What You Need To Know About Travel Converters & Adapters


Do I need a converter or do I need an adapter?  What is the difference between converters and adapters? What type do I need?

Electricity can be well, a little bit confusing. For anyone traveling over seas, you’re going to need an adapter of some sort in order to use your electronics (netbook, smartphone, hair dryer, etc.). You may also need a converter if your electronic items require a specific voltage since the amount of electricity pouring out of an outlet is not the same round the world.

What is an adapter?

I remember the first time traveling out of the country and seeing these funny shaped outlets on the wall. This was well before the time of crazy technology so it was no big deal since I didn’t have anything to plug in. Nowadays though, if you want to charge your laptop or iPod you are going to need an adapter. An adapter simply changes the shape of your plug so it will fit the outlet. An adapter doesn’t change the voltage of the outlet in any way; it only changes the plugs shape.

What is a converter?

Most countries in the Western hemisphere use outlets that emit 110-125 volts of electricity whereas most other countries use 220-240 volts as their standard. This means that if your electronic item requires a certain voltage, you will need a converter to reduce the amount of electricity received by your device.

Step-up converters are also available that covert 110 volt currents to 220 volts so that international devices can be used in North America. Also converters are not designed for continuous use so check the manufacturer’s information to see how long it is safe to keep plugged in.

When do I need a converter?

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Electronic items like curling irons, shavers, electric toothbrushes, irons, and heating pads often need a converter to work safely in other countries. Oftentimes devices like hair dryers and curling irons have a switch the lets you choose the voltage level. In this case you don’t need a converter, only an adapter plug to fit the outlet.

Typically laptops and digital camera battery chargers are multi voltage devices meaning that they detect voltage automatically and adapt to the change in voltage so you don’t need a converter. It is best to check and make sure that your charger accommodates voltage from 110-240 volts before you travel (it should say right on your charger).

How do I know what to take?

First, make a list of all the electricity-requiring items you are taking with you (such as a laptop charger, camera battery charger, shaver, or travel hair dryer). Next, find out the wattage of each of the devices and figure out if you need a converter. For example, my camera batter charger says right on the back “100V-240V” so I know that I don’t need a converter for that. The only items you really need to worry about are shavers, curling irons, blow dryers, and the like, but it is a good item to double-check all items to cut down on your chance of a blow-out.

After you’ve determined if you need a converter or not, you’re going to want to make a list of all the countries you are visiting and then choose the appropriate adapter plugs. It is important to note that not all adapters are designed for high-watt devices and not all adapters are made to handle laptop computers. Make sure to check each electronic devices specifications before using an adapter.

There are many adapter and converter options out there for travelers. There are plenty of inexpensive kits with different-sized adapters available and all-in-one adapters are great if you plan on visiting multiple countries. Here are some of our favorites:

Kensington International All-in-One Travel Plug Adapter

The Kensington All-in-One Travel Plug Adapter provides adapters for more than 150 countries. All the power plugs are built into one unit so you simply slide out the adapter plug that you need and plug in your device. This adapter is perfect for laptops, chargers, and other similar devices, but is not designed for high-watt devices like blow dryers. The All-in-One Travel Adapter is not a converter so it does not step-down or step-up the voltage.

>> Buy Kensington All-in-One Travel Plug Adapter

Eagle Creek Dual Wattage Converter Set

If you need a converter and adapter plugs, the Eagle Creek Converter Set is a total set for your international travel needs. The set includes a converter with both a low and high settings. The low setting works with electronic devices between 0-25 watts like shavers, curling irons, and battery chargers and in the high setting, works with devices between 26-1875 like hair dryers, irons, and heating pads. The set also includes ungrounded adapter plugs that work all over the world.

>> Buy Eagle Creek Dual Wattage Converter Set

Lenmar World Travel Adapter Plug Set

If all you need are a few adapter plugs, the Lenmar Adapter Plug Set is pretty inexpensive, simple, and lightweight set of plugs. The set comes with 5 different adapter plugs that will fit your electronic devices into outlets all over the world. All you need to do is pack the plug you need and you’re good to go.

>> Buy Lenmar World Travel Adapter Plug Set

[Photo courtesy of mangpages]