Don’t get fried next time you travel out of the country. Overseas electrical current is different from that of the US and Canada. Plug sizes and shapes are also different, and the amount of electricity that enters your devices is different.

Adaptor vs. Converter  In the old days, women packed hairdryers as hotels did not supply them. Fastidious women brought travel irons. Today hotels almost universally offer hairdryers. Some have an iron in the closet or, on demand, from the Front Desk. However, today most of us wear easy fabrics that dry quickly without creasing. 

Most of us depend on electronic devices. These are fortunately built to work globally. Therefore you do not need to ‘convert’ electricity for phones or ipads or most computers. from AC alternating current which we have in North America and Japan to DC direct current which is in the rest of the world.  If you are really interested in the difference:

The main evidence you get after plugging a US or Canadian phone or ipad in DC, is the plug might get hot. This is normal since DC current is delivered directly into your device not back and forth as in AC.  Note: this heat is not dangerous.

Razors and non heating items except electronics might need a 50 watt converter; the information booklet for your item should cover this. Items that use heat: iron, coffee maker etc need a much bigger converter; don’t bring them or find a dual voltage version.

Adaptors change the shape of a plug to that used in the countries you visit. Some of this information is on line but we suggest you check a few different articles. Some is trickier as countries update plugs. For instance, in Italy the plug might be two round prongs or three prongs in a line. The shape will depend on when electricity was updated. Bring both to be safe. Plugs are categorized by letters; use the letter assigned to the plug you need rather than an on line photo.

Some countries have a plug you will rarely use again: Namibia, as an example, has a 3 round triangular plug that comes in 2 different sizes- again confusing. Add to that mix, some historic hotel rooms will have different plug sizes in the same room. 

Most hotels have a US style plug in the bathroom for razors only. It might charge your US phone but don’t count on it. It might also short out the lights or damage your phone. 

Some hotels will have limited numbers of plugs you can reach without moving furniture like a heavy TV. If you will need to recharge a lot of devices, bring your own electric strip rather than move furniture. 

Finally, if you have connecting flights in an airport not on your basic itinerary, you need to throw in the plug that fits that country also. For instance, flights that connect in London will have airport plugs with three square prongs. (Airport lounges usually have USB ports to recharge.

We hope this primer is helpful in your packing needs. It will be helpful to Amazon where you can buy all these different plugs cheaply and easily. (We generally stay away from the universal it fits everything everywhere plug. We have found these unreliable). 

Travel tips from The Women’s Travel Group

For information on international tours for women: click here.

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