Traveling can create lots of fun memories, but many times we can have trouble recording those memories if our electrical devices, like cameras and phones, do not work properly at our travel destination. These days, with the many advances in technology we only need to work about two important issues in order to ensure our electronic gadgets work properly in Europe. Read on to find out how to prepare your electrical devices for travel.
2 Electrical Differences You Must Know About When Traveling to Europe
First off, in order to run any electrical device in Europe you have to plug it into an electrical outlet. Your device must be able to use the electrical outlets in Europe.
Secondly, the device has to to run on the electrical network of that country; it needs to be able to handle the voltage in Europe.
1. Electrical Plugs in Europe are Different from the US
This means you can’t simply take your phone charger, travel to Europe and expect to simply plug it into the wall. It will not work if you do not have a plug adapter for the country you are traveling to.
2. Electrical Voltage in Europe is Different from the US
Most of Europe is running at 220 volts while in the US we use 110 volts to run our electrical appliances. This means that you can’t just simply take your US electrical device and expect it to work in Europe unless the device has been designed to work in Europe.
Get Your Electrical Devices Ready for Europe
First, gather all the electric devices you want to take to Europe. you have to know if you device will work in Europe or not.
Here is how to check if your electric device will work in Europe.
Check your device’s voltage inscription. If your device shows an inscription for a range 110V-220V then all you need is a plug adapter. Some devices may have a switch with two positions: one for 110V and one for 220V. So, check for a switch in the 110 position. When you get to Europe, you need to change the position of the switch to 220V.
If you only see an inscription for 110V, then you need a transformer that will transform the electricity from 220V to 110V. Otherwise, if you attempt to plug in your device without a transformer, you will “fry” your device right away.
Fortunately, most modern electrical devices like phone chargers and digital camera chargers work on a range of voltages. This means you can simply take your device, with the proper plug adapter, and just plug it in wherever you’re going in Europe.
Do I Need an Adapter in Europe?
The simplest answer is yes! You always need to purchase the correct plug adapter for the country in Europe you’re traveling to. Your American device or gadget will not fit in any European electrical socket. However, as mentioned above, you must determine if all you need is an adapter and you don’t need a power transformer. I will repeat it again, please check the label on your device and carefully make sure that your device support an electrical range from 110V to 240V before you plug it into an Europe electrical socket with the correct adapter.
Get the Right Electrical Plug Adapter for Europe
To make sure your device can can use electrical plugs in europe, you need to adapt your US electrical plug to the country in Europe you are traveling to. Plug adapters do not perform any power conversion and you have to ensure that your device has a power range of 110V – 240 V. Just check the label on your phone charger or camera charger and check the voltage range it supports.
If your device support a broad range of 110V to 240 V, then all you need is a plug adapter. If however, the label on your device only indicates 110v, then you need an electrical transform and not only a plug adapter.
- Universal plug adapter. If you are traveling through different countries in Europe, your best choice is the excellent universal adapter with a USB charger. Even though bulkier, a universal plug adapter will work in every country.
- England and Ireland – The United Kingdom has one of the weirdest electrical plugs, and the bulkiest. It is best to buy a grounded plug adapter since every plug in England is grounded. Even though it is bulky, this type of plug adapter has worked perfectly for me in England and Scotland.
- Rest of Europe – The rest of Europe is using a two prong simple electrical plug for which you can just buy a very simple and inexpensive plug adapter. This adapter has worked for me all over Europe, in Belgium, France, Italy, Switzerland and Romania.
- Switzerland has a wall plug that looks deceivingly complicated and it appears it needs a special plug adapter. However, a regular European plug adapter with two prongs will work mostly fine if the adapter is small enough to fit. A plug adapter just like the one from above for the rest of Europe will work fine.
Do I Need a Transformer in Europe?
Whether you need a transformer or not depends on the devices you take with you when you travel. If some of your devices only show 110 V on the label (like some hairdryers), then you need an electrical transformer which is a bit bulkier and heavier. You can also opt for a travel hairdryer with dual voltage so you only switch the voltage to 220 V and use a plug adapter.
