What’s the difference? Travel Adapters vs Travel Converters

At Today’s Woman Traveller, we’re often asked ‘what’s the difference between a converter and an adapter’. It’s a great question and well worth an explanation!

adaptersTravel Adapters
Travel adapters or plug adapters do not convert electricity. They ‘adapt’ by allowing a dual-voltage item to be plugged into the wall outlet of another country. For instance, the 2 or 3 prong North American plug needs an adapter to fit into a two prong European electrical outlet.

 

 

 

 

electricity converterConverters
Converters and transformers both convert the voltage either up or down. But converters should be used only with “electric” products like hair dryers, steam irons, shavers, toothbrushes or small fans. Converters are not designed for long term use, just for short use – 1 to 2 hours. Many converters can only be used for ungrounded appliances (2 pins on the plug). Converters need to be unplugged when not being used.

 

 

 

electricity transformerTransformers
Transformers also alter the voltage either up or down, but they are more expensive than converters and are used with “electronic” products. Electronic products have a chip or circuit. Transformers can also be used with electric appliances and may be operated continually for many days. The advantage of converters, however, is that they are lighter and less expensive.
Computers are electronic devices and therefore they must be used with a transformer, unless they are dual voltage. Fortunately, all laptop, tablet and phone chargers are dual voltage, so they can be used with only a travel adapter.

 

Where should you buy an adapter or converter?

The short answer is that it’s best to buy them at home. If you buy them at airports, you’re likely to pay more. Luggage stores or department stores carry a good selection. International Electrical Supplies has a good selection of products and more important, they also have good resource charts with images to help with what’s needed in which country.
Fodor’s says: “The best choice for travellers visiting multiple countries is a compact kit with assorted adapters and a two-in-one converter. If you’re toting a computer (even one that doesn’t require a converter) it’s wise to purchase a surge protector specifically designed for higher voltages as well – particularly if your destination has an unreliable electrical supply.”


Referenced from: http://www.fodors.com/news/electricity-abr-3926 and http://www.worldstandards.eu/electricity/information-for-travellers 

 

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