Travel Voltage

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Travel Voltage: a reader asks…

Hi there! I live in the USA and am traveling to the UK soon, staying in hotels mostly. I want to use my iPhone, iPad and Mac, along with their various chargers, et.al. Is there anything special I need to do or buy?

When traveling internationally, you will encounter different types of plug styles, and more importantly, different voltages and cycles (that’s the rate at which alternating current switches, expressed in cycles per second). In the US, the plug type is two flat blades facing each other (one usually fatter than the other), and sometimes a 3rd round prong underneath (the ground). For voltage/cycles: in the US it’s usually 110 volts and 60 cycles. Where you’re going, it’s:

  • us-uk-plug-adapterPlug shape: three thicker blades in roughly the same triangle, but angled differently.
  • Voltage/Cycles: 240 volts and 50 cycles

I think you’ll find that with a few exceptions, all your devices will work just fine in the UK, as long as you use plug adapters. These have the UK blades on the end that goes in the socket, and will have one or more US plug sockets that will take your appliances.

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You should take a look at the label on all your various chargers and such, and make sure the label shows that it will accept the full voltage range from 110-240, and will accept 50-60 cycles. You’ll also see an amperage number, often showing as 1A, 2.1A, etc. which doesn’t matter so much.
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Most of the items you’ll take with you on your trip are going to be dual-voltage, meaning they work no matter if the voltage is 110 or 240, or if the cycles are 50 or 60. There are a few exceptions, so be sure to check the label on each item you want to bring. Two items that are commonly not dual-voltage capable are:

  1. Electric toothbrush chargers
  2. Hair Dryers

The good news is that many of the better hotels now have bathroom outlets that include both a UK and US type of outlet. This is especially true of hotels in major cities and resorts, the type of places where tourists visit from the US often. If your plug fits the outlet without needing an adapter, most likely that outlet is set for US voltage and cycles.

For your dual-voltage capable chargers and such, a simple plug adapter is all that’s needed, such as this set from Amazon.com. It’s probably a good idea to bring along a few of these, for as many devices as you need to plug in at the same time. You can also bring a power strip if you’ve room in your luggage.

bestec-universal-voltage-converter-adapter-set

If you’ve just got to have 100 volts/60 cycles, then a plug adapter won’t do – and if you try to use it, you would probably damage your device and might cause a fire! There’s where you’d need a voltage converter, such as this one. These kits are of course cost more than a simple plug adapter, but usually come with enough different types of plug shapes so they’ll fit most anywhere in the world, not just where you’re going.

Just a final hint of warning: you should be using Apple-certified chargers and cables for your Apple devices. If you were tempted into buying cheap knockoffs, you should know that they can be a serious hazard, with the potential to cause fires and/or ruin your Apple devices.

 

 

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