A reader wrote in recently with a question about powering his gadgets on an upcoming trip to Paris.
He is planning to take a phone, tablet, digital camera and a heating pad. He wants to know how to make those things run and charge over there. The answer is pretty easy, but there are some considerations.
The world is a big place, but it’s getting smaller when it comes to gadget interoperability.
First, let’s talk about electricity. In North America, the gadgets we use operate at 120 volts at a frequency of 60 hertz. In Europe, gadgets use 220 volts at 50 hertz. But, for the most part, we are lucky; Most of our gadgets are “dual voltage,” meaning they can run on both types of electricity.
Before you travel, check the voltage requirements of the items you plan to take that need electricity. The line you’re looking for should say something like, “100-220V 50/60Hz.” This means the gadget can operate on any voltage between 100 and 220 volts at 50 or 60 hertz.
The only issue you’ll have in Europe is with the shape of the plug. We are all familiar with the two flat prongs on American plugs. In France, they use a two-prong plug called Type C, which has prongs that are round and a bit farther apart. So your gadget is probably compatible with France’s electricity, but the plug will be different.
To solve that problem, you’ll need a plug adapter. Good plug adapters are pretty cheap — around $20 — and many of them have several USB ports to charge your phone or tablet. A website I trust called Wirecutter recommends the Epicka Universal Travel Adapter ($22 at amazon.com). It can convert American plugs to almost any type of plug you’ll need, and it has five USB ports, including one USB-C port for charging.
This solves the problem of the shape of the plug, but you do have to be careful with gadgets like hair dryers and heating pads. Those types of small appliances are usually not dual voltage.
Voltage converters do exist, but they are pretty universally frowned upon for hair dryers or heating pads. I found a few Web pages asking about bringing heating pads overseas, and the recommendation seems to be to buy one when you get to your destination. Same for hair dryers.
Jim Rossman writes for The Dallas Morning News. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.