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Traveling abroad? You’ll need a travel adapter to use your electronics. However, attempting to understand the difference between travel adaptors, converters, and voltage conversion is extremely confusing. We’re here to help! Read this easy guide on voltage converters vs travel adapters for a simplified explanation!
Voltage Converter vs. Travel Adapter
Table Of Contents
There are two very important things you need to know about traveling with electronics. First, the plug you use at home may not work in a wall socket when traveling because different countries have different plug shapes.
Second, you can’t use some of your electronics while traveling unless they’re dual voltage because countries such as the USA and Canada have 120V electricity while destinations in Europe have 220V electricity.
One reader sums up the difference perfectly: “In simple terms, the adapter makes your device fit in the holes. The converter changes the electric power going into it.” Just remember that they’re two different devices (there’s no such thing as a travel adapter converter!) This is when you need to know the difference between adapter and converter. Here, we explain the popular adapter vs converter question.
Here’s a quick guide on Travel Adaptors, Converters and Voltage:
- What is voltage?
- What is dual voltage?
- How do travel adapters work?
- How do converters work?
- Traveling with a hair dryer or straightener
- Traveling with a laptop or tablet
Best Travel Adapter with USB Ports: International Adapter for Multiple Countries
What is voltage?
Voltage refers to electricity; different countries have different types of electricity, meaning you need to consider voltage conversion. This means that your electronics are the same voltage as the country in which you bought them so if you take them to another country, they may not work.
If you plug a 120V device into a wall socket that’s meant for 220V (or vice versa) you will blow out a fuse in your device and possibly also the building.
Your hair tools such as blow dryers, wands, curling irons and straighteners use up a large amount of electricity so it’s particularly important that they are used with the correct voltage.
In order to travel with your electronics (and hair tools) you need two things: for the item to be dual voltage and you’ll also need to use a travel adapter so your plug can fit into the sockets in another country. Or, you need a voltage converter, which we’ll talk about later.
Visit this website for a full list of voltage by country.
Best Dual Voltage Hair Straightener: BaBylissPRO Nano Titanium Mini Straightening Iron
What is dual voltage?
Some electronics are designed so they can be used in different countries. This means they’ll be labeled as ‘dual-voltage’. Dual voltage electronics have two options: 110-120V and 220-240V. They are ideal for travel because they are safe to use at home and abroad, too.
Some electronics, such as newer Macbooks and iPhones have dual voltage that automatically adjust in their destination. However, you may need to adjust the voltage manually by moving an external switch in certain items such as hair tools.
If your device isn’t dual voltage, you’re better off leaving it at home. However, most modern devices such as phones and laptops already have a dual voltage capability built in.
Best Travel Adapter with Multiple Power Ports: Travel Power Adapter Kits by Ceptics
How do travel adapters work?
A travel adapter (sometimes called a travel plug converter) enables you to plug your electronics into walls with different sockets than the one used by your country. Not all countries use the same type of plug so I recommend you buy an international adapter.
The US uses a plug with two flat vertical prongs whereas the UK uses a plug with one top vertical prong and two bottom horizontal prongs. You need a travel adapter so your plug fits into the socket of a different country.
You can buy individual travel adapters for each country you plan to visit, or you can just buy one international travel adapter that will work for most parts of the world.
It’s important to note that people tend to confuse the term “travel adapter” and “travel converter” but these are not the same thing.
Visit this power outlet guide for travelers to see a full list of plugs and outlets by country.
Travel Adapter for USB Only: USB Wall Plug Travel Adapter
A travel power adapter or European converter adapter fits the plug into the wall socket, while travel converters change the electrical current from 120V to 220V or vice versa. The only time you’ll need an international converter is if you’re traveling with a device that is not dual voltage.
Best Travel Converter with Adapter Functionality: World Travel Adapter and Converter Combo
How do converters work?
So what is a voltage converter exactly? If it’s not the same thing as a travel adapter then what is it?
If your electronics are not dual voltage, an international power converter (also called a transformer, voltage adapter, or international voltage converter) could be used. However, voltage converters tend to be large, heavy devices so they are less practical for travel. If your device isn’t dual voltage it requires a converter so it’s best to leave it at home, particularly if it’s a hair tool.
