Going abroad: Do I need a converter or an adapter?

greg's picture
Tagged:  •    •  

I frequently am asked "when going abroad, do I need a converter or an adapter or both?"

What is a power converter?

A converter takes energy from the wall in one format and turns it into another. So, in Argentina the power is 220-240v, 50 Hz, AC. That means the voltage is 220 to 240 and it comes in 50 alternating cycles per second. For comparison the United States of America is 120 volts at 60hz. You can see different standard power measure from around the world at http://www.kropla.com/electric2.htm

Now, will that work for you? Most electrical products should say in tiny little writing something like

Input: 100-240v, 50-60hz.
Output: 6.5-18.5v, 4.6A max.

So, look at the rating for the country you are going to and then look at the acceptable inputs on your device. If your device says it only works from 100-120 volts and you are going to a place that puts out 220 volts you will need a converter to turn the 220 into 120.

What is a power adapter?

An adapter just takes the plug on your current device and changes the shape of the metal so it will connect to another plug. So, if the country you are going to has different shaped plugs (hint: they usually do unless they are direct neighbors) then you will always need an adapter.

Ultimate combo: converter, adapter, power strip

So, you're bringing along 2 adapters, but a slightly better alternative is to bring 1 adapter and a power strip that you plug into your adapter and then you plug your 3 or 4 devices into that one power strip.

I have had dozens of times in airports where there are people huddled like hawks around power outlets waiting for someone to finish charging or board their plane. I just unplug someone, pop in my little triple-outlet-power-strip, plug the first person back into mine, and get a grateful friend in the form of a person who can now use the third outlet in my strip. Brilliant!

Hi Greg, Interesting post regarding converters and adaptors. I read while a was checking a Buenos Aires travel guide that for traveling there you just need an adaptor and a converter if you come from the US or Canada, because they use 220v instead of the 110v of the US.

greg's picture

As I said in my post, you only need a converter if the device you are plugging in is not able to handle the 220v that Argentina provides. Most devices can handle from 100v to 220v so it's not necessary to get a converter.

Further, the site you linked to doesn't seem to have any articles about converters or adapters. Can you provide a link directly to the page which discusses converters?

my laptop adapter says input 110-240 volts /output 18.5 v0lts/ but at the lower corner it says 120W...can i use this directly to a 220 outlet without using a converter? thanks for the answer in advance :)

Im leaving to argentina next week and where can I get one of those adapters, which one did you purchase? So it's safe to charge your laptop, phone, camera into the adapter. thanks in advance

My appliances all say Input: 100-240v, 50-60hz.
Output: 6.5-18.5v, 4.6A max. does that mean I can just charge my appliances like if I were in the US?

Post new comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.
  • You can use Markdown syntax to format and style the text. Also see Markdown Extra for tables, footnotes, and more.
  • Allowed HTML tags: <a> <em> <strong> <cite> <code> <ul> <ol> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd> <h3> <br> <h2>
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.