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Power adapters and converters 101

Feb 22, 2016 by Laura Barber

In a traveler’s perfect world, every country would run on the same type of electricity and use outlets that fit the same kinds of plugs. Unfortunately for us globetrotters, this isn’t the case, and when we travel overseas we’re faced with the oftentimes head-scratching task of choosing the right adapter (or should it be a converter?) for our electronics. To help you prepare for your upcoming trips overseas, here’s our guide to power adapters and converters to keep your devices safe and working properly.

power adapters and converters

Adapters vs. converters

The big difference between an adapter and a converter is electricity. While the purpose of an adapter is to simply help the plugs on your electronics fit into (or more aptly, adapt to the shape of) foreign outlets, a converter’s job is to change the voltage found in an outlet to match that of your devices.

When to use a converter

Thankfully, the kinds of appliances that typically need a converter are single-voltage items, which more often than not, tend to be older-model irons and hair dryers. The majority of modern-made electronics are dual- or multi-voltage, meaning that they are able to withstand more than one type of electricity and therefore, only require an adapter. If you’re unsure whether or not you’ll need one, take a look at the chart below or check out the labels on your appliances and chargers for their specific requirements.

Single voltage (i.e. 100-120V)

  • Common appliances: Older irons and hair dryers
  • Converter needed? Yes

Dual voltage (i.e. 120V/240V)

  • Common appliances: Newer hair dryers, electric razors, toothbrushes, etc.
  • Converter needed? No

Multi voltage (i.e. 100-240V)

  • Common appliances: Cell phones, laptops, tablets, cameras, etc.
  • Converter needed? No

Choosing the right adapter

So, exactly which style of adapter will you need? The answer depends on where you’re headed. This handy guide will help you determine which types of adapter plugs you should pack when you’re getting ready for tour. If your tour spans multiple countries that use different outlets, or you’re a frequent jetsetter, we suggest picking up a universal, all-in-one travel adapter.

When to use adapters for outlet types type A and B

Outlet types A and B

These are the two types of outlets that we use here in the U.S. and in Canada. If you’re traveling to Japan, the Caribbean or most locations in Central and South America you’re in luck—you shouldn’t need an adapter or a converter for your trip.

When to use adapters for outlet types type C, E, and F

Outlet types C, E and F

If you’re jetting to Europe, Israel or some countries in Asia and Africa, you’ll need an adapter for these plug types.

When to use adapters for outlet types type G

Outlet type G

Pack an adapter for this kind of outlet if you’re visiting the United Kingdom, Ireland, Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaysia or some countries in Africa.

When to use adapters for outlet types type I

Outlet type I

For trips to China, Australia, New Zealand or Fiji you’ll need an adapter to fit this outlet.

**Still need help? A complete list of countries and their adapter plug models can be found **here.

About the author | Laura Barber
It all began on a school trip to London in 7th grade. Since that first jaunt across the pond, Laura has been hooked on all things travel (and British for that matter). When she's not at work using her words to help people find their own adventures, she can be found running 5ks, refining her cribbage game, or rewatching The Office for the 100th time.

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