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Guide to Plug Converters and Adapters for Travelers

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We all know that travel requires visas, passports, booking, and local currency, but what we often miss out on when traveling abroad is checking whether there plugs will work well with our chargers. Different countries use different types of wall sockets with varying type and load of electricity delivered. It is best to be educated about the power needs of your destination before you leave home.

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Voltage Converters and Plug Adapters

The two main points that power and charging considerations boil down to when traveling internationally are:

  1. Voltage Range
  2. Socket/ Plugs

Knowing these will help you decide which power accessories do you need to pack when visiting a foreign country!

Voltage Range

Many countries in the world, including the United States, use 100-120V power outlets while various other countries use 220-240 V. It can hence be dangerous to plug a device that needs 120V into a socket delivering 220 V power, making your device incompatible with the power sockets of your destination.

You will need to purchase a voltage converter to address this issue of voltage difference at your destination. This voltage converter is needed only if your device is powered at lower voltage than the voltage supply at the destination. The charger of most devices will state what power input will the device take. In case of some devices the power adapters accept 100-240V. In such cases, you will not require a voltage converter.

Sockets/Plugs

Most power outlets on the walls in the Unites States typically look the same with two vertical slots next to each other and a semi-circular port underneath. Some plug points have two vertical prongs, with one larger than the other, while yet others fill all three slots. Some other countries around the world too use these plug types, however, there are also certain plug and outlet standards used internationally.

You may require proper travel adapters to address this difference in plugs and sockets. These adaptors however do not function as voltage changers, unless stated specifically. They simply adapt a plug from one device to suit a different power socket.

Most Common Plug Types

The International Trade Administration of U.S. Department of Commerce has outlined the various types of plugs and sockets used around the world. Each of these types of plugs are assigned a letter to provide ease of reference.

While some plugs are common to many countries, some plugs are unique to a certain country. For instance, Type O plug can be found only in Thailand with three circular prongs arranged in a triangular formation. They deliver 220-240V electricity.

Some of the most commonly used plug and socket types are:

Type A: Mainly used in North America; two vertical prongs; not grounded.

Type B: Mainly used in North America; two vertical prongs with a rounded third prong; grounded.

Type C: Commonly used in South America and Europe; two Round Prongs; not grounded.

Type E and F: Prevalent in Europe; two round prongs; grounded.

Type G: Used mainly in United Kingdom; two horizontal prongs with one larger vertical prong; grounded.

Type I: Used mainly in Australia and New Zealand; two angled prongs with one optional vertical prong; not grounded unless vertical prong is present.

Useful Power-Related Travel Tips

Try to follow these handy power-related travel tips for stress free travel and a enjoyable international vacation.

  • Buy plug adaptors or voltage converters before leaving. You wouldn’t have to go looking for a power adaptor as soon as you land.
  • Use a power strip as that will make you require only one plug adaptor while you can charge all your devices. Using a surge-protecting power bar is better as it will protect your devices against fluctuations.
  • If you’d rather not use a power bar, you can charge your laptop through the wall socket and charge your USB devices through your laptop.

Read the Power Adapter Very Carefully

Before plugging your device into a foreign power outlet, it is essential that you read the specifications for powering or charging the device. Just because the plugs fits fine doesn’t mean it is safe to plug it in the socket.

 

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