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Tips for Overseas Adventure Travel: Plugs and Converters

Posted: Saturday, June 11, 2011

Overseas adventure travel is fun and rewarding, and takes some preparation. Women commonly ask if there will be a place they can plug in a rechargeable camera battery or recharge a cell phone or plug in a hairdryer? Even if there is an outlet to plug these electronics and appliances into, you will probably need a plug adapter and a power converter to use them. What does all this mean?

Most US and Canadian small appliances and electronics operate on 110v-120v. In most other countries, they operate on 220v-240v. This means that if you try to plug your 110v cell phone charger into a 220 v outlet, it will not work and may blow a fuse in your appliance or in the electrical system. What you need is a three-tier power converter/transformer that will transform the 220v to be compatible with the North American current. Where this gets complicated is that some US appliances and electronics actually will work without the transformer. Many cameras and computers actually have a dual voltage range of up to 220v and therefore can be charged/used without the converter. How do you know? Look for the voltage rating on your appliance, if the rating states something similar to 100V~220V then your product is dual voltage and you do not need a transformer/converter. If it says 110V or 120V, then it is a single voltage and will need a transformer to use abroad in 220v countries.

Once you know whether you need a transformer/converter, then you need to determine what type. You want to select the converter according to the wattage rating of your appliance (volts x amps = watts). A converter that is at least 25% higher than your product's wattage rating is recommended. For something like a hairdryer or a power tool - something that surges when you turn them on, you want a transformer/converter at least double the wattage rating. Most travel specialty stores should be able to help you get the right transformer.

But remember: this is only half of the equation. What you need regardless of the electrical current is a plug adapter. This item changes the shape of the prongs of your plug (which are flat prong in the US) to the shape of the plug in the other country (which is typically round in Europe, but can be a combo of other shapes/angles elsewhere). You can consult a travel shop or look on line to see what worldwide plug adapter you may need.

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