The electrical plug as we know it made its way into homes a few years after electricity was first used for home lighting. Many different types of plugs and sockets were developed over the years, and each country has its own set of standards. The end result is a wide range of plugs currently in use around the world. The outlet voltage used is also not the same in every country. However, unlike the many different types of plugs, there are only two main voltages used worldwide.
Travellers from the UK to other countries should purchase the correct plug and power adaptors if they plan to carry and use any electrical device overseas. Buyers should first review the electrical devices they plan to use to find out if the required voltage is compatible with that abroad. They must then learn what types of plugs can be used in the destination country. Finally, buyers need to purchase the correct plug and power adaptors from a convenient source.
Types of AC Power Plugs Currently in Use Worldwide
Currently, there are over a dozen different types of power sockets used worldwide. This does not include older types of sockets still in use in older buildings around the world. Buyers must find out exactly what kind of plug can be used in the destination country, or their electrical devices may be useless. This information is readily available from various online sources. The most common types of sockets (and corresponding plugs) are described below.
The Type A plug is an ungrounded, two-prong plug that is very common in North and Central America. The two prongs are flat and parallel to each other. The Japanese plug is very similar to the US version; the main difference is that the US version has one prong slightly larger than the other.
Similar to the Type A plug, Type B plugs feature two flat, parallel prongs. In addition to these, Type B plugs have a third, rounded prong that acts as a grounding pin. These plugs are used in North America and Japan.
Also known as the "Europlug", Type C plugs are two-wire, ungrounded plugs with two prongs. These are commonly used in European countries (except the UK, Ireland, Cyprus, and Malta) and in developing countries around the world. Type C outlets are being phased out, but Type C plugs fit perfectly into type E, F, J, K, or L outlets.
Originally defined as the British Standard 546 plug, Type D plugs are now the standard in India. This type of plug features three large, round pins in a triangular pattern. Some outlets are designed for both Type D and Type M (similar to Type D, but larger) plugs. These plugs are also used in Sri Lanka, Nepal, and Namibia. In the UK and Ireland, the BS546 socket is still used for special purposes, but is no longer used as a source of mains AC power.
Several countries in Europe, including France, Belgium, Poland, and the Czech Republic, use the Type E outlet. The socket features a round, male pin permanently mounted in the outlet that serves as a grounding pin. Type E plugs are the same as Type C plugs, except for the addition of a female contact for the grounding pin in the socket. Type E is also used in Tunisia and Morocco in Africa.
The Type F socket is common in Germany and other countries in Continental Europe. It is also known as the "Schuko" plug, a term derived from the German word for "Earthed contact". Type F plugs are the same as Type C plugs, except that they are round and have two clips on the sides that connect to grounding contacts on the outlet. A type of plug called the CEE 7/7 plug was designed for use with both Type C and Type F sockets.
The Type G plug is the standard plug used in the United Kingdom, Ireland, Hong Kong, and other countries. It features three rectangular pins that form a triangle. This plug is also known as the British Standards 1363, or BS 1363, plug.
The Type H plug is unique to Israel, the West Bank, and the Gaza Strip. The older version of the plug has three flat pins in a "Y" shape. Newer Type H plugs have three round pins in the same locations. Most sockets in Israel can accept both the older and the newer Type H plugs.
The Type I plug is used in Australasia and, although there are slight differences, in China as well. This plug has a flat grounding pin and two flat prongs in a "V" shape. Though it looks similar to a Type H plug, they are not interchangeable.
The standard in Switzerland, the Type J plug is similar to a Type C, but adds a grounding pin. The plug itself is hexagonal and the grounding pin is between the two prongs, but not in a straight line with them. A non-earthed, two-pin variant of this plug uses a flatter hexagonal shape.
The Type K plug is similar to the Type F plug, and is used in Denmark and Greenland. It varies from the Type F since it uses a grounding pin instead of grounding clips. The Type K outlet accepts Type C, E, and F plugs.
