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110V to 220V converter recommendations

We will be traveling to the U.K., France, Switzerland, Germany, and Italy this June. I’m planning to purchase the adapter from RIck Steves’ website but I need to buy a voltage converter. Can somebody please give me some suggestions?

Posted by
15573 posts

What do you need a voltage converter for? If it is for a hair iron, go out and buy a dual voltage one. Converters depend on power ratings and can be very heavy.

Posted by
58 posts

I’m going to need it mainly to charge our IPhones (I think the laptop has a built-in converter). But now that I’ve thought of it, will the RS adapter with the USB port suffice?

Posted by
471 posts

Its "adapters". You need a different adapter for the UK than mainland europe.

I've recently traveled to all those countries except Italy and don't own or have needed a converter. You don't need one for items like smart phones, tablets, ereaders, etc that are dual voltage. Just the little adapter.

Posted by
58 posts

That’s great news then! Btw, I was talking about the universal European adapter (it’s on sale right now).

Posted by
15573 posts

purchase the adapter from RIck Steves’ website but I need to buy a voltage converter.

I’m going to need it mainly to charge our IPhones

If you look closely at your iPhone charger, you will see it says something like this:
input 110-220 VAC, 50-60 Hz

You do not need a converter, Your iPhone charger will already accept European voltages. So you only need plug adapters.

Posted by
613 posts

Be sure you understand the difference between and adopter & a converter. Adopters are plugs that fit the host county's outlet shape on one end G have a USA standard outlet on the other end. Adapters DO NOT CONVERT 220V to 110V. For that, you need a converter or a dual voltage appliance, which many cell phones & laptops are. Once you know what you need, go for the cheapest. THese things are commodities.

Posted by
8569 posts

You can get a universal adapter much cheaper on Amazon.

I have these. Both come with the adapter plugs you need:

Syncwire 4 port

or

Syncwire 2 Port

They are strictly for recharging USB devices

If you need one for your computer, then I would suggest looking on Amazon. IMHO, the one RS sells, even on sale, is way overpriced. And there is only one USB port.

Posted by
8889 posts

Even if you needed a converter (which you don't for phone chargers), "110V to 220V" is the wrong direction
North America has 110V 60 Hz electricity.
Europe has 220V 50Hz
So you would have needed a 220V to 110V converter.

"I think the laptop has a built-in converter" - I doubt it, as most laptops have separate chargers. Check that charger, it will probably also be "110-220V", so no converter needed, just adapter(s).
Laptops usually have 3-pin plugs (unlike phone charger which have 2-pin).
For 3-pin plugs, you need different plugs for UK, France/Germany, Switzerland an Italy (4 different plug types).

Posted by
25 posts

We have been traveling with nothing but plug adapters for years. If you look at your laptop power cable, there is most likely a box somewhere along it. If you see 110-240 V on that box, all you need is the plug adapter.
Likewise for cell phones. You plug the USB/lightning cable into a wall plug. That wall plug will have a 110-240V rating. So again, all you need is a plug adapter.
The $1 adapters in the Rick Steves' store are perfect. I have half a dozen each of the UK and continental Europe versions-have to cover phones, iPad, and my husband's laptop when we travel.

If you have an electric razor, most European hotels have a "razor only" US style electric receptacle in the bathroom. If your razor or blow drier is dual voltage (has a little switch on it to choose between 110 and 220/240) all you need is the adapter.

There's really almost no need to have a converter anymore, unless you have a very specific need to travel with an appliance (say a C-pap machine) that does not have the ability to handle 220 V on it's own.

Posted by
2796 posts

You can get a universal adapter much cheaper on Amazon.

Or even at your local hardware store or Home Depot.

Posted by
3226 posts

For an iPhone, or any other Apple product, all you need is the plug converter so you can plug your Apple charger into the socket. A voltage converter is not needed.

The $1 ones sold in the RS store work perfectly fine for the low power items like iPhones. Get one of each (UK and Europe) and you are set. Get more to have spares in case you lose one.

Posted by
553 posts

It's ironic that those of us who live here get a free plug with every phone and tablet that we buy, and so have them cluttering up our cupboards. It's the other way round for Americans.

