chances are that yes, you do.
Power outlets have different shapes in different parts of the world and you may need an adapter to convert the shape of your home power plugs to the shape of the outlets in the region of the world you are travelling to. A universal adapter that allows you to change the pins is a great investment for any avid traveller, and with the move to more USB charging options worldwide, finding one with a slot for these is an even better buy.
Where to buy travel adapters
Travel shops (including online travel shops), department stores and even cheap knick-knack shops are great places to pick up power point converters and travel adapters. They are also available in shops in airport departure lounges, but they can be a little more expensive there so best to grab one before you go.
Do you need a voltage converter for your trip? Voltage is a measure of electrical force (#sciencelesson) and varies from region to region throughout the world, so it will depend on what region your electrical devices come from and in what region you intend to use them.
- If the voltage in your home country is roughly the same as the voltage in the country you will be travelling to, then you won’t need one. Many modern electrical devices are built to be able to handle a range of different volts. You should check the voltage capacity printed in the manual of (or even sometimes on) the item of whatever you plan to plug into the power supply. If it says to the effect of: ‘100-240V’ (and possibly 50/60 Hz) then you can use it anywhere in the world and all you may need is a power point adapter.
- Most electrical goods will take between 110-240 volts and may sometimes have a switch to switch between the two. If you plug something that requires a higher voltage to operate (an Australian 240 volt camera charger, for example) into a USA outlet (110 volts) you will find that it may take longer to charge. This generally shouldn’t damage whatever you plug into the wall and you’ll just need you travel adapter to get charging.
- If you have an appliance from the USA or Canada though, for example, that is only able to take 120 volts and you plug it into a European, Australian or New Zealand outlet (putting out 220-240 volts) it may damage or ‘blow’ your appliance. This often happens with hairdryers and straighteners. In this case you will need to buy a voltage converter to go along with your power point adapter.
- Alternatively, you can buy whatever appliance you need when you arrive in the country you are traveling in if your budget allows for it, or if you’re spending a longer period of time there.
- The official voltage for the USA and Canada is 120 volts, with most electrical goods operating at around 110 volts.
- All of North America operates on a 2 pronged North American outlet, with a third optional round pin.
- If you are traveling to North America, you will need a North American power point adapter.
- If your home appliances operate on higher voltage than the 110 volts available in North America, it may take them longer to charge and hair dryers may take longer to heat up and be less powerful.
- Brazil, Mexico (and most of Central America), Japan, some parts of Egypt, Thailand and Peru also use this type of power adapter.
The UK and Ireland
- The official voltage for the UK and Ireland (and the rest of Europe) is 230 with most electrical goods operating at around the 220 – 240 volt mark.
- All of Europe operates on the same 2 round pronged outlets except for the UK and Ireland that operates on its own unique 3 flat rectangle pronged outlets.
- If you are travelling through the UK or Ireland (including London) you will need a UK and Ireland power point adapter.
- The official voltage for the rest of Europe (and including Great Britain) is 230 but most electrical goods operate at around the 220 – 240 volt mark.
- All of Europe operates on the same 2 round pronged outlets (except for Great Britain that operates on its own unique 3 pronged outlets.)
- If you are travelling through Britain (including London) on your way to the rest of Europe you will need a British power point adapter for you time there as well as a European power point adapter for the rest of your tour.
- Argentina, Morocco, Thailand, China and Egypt also use the European 2 prong power point.
Australia and New Zealand
- The official voltage for Australia and New Zealand is 240 volts with most electrical goods operating at around the 220 – 240 volt mark.
- Both Australia and New Zealand operate on the same 3 pronged outlet.
- Some parts of Argentina also use this outlet type.
How many travel adapters should I bring?
It depends on how many electrical devices you plan on using really! Many hotel rooms only have 2 or 3 power outlets per room, so this should be taken into consideration. As a general rule though, 2 power point adapters (or a power board) should be enough for any trip. Many of the coaches used on tours in Europe are also equipped with European power outlets or USB slots for all your charging needs.