Used in Italy, the Type L plug is a grounded plug similar to the Type C plug. The grounding pin is located at the centre of the two prongs, in line with them. The two variants of this plug (16A and 10A) vary only in the size and spacing of the prongs. The reason for the two different standards is that Italy had two separate tariffs for electricity, one for lamps, and one for appliances.
The Type M plug is similar to the Indian Type D plug in shape, but is larger in size. It is used in Southern Africa. Type M is also used in India, Sri Lanka, Nepal, and Namibia for larger appliances. It is also sometimes used in Israel for heavy appliances like air conditioning circuits.
The Type N was meant to be the new common standard for all of Europe and other regions with 230V mains. It is similar to the Swiss Type J plug, but not identical. Type N plugs are currently used in Brazil.
Standard AC Outlet Voltages Worldwide
There are four standard voltage-frequency combinations available from power outlets around the world. Travellers should know what the standard is in the destination country. If the voltage is different, they should consider a power converter or transformer in addition to a plug adaptor. Devices plugged into outlets with the same voltage but different frequencies generally function correctly. The standard voltage ranges are:
- 220-240V / 60Hz
- 220-240V / 50Hz
- 100-127V / 60Hz
- 100-127V / 50Hz
Information to Look For on Electrical Devices
Once buyers know what types of plugs are accepted in the destination locations, finding the right plug adaptor is simple. However, to find out if a voltage transformer or converter is required, buyers must refer to the information on the device. The relevant information looks like this: "Input: AC100 -- 240V 50-60Hz 14W Output DC 1.2V 2.3A".
The table below provides a simple means for buyers to decide if they require plug adaptors, transformers, or both.
Device Input Voltage (V)
Destination Country Power Supply (V)
Converter or Transformer
Single (110, 115, 120, or 125)
110 to 125
Single (110, 115, 120, or 125)
220, 230, 240
110, 220, 230, 240
Multi (110 to 240)
110, 220, 230, 240
Most portable devices, including laptops and portable media players, are supplied with power converters that work worldwide. Usually all that is needed is a power plug adaptor. However, buyers must verify this by reading the information on the power converter or label to avoid damaging equipment.
Different Types of Plug and Power Adaptors
The function of a power plug adaptor is simple. It accepts a plug of one type, and plugs into a socket of a different type. Simple plug adaptors convert just one type of plug to another. Universal adaptors, on the other hand, can be of two different types. The simpler version accepts different types of plugs, but can only plug into one type of outlet. More sophisticated versions have interchangeable prongs enable them to plug into different outlets, as well. Some newer adaptors also include powered USB outlets, allowing travellers to charge all their USB devices with one adaptor.
Buying Plug and Power Adaptors on eBay
Travellers looking for plug and power adaptors can find a large selection on eBay. They can choose from simple adaptors or more sophisticated models that accept a range of different plugs and can fit different sockets. Buyers can begin by visiting the eBay home page and entering "power plug adaptor" into the search bar. For a specific adaptor, buyers can enter more specific keywords into the search field. For example, buyers looking for "UK to US power plug adaptors" can view a complete list of all UK to US power plug adaptors on eBay.
Buyers should ask sellers if they have any questions regarding an adaptor. Before committing to a purchase, buyers should review the seller's return or exchange policy in case an adaptor does not function as expected. Buyers can contact sellers directly if this information is not available on the item's page.
There are many different standards for electric mains outlets around the world. Travellers leaving the UK with their electrical appliances must purchase power plug adaptors (and may need a voltage transformer) to use their equipment abroad. Buyers can review the destination country's standard socket type and outlet voltage details from various online sources. Besides comparing a device plug to the destination country's socket, they should also review the device's input voltage information. Buyers can then choose suitable power and plug adaptors. They can also purchase a voltage transformer if required. There are several types of power plug adaptors available. Worldwide or universal adaptors accept different types of plugs, and more sophisticated models can also be plugged into different types of outlets.
Plug and power adaptors are readily available at brick and mortar electrical shops and online. Buyers looking for plug and power adaptors online can choose from a wide range of options on eBay for use anywhere in the world.