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Few electronics related questions for my trip

I'm going for a 3 month backpacking trip to Europe trip next year and have a couple of electronics related questions. I'll be going by train and staying in hostels. I'm from Canada.

  1. Do I take my cell phone with me? I wouldn't be making calls back to Canada with it but I'm thinking for emergencies. I think the costs would be huge because of the roaming right? So it wouldnt matter if it was a local call because it's still a Canadian phone. So I'm not sure about this.

  2. I'm buying a point and shoot camera. Should I buy one that takes those square lithium batteries that are rechargable or one that takes AA batteries and take the NIMH batteries and the recharger for it. What will work best for my situation.

  3. I have a Zune Mp3 player. How do I recharge it? It only comes with a cable that I plug into my USB port on my computer and I'm not planning on taking my laptop with me lol

  4. I'm buying a hair straightener. (Yes I know this isn't a necessity but girls you'll understand this, my hair is frizzy and I don't want to look like a slob). Ok, so should I buy a corded one (not sure about the availability of plugs in hostels and on the go etc.) or a battery one (which then I'd have to drag batteries with me - unless I buy a camera that takes AA batteries, buy the battery recharger and then use those batteries as well).

  5. I need to buy those wall convertors for all these electronics. What do I need to know about the voltages of these electronics so that they don't blow up when I plug them in. Some parameters or something I need to look at. Not sure.

  6. Jeez, that's a lot of electronics to drag with me. Anything I left out that you guys take along as well? Any tips you guys can give me based on what I wrote I would appreciate. Thank you :)

Posted by
162 posts

I can't answer the questions about cell phones, I don't own one.

You can buy a recharger for AA batteries, I have done this. Most rechargers are universal voltage, so all you need is a plug adapter.

I recharge my ipod with a USB recharger, universal voltage. There is a USB port for your MP3 player, and this plugs recharger plugs into the wall, again universal voltage, you just need a plug adapter. I can't remember the brand name of mine. I bought it at London Drugs.

I am going bald, hair straighteners are wasted on my thinning hair.

You can probably get away without an actual voltage converter, you just need electronics with universal voltage, so all you need is the plug adapter.

Almost all hostels have lockers, but don't leave anything valuable out. I keep my valuables close to me, and put away as much as I can while I sleep in shared rooms. I am not paranoid, just careful.

Posted by
9363 posts

Anna, these are all frequently asked questions here. You can check out the FAQ thread at the top of the this section of the helpline and get links to many answers. If you don't find enough information there, try the General Europe section of the helpline and look for that section's FAQ section, as well as a thread called "getting answers to your questions". That thread will tell you how to search the archives for previous recent discussions of all of these topics.

As for the camera, buy one that takes regular AA batteries. I take a supply of AA lithiums, which last well enough. And if you run out of lithiums, regular alkalines will do in a pinch.

Posted by
22982 posts
  1. Your phone many not work. Check with your carrier to see if it will function on the European system.
  2. Use AA lithium batteries and forget about rechargers. Also AA batteries can be easily bought every where in Europe.
  3. Have no idea.
  4. Buy one in Europe. Even with the correct voltage converter, high wattage items do not work will with a converter.
  5. Check all of you items to see if the list input requirement is 120-240V. Should be stamped on the item somewhere. IF just 120 you need a converter.
Posted by
18938 posts
  1. There are plenty of pay phones in Europe if you have to make a call.

  2. I rarely see a AA battery charger that is dual voltage, but most camera battery chargers are. My camera has a built-in recharger, and that works fine for me.

  3. Ditch the Mp3 player. Listen to the sounds of Europe. You might only be there once. Absorb all of the experience you can.

  4. No one ever died of frizzy hair. A hair straightener is unnecessary weight, and since one from over here is probably not dual voltage, will also require a converter - more unnecessary weight.

  5. Doesn't sound to me like you need anything other than a plug adapter for your camera.

Posted by
32105 posts


Greetings from the Okanagan! I have some answers for the questions you listed (presented in the same order).

1.) Before I can provide an answer, could you specify which cell network you're with and what type of phone you're using? I'd suggest taking a Cell phone, as I always travel with one. I've found that using text is very cost effective, even while roaming.

2.) Both types of Batteries have pros & cons, however I tend to prefer the proprietary Lithium-Ion Batteries and have no difficulty charging them in Europe. I use Canon equipment exclusively, and the Chargers provided are designed for "world operation". These only need an inexpensive Plug Adapter for operation while travelling. The Li-Ion batteries have a great power-to-weight ratio and they easily last for a day's shooting.

