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Electricity Overseas: Converters, Adapters and Beyond


You’ve renewed your passport, bought your plane tickets and researched your destination — now it’s time to prepare for the little details of traveling overseas. One is making sure you have the right equipment needed to use any electrical appliances you’re bringing on your trip.

All electrical sockets are not created equal; if you are going to use appliances overseas, you need to know what type of voltage is used in the country you’re traveling to and what type of adapter or plug is needed to plug your appliances into the outlet. Otherwise, you may end up with an overheated curling iron (just imagine what this would do to your hair!) or a fried camera charger.

Which Electrical Appliances Do I Need?

The first thing to consider is which electrical appliances you really need to bring. Most hotels offer hair dryers and irons so you don’t have to bring your own, and you can easily use manual razors and toothbrushes instead of their electric counterparts.

If you plan on staying in one country for a while, you might want to buy a hair dryer or electric razor there. Battery-operated appliances are another option if you’re willing to bring plenty of replacements.

Fortunately, there are numerous dual-voltage appliances available that can run on both 110-volt and 220-volt currents (such as hair dryers and curling irons). Make sure the switch is on the proper voltage for the country you are in before using the appliance. You will also need to carry adapter plugs with you to fit the outlets in the countries you’re visiting.


Most American-made electrical appliances work at 110 volts. While Japan, most of North America, and parts of South America and the Caribbean use voltage between 100 and 125, the vast majority of the world uses 220 – 240 volts. For a complete list of voltage requirements by country, visit

Check the label and/or owner’s manual on your appliance before buying a converter, as it is probably designed to work at both 110/120 and 220/240 volts — most newer travel gadgets are, particularly things like laptops, tablets, cameras and smartphones. If this is the case, you’ll only need a plug adapter (see below for more details). If your appliance only operates at 110 volts, you’ll need to buy a voltage converter.

Small electronics, razors and non-heating appliances will need a 50-watt converter. Heating appliances such as dryers, irons, coffee makers and other high-powered electrical appliances need converters up to 2000 watts. You can also purchase combination converters for both types (many of which also come with adapter plugs). Check the label on your electrical appliance to find its wattage.

Adapter Plugs

Even if two countries operate on the same voltage, their outlets might not take the same shape of plug — and that’s where an adapter comes in. An adapter will allow you only to plug your appliance into another type of outlet — not change the electrical voltage.

To see what kind of adapter you’ll need for your destination, check out

Travel stores often sell convenient and inexpensive kits with five different-sized adapters that will work with nearly any outlet in the world. You can also buy all-in-one adapters that include the most common plugs. Note that these often won’t work for appliances that need to be grounded, which will require a more expensive grounding adapter.

Where to Buy Adapters And Converters

Adapters and converters are available at most travel/luggage stores, at electronic stores such as Best Buy and even at your neighborhood Target or Walmart. You can also buy them online from Amazon, Magellan’s or TravelSmith, among other sites.

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