The Lowdown on Electricity and International Travel


In today’s world, having access to electricity can mean the difference between a great trip and a frustrating one. After all, travelers need electricity to charge cameras, cell phones, electronic readers, tablets, and more. While it might seem like electricity should be the same everywhere, it’s not. Different countries use different plug styles and voltages. Therefore, you may need to acquire a number of adapters and converters to use your devices when traveling across borders.

Before going abroad, determine what level of voltage your destination uses. In the United States, standard electrical outlets provide 110 to 120 volts of electricity. In some other countries, the outlets provide 220 to 240 volts of electricity. You can generally discover which voltage your destination uses by researching the topic online.

Next, you should determine the electrical capacity of your devices. Plugging a machine intended only to handle 120 volts into a 240-volt socket can be disastrous, however a lot of modern equipment is built to accept either 120-volt or 240-volt electricity. To find out what your devices use, check their labels, which may be on the back, on a transformer box, or on the plug. Each device will list the voltages at which it can be used. If the range on your device doesn’t match the voltage used at your destination, you’ll need to buy a converter from a travel store.

Fixing voltage problems won’t mean a thing, though, if your plug won’t fit into the wall socket at your destination. A plug made for the U.S. market won’t fit a socket in the United Kingdom or Europe, and vice versa. Anytime you cross a border, check online or at a travel store to see whether you need a plug adapter. You might be surprised at how many different kinds of outlets there are.

Finally, check the frequency of the electricity at your destination and on your devices. Frequency is notated with the symbol Hz. Some countries use electricity at 50 Hz, while others use it at 60 Hz. Devices designed for one frequency may not work properly, or at all, at the other.