Guide to International Electricity and Electrical Converters

The U.S. is among the minority of countries that use 120 volts as their standard current.  The majority of countries, including all of Europe, use 220, 230, or 240 volts as their standard.  (We'll refer to these higher voltages as 220 volts for the remainder of this page.)  You probably have one or two 220 volt circuits in your home -- in the U.S., they are used for clothes dryers, electric stoves, and central air conditioning, and have extra wide, extra thick power cords. This is bad news for American travelers.  If you plug a 120 volt appliance into a 220 volt circuit, the very best result is a "fried" appliance that will never work again.  The worst is an electrical fire.  Fortunately, our plugs don't match the 220 volt outlets, so you can't accidentally plug them in.  In fact, you can't plug them in at all without an adapter.

Of course, there is a solution to this problem, and it's fairly simple.  Before leaving on your trip to another country, you need to purchase two separate items.  First, you need an adapter plug that you can plug into the 220 volt outlets, which will accept your 120 volt plug.  And then, to reduce the 220 volts down to the 120 volts that your appliances need, you should buy a transformer.  (Note: many newer appliances already have a built-in capability to use 220 volts, and will have a recessed switch you push to change from 120 volts to 220 volts.  Just check your appliance to determine.  You will still need an adapter plug.) 

When you arrive at your destination, you push the 220 volt adapter plug onto the prongs of your transformer, and then plug the transformer into the outlet.  You then plug your appliance into the front of the transformer. 

Note there are several different types of transformers.  If you will be using both low wattage appliances (such as battery chargers) and high wattage appliances (hair dryers and hair curlers), you'll want a transformer that has a High/Low switch so it can handle a wide range of electrical demands.

Also, note there is no one "standard" adapter plug that fits all countries.  Instead, there are different adapters depending on which country you are visiting.  If you are spending time in more than one country, you may need more than one adapter.  And, just to make this a little more interesting, there are different adapters for grounded plugs (the ones with three prongs) and non-grounded plugs (two prongs).  If you have both grounded and non-grounded plugs, you will need to purchase appropriate adapters for each.  Click Here for a link for adapters and transformers.

Cruise ships are a little different.  Most of the ships that cruise from U.S. ports have 120 volt outlets, and some have a combination of 120 volt and 220 volt (for their European customers).

 

 

 

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