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Traveling Abroad? What You Need To Know When Choosing Voltage Transformers

If you're traveling abroad, don't forget to pack the one thing that will allow you to use your electronics or electrical appliances - a voltage transformer. There are dozens of different types of voltage transformers and voltage converters on the market. With the many different current standards, plug types and converter types, it can be confusing trying to figure out whether you need a step up voltage transformer, a step down voltage converter of a step up down voltage converter transformer or some other type altogether. This basic guide can help you determine what kind of voltage transformers and adapters will serve your needs the best.

What is the Voltage Requirement on Your Devices?

You should first determine the electrical requirements of your device or devices. You'll usually find the voltage, frequency and wattage on label attached to the bottom or the back of the device. Make note of the voltage, frequency and wattage requirement for each device. If you live in the U.S., the label will probably tell you that the device is meant to operate at 110/120 V or 110/240V. The lower voltage - 110/120 V - is the standard voltage for U.S. household current.

You should also check for the wattage and frequency of your device. The standard operating frequency for U.S. devices is 60 Hz. If the device is designed to operate at different frequencies, it will be labeled to show that. The wattage will be listed as either watts (W) or volt-amps (VA). The wattage will be important in determining which voltage transformers can deliver electricity at the wattage needed for your device.

What Are the Electrical Standards in Your Destination?

Check an international electrical standards map, your travel agent or the hotel at your destination to find out the electrical requirements of your destination country. You'll need to know the voltage, which may vary from one country to the next if you're traveling to more than one destination, frequency and the plug types used in that country.

Once you've gathered the information, compare the requirements of your devices with the information about electricity for the country's you'll be visiting in order to determine which type of voltage converters and plug adapters you'll need.

If your devices match the voltage and frequency in your destination, you'll only need a plug adapter for that country in order to run your devices. This may be true if you're visiting Japan, the Caribbean or many Central or South American countries.

If your destination's electrical standards are higher than the voltage your devices will accept, you'll need a 220 to 110V converter, often called a step down voltage converter.

If your destination country's household current is lower than the voltage required by your devices, you'll need a step down voltage converter.

If you want to be certain you've got the right type of converter for your needs, purchase a step up and down voltage converter transformer that automatically detects the voltage from the outlet and transforms it to the right voltage for your device.


Always check with your hotel before plugging a high-wattage appliance like a hair dryer into an outlet in the bathroom of your hotel.

Make sure that your television, VCR or computers can handle both 50 Hz and 60 Hz before using a voltage converter to plug it into the wall.

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