Electricity Abroad

Before you pack up that curling iron or order a voltage converter for that trip abroad, you might need to do a little research, or you could read the following.

Voltage Input
Around the world, all electrical systems are not the same. In the United States we have a 120 volt system and in many foreign countries they have a 230 or 240 volt system, with Japan having a 100 volt system.

Fortunately, most of our electronic devices such a smart phones, iPads, cameras, and laptops are manufactured with an input capacity range of 100 to 240 volts, meaning they will work on the U. S. power grid and in a country that has 240 volts without the need of a voltage converter.

You need to check your charging plug or appliance for the input capacity, especially the voltage (V). It is usually written in very small print and reads something like: “Input 100-240V”. All appliances and devices have the input written on it. If it says, “Input 100-240V”, then it will work anywhere. Your hair-dryer’s input is probably “Input 120V”, so if you carry it to another country on a 240V system, you will fry it!

Plug Adapters
You will need a plug adapter. The electrical outlet configurations are different all over the world. Most likely you will need a plug adapter when traveling to another country.

The adapters are specified by type. For instance, the plug configuration for the United Kingdom is “Type G” and one of the types for India is “Type D”. You can order one on Amazon.com or other suppliers and they are relatively inexpensive. You can search the adapter type for your destination online. For a complete list of plug types by country, you can click here.

There are some universal adapters available that have many adapter types on the same device. Some people like these but they seem a little bulky to me. I prefer the simple adapters for the specific country. Since they are fairly inexpensive, consider getting two plug adapters. You can purchase plug adapters that have USB ports on the device which is a great option.

Voltage Converters
Voltage should be your major concern, so check your voltage input capacity. Personally, I would not purchase a voltage converter. Again, check the voltage input and if it is 100-240V you are good to go practically anywhere in the world. Most electronic devices have this wide range of voltage capability.

You should not be overly concerned about the amperage (amps); the device will generally pull the amps that it needs.

Hertz Frequency
The third electrical input variance would be the Hertz frequency; most electrical devices have a 50-60 Hz range of input that works anywhere. In the United States, our electrical system is 60Hz. As a traveler, I would not be concerned about the Hertz frequency range.

Power Banks
The major need for travelers will be charging cell phones, tablets, and some cameras. I never travel without a power bank which is basically an external battery for devices. I always carry one that has 10000mAh (about four iPhone recharges) and I often carry one that has 22400mAh (about nine charges). They are rechargeable with a micro USB charger cable.

Power banks come in a variety of sizes. They typically range from 2500mAh to 25000mAh (“mAh” means milli-Amp-hours). To keep this simple, it takes about 2500 mAh to charge an iPhone that has about 20 percent battery charge. So, if you had a small power bank of 2500, you could recharge about one time or if you had a 25000 mAh power bank, you could charge your iPhone about ten times. When you charge a tablet or iPad, it will take more energy, therefore you will get considerably less recharges out of your power bank.

One thing to keep in mind, power banks are lithium batteries and TSA requires all lithium batteries to be in your carry-on or personal item bag. It is against TSA regulations to put any lithium battery in your checked bag.

USB Ports
The USB ports on chargers, power banks, or any device will have an output of about 5V regardless of the voltage input. However, the output amperage is rated at 1 amp or 2.4 amp depending on the port; they are sometimes labeled “1A” or “2.4A” and sometimes as “iPhone” or “iPad”.

Tablets and iPads need to charge on a 2.4 amp port to charge at a decent rate. In my experience, the USB charging ports on airplanes and in cars will charge a phone but not a tablet or iPad. It is my understanding that using a 2.4 amp USB port will not damage a smartphone because it will pull only about 1 amp. Even though a tablet is usually charged on a 2 or 2.4 amp port, it will safely charge on 1 amp port but it will charge considerably slower.

Disclaimer: I am not an electrician or an electronic technician. I am just a traveler who loves gadgets. Please do your own research or ask a certified technician concerning electrical/electronic information.

Enjoy the journey!


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