Personally, I wouldn't buy a universal adaptor. My experience is that they never fit any partcular socket properly. Get the right one for each country or system.

Posted by
2796 posts

Personally, I wouldn't buy a universal adaptor. My experience is that tyhey never fit any partcular socket properly.

I've been using one for years, although I now tend to just bring one that works in France, since we mostly go just to France.

Posted by
17646 posts

Personally, I wouldn't buy a universal adapter.

Plus, all you need are two types of adapters, one for the Continent and one for the UK. Why spend over $20 for one that can do both when two, one for each application, cost only $2 for both?

Why would you need such a multi-system plug. There are only two in Europe. Do you have a fear that you will go to sleep in continental Europe and make a "quantum leap" and wake up in India, where you will need an entirely different plug?

Posted by
3316 posts

Get more to have spares in case you lose one.

Mark makes a very good point. It's easy to lose one or leave it behind. Taking an extra one will not take up much space or add any significant weight.

Posted by
58 posts

You guys are wonderful! Thanks for all the advice. I will make sure to get the $1 adapters for the UK and continental Europe. That saved me a lot of money since there are 4 of us!

Posted by
684 posts

Switzerland may require a different adapter than continental Europe- so check. When we were there, in some hotels the European adapter worked, and in some hotels it did not, so we were glad we had the Swiss one.

Also, if you bring your own blower hair brush, unless it is dual voltage, you'll need a voltage converter. I blew out the electricity of an entire wing of an old Florence hotel when I tried to use my blower brush. [I thought the brush was just old.] On the next trip, I had a brand new blower brush, and killed it on the first try. I FINALLY figured out the difference between voltage converters and adapters.
Safe travels.

Posted by
58 posts

Thanks for the tip about Switzerland. Has anybody traveled there recently and can verify this (different outlet)? I don’t know if this makes a difference but we will be at the Lauterbrunnen Valley.

Posted by
8569 posts

I made two trips to Switzerland last year and in only one my euro adapter would work. Luckily, I brought one of these along and it worked find

Switzerland Adapter

You can put two plugs into it.

You can buy a double pack--2 adapters--for $1 more.

Posted by
8889 posts

Jovie, I live in Switzerland.
Note what I wrote above.
You must distinguish between 2-pin and 3-pin plugs. Phone chargers are usually 2-pin. Laptop plugs are usually 3-pin.

For 2-pin plugs France, Switzerland, Germany, and Italy are all the same, the UK is different.
For 3-pin plugs France and Germany are the same (or to be pedantic, it is possible to build a plug that works in both), Switzerland is different, Italy is different again,and the UK is totally different.

Posted by
23400 posts

Yes it is true.

You may find a Schuko (German or sometimes called Euro) plug here and there because they want to be nice to tourists but a true Swiss plug is different.

So is the Italian.

To be even more specific read what Chris F wrote just above me as I was typing...

Posted by
8889 posts

The one Frank II posted is WRONG. It has round ends, it should have triangular ends, to fit in recessed sockets. If it has round ends, it will fit in older surface sockets, but not more modern recessed sockets.

Posted by
58 posts

Chris F, so... the 2 prong iPhone charger should be okay to use with the continental adapter in Switzerland? Or do I still need to buy a Swiss adapter? That’s all I’m concerned about. We will be in Switzerland for only 2 days so, hopefully, I won’t need to charge the laptop there (which has a 3 prong charger).

Posted by
23400 posts

A lot of Swiss hotels have Schuko to Swiss adaptors due to the number of Germans visiting (I always have a couple with me) so you may not need your own. Or if desperate many MMMigros or MMigros will have some for a couple of Franks.

Posted by
17646 posts

Without dimensions, I can't tell that the plug Frank referenced will not fit in a Swiss receptacle. The recess in the Swiss receptacle is much wider than Franks plug, so even though the Swiss receptacle comes to a point, the rounded ends of Frank's plug might fit.

There are a lot of 2 pin type C plugs that will fit in a Swiss receptacle, but these plugs are limited to 2½ amps, so they are not suitable for high amperage devices like hair dryers, and they are not grounded.

Swiss receptacles are "polarized", but unless you are using a 3 pin, grounding Swiss plug adapter, the polarization will not be assured.