3.) Take a trip to your local London Drugs store and buy one of these - (there are other products of this type, however I've found these at LD). You'll need to pack the Charging Cable along as well.

4.) I've never been in the market for a Hair Straightener, but you might have a look at as they have a good selection of not only Plug Adapters but also dual-voltage hair appliances. I've found their customer service to be great.

5.) You WILL need Plug Adapters for the electrical/electronic products you'll be taking. I'd suggest taking TWO for each area that you'll be travelling in. The UK style has three large rectangular pins, while the Euro style has two round pins. One very important point to note is that you MUST check the Input Voltage ratings of ALL your electrical products to determine whether these are designed for "world operation". If the label states Input 100-240 VAC then these will work fine in Europe. However, if the label states 115 VAC then you'll also need a Voltage Converter.

Hope this helps.

Posted by
188 posts

Cameras and batteries: you may want to check how long AA batteries last vs. square lithium ones. I'm always zooming and rechecking my photos so I use a lot of battery power. I found that the square lithium ones work well for me, however, I don't charge every night. My camera doesn't give me a good warning of low battery until it is too late, so, I take an extra battery which is convenient for how I shoot photos.

Posted by
1035 posts

"Ditch the Mp3 player. Listen to the sounds of Europe. You might only be there once. Absorb all of the experience you can."

Sometimes it is fun to have a "soundtrack" playing as you watch life unfold. I especially like it when riding foreign subway systems. I usally take it off when I am back at street level.

Posted by
9363 posts

While I might use an mp3 player in the hotel at night, a foreign subway would be just about the LAST place I would use one! Particularly in crowded situations, you need to be aware of your surroundings, not walled off by earphones. Plus, how can you effectively eavesdrop with those things in your ears? :)

Posted by
22982 posts

Nancy, is absolutely correct. The last place you want to be wired up is on and in a subway.

Posted by
1357 posts

As far as the hair straightener goes, you can also check at Walmart or Target and see if they have ones with dual voltage (works with 110 and 220 volts) so you can use it here and in Europe. Then you'll just need a plug adapter, which you can also get at Walmart. Magellan's probably has all of this stuff, but it'll cost you twice as much. I agree with what others have said about converters, my sister got one to go with her laptop, and it felt like it was on fire after about 10 minutes, so she unplugged it.

Posted by
88 posts

Anna, if you have a newer phone that can charge by USB too, check out a cheap device called "Music Power USB Duet." It is a wall charger to charge your USB devices, and it lets you charge two devices at a time. This can be handy when you are in a hostel with limited outlets (also great because USB chargers take up less room than wall chargers in your bag). They make a new one now that has a battery to charge your devices when you're away from an outlet.

Posted by
668 posts

Have to disagree with previous post about AA chargers not being dual voltage. We have two and used them all over Europe as well as here in North America. London Drugs, Walmart, Future Shop and Best But all sell them. Probably the BC equivalent of AMA also.

Posted by
1035 posts

"Nancy, is absolutely correct. The last place you want to be wired up is on and in a subway."

I hear you (no pun intended), but I find it actually enhances my awareness of what is going on around me. It is like going into another dimension. I become hyper aware of all around me.

Don't knock it until you've tried it!

Posted by
9363 posts

Michael, I don't need to try it to know that I feel cutoff from my surroundings when wearing earphones. That's one reason that they are illegal to wear while driving, for instance - you can't hear horns and other indications of danger. If you want to wear earphones on a foreign subway, it's your right to do so, but I prefer to use all of my senses to be fully aware of my surroundings when in a crowd.

Posted by
15 posts

Thank you all for your replies and links. Really appreciated. The more I start planning the more I find there is to plan lol but you guys are awesome. Couple of follow up questions.

  1. So I read through the phone info on the website about SIM cards, cost etc but there isn't a lot of info on the alternatives. If I don't take my cellphone (Samsung through Fido) and choose to buy the prepaid plastic cards, how much does it cost per minute to make a phone call? If it costs upto 50 cents in EU countries with a local SIM card, then will a local pay phone be cheaper or more expensive?

I will only be making the calls to call ahead for a hostel (maybe in another country) and maybe to see if some tourist site is open. I will not be making international calls with it.

