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While it may seem that technology and the internet have made the world a smaller, more standardized place, when it comes to electricity, you can throw standardization right out the door. Unique and different electrical standards set by each country can frustrate even the most experienced traveler. If you do not want to end up with a fried laptop or hair dryer, read on. Here is what you need to know to power up properly.


There are a multitude of plug types across the world. While the typical two-parallel prong plug is commonly found in North, South, and Central America, it’s very rare to find it anywhere else. You will find plugs with two-round prongs, three-round prongs, two-round prongs with a third long round prong, two-angled prongs and three-angled prongs and on and on – you get the drift. In order to “adapt” your two-parallel prong plug to match the plug shape of the outlet, an adapter will do the trick. It’s important to note that the adapter does not alter the voltage but simply adapts the standard U.S. plug to the foreign wall outlet.


In addition to different plug types, there are differences in voltage. The U.S. and most Western countries use electrical systems operating at 110-120 volts. Virtually every other country uses an electrical standard of 220-240 volts. In order to use your U.S. appliance, you will need to pack a converter. Converters use an electronic switch to achieve 110v by changing the current received from a 220v source. Read the owner’s manual of the electrical appliance to see if it is designed to work at both 110/120 and 220/240 volts. Many travel related electronics like mobile phones and lap tops are designed to work in dual-voltage modes. In this case, you would only need an adapter. Small electronics, like electric razors and non-heating appliances need a 50-watt converter, while high powered heating-type appliances need a 1600-watt converter. Review the label on the appliance to determine its wattage requirements.

AC vs. DC

With the exceptions of Brazil and South Africa which used direct current (DC), most of the world uses alternating current (AC) as a method to deliver electricity. It’s very important that you know whether the country uses DC as it can destroy any personal appliance that was not made to operate in that system. More info at