Shocking Facts About International Travel

The holidays are right around the corner, and for many people that means travelling to exotic locales. And hardly anyone goes anywhere these days without electrical devices of one sort or another.

But electrical service isn’t uniform across borders, so before you melt your charger or turn your hair dryer into a Roman candle, here are some things you need to know.

120 or 240? Or Something Else?

There are two basic electrical systems on Planet Earth—120 volts and 240 volts of alternating current (AC). And two different ways the current is delivered—at 60 cycles per second (60 Hz) and 50 Hz. Within that are a range of actual voltages, but fortunately most devices can deal with minor differences. Generally speaking, here’s what you’ll run into:

  • North and Central America and Western Japan: 100-127 volt, at 60 Hz
  • Europe, Asia, Africa and the rest of the world: 220-240 volt, at 50 Hz

But there are exceptions, of course.

In Tokyo, Madagascar, and some Caribbean islands, you’ll find 100-127 volts at 50 Hz. This shouldn’t be a problem for your US-made devices…as long as the plug fits. More on that later.

The 220-240-volt systems in South Korea, Peru, the Philippines, Guyana and some states of Brazil are 60 Hz instead of 50. Again, cycles aren’t usually a problem as long as you get the voltage right.

But Can You Plug In?

As if voltages and cycles weren’t enough confusion, there’s also a bewildering variety of plug types. Each is designed to prevent things from being plugged into a system they weren’t designed for.

The three most widespread standards are:

  • "American" Type A (ungrounded) or B (grounded) plugs, with two vertical pins for 100-127 volts
  • "British" Type G (grounded) plug, with three rectangular pins for 220-240 volts
  • "European" Type C (ungrounded) or F(grounded) plug, with two round pins for 220-240 volts

Italy (Type L) and Switzerland (Type J) have grounded 220-240-volt versions of the Type C, as do France and Poland (E), and India (D). Fortunately, they also accept ungrounded Type C plugs, but the grounded versions aren’t interchangeable.

And Israel uses a Type H grounded plug with two angled rectangular current pins and a vertical ground.

What About Cycles?

The difference between 50 and 60 cycles won’t affect most devices. But if you have an analog clock, a motor, or a fluorescent lamp, check the product specifications before you travel. Some appliances, notably most computers, have built-in transformers that will operate on 120-240 volts and 50 or 60 cycles.

Plan Ahead to Avoid Trouble

If the voltage for your device is the same as where you are travelling, then you only need to concern yourself about the physical plug. But if the local voltage isn’t the same, you’ll need a transformer or converter to get the right voltage. You can find them online or at many electronics and outdoor sports stores. Several come with multiple functions to cover a range of needs.

Regardless, before travelling, you should verify the converters and adapters you’ll need for your trip. You can get a detailed look at https://wikitravel.org/en/Electrical_systems. You may even find that places that cater to tourists have multiple power options right in your room.


Wherever you’re headed, the pros at Allstar Electrical Services wish you a happy and safe adventure. And if you need help choosing the right products or with any other electrical issues, call Allstar Electrical at (303) 399-7420 or visit our website. Then use our handy on-line forms to request an estimate or set up an appointment.

Allstar also offers 24/7 radio-dispatched emergency service throughout our Front Range service area.