Home / Featured / World Plug Types Explained

World Plug Types Explained

Have you ever landed in a new country with a phone desperately on 2% in need of a charge, found a power outlet just in time and…didn’t have the right plug? Bugger. Plug and socket configurations can be confusing and yet, knowing which plug adaptor you need to have in advance helps you plan for any electrical eventuality.


 

Quick-Look Plug Adaptor Travel Tips:

  • Check your destination country’s plug types on the WorldStandards.eu list to make sure you have the right adaptors
  • Buy at least 2 adaptors to take with you
  • Check the voltage on your devices before you plug them in at your destination country
  • Invest in a multi-location adaptor, even better if it has extra USB outlets

 

An early electrical plug with build socket. Photo credit: IEC

Why Are There So Many Electrical Plug Types? 

Great question. Everyone who travels has probably wondered this at some point, and yet most still don’t know the answer. And basically the answer is simultaneous worldwide technological development resulting in, “oops, you were working on that too? We didn’t realise…”

It all started with the gradual introduction of electricity into world infrastructure. At the beginning, electricity was primarily used for lighting however as the technology developed, engineers began using it to supersede fireplaces for heating, and other appliances. Enter the toaster, vacuum cleaner, television, etc and soon electrical companies had a full-blown industry to accommodate with differing wattages.

The more devices that needed to be plugged in, the more important safe electrical outlets and fittings became and so outlets changed, adding a third “grounding” pin to the American two-pin system.

Technology developed at various rates in different countries and many locations came up with the plug configuration they thought was best on their own. Keep in mind, this was long before the internet or global communication when the world was far less connected in terms of technological advances.

Nevertheless, the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) tried to create a standard plug type and eventually introduced the Type N plug in 1986. Unfortunately due to political and social attention being focused elsewhere, no one actually used the Type N plug until Brazil took the lead in 2007, hoping to amend their immense confusion of national electrical outlet styles, became the first to install this configuration as standard in wall outlets and plug leads.

Fast-forward to 2018 and there is still no world standard for plug configurations.

 

How Many Electrical Plug Types Are There?

Did you know there are actually fifteen different types of electrical plugs? Incredible, isn’t it? Whether we like it or not, this mish-mash of electrical outlet types is a fact of travel and we simply have to deal with it.

So the best answer is to do a little bit of research and make sure you have the right adaptor for your destination(s).

This great map by Gizmodo shows the debacle of plug types worldwide. Photo credit: Gizmodo

WorldStandards.eu did a fantastic job listing every country and the plug that it uses so instead of reinventing the wheel, CLICK HERE to view their list and cross-check your plug types before you travel.

 

Adaptors and Converters Are NOT the Same Thing

Ok so we’ve talked about plug adaptors and how you’ll need at least two for any destination (imagine if you want to plug in your computer and phone at the same time, etc) but what about voltage?

Do you know what voltage your hair straightener takes? It’s not a bad thing if you don’t even understand the question – most people never have to consider the voltage of their electronics because it’s standard in your home country.

Voltage is how much power the wall socket delivers to your electronic device when you plug it in. This amount can range from say, 110 Volts (V) in America to 230V in South Africa and Australia, to 240V in Kuwait, and so forth. It gets problematic when you take (let’s stick with the hair straightener example because I’ve lived this one first-hand!) a hair straightener from America that, unbeknownst to you, only runs on 110V and plug it into an Australian plug because you just got off a plane, it’s stinkingly humid and you look like someone who just got sorted into Gryffindor. BOOM. Well, not actually “boom”, the hair straightener won’t necessarily blow up like a Hollywood special effect but it will (did) fry the inner workings of the thing and rendered it useless. I had to buy a new one.

Thankfully, the acceptable voltage of most electronic devices from computers to hair straighteners tends to be written on the device, or on it’s power cable. If your device does not work with the voltage of your destination country, the best idea is to leave it at home since power / voltage converters are usually big, cumbersome, heavy and expensive. Just pick up a new one at your destination.

SIDE NOTE: Most portable electronics such as computers, phones, and most cameras tend to be compatible with a wide range of voltage strengths.

 

Multi-location Adaptors

There are numerous options for multi-plug type adaptors and these can be fantastic travel accessories. Multi-location plug adaptors Tetris several different plug types into one space and can even offer extra USB slots so you can charge multiple devices in at the same time such as a phone and your computer.

Multi-location adaptors usually look like little boxes and allow you to plug in one device (with the plug, not via USB) from your home country and then select the plug type of your destination country.

These are great travel accessories but be careful not to drop them or throw them around too much. I managed to snap one last year by missing a ~4 foot toss onto my luggage and having the plastic adaptor land on the floor instead.

Some good options are below and vary from $11.99 to $19.99

 

LKY Digital Worldwide Universal All-in-One Power Adaptor $11.99

Pro’s – affordable, offers US, EU, UK and Australian plugs plus 2x USB

Con’s – only 2 USB ports, not recommended for use with high-power electronics such as hair dryers

 

 

 

LOOP World Adapter Plug, Worldwide Travel Adapter Charger $15.95 (on sale from $29.95)

Pro’s – comes in 4 colours, 2x USB incl. one smart-USB port

Con’s – two vs 4 USB ports

 

 

 

 

EPIKA Universal USB Travel Power Adapter-EPICKA All In One Wall Charger $19.99 (on sale from $49.99)

Pro’s – shock-resistant, 4x USB incl. 2.4Amp smart-USB ports, 30-day money back guarantee

Con’s – higher price point

 

 

 

 

What do you think of all this plug outlet and adaptor necessity for travel? Do you have a travel story about electronics and voltage? Tell me in the comments!