Check the total Wattage allowed on your transformer and check the labels on your devices that need a transformer. For example: a typical hairdryer uses between 1500 and 2000 Watts, while a curling iron between 50 and 100 Watts. So, if your transformer is rated for 200 Watts, then you can only use your curling iron.
The only devices that you need to check are hairdryers, curling irons, power tools and other uncommon devices not really intended for travel. If you are looking for a transformer to use in Europe, look for one that supports high wattage devices, as most transformers don’t support these devices. If you have single voltage devices (110 V) that require high power (over 500 W), buying a high wattage step-down electrical transformer is the only way to go. Even in this case you have to be careful not to exceed the power limit for your transformer.
This particular transformer for Europe is an actual all in one: high wattage transformer, plug adapter and USB charger. It works all over the world as it comes with all the plug converters you need. This is all you need to buy.
Will your laptop work in Europe? The simple answer is yes, all you need is a plug adapter as explained above. However, you may want to read more about making sure your laptop works in Europe.
Make Sure Your Electronic Gadgets Work in Europe
In my experience, I have never needed an electrical transformer and I have only used two electrical plug adapters to travel all over Europe: one for the UK and one for the rest of Europe. It is true that I have only needed to run laptops, camera battery chargers and cell phone chargers. Even our blow drier worked completely fine, with the appropriate plug adapter.
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For a US lamp to work in Sweden, do I need a step up converter? (From 110 to 220) The lamp says 110 on it.
Annika…the answer is yes. If the label on the lamp says only 110V (which is typical of any lamp in the US) you need a step down transformer (from 220 to 110). You can purchase any of the ones I recommend here.
Hello! I have found your article very informative! I think I understand the adapter and/transformer guidelines but I would feel better confirming with you.
We are traveling to Germany & Switzerland soon. My curling iron says 120V, 60 hz, 140W. I should be okay with just an adapter for the wall, correct?
Thanks in advance!
Shirley…the short answer is no, your curling iron will not work in Europe just using a plug adapter…it will probably fry the minute you plug it in. Your curling iron says 120V while in Europe they use between 220V and 240 V. You need to buy a transformer from 220V to the US 110V and plug your iron into the transformer so that it will receive 110V. Maybe I will clarify the article.
Is it worth to take my power tools like air compressor, shop dry/wet vacuum ,circular saw and my cordless battery operated drills if moving from the USA to Europe and what transformers/convertors you would advise?
Viktor…great question! My advice would be to only take your battery powered tools with a simple plug converter for your battery charger (check the voltage rabge on the chargers and make sure it says something like 100-240V). You will not have problems with those.
I would not take any large tools like the air compressor and the shop vac. However, if you really want to take them, you have to check the labels for each tool and check the wattage requirements and then make sure you het a transformer that can provide that.
I am bringing my desktop computer to Europe. Would I need to simply just buy a European computer power cable and my computer will work there?
Paul…here is what you need to check first. Look in the back of your desktop computer where the electric cord connects to your computer. Look at the label. If it says 110-240V then your computer will work in Europe.
However, you may need to open your desktop computer and switch the electrical prongs where your cord plugs in to the setting for 220V…should be a slider. Then you can plug in a European cord and it should work.
If the label however only says 110 V you need a transformer from 220 to 110V.
This isn’t a comment, but rather a separate question as I’m unable to send you a message because no CAPTCHA code appears after filling out the inquiry form at your website.
Can I travel to Europe with a Philips Innospire Mini nebulizer which is labeled 12V, 1.25A? Would I need a converter or just an adapter? Thank you.
Chris…thank you for pointing out the Captcha issue…I have removed it, so you should be able to send a message to me. About your question…from looking online at the product, it looks to me like the product should have some sort of adapter than you actually plug into a 110V volt outlet here in the US…or you use a battery. Look at that adapter and see if it’s rated 110V-220V…which it should…then you’re good with just a plug adapter. Let me know if you have more questions.
