Which International Travel Adapter or Power Adapter Do I Need?

When visiting foreign countries, travelers love to take their favorite electric powered items with them. Hair dryers, styling irons, cell phones and computers are a high priority when packing for a trip to places such as Europe, Asia, Africa and the Americas, but even seasoned travelers get confused by the different outlets and voltages in various countries.

In most cases, you’ll need a travel adapter or power adapter. These are two different names for the same accessory. Read all about them in the next paragraph. However, in some situations, you'll also need a voltage converter or transformer. You’ll learn about them as well in this article.

Travel Adapters and Power Adapters

All over the world, there are different types of electrical wall outlets. A power adapter will let you plug your device into an electrical socket that is different from the type used in your home country. These international travel adapters do not convert electricity, they simply allow your device’s plug to fit into the foreign outlet.

Here are some of the more common types of electrical outlets:

  • Travel Adapter for USA, Canada, Mexico and Japan A
  • Travel Adapter for USA, Canada, Mexico and Japan B
  • Travel Adapter for Europe, Middle East, Israel, Asia, and South America C
  • Travel Adapter for India D
  • Travel Adapter for Europe, Middle East, Israel, Asia, and South America E
  • Travel Adapter for Europe, Middle East, Israel, Asia, and South America F
  • Travel Adapter for United Kingdom, Ireland, Malta, Malaysia and Singapore G
  • Travel Adapter for India H
  • Travel Adapter for Australia, New Zealand, China and Argentina I
  • Travel Adapter for Switzerland J
  • Travel Adapter for Denmark and Greenland K
  • Travel Adapter for Italy and Chile L
Plug Type Popular Destinations
A, B USA, Canada, Mexico and Japan
C, E, F Europe, Middle East, Israel, Asia, and South America
D India
G United Kingdom, Ireland, Malta, Malaysia and Singapore
H Israel
I Australia, New Zealand, China and Argentina
J Switzerland
K Denmark and Greenland
L Italy and Chile

Travel Smart by Conair offers a complete array of foreign power adapters in single and multiple configurations, some with USB ports and safeguards such as surge protection. Currently, there are 15 different types of electrical outlets in use around the world today, each identified by a letter of the alphabet, A through O.

Voltage Converters and Transformers

The world runs on two different types of electricity or voltage ratings: 110/125V or 220/240V. The U.S. and Canada run on 110/125V Most of the other countries around the world use 220/240V. A travel converter or travel transformer changes the voltage coming out of the wall outlet to match the voltage of your appliance.

Travel converters and transformers increase or decrease the voltage that reaches your device making it safe to use your electronics and personal-care appliances abroad. If it’s too much, your equipment may overheat and burn out. If it’s too little, you won’t get the performance you expect and it might cause damage to the motor, fan or heating unit.

How to Know if You Need a Travel Converter or Travel Transformer

Look for a label on your appliance that identifies the INPUT voltage (V) that it requires. It could be on the back of the device, on the AC power box at the end of the power cord, or molded into the plug in very small print. See if the INPUT voltage is single, dual or multi. You will only need a travel converter or travel transformer if your appliance is single voltage rated.

The Difference Between Travel Converters and Travel Transformers

Travel converters are used with simple appliances that use heating elements and mechanical motors. They handle high power and should only be used for short periods of time, from 1 to 2 hours. Travel transformers work with “electronic” devices that have microchips and circuits. They operate using lower wattages and can be used for longer periods of time safely.

Check the Voltage Rating on Your Device

SINGLE VOLTAGE appliances come in two types. First are the older appliances, such as hair dryers and curling irons, with a very narrow voltage tolerance, such as 100-120V. (The dash indicates this voltage range.) These single voltage items use heating elements and mechanical motors requiring a travel converter. The second type are the more modern “electronic” devices that use chips, circuits and electronic motors. These single voltage devices require a travel transformer.

DUAL VOLTAGE devices such as newer model hair dryers, curling irons, electric razors and toothbrushes DO NOT require ether a converter or a transformer. (Look for the slash to indicate the two voltage ratings, such as 120V/240V.)

MULTI VOLTAGE devices include items such as laptop computers, cell phones, tablets, cameras and battery chargers. These DO NOT require either a converter or a transformer. The marking uses a dash to indicate the range of acceptable voltages, such as 100-240V.

Check the Power Rating

The amount of power that a device uses is measured in watts (W). Travel converters handle high watt appliances and travel transformers handle low watt devices.

BE SURE to check the specifications on your appliance to make certain that your converter can handle the watts your device needs. Small personal electronic devices use low watts ranging up to 25W or 50W. Items with heating elements such as hair dryers and coffee makers might require a high watt setting in the range of 1000W to 2000W.