 

Research in this article includes details from GizModo, WorldStandards.eu, and the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC)

About DeneaBuckingham

Denea is a world citizen and modern-day nomad. An Australian-American-Canadian, Denea left home at age 17 and has been traveling, learning, and loving life ever since. With a passion for exploration, scuba diving, spelunking, languages, and anthropology, Denea has traveled extensively around Australia, lived in the Philippines, the Solomon Islands, and America. Denea is a member of the Explorers Club and is dedicated to building a community of passionate travel bloggers, adventurers, and friends around the world. Each time she ticks off a bucket list item, a new one takes its place. "The best souvenirs are the friends we make along the way."

Check Also

How to Start Travelling #3: Seasonal Jobs (aka Vagabonding)

Seasonal jobs have been a favourite with backpackers and nomads since forever. Fruit picking in …

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Terms and Conditions

Legal and General Terms and Condition

Unless otherwise indicated, this Web Site and its contents are the sole and separate property of Travel Bloggers Tales, LLC, a California Limited Liability Company (TBT). The copyright and all other intellectual property rights in the material contained on this Web Site belongs to exclusively to TBT. The trademarks appearing on this Web Site are protected by the laws of the United States and international trademark laws.

In accessing this Web Site, you agree that the Web Site is made available for your personal, non-commercial use only. Unless you have TBT’s prior written permission, you are not permitted to copy, broadcast, make available to the public, download, store (in any medium), transmit, show or play in public, adapt or change in any way the material (or any part of it) contained on this Web Site for any purpose whatsoever.

THIS WEB SITE AND ITS CONTENT IS PROVIDED FOR USE “AS IS”. TBT MAKES NO REPRESENTATIONS OR WARRANTIES WITH RESPECT TO THIS WEB SITE OR ITS CONTENTS, ALL WARRANTIES, EXPRESS OR IMPLIED, INCLUDING WITHOUT LIMITATION THE IMPLIED WARRANTIES OF SATISFACTORY QUALITY AND FITNESS FOR PURPOSE RELATING TO THIS WEB SITE AND/OR ITS CONTENT AND/OR ANY WEB SITE TO WHICH IS LINKED ARE HEREBY TO THE FULLEST EXTENT PERMITTED BY LAW EXCLUDED. NO REPRESENTATIONS OR WARRANTIES ARE GIVEN AS TO THE ACCURACY OR COMPLETENESS OF THE INFORMATION PROVIDED ON THIS WEB SITE, OR ANY WEB SITE TO WHICH IT IS LINKED.

In no event shall TBT or its owners, employees, agents, suppliers, or contractors be liable for any damages of any nature, including without limitation any consequential loss, loss of income or profit, loss of or damage to property, claims of third parties, or any other loss, cost, claim or expense of any kind or character arising out of or in connection with the use of this Web Site, its content or any Web Site with which it is linked. This exclusion and limitation only applies to the extent permitted by law.

Access to this Site is permitted on a temporary basis and TBT reserves the right to withdraw or amend the service TBT provides on the Site or part of the Site without notice. TBT will not be liable or responsible if for any reason the Site is unavailable at any time or for any period.

You may view (and, where applicable, listen to and/or watch) the content and applications available on the Site for your own private non-commercial use. You must not use or allow others to access or use, all or any part of our Site or the contents and/or applications on it for commercial purposes without our permission. Use of all or any part of any Site or the contents and/or applications on it for commercial purposes shall be subject to separate terms and conditions and may be subject to a fee.

You may occasionally print individual pages of any Site for your private non-commercial use, provided that such printing is not substantial or systematic and our trade marks, copyright notices and trade mark notices are not removed.

You must not (whether directly or indirectly) (a) distribute, transmit, syndicate, sell or offer to sell or otherwise make available all or any part of any Site or in any way seek to commercialize all or part of the combination of materials which together constitute the Site, (b) distribute, transmit, syndicate, sell or offer to sell or otherwise make available any content, files, feeds or data from a Site, whether publically available or not, except as specifically permitted by that Site and in compliance with any applicable conditions or restrictions or (c) copy, download, or store any content, files, feeds or data from any Site, whether publically available or not, to make or populate a database or publication of any kind whatsoever unless is it is copying of an insubstantial part of any such material for your personal use.

If you are required to register to use the Site, it is your responsibility to provide accurate and complete registration details and to keep such details up to date. We are entitled to rely on any such registration details you provide to us.

Your registration with the Site must be in your own real, name, not under any false or assumed name and not with any other person’s identity. You must not pretend to be a different person. You must provide a valid email address when you register for any Site. If you provide an email address to us then you warrant to us that you are entitled to receive email to such email address.

If you are required to register to use the Site, you are responsible for everything done using your registration details. You must not disclose your login details to any other person. If you think that another person may have access to, or be using, your registration details, you must inform us immediately.

TBT may suspend, terminate or prevent your account and/or your access to any or all Site(s) at its sole discretion. Where TBT suspends, terminates or prevents your registration, you must not attempt to re-register or submit any content, material or applications without our prior written consent.

TBT may suspend, terminate or prevent your account and/or your access to TBT’s at its sole discretion. Where TBT suspends, terminates or prevents your registration, you must not attempt to re-register or submit any content, material or applications without our prior written consent.

Any dispute or claim arising out of or in connection with them or their subject matter or formation (including non-contractual disputes or claims), shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of California and you agree to submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts located in Los Angeles County, California. In the event of any legal action arising from or relating to these Terms of Use or your use of any Site, you hereby waive the right to a jury trial.

Should you have questions concerning this legal statement, our web site, or encounter any problems with this web site, please contact us.