Are you about to embark on an international journey? Aside from your passport, travel itinerary, and luggage, there's a small but very useful piece of tech that should be on your packing checklist — the travel adaptor. This simple device can be the key to keeping you connected, entertained, and on schedule while exploring foreign lands. Navigating through the world of plug types, voltages, and device compatibility may seem daunting. But don’t worry - we’ve got your back! In this guide about travel adaptors, we take you through everything you need to know to select an adaptor that will power your journey.
Do I Need a Travel Adaptor?
Yes, in most cases, you need a travel adaptor when traveling internationally. A travel adaptor is designed to ensure your electronics can connect to different types of electrical outlets around the world. Different countries use different types of wall outlets which are not only shaped differently, but often have different standards of voltage and frequency. Hence, your home plugs may not fit into outlets in a foreign country. A travel adaptor works by converting the shape of your device's plug into a shape that matches the foreign outlets, allowing the plug to fit in. Keep in mind, travel adapters do not convert the electrical voltage or frequency - more on this further down.
Types of Travel Adaptors
Regional Travel Adaptors
Regional travel adaptors are designed for a specific type of outlet, making them a simple choice when traveling to a specific country or region where the outlets are all the same. While they're generally more affordable, the limitation is that they offer less flexibility for future travels to other regions. If you frequently travel or plan to visit countries with different outlet types, investing in a multi-region or universal travel adaptor could be more worth it.
Universal Travel Adaptors
Universal travel adaptors come with multiple plug types and can be adjusted to fit a wide variety of global outlets, accommodating various socket shapes. This versatility makes them a handy travel accessory for globetrotters, despite usually being a bit pricier than single-region adaptors. They’re pretty much a 'one-size-fits-all' solution. These adaptors come with multiple built-in plug standards, allowing them to be used in most parts of North America, Europe, Asia, and many other regions. Universal adaptors simplify things although they are slightly pricier and bulkier. If you frequently travel to different countries however, the pay off will be worth it.
Inbound vs. Outbound Adaptors
Inbound and outbound are terms used to indicate the direction in which the adaptor is being used. Inbound adaptors are adaptors used by travelers coming into a country or region from elsewhere. For instance, travellers coming from the US into NZ would be looking for an inbound adaptor. This would have the NZ plug pins that plugs into NZ power sockets, such as this one.
On the other hand, outbound adaptors are used by people leaving a country to visit another with different electrical systems. For example, if you were leaving NZ and going to the US, you would look for an outbound power adaptor. This would have the US plug pins that plug into US power sockets. This one has interchangeable plug pins making it a great universal outbound adaptor.
Whether an adaptor is termed inbound or outbound depends on the reference point (your home country or the country you're visiting). Please note that these terms aren't universally standard and might not be used by all manufacturers or retailers. What's most important is that you select an adaptor that allows the plug of your device to fit into the wall outlets of the country you are visiting.
What About Voltage?
Something else you’ll want to consider is the voltage difference between countries. Travel adaptors do not convert electricity - it only allows your plug to fit into a different type of wall socket. Electrical systems vary around the world, both in type of current, alternating current (AC) vs direct current (DC), and plug design. Some countries use 110-120 voltage range at 60 Hz frequency (like the U.S. and Canada), while others operate on 220-240 voltage range at 50 Hz (like most of Europe, Asia, Africa and Australia). If you're using a device that is not dual-voltage and doesn't match the voltage and frequency of the country you're in, then you will need a voltage converter (not just an adaptor) to prevent damaging your device. You will be able to check the voltage capacity on your electronic devices or in their user manual.
When don’t you need a voltage converter
If the voltage range of your device covers the voltage used in the country you're traveling to, you only need an adaptor to match the plug shape, not a voltage converter. Many modern electronic devices have built-in converters and can handle a range of voltages from 110 to 240 volts. These dual-voltage devices automatically adapt to the different voltages supplied in countries around the world.
Dual voltage devices are designed to operate efficiently on different voltage standards, meaning they should work at the same performance level regardless of whether they are plugged into a 110-volt source or a 240-volt source. However, certain factors can sometimes impact charging speed. In general, though, as long as your device is dual-voltage and you're using the correct travel adaptor, your device should maintain its standard charging speed.
When you do need a voltage converter
Some electronics may be rated for a specific voltage. In these cases, using the device with a voltage it's not rated for can cause damage to your electronics and may be dangerous. For example, devices designed for 120 volts can potentially be damaged or 'blown' if plugged directly into outlets providing 220-240 volts, like those typically found in Europe, Australia and New Zealand. This could overload and harm the device, and such incidents are common with devices that generate heat, like hair dryers and hair straighteners. In these cases, you would also need a voltage converter to adapt the higher voltage to the lower voltage that your device is designed to handle.
Something else to keep in mind is that even with a voltage converter, some high-wattage electronics might still not work optimally due to differences in frequency (Hz), especially devices with electric motors. For more sophisticated electronics, you will need a transformer. It's always best to do thorough research beforehand if you’re unsure.
Voltages for different countries and regions
We recommend doing some additional research into voltages for the specific countries or regions you are traveling to. This will help ensure you are prepared with the right adaptors and converters for your trip! Click here for a comprehensive list of different countries and their voltages and frequencies.
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Frequently Asked Questions
Are New Zealand and Australian power plugs the same?
Yes, both Australia and New Zealand use Type I plugs and outlets. Type I plugs have three flat pins - two of them forming a V-shape and a grounding pin. This is also the same as the Pacific Islands.
Do I need a travel adaptor or converter for Australia from New Zealand?
As both Australia and New Zealand use Type I plugs and have a 230V voltage, you will not need an adaptor or voltage converter to use your electronics in Australia or vice versa.
What kind of travel adaptor do I need for Europe?
Does the UK and Europe use the same power plug?
No, the UK uses a Type G plug while European countries typically use Type C plugs. We recommend picking of up one of these outbound travel adaptors for the UK.
What kind of travel adaptor do I need for North America?
Can I plug a higher voltage appliance into a lower voltage electrical system?
While it's technically possible to operate a device designed for a higher voltage (e.g. 240V) in a country with a lower voltage (e.g. 120V), it's not advisable. Doing so will often result on substandard performance or most importantly, it could potentially harm the device, especially over time. This is because a device designed for a higher voltage is expecting a certain level of electrical "pressure" to operate optimally. When plugged into a lower-voltage outlet, that electrical pressure isn't there, which can result in the device not functioning as intended. For example, a charger may take much longer to charge a battery. Devices that generate heat (like curling irons or hair dryers) may not heat up sufficiently, affecting their functionality. Even worse, they might draw more current from the power supply to compensate for the lack of voltage, which could overheat the device or even cause a fire.
What is the difference between an adaptor and converter for travel?
An adaptor is used to allow a plug from one country to fit into a socket in another. It does not convert the electrical output such as voltage and frequency. A converter, on the other hand, transforms the voltage and frequency to match that of the device's requirement. It is used when a device cannot support a country's standard voltage and frequency. For example, you would need a converter if you were to use a device designed for 110 volts in a country with a voltage supply of 220 volts.