Because blow dryers and flat irons require a large amount of power, look for products with dual voltage options. Keep in mind that this does not guarantee your hair styling tool will work as well abroad as it does at home, even with the dual voltage setting.
As one reader says, “I wouldn’t recommend using a hair dryer with a travel power converter. It’s very likely you will still blow a fuse, or worse, knock out power for half the hotel! You could also fry your device by doing this.”
Another adds, “Personally, I don’t recommend a travel electric converter. I’ve seen too many devices ruined when the power voltage converter fails. Either bring items that are dual voltage or leave them at home.”
While there are some travel-friendly converters like this one, they’re usually only good for products up to 50 watts (hair tools are higher than this).
Best Dual Voltage Travel Dryer: BaBylissPRO Nano Titanium Travel Dryer
Can I use my hair dryer or straightener abroad?
If it’s dual voltage, yes! Because blow dryers and flat irons (straighteners) require a large amount of power, look for products with dual voltage options. Keep in mind that this not guarantee your hair styling tool will work as well abroad as it does at home, even with the dual voltage setting. Flat irons may be okay but hair dryers tend to experience more issues.
One reader says, “You definitely need a dual voltage for a hair dryer. You can use 240 volt hair tongs on 110 setting. It just takes longer but you can’t do it the other way round. A hair dryer will simply blow up and fuse the place too. My ex did that and it fused the entire chalet!”
If you don’t have a dual voltage hair dryer or straightener, consider leaving it at home. Many women prefer to just purchase hair styling tools in their destination to avoid problems. Always check with your accommodation first to see if they have one so you can avoid needing a universal adapter and converter.
Tip: A well groomed mane adds the perfect touch to your carefully planned travel outfit!
Read these posts for travel hair tool recommendations:
- Travel Blow Dryers
- Dual Voltage Flat Irons
- Travel Size Curling Irons
- Travel Friendly Hot Dryer Brush
Best Travel Adapter for Mac Laptops: Apple World Travel Adapter Kit
Can I use my laptop or tablet abroad?
Check the voltage on your product. If it says 110-120V then you’ll need an outlet converter to use it (and vice versa) but a travel converter can be a large heavy object to pack. Ideally, if your item reads 100-240V, you’re good to go!
Most laptops have this type of voltage so you are usually able to use them worldwide. To be sure, check the power supply or search online to read your specific devices spec details. If not, keep in mind your converter vs adapter needs.
International Travel Adapter with Two USB Posts
Choose a travel adapter like this one, which allows you to charge your laptop, tablet, and phone all at once!
Product Comparison Chart
|BRAND | MODEL||FEATURES | REVIEWS||RATING | PRICE|
|International Adapter for Multiple Countries||Best Travel Adapter with USB Ports||Check Price|
|BaBylissPRO Nano Titanium Mini Straightening Iron||Best Dual Voltage Hair Straightener||Check Price|
|Travel Power Adapter Kits by Ceptics||Best Travel Adapter with Multiple Power Ports||Check Price|
|LENCENT 4 Port USB Travel Power Adapter||Travel Adapter for USB Only||Check Price|
|World Travel Adapter and Converter Combo||Best Travel Converter with Adapter Functionality||Check Price|
|BaBylissPRO Nano Titanium Travel Dryer||Best Dual Voltage Travel Dryer||Check Price|
|Apple World Travel Adapter Kit||Best Travel Adapter for Mac Laptops||Check Price|
Remember, an adaptor like the one shown above doesn’t convert voltage, it just allows you to plug in your electronics to the local outlet. Always check the voltage of your camera and phone chargers as well.
Do you have any questions about traveling with a travel adaptor vs travel converter? Comment below!
For more travel trips, please read:
- Travel Cord Organizer Options
- Bose QuietComfort 20 Headphone
- Best Reading Device for Travel
- Best Travel Product Recommendations
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We purchased power adapters for Egypt, and we have a power converter. To use the converter, do we plug it into a power adapter?
Hi, I’m travelling to Aruba out of Canada and staying at a friend’s condo. He says the plugs in his condo are the same as in Canada. However I’m concerned about plugging my hearing aid charger. Do you recommend I take anything extra, just in case?
