Will I need an electricity converter for foreign electrical outlets?

Will I need an electricity converter for foreign electrical outlets?


*Updated April 2015

If you’re travelling to Europe, taking a cell phone charger or laptop might not be as easy as you think. Different electrical outlets (plug sizes), voltage, and currents are used in different countries: 110 voltage is most commonly used in North America, the Caribbean, and some parts of South America, while 220 voltage is most commonly found in Europe and Asia.

Most newer electronics and travel accessories are dual voltage; meaning you will only need an adapter, not a voltage converter. If your electronics don’t state a range of 110-220 for voltage, you may need to pick up the extra converter, though.

What is an adapter?

An adapter is used so North American electronics will fit in other electrical outlets that require different size plugs.

An adapter allows most North American style plugs – those with two flat prongs, or two prongs and a round plug – to fit into other electrical outlets, which often take either rectangular prongs or two round plugs, depending on the European country you’re visiting.

When shopping, you’ll notice a choice of continental or British adapters: purchase the continental if you’re visiting Europe, excluding Great Britain. If you’re visiting England, Ireland, or have a stopover in Heathrow where you might want to charge up your laptop or phone, we recommend also picking up a British adapter.

What is a converter?

A converter is used to change wattage from North American standards to European.

A converter allows you to use your electronics with the proper voltage from outlets in the country you’re visiting…without damaging your device. Make sure you are using a converter with the right wattage for your device: your owner’s manual should specify what wattage you should use to safely use your device. Converters use an electronic switch to cut off current received above what the device normally requires (ie. If you’re using a North American 110 voltage device in Europe, where eletrical outlets produce 220 voltage). Before using your laptop, make sure it has the function to automatically detect whether 110 voltage or 220 voltage is needed. If you’re not sure, check the owner’s manual (you can often find these online if you’ve lost yours.)

How do I know what I need?

For the most part, you’re going to see no changes in outlets, and wattage, when travelling within the Caribbean, and central and Southern America. If you’re going on a Europe vacation or to Asia, you’re going to need both an adapter and, depending on your device, a converter. Both of these tools can be found in luggage stores, online, and in stores at international airports. If you arrive at your destination and realize you have the wrong tool, or forgot one, ask at the front desk: many times, these are forgotten when tourists are packing up and checking out because they’re plugged into the outlet, and it’s easy to forget they’re a crucial part of your device while traveling.

If you’re unsure about which voltage is used by the country you’re visiting, and if you need an electricity converter as well as an adapter, visit our tripcentral.ca country pages: we highlight the electricity under “Important Travel Information.” For example, on our Spain vacations page you’ll find the information below our grid on tours, and city-specific vacations:

tripcentral.ca country information on electricity

If you’re still unsure about wattage in different countries, or for any questions on electricity in your travel destination, contact your travel agent at 1-800-665-4981, or by visiting their agent page to see if they’ve first-hand experienced different electrical outlets in the destination you’re considering.