Dear vlad, I’m living in the US and for my health just got an infrared sauna, 110v. It’s a portable one and intended for the use of moving with you. Thus, i’d like to take it with me when I move back to Europe next year. What transformer would you recommend me getting once I’m back in Europe? I don’t think I’ll be taking any other big appliances with me, though I have a red light therapy device lamp by Joov (the mini with stand) that’s around 15 pounds and has the regular US plug too. I’m thinking of moving to Spain, but also have relatives in other countries in Europe (France, etc)
Advice? Thank you 🙏
Lucie…great question. It all depends on the power required…there are 3 attributes of power: voltage, wattage and amperage. The best thing to do is to read the label from your sauna…it should be on the side or the bottom near where the power cord goes inside your device. Look for a number followed by W and for one followed by Amp. I am not really sure what your particular device requires, but a sauna sounds like would draw lots of power which might be problematic to find a converter for. After looking at your label, I suggest you contact the manufacturer as well and you can try a heavy duty transformer.
I plan on moving to the Netherlands. I have one small appliance I really want to take for sentimental reasons. It’s a toaster. How can I make it work over there?
Karen…you normally need a step down transformer that will convert from 220V to 110v. Check the label of the toaster and see the wattage required. If it’s up to 2000W, then this one should work: up to 2000W step down converter.
Hi Vlad, I am also moving to Portugal from the US. Please address whether or not to bring my more expensive electric items: TV’s stereo equipment, and high end Miele vacuum. Thanks! Amdrew
Andrew…good question! My advice is to not bring any large electronics from the US to Europe. I would only bring the ones that work across 110V to 220V.
Specifically, TVs will not work properly in Europe as they use a different color system (PAL) versus the US color system (NTSC). In addition, the current frequency is different as well 60Hz vs 50 Hz…so don’t take any TVs.
Your vacuum cleaner will work with the proper step down transformer, but I still wouldn’t bring it because you would depend on the transformer. If it breaks, it will be difficult to replace in Europe.
I am seriously contemplating a move to either Portugal or France. I have a house full of lamps, kitchen small appliances, stereo equipment, etc. that I would prefer to take and use through their “useful life” rather than purchase all new items where I end up. (I’m thinking that 3 dozen transformers will cost less than that number of toasters, mixers, coffee machines, and antique table lamps.) Can you advise on the transformers required for the various types of small appliances, stereo equipment and lighting that a typical household contains?
Here is my advice based on your question. I would not take any high-wattage kitchen appliances (coffee maker, toaster or anything over 50W) with me to Europe. Most high-wattage transformers support only one plug and just imagine you having to switch between your appliances to use one transformer. The high-wattage transformers are also on the expensive side…running you around $40, so it’s not worth buying a lot of them just to run a few appliances. Since you plan to move and be there long term, I would plan on buying any kitchen appliances in the country where you will live.
On the other hand, for lamps and other low-wattage appliances, you can use the transformer I recommend on this page (not the high-wattage one). It has 3 plugs and works great for low-wattage appliances.
Hi! Your website is so helpful! If I am traveling to Paris, Italy, and London – i would need #1 & #2 (universal and England / Ireland), correct?
Liz…good question. For London you need #2 and for Paris and Italy you need #3. However, if you buy #1, that’s all you need as it will work everywhere…the only drawback is that the universal adapter is bulkier, this is why I prefer the simple converters #2 and #3.
Hi there! I don’t know if you can help but my husband tried to update our garmin nuvi and he just let it run. However, we live in Scotland and for some reason it seems to have changed over to the USA and we cannot get back to UK. Would you have any suggestions on how we would do this, it also has an SD card which when taken out it cannot find maps. Cannot believe this has happened. We use our garmin all the time. Any help would be grateful, thanks in advance.
Jane…not sure what you mean by updating your Garmin Nuvi…do you mean updating your UK maps or updating the Garmin operating system? I also don’t know what you mean that it has changed to the USA…you mean you only see the USA map? And you don’t see the UK map? Try the steps outlined here: https://www.touristbee.com/2012/02/switch-maps-on-garmin-nuvi.
How to make sure your electronic gadgets will work in Europe http://t.co/Sqv1Y8Pgg6 via @twitter_username