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Voltage Converters? What's the deal??

Okay, so I've looked everywhere in the wide web I could think of and I can't find a proper voltage converter for my trip to Britian.

I know I don't need one for my electronics but I'm bringing my flat irons and I don't know where to find a voltage converter.
When I look for outlet adapters all of them have this disclaimer: "This not a voltage converter" (or something that end).

So now I'm stuck and not sure. Am I missing something??? Any techies out there wanna help me out?
(I may be from the generation of computer stuff but I don't understand half of this stuff insert tounge out emoji)

Posted by
16763 posts

Converters are heavy and not cheap, and there have been suggestions here that using them with appliances that heat up may produce unwanted results (including damage to the electrical system of the hotel). Therefore, I'd recommend that you plan to buy a flat iron in England rather than a converter for the one you already own. You might look at to see what sort of products may be available in England, and at what approximate price.

I bet one of our UK posters can suggest what sort of store you'd go to for this purchase.

Posted by
13 posts

acraven: That sucks because my hair is really specific and I'm worried if I use anything else it will damage my hair. Hmm, my dilemma has just gotten a little bit more confuzzled.

Posted by
5019 posts

Short answer: Don't. Dragging a voltage converter to the other side of the planet is insane.

It is beyond my imagination why anyone would consider for a millisecond lugging a heavy appliance to a foreign land. Are you bringing along a dozen steamer trunks and some burley stevedores to handle all your luggage?

Millions of travelers get by just fine without flat irons. Don't you think you could, too? I would venture to guess that anyone can survive quite well for a couple weeks without an iron. Worst case scenario, buy something over there for use over there. It would be cheaper than buying a voltage converter (or paying for the damages to a British hotel's electrical system), and would make your baggage a lot easier to schlepp...

Posted by
951 posts

You can buy a dual voltage flat iron here in the US. I bought mine at Walmart many years ago and have used it all over the world.

Posted by
16763 posts

David, a flat iron is a hair appliance. M is evidently female. We do tend to be somewhat concerned about what our hair looks like.

M, perhaps you can find essentially the same model in the UK. Take a look.

Posted by
2444 posts

As someone who had to haul a half dozen converters to Europe when we moved to Germany for 3 years, let me just say DONT DO IT (unless you really need to). They are very heavy and cumbersome, and if they fail, then you will not only destroy your appliance, but could damage the building's wiring or start a fire. All for a flat iron or hairdryer?

The most practical solution is to buy a travel appliance (flat iron/curling iron/hair dryer,etc) that is dual voltage. Not hard to find at Walmart, large drug stores or Amazon. Then all you'll need is an adaptor, and a reminder to manually switch it to the proper voltage before using it.

Posted by
17642 posts

No, outlet adapters are not voltage converters. Search specifically for a voltage converter. There are some out there.

The safest "converter" is a transformer, but one for the wattage of a flat iron would be somewhat heavy if you could find one for that low a wattage, but you probably can't find one for less than around 1800 watts, and one like that would be really heavy. They also make transistorized converters that are far lighter, but these might not be reliable.

Your best options would be either a dual voltage one purchased here or one purchase there specifically for their voltages.

This is really a quandary of your own making, because you are not only insisting on using a flat iron (hint: the human race existed just fine for many millions of years without flat irons), but also a specific one (you don't seem willing to consider finding a dual voltage one or one made for European voltages).

Posted by
3283 posts

Prior to my first trip to Europe, a few sources suggested that any new small appliance already has a converter built into it. I never bring a hair dryer, but typically a curling iron. (that might get dropped from my packing list soon) I wasn't sure about the curling iron I had, so I bought a new one for $15 or so. You could do that and experiment before you leave home. Cheaper than any converter. You will have to buy an adapter. They are small and cheap and now you can get some (Amazon) that can be modified and used in multiple countries.

One thing to think about is that when you travel you are often out and about all day in varying types of weather. Sometimes it has felt like any effort I made on my appearance was wasted. I experiment at home a bit with my hair with products or cuts that make it more "wash and wear". Please don't take this as a criticism of your concern. We all like to look nice and some people have more challenging hair than others. Our family has often camped. I was always envious of the gals with naturally curly hair. They could take a shower and their hair looked nice after air drying. Now that I have "older" hair, it has a bit of wave and curl. So now if I blow dry or try to style, any humidity just makes it wavy again, or when I count on some wave it decides to be straight that day. So, I've decided to concentrate on seeing Europe and not my hair.

Posted by
30932 posts


To begin with, a quick description of Voltage Converters. There are two different principles used in travel voltage converters, transformer or solid-state. As Lee mentioned, transformer style converters are inherently heavy as they consist of copper windings and an iron core and these produce a clean and accurate sine wave which is better for electronic products (although don't change the frequency). A model large enough to power a hair appliance is not something I'd want to haul around Europe. This is one example - .

A solid-state voltage converter reduces voltage by varying the ratio of on-to-off time to the output. These produce a very "rough" sine wave, so they're better suited to "brute force & ignorance" devices such as resistive heat elements used in hair appliances, etc. However one notable point these days is that many hair appliances use electronic controls, which may not react well with this type of converter. In fact some Flat Iron manufacturers specifically prohibit use of their products with voltage converters. I believe Chi is one of these.

One thing to keep in mind with travel voltage converters, is that most of these are not rated for "continuous duty" and therefore should not be left connected to the outlet any longer than necessary.

As the others have mentioned, if you absolutely can't manage without a flat iron during your trip, your best bet is to....

  • buy a dual-voltage appliance before you depart
  • buy a European flat iron when you arrive at your first destination

Good luck!

Posted by
8569 posts

Argos. They are all over. Order one before leaving home and have it delivered to the closest Argos. They might even have it in stock waiting for you. I've purchased from them.

Here is their page of Hair Straighteners

Posted by
23396 posts

Here is what is for sale at Boots (on most British high streets - just about every single town) -

Any medium sided or bigger supermarket will have them. Asda, Sainsbury, Waitrose, Tesco or Morrisons, and some Coop.

I have several converters that I had to bring when I moved my American appliances and kitchen small appliances to England. They are REALLY heavy. Don't do that.

Which model do you currently use?

Posted by
8906 posts

The US site lists over 100 models of dual voltage hair straighteners. Don't waste vacation time in Europe shopping for one. You can easily buy them in the USA before you leave.

Posted by
17642 posts

I have often heard the "story" that solid state voltage converters can damage a hotel's electrical system, but I'm skeptical. It strikes me as an urban legend.

Can anyone document that story?

By what mechanism can you damage a hotel's electrical system? I think all you can do is to draw too many amps, but the system should have fuses/breakers to prevent that from happening. I once plugged my hair dryer into a "US configuration" receptacle (labeled 120V) next to the sink in a London hotel. The hair dryer started to work and then went dead. There was a breaker box in the room, and I opened it; the tripped breaker was for 10A (about 1200W, too low for the hair dryer). Apparently the receptacle was only intended for shavers.

It is true that the waveform from solid state converters can damage multi-voltage charging systems for computers and phones - or more likely the appliance being charged. Dual voltage hair dryers/curlers/straighteners don't need a converter and should not be damaged nor damage anything (as long as the switch is in the correct position).

If you believe the legend, don't use a USB charger. USB chargers are really voltage converters, 100VAC - 240VAC to 5VDC.

On the other hand, most US hair appliances have safety features that depend on the power source being polarized (their US plug has one blade wider than the other). The power system in most countries is not polarized, so the safety is lost (Switzerland, if you are using a grounding plug adapter, and the UK are possible exceptions), so leave your appliances with polarizing plugs at home.