Hi Mary, I’m afraid I can’t really help you with this as I’m not sure and I don’t want to give you the wrong answer. To get the best advice, I would highly recommend that you join our TFG facebook group and post your question there: https://www.facebook.com/groups/travelfashiongirls/ Its a fabulous community of helpful female travelers that love to share their feedback and knowledge.
Have an amazing time!
If I have a 220v device from the UK and I want to use it in North America, how do I go about charging it?
So if you needed to use both, can you plug the adapter into the wall and then the converter into the adapter and then plug your devices into the converter?
Hi Linda, thank you for reaching out. That is correct, but you can also get a Travel Adapter and Converter Combo to save you having to pack two items such as the TryAce Travel Adapter and Converter set featured on the post. You may also find this video helpful for explaining adapters and voltage: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dXQBSo_7AaA Hope this helps you with your question. Happy travels! ?
Hello, I have Samsung Galaxy Note 4.. Is this need converter and adapter? I’m confuse! Please Help.
Hi Karen, thank you for reaching out. You would only need a converter if your phone is not dual voltage. Dual voltage electronics have two options: 110-120V and 220-240V. They are ideal for travel because they are safe to use at home and abroad, too. However, most modern devices such as phones and laptops already have a dual voltage capability built in. Just to be sure, search online to read about your specific devices spec details or check your charger and see if it says 100-240 volts, and if it does then you do not need a converter to charger your phone, just your adapter. You may also find this video helpful for explaining adapters and voltage: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dXQBSo_7AaA If your phone has a usb charger then it will be fine to charge abroad if your adapter also has a USB port. I would also highly recommend that you join our TFG facebook group and post your question there about charging your phone abroad: https://www.facebook.com/groups/travelfashiongirls/ Its a fabulous community of helpful female travelers that have the best advice and recommendations to share. Hope this helps. Happy travels! ?
So I will be traveling to Switzerland and Italy. I don’t use hair tools and most likely will just need my phone charged.
I assume I will just need an adapter. Do you have a recommendation for an adapter that has both Italy and Switzerland prongs?
Hi Stephanie, for a travel adapter this one is really popular for TFG readers and can be used across Europe: https://amzn.to/3GvtLkJ
You might find this guide helpful to learn which plug shape to use for the different countries:
Have an awesome time on your travels!
I bought the BaByliss dual voltage travel hair dryer and the Compass Rose adapter and I just want to make sure that they can be used together. It seems all the adapters say you can’t use them with a hair dryer. We are going to Switzerland, Scotland and Ireland. Thanks in advance for your help!
Hi Kimberly, thank you for your question. If you have a dual voltage hairdryer which has two option: 110-120V and 220-240V, then you do `NOT need a converter to change the voltage, you just need to use your adapter. Dual voltage hair dryers are ideal for travel because they are safe to use at home and abroad and the BaByliss dual voltage hair dryer is one of the most popular travel hair dryers amongst our readers. Just to make you aware, however that with some electronics such as hair tools you need to adjust the voltage manually by moving a switch. You may also find this video helpful for explaining adapters and voltage: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dXQBSo_7AaA Hope this helps answer your question. Thank you for your support with the CR travel adapter! ? Have an amazing trip! ?
I purchased a teakettle from amazon made in China it has a eu plug and 220-240 v and 1500 watts. What can I use for converter and adapter in one plug help
This teakettle is to be used in US not EU
Hi Barbara, thank you for reaching out. I am afraid that we do not have any recommendations to share for a converter to work in the US. I would highly recommend that you join our TFG facebook group and post your question there: https://www.facebook.com/groups/travelfashiongirls/ Its a fabulous community of helpful female travelers that have the best advice and recommendations to share and I am sure one of our amazing members would be able to help you. Sorry I could not have been of more help ?
Can you use a combination adapter/converter to charge your dual voltage electronic items without damaging them? Have several electronic devices to charge on my trip, some dual voltage, some not.
Hi Frederique, thank you for reaching out. I am not entirely sure and I wouldn’t want to give you the wrong advice. You would need to be careful with your converter as they can be potentially damaging to your electronics. I would highly recommend that you join our TFG facebook group and post any questions you have there: https://www.facebook.com/groups/travelfashiongirls/ Its a fabulous community of helpful female travelers that have the best advice and recommendations to share. Sorry I could not have been of more help.
