What power adapter is required when travelling overseas?

December 29, 2011 at 1:43 pm  •  Posted in Q&A by

We’re planning a trip to Portugal. What should I use when I get there for charging batteries for my DSLR, flash unit and laptop computer? What kind of adapter will I need in order to be safe and not risk destroying the batteries?
—José S.

You’re wise to plan ahead José since many countries use 220/240v power and not 110/120v as we do in Canada. Of course, it’s quite likely that your chargers can be used with 220/240v electricity as many—though not all—are designed for dual voltage operation. (The same applies to some appliances, such as my wife’s hair dryer.) Read the information on the back of the charger to be absolutely certain. For example, during a recent trip to Italy, I took three cameras (for testing) and my Dell laptop and the chargers for all of them were dual voltage types. Hence, I needed to buy only inexpensive accessories, a grounded adapter for Europe and an ungrounded adapter for Europe.

While traveling in Itally in September with my laptop PC and three new cameras that I was testing, I found that all the chargers were of the dual voltage type. They required only the suitable adapter and worked well. Of course, even with such chargers, I certainly cannot guarantee that you will not experience problems with voltage and other electrical issues in any foreign country. © 2010 Peter K. Burian

While traveling in Itally in September with my laptop PC and three new cameras that I was testing, I found that all the chargers were of the dual voltage type. They required only the suitable adapter and worked well. Of course, even with such chargers, I certainly cannot guarantee that you will not experience problems with voltage and other electrical issues in any foreign country. © 2011 Peter K. Burian

Disclaimer: I cannot provide advice that will ensure that your equipment will not be damaged while travelling. Excessively high voltage and power surges can occur anywhere and the use of a poor quality or inappropriate power converter or transformer and/or adapter can cause serious problems. Charge any equipment at your own risk. And buy converter and adapter accessories whose manufacturer includes a guarantee that covers damage that occurs as a result of the use of their product.

Your AA battery charger may not be a dual voltage type but for your flash unit, simply take a few alkalines. If you will need a 220/240v to 110/120v step-down converter accessory make sure it’s suitable for devices with high wattage. You must check the wattage of each device that you own, and the wattage that can be accommodated by the converter that you’re considering.

These are the types of accessories I have used while travelling in Western Europe over the years, including a 220/240v to 210/220v converter with suitable plugs for several countries, a power inverter for charging equipment while in an automobile and the types of adapters. While I have not experienced any problems, I cannot guarantee the safety of your equipment.

These are the types of accessories I have used while travelling in Western Europe over the years, including a 220/240v to 210/220v converter with suitable plugs for several countries, a power inverter for charging equipment while in an automobile and the types of adapters. While I have not experienced any problems, I cannot guarantee the safety of your equipment.

Be careful however. Many inexpensive converters get poor reviews online from people who have used them. Plan to pay more for a highly rated accessory that includes several adapter plugs, including the one or two that are common for Europe. When you’re ready to plug your charger into the converter, you’ll probably notice that the converter is designed to accept only the two prong North American plugs. If your converter is of this type, and if a charger’s plug has three prongs (including the round one for grounding) you would need an additional adapter: one that accepts a plug with three prongs but has only two prongs at the other end so you can plug it into the converter.

When I know I’ll be travelling by car for many hours, I’ll take a high quality “inverter” device—with high wattage compatibility—that plugs into the cigarette lighter. As long as the lighter plug is functioning, this can be a useful accessory for battery charging. Even so, I would still take one or more of the other accessories mentioned earlier for use while in a hotel or a friend’s home.

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One Comment

  1. Jack Challem / January 3, 2012 at 9:22 pm /

    Virtually all computers and transformers (part of the electronics of battery chargers) now instantly recognize and switch from 120 to 240 power. Therefore you really don’t need a converter just an adapter to fit the type of wall plug, which may vary from country to country. (Lots of variations in plugs, so check online to see what’s typical in the countries you’ll be visiting. I’ve had no problem charging my cameras, iphone, or computer when traveling overseas, as long as I have a plug adapter. You don’t need to spend the extra money for a power converter.

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