I want the cheaper option so if it's significant, I'm willing to forgo the convenience of having a phone on me. But this is important, are phone booths that take the cards or coins easily accessible? Are there phones in hostels? In tourist information offices? On streets?

  1. I'll have to do more reasearch about this. If the lithium batteries last longer, then I'll buy that camera however if the extra backup battery costs 100 bucks itself then I'll go for the AA battery camera and drag the recharcher for them with it.

  2. I'm with you guys about listening to the sounds of where I'm at. No worries, I want to be as present as I can be. I'll always just have the one ear plug in. I'll probably end up having to delete most if not all of my music anyway because I'll be downloading as many walking tours as I can. That's why I'm taking the MP3 player.

  3. Thanks for the tip about getting a dual voltage straightener. Found a couple travel size ones on the net.

  4. If I check the voltage correctly, then I won't need the converter and have one less thing to carry :)

Posted by
32105 posts


Regarding your most recent comments....

1.) As your Cell plan is with Fido, it's highly likely that your phone will work in Europe. However, it would really help to know the model no. to verify that.

One important point to note is that you WON'T be able to use your phone with local SIM cards (as suggested in previous replies) unless you're using an unlocked handset. I believe Fido follows the same policy as their parent, Rogers, so it's almost certain that your phone is "locked".

If you want to get some idea on costs, have a look at This Website. Using one of the European Travel Packs will reduce your costs substantially (depending on which one you choose). If you don't want to roam with Fido, you could also use one of the "travel SIM's" offered by Roam Simple, Call In Europe, Cellular Abroad or other firms.

2.) Regarding the Camera & Battery question, I'd suggest buying the best Camera for your needs regardless of which type of batteries it uses. I prefer Li-Ion batteries, and find that I only need one spare. However, replacement batteries provided by the manufacturer can be a bit pricey. I can provide a web address for a site in Abbotsford that offers replacement batteries at very reasonable cost (if you're interested). One point to note on Ni-MH batteries is that these have a higher "self-discharge" rate than Li-Ion models. That means if they're sitting around for any length of time, you'll have to "top them up" before use.

3.) I agree that it's not a good idea to listen to MP3 players when wandering around cities. I tend to use my IPod on long train rides or with Rick's audio tours.

4.) Great to hear that you found hair straighteners.

5.) BE SURE to verify the Input Voltage on EVERY device you'll be travelling with!


Posted by
5677 posts


I have battled the phone decision. I rented phones, I went without phones, and most recently I've bought an iphone to use in Europe and at home. The key with the phone is to think about how you might use it. If your plans are flexible--you can't give friends and family and itinerary with phone numbers--then a phone can be helpful. For me it was critical one year when my dad was ill and I needed to be reachable. Of course there are other ways for people to reach you, such email, but you need to check it systematically if it's to be an emergency channel.

I have traveled with AA batteries and with a lithium and I prefer the lithium. It lasted longer, was lighter. I seemed to be constantly recharging batteries when I used the AA's.

I take my iPod with me. It not only has music for long travel, it has pictures from home.

I don't need a hair straightener. I will always remember taking Miss Clairol hot rollers to Europe when I was in my 20's. I shorted out the electric in the first B&B and they became a dead weight in the bottom of the suitcase. ; (

Have fun! Pam

Posted by
12154 posts


  1. Buy a camera that can take 300 pictures on one charge (lithium). It's doubtful the recharger needs anything other than a plug adapter, which can be had cheaply at any store that carries travel items.

I haven't bought a backup battery yet. I just recharge my camera every two or three nights. The lithium batteries tend to have a steady output until they are almost dead, so you do have to think ahead a little. If the camera shows half a battery left, assume you should charge it at the next opportunity.

  1. For your MP3 player, I'm pretty sure you can get a charger at an electronics store.

  2. Other people are better at power converters than I am. In my case, everything I need can take dual voltages and I only need a plug adapter rather than a power converter.

Posted by
18938 posts

The multiplug powerstrip shown earlier has an American, two blade grounded plug and still needs a Europlug adapter. Every one I have seen is narrow and will fit on the flat blades without interfering with the grounding pin.

I take along a small (2#) netbook which I recharge daily and use often on line power. I also have a camera which I occasionally want to recharge. So I occasionally need two devices plugged in at once. This is my solution. I got both at ACE Hardware. Note that the 3way block only takes ungrounded plugs, but you can also get a grounding adapter, if necessary.