we are packing for our trip to italy this week. i have read on this site that your actual appliance must be 220 vac in order for an adaptor to be useful. However, we own a "travel converter" which says it is a transformer. it has an arrow pointing from 220 vac to 110 vac. does this mean it works for appliances that are NOT dual voltage (hair curler, travel iron, etc.) ?
a dual voltage appliance only needs an adapter, so you should be fine with your converter. I think there are special converters for heat generating items like a hair curler & iron - you might want to double check your that your converter can handle them.
OK here it goes. The TRANSFORMER converts the electricity coming out of the wall into voltage your appliance can use, i.e. 240 coming out of wall into 110 so your 110 only hairdryer isn't fried. ADAPTER plugs allow you to plug into the wall. For example, your two prong cell phone charger has two flat prongs while the wall outlet has two round holes vs. the standard U.S. wall outlet with two slits. So, in a nutshell the transformer changes the voltage and the adapter allows you to plug into the wall outlet. Your cell phone charger and most modern electronics allow for dual voltage. If the hairdryer is the only thing you're taking the transformer for either buy a cheap hairdryer there or, if you plan on a lot of future travels by a travel model which will be dual voltage (check at major inter'l airports). Travel iron!!! Pack three or four cheap wire hangers and steam the wrinkles out in the shower. Trust me nobody cares.
BIG CAUTION WITH CONVERTER/TRANSFORMER. There are low wattage and high wattage converters. It must be rated for the WATTAGE of the appliances. If the appliance draws a 1000 watts it must rated at that level or above. Otherwise you will fry the converter. Every with a converter high wattage applicances (hair dryers, etc.) do not work well with a converter. Instead of spending money on a high wattage converter but a dual voltage hair dryer.
A note...most of the hair dryers and flat irons sold in the US now are dual voltage. Check the package before you buy. You do not necessarily have to run out and spend $50 or more on a special "travel" hair dryer or flat iron. If yours at home is rated 110/220, you are OK.
I used my $20 Target purchased flat iron in Italy last week, with my adapter, and it worked fine. It did make a little "buzzing" noise when I plugged it in, but it didn't over heat, and it worked just fine.
As a follow up, when I got home, it worked fine here too, so I didn't ruin my flat iron. I've used this same adapter (Samsonite, purchased at Target 10 year ago) for my hair dryer when I traveled with it, and it worked fine for my 1200V hair dryer.
I ran out and purchased a special "travel, dual voltage" flat iron at $60 from a local travel store, but when I got home and looked more closely at my own cheap flat iron, I noticed they were both rated the same...needless to say, the $60 iron went right back to the store.
any recommendations for a place in San Francisco or a website to buy some adapters (for Italy)? There are five of us travelling and I want to bring 5 adapters with us (don't want teenagers to be cranky b/c their IPods are out of juice)
They are for sale at this website...click the "travel store" tab above. They are currently on sale at $1.00 each. Any store that sells luggage will also sell adapters. Radio Shack will also have them.
If you want an adapter, Target sells these. I personally however prefer my converter. I purchased an Eagle Creek one and it automatically (when you plug your appliance in) reads what type of wattage it is so it won't fry your appliance. I got mine at REI. Otherwise I'm sure other outdoor/travel stores would have these.