“What’s the difference between travel adapters and converters? Will I need one or both when I travel overseas?” Those are two questions that we hear over and over. And for good reason – it can sound confusing! But the answers are pretty simple:
An adapter changes the SHAPE of the plug. A converter converts the VOLTAGE. You most likely need an adapter and maybe a converter as well.
Travel Plug Adapters
An adapter ONLY changes the SHAPE of the plug so that you can plug the device into the outlet. It does nothing to change the electrical flow to your device. Here’s an example from Italy:
Travel Power / Voltage Converters
A converter CONVERTS the VOLTAGE of a device (but not necessarily the shape of the plug).
US devices are powered by 110 voltage. In Europe, outlets usually have 220 voltage – that’s enough to fry your curling iron or hair dryer if it’s not made to function on both voltages. If your device cannot handle dual voltage, you need a converter.
Converters are usually bigger and heavier than adapters – this one is like a tiny brick!
Video Demonstration in Ireland
Here is a video of us in Ireland showing you the difference between adapters and converters. Also, at about 2:00 in, we accidentally blow up a hair dryer. Um, yeah….don’t be us.
How do I check to see if my device will work overseas without a converter?
Your device should say the range of voltage it can handle. This should be on a sticker or on the plug or device itself. Some devices are internationally compliant and can handle the voltage (my iPhone charger is fine to use without a converter). Others WILL NOT and you will need to purchase a converter or use a different device. (Kinda’s Chi straightener actually started smoking in Wales and was destroyed. She now travels with a tiny straightener that is made to handle both voltages).
See below for examples of devices and what is needed for each.