Foreign Outlets 101: Adapters, transformers, and converters

Shop Before You Depart “Simply put, it will be more convenient and cheaper for you to buy electrical converters and socket adapters before you leave on your trip. At home, you know where the shops are. Also, the demand for converter equipment is lower, so the prices are more reasonable. Once you are in a tourist destination, you won’t know where to shop and may find marked-up prices.” USA TODAY

Electricity Guide for Travelers (source:

Are you preparing to travel internationally and want to take items that require electricity? In most cases, you’ll need only an adapter plug; in some cases, a voltage converter or transformer, too.

This article (and accompanying charts) will help you power up with confidence.

Shop REI’s selection of adapters and converters.

What Devices Are You Bringing?

Electrical devices use heating elements or mechanical motors. Many are rated for dual-voltage, and may be automatic or manual.


  • Hair dryer
  • Electric shaver or toothbrush
  • Irons (for clothes or hair)
  • Coffee maker or water heater

Electronic devices use chips, circuits or electronic motors. Most are rated formulti-voltages. Examples:

  • Laptop, notebook, tablet, e-reader
  • Smartphone, cellphone, MP3 player
  • Camera
  • Battery chargers (for devices with rechargeable batteries)

Both types of devices are likely to need an adapter plug to work in 220V foreign outlets. Our adapter plug chart below lists the most common ones.

Some devices of either type, however, are single-voltage rated and may require avoltage converter or a transformer in addition to an adapter plug. How do you know? First, read the device’s power supply label.

How to Read a Power Supply Label

The label on your device will indicate if a voltage converter or transformer is necessary. This may be: a) affixed directly to the back of the device; b) on the AC transformer box of the power supply lead; or c) molded into the plastic on the plug. It is often in very small print.

JBA - Lenovo ThinkPad X230T Replacement Power Adapter - 03


The INPUT line contains the key information—whether the voltage (V) is single, dual or multi.




Single-voltage device: INPUT AC120Vac 60Hz 200W

Dual-voltage device: INPUT AC120/240V 50-60Hz 1300W

Multi-voltage device: INPUT AC100 — 240V 50-60Hz 14W OUTPUT DC 1.2V 2.3A

Dual-voltage devices use a slash to separate the 2 voltages (in this case, 120V/240V); multi-voltage items use a dash to indicate the range of voltages (in this case, 100—240V).

Items with a small voltage range (such as 100—120V) are considered single-voltage items since they will not accommodate a 220V power supply. For practical purposes, there is no difference between 100V and 120V or, for that matter, between 220V and 240V. These small ranges are designed to accommodate voltage fluctuations only.

Device Conversion Chart

Device and Type of
Voltage (INPUT)
Power Supply in
Destination Country
Any type, single:
110, 115, 120, 125V
110-125V Yes No No
Electrical, single:
110, 115, 120, 125V
220, 230, 240V Yes Yes, or a
Yes, or a
Electronic, single:
110, 115, 120, 125V
220, 230, 240V Yes No Yes
Electrical, dual:
110, 220, 230,
Yes No No
Electronic, multi:
110, 220, 230,
Yes No No

Adapter Plugs

As the chart above indicates, unless you have a single-voltage device and you’re traveling to a country with a 220-volt power supply, you need only an adapter plug. The chart below lists suitable adapter plug models for the most common travel destinations.


Adapter Plug Quick Guide

Common Destinations
Adapter Plug Type Outlet Type
United Kingdom, Ireland, Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaysia, some African countries REI E105
Eagle Creek UG-D
Europe, Middle East, Israel, some
Asian countries, some African
REI E106
Eagle Creek UG-E and UG-A
China, Australia, New Zealand, Fiji REI 107
Eagle Creek UG-C
Japan, Taiwan, Central America,
Caribbean, South America
REI 108
Eagle Creek UG-B

For a complete list of countries and their power supply and outlet types, see our companion REI Expert Advice article, Voltage and Outlets by Country.

Converter or Transformer?

If your device is rated for a single voltage (such as 110V), and this is different than the power supply at your destination (such as 220V), you will need an adapter plug plus:

  • A voltage converter or transformer for an electrical device.
  • Or a transformer for an electronic device.

Good news: Many converters now operate as both a converter for high-watt electrical devices and a transformer for low-watt electronic devices.

Watts (W) is the amount of power a device uses. Low watts would range up to 25W or 50W, depending on the converter. This would be typical of small personal electronics. Electrical heating units will require a “high” setting as they may consume 1000W to 2000W.

For example, if you are going on an REI Adventures trip to hike in Italy and you’re packing your electric toothbrush (single-voltage), you will need an adapter plug for Europe and a converter to reduce the 230V power supply in Italy into the 120V power supply your single-voltage toothbrush charger requires. It is only consuming 1W, so you would set your converter on LOW.

For more info on selecting and using converters and transformers, see our companion article, Electrical FAQs and Glossary.

USB Charged Devices

If one or more of your devices is charged via a USB cable, be sure to grab the correct cable for your device. Connection type may be standard USB, mini USB, micro USB or brand proprietary. If you have multiple devices, you may think you can save space by taking only one USB wall charger (plus the right adapter plug). Check the OUTPUT on the USB wall chargers. If they are the same, you are in luck. If not, take the relevant charger for each device.

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