Does the older Iphone 6 or 6s have dual voltage. Traveling to France and need to know
Hi Michele, your iPhone should be dual voltage so would only need a travel adapter to work in France. But just check that it is marked with a 100-240 volt notation, it should tell you on the tiny fine print on the plug end, it should read “110-240V 50-60Hz” which means it will work on most common electrical systems around the world without a converter. Newer iPhones have dual voltage that automatically adjust in their destination. Hope this helps. Have an awesome trip to France! ?
On a wall adapter (not voltage converter) that has USB ports, can *any* USB charged device plug into those without a converter? Or just Apple/Cell phones?
Hi Rachel, it would depend if the device you are charging is dual voltage or not. If it is not dual voltage then you would need a converter to change the electrical current from 120V to 220V. Apple phones are dual voltage which is why you do not need to use a converter along with the travel adapter. Electronics which are dual voltage should be labeled as ‘dual-voltage’ and have two options: 110-120V and 220-240V and some dual voltage products will have a switch. If they don’t, then it might be already be something that happens automatically such as with a Macbook. Hope this helps. Happy travels!
Hi! I bought a small hot plate from China for use at our temple here in the USA. The plug is a type I plug and it’s 220v. So do I need both an adapter for the plug and a converter for the voltage?
The TryAce one does not seem like it has a spot to insert a type I plug— or am I mistaken?
Hi Stephanie, if you have a dual voltage hot plate which has two option: 110-120V and 220-240V, then you do `NOT need a converter to change the voltage, you just need to use an adapter. The USA has 120V electricity while other destinations, such as Europe, have 220V electricity. So if you plug a 120V device into a wall socket that’s meant for 220V (or vice versa) you will blow out a fuse in your device and possibly also the building.
If your electronics are not dual voltage, has two options: 110-120V and 220-240V, an international power converter (also called a transformer, voltage adapter, or international voltage converter) could be used. BUT BE AWARE when using a converter, as some products use a lot of electric it can cause the product to not work as efficiently or also blow a fuse.
I have had a look and it does appear that the TryAce does fit electrical outlet type I: https://amzn.to/2WNRold
copied directly from it’s Amazon page: “2000W Voltage Converter contains 3 international plug (UK/AU/US/EU Plug)which fits electrical outlet of type A,B,C,D,E,F,G,H,I,J,K,L,M,N over 190 countries(up to 2000W), like most of Europe,Argentina,Ireland,Israel,Italy,UK,France,European,Australia, China, HongKong, etc”
Hope this helps!
What is the donut shaped adapter that I see in your pictures?
Hi Cassie, I think you are referring to the Mogics Bagel Universal Travel Power Strip which you can find here: https://amzn.to/2OuDoXc If this is not the one you meant then please let me know. Hope this helps!
So in this technological age, there is not a combined device that serves as both an adapter and converter?
Hi Holly, thank you for your question. Have a look at the TryAce 1875W World Travel Adapter and Converter Combo: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B079K4MY3M/ref=as_li_ss_tl?tag=travelfcom0a-20&psc=1&pd_rd_i=B079K4MY3Mp13NParams&smid=A3HFBWPQ05BXCC&linkId=eafb3484c2badf2b5ae67bfb7055f3a5&language=en_US Hope this helps! 🙂
Where will this be stated?
Hi Evelyn, thank you for your comment. I was just checking so I can give you the correct response to your question, where will what be stated? 🙂
How do I find out if my electronics are dual voltage?
Hi Mark, it depends on the electronics. Electronics which are dual voltage should be labeled as ‘dual-voltage’. Dual voltage electronics have two options: 110-120V and 220-240V. They are ideal for travel because they are safe to use at home and abroad, too. Some electronics, such as newer Macbooks and iPhones have dual voltage that automatically adjust in their destination. Hope this answers your question! 🙂
Mark, it’s usually imprinted on the device & sometimes it’s very hard to read unless you have great lighting. Look where the UL label is imprinted/located.
Question: I have an Adapter & Router. The info is AC Input: 100-240V 6AMax USB Output:5V Max 2400mA(smart) not voltage converter of AC to AC. Is this just an adapter and I need a converter for my phone?