European plug adapter
In the world we live in today electrical devices have gone from luxuries to essentials at times life saving. Unfortunately the world electrical system wasn’t created to make the life of travelers easier. Simple plug adapters can solve many of the issues if your device itself can handle the electrical current provided by the outlet. The remaining problem is figuring out which plug adapter you need for which European outlet.
UK to EU adapter
Fortunately for British readers life is far easier. A simple European plug adapter is all that’s needed. No need to worry about voltage since you’ll find the same 220V 50Hz that you have at home. It will be far easier to buy a plug adapter before you leave home so definitely do this before leaving. The items are small and relatively inexpensive. It makes sense to have an extra or two in case one gets lost during your travels.
European plug adapter for North Americans
Plug adapters for North American devices will adapt the plug to European outlets. They will not adapt the electrical current. The differences in electrical current require you to make sure your device is capable of handling the different voltage. If you plug a simple 110V device into a 220V outlet you will likely destroy the device. Do NOT plug anything into an outlet without FIRST making sure the device can handle the voltage.
European electrical requirements
European electrical outlets provide 220V 50Hz electricity. North American electrical outlets provide 110V 60Hz. It is possible to buy travel adapters that will convert (step down) European 220V to 110V but today they rarely make sense. Small travel adapters can only provide enough power for small devices. The same small devices that today are often sold with universal voltage power supplies. It’s highly likely that your phone,tablet,computer and potentially many other smaller devices came with a power supply that can accept a range of electrical inputs without any problem.
Large travel adapters that can provide enough power for larger devices (For example a hairdryer) are large,heavy and expensive. They are also inefficient. Unless you have an appliance that you must travel with for health reasons do not even think about buying a large step down convertor. These large adapters are the equivalent of traveling with a few bricks in your suitcase.
Understanding your devices power requirements
If you look at the image closely you’ll see
100-240v 50/60Hz 5w
The first part 100-240v is the voltage range the device can handle. If you remember North American electricity is 110V while European is 220V. Both 110 and 220V are in the range this device can handle. You can ignore the Hz number for the most part. Mechanical clocks would have a problem with the wrong frequency but very little else. The next bit on the other hand is important. This device needs 5 watts of power. 5 watts is a very low power device. Most light bulbs in your home are much higher then that.
Your device should have a similar information plate on it. You will usually find it on the power supply or charger. Make sure the device you’re hoping to bring mentions a voltage range that can handle 220V.
Caveat about voltage
Some older devices have a voltage switch. If your device has a switch you’ll need to flip it to 220V when you arrive in Europe. Remember to flip it back to 110V when you return home.
Once you have made sure your device can handle 220V the only thing left is to get a plug adapter. For lower powered devices the correct European plug adapter is the simple two pin device. This will work across much of Europe. It can handle all your low powered devices and will fit the vast majority of European outlets .
For all those small low powered devices all you need is that simple small inexpensive plug adapter. You don’t need an universal adapter. You don’t need something that promises to change your life. All you need is the relatively tiny adapter that will fit in your pocket.
High power European plug adapter
If for some reason you must bring a high power appliance I’d strongly suggest you get a plug adapter rated for the higher current draw. The small two pin is not intended for high power use .
The simplest choice is a Schuko plug adapter. This will work in Germany,France and in large parts of Europe. In Italy you may find a Schuko outlet in bathrooms. Today the outlets are relatively common in hotel bathrooms but less so elsewhere. These plugs can handle literally the whole house.
I would like to suggest if all you’re worried about is your hairdryer to check with your hotel before departure. They often provide a hairdryer. If they don’t or you are staying in an apartment hair dryers can be purchased locally for not much money.
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It’s likely many of the smaller devices you are traveling with are capable of being charged by a generic USB charger. This will include your phone,tablet but also cameras and even some computers. A multi port USB charger can make your life easier. One charger and one adapter plug to deal with.