Travel adapter or converter

Posted by Martin Parker on

Travel adapter vs converter

Traveling the world is one of life’s great adventures and something most people have an urge to do. More than ever, people are capturing those special moments on their smartphone or tablet cameras, but how do you make sure your devices are always charged? Simple, make sure you always carry a multi-country travel adapter.

Travel adapters or power convertors

However, being able to connect your devices to the local power supply is one thing, but have you considered the voltage and frequency? No? Then you need to!

Connecting a device designed for a 120V electrical supply will almost certainly result in damage to the item. It could even be dangerous. So making sure is important.

Travel adapters and power converters serve two distinct purposes.

Travel adapters

So what does the term travel adapter mean? It means an adapter to allow you to plug in your devices into a different electrical socket when traveling.

There are 14 different plug and socket combinations listed on the International Electrotechnical Commission website. Choosing the right adapter is critical. If you are just visiting one country or multiple countries with the same socket type, then a cheap single adapter will work.

But for most people, a multi-country travel adapter makes more sense. First, you can use it in many more countries, hence the name, and second, it may offer additional features such as USB connections.

Travel adapter for worldwide travel


Power converters

There are 2 ranges of voltages used in the world, either 100V-127V or 220V-240V. Devices built to operate only within one of the ranges will not work correctly when connected to the other voltage range.

Permanent damage is likely to occur if you plug in an item designed for the lower range into a higher range socket. The other way around is also not advised!

The 100V-127V range is mainly used in North America and some parts of Asia, but the 220V-240V dominates most of the world in terms of the number of countries.

When you travel, it’s important to check the voltage of the electrical system in the country you are visiting. The frequency of the supply is not so important, just bear in mind that not everything will operate as you expect on a different frequency. This relates mainly to items that have timing devices built in that rely on the frequency.

One thing to point out here is the difference between AC and DC supplies. The above description relates to AC supplies from the mains sockets. Portable devices operate on DC voltage and most modern devices will charge from a 5VDC supply via a USB connection.

On a travel adapter that has USB connections, it doesn't matter what the supply voltage is, the USB connection will always give 5VDC and you can safely charge your smartphone and tablet etc.

Check if you need a power converter

There is an easy way to check whether you will need a power converter.

First, can you charge the item using a USB connection? If so, then a travel adapter that offers USB connections will work in any country. This is because a USB socket supplies 5VDC regardless of which country and your travel adapter will convert from the local supply to 5V. On a DC voltage, there is no frequency to worry about.

Second, if you item needs to plug into the electrical supply socket, you need to check the acceptable input voltage. Either on the item or in the manual, there will be a statement like, “Input: 100V-xxxV”. If the xxx is 127V, then you need a power converter. If the xxx is 240V then your item is fine in any country and you just need a travel adapter.

The final possibility is if your item says “Input: 220V-240V”. In this case, your item may be okay in lower voltage areas, but to be on the safe side it is advisable to use a power converter.

Power converters can be heavy and bulky, so it may make sense to leave the item behind.

Summary

Traveling with electrical items can sometimes need a little preparation. First, do you need a travel adapter to connect the item to the electrical supply? Second, can you charge all your items through USB connections? If so, then a travel adapter with USB connections is all you need.

Last, do you need a power converter? If so consider not taking the item as the power converter is another item to carry with you.

For travel adapters, the Sublime multi-country travel adapter converts to many countries and provides up to 4 USB connections for charging all your devices.


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