Posted by
30932 posts

Jovie,

The first thing you need to do is check the Input Voltage ratings for EACH device that you plan to travel with. Those ratings will be on the device somewhere (you may need a magnifying glass to see them clearly). If these state, Input 100-240 VAC 50~60 Hz then all you'll need are inexpensive Plug Adaptors.

I don't use those goofy "universal" plug adaptors as they're kludgy and expensive. There are a variety of Plug Adaptor kits sold on the internet, and this is one example - https://www.amazon.com/European-Travel-Adapter-Plug-Set/dp/B01I1S1XYE . I always have a couple of the two pin Euro Plug Adaptors in my pack as well. These are perfect for charging iPhones.

Posted by
8569 posts

Well, don't tell the hotel wall sockets I used the wrong plug. The one I referenced I used in 10 different hotels in Switzerland last year. Some very old, some very new.

Strange thing, it worked in all of them. And when I go back to Switzerland, I'll use it again.

But I wish I would have listened to the experts before spending money on something that actually worked.

You live and learn.

Posted by
58 posts

Thanks for all the info! I learned a lot about converters and adapters through this post LOL! I have already purchased the UK and continental Europe adapters (for $1 a piece, yeah!) but I will buy just one for Switzerland, just in case. If the one Frank II posted works, then I’ll probably get that one. =)

Posted by
8889 posts

. the 2 prong iPhone charger should be okay to use with the continental adapter in Switzerland?

Yes, 2-prong is the same in France, Switzerland, Germany, and Italy, it is only UK which is different.

Or do I still need to buy a Swiss adapter?

Only if your laptop charger is 3-pin.
Don't panic if you don't have one. The hotel will probably have a French/German --> Swiss adapter for it's many guests from those countries.Or you can buy them at "all good electrical shops".

Posted by
5486 posts

My travel laptop is a Chromebook with a plastic housing. Although the powerblock has a three-pin power plug, the RS Euro adaptor plug body allows the North American ground pin to bypass the adaptor plug body. It works, but the powerblock is not grounded.

HP's commentary on electical safety is interesting:
https://support.hp.com/gb-en/document/c02807128

While the electrical system inside any HP notebook poses no inherent
risk to a person, certain environmental conditions and/or the improper
use of a notebook can introduce the possibility of electrical shock if
caution is not observed.

The AC adapter, which is the source of electrical power for the
notebook, is designed to be used with a three-wire power cord. The AC
adapter is, however, extensively tested to international safety
standards with a 2-wire cord.

Posted by
8569 posts

If the one Frank II posted works, then I’ll probably get that one. =)

I have raised my right hand and said the following out loud:

"I, Frank II, do solemnly swear that the Swiss Adapter I referenced earlier in the thread, worked in every hotel room I stayed in during 2018. At no time was I unable to charge my devices. Everything I have stated is the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. So help me "you know who.""

Posted by
1017 posts

It's easy to lose one or leave it behind

True - but that also means that most hotels and B&Bs have some you can borrow in a pinch :-)

Posted by
58 posts

Good to know the hotels have spare ones to lend. I did buy extras (for $1, why not) and a Swiss adapter too! I'm good to go! @Chris F - thanks for breaking it down for me. @Frank II - you're hilarious! And to everybody, a huge thanks for all the great tips!

Posted by
4684 posts

Hotels have a real problem with guests not returning the loaner adapters.

To add to Lee's suggestion that specific adaptors can be cheaper, I find that most multi-purpose adapters (another poster used the word "kludgy") have design compromises that either result in their sagging or falling out of the wall, or failing to hold tightly to the prongs of the device that's inserted in them. A similar example is the multipurpose socket (female connector) on many U.S. airlines; Because it has do do many jobs, it does no job WELL.

Charging a phone doesn't matter much if the prongs aren't tight. A laptop or a hair dryer could heat up the prongs that are making poor contact. And I've seen partly bare prongs when an adapter sags out of the wall.

Posted by
5486 posts

Hotels have a real problem with guests not returning the loaner adapters.

I needed a type F Schuko plug adapter to fit Swiss electic sockets. One hotel had a check out and back process with a deposit. the other hotel was just trusting that I would return the adaptor.