Voltages Around the World and How to Buy Plug and Power Adaptors

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Voltages Around the World and How to Buy Plug and Power Adaptors
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Voltages Around the World and How to Buy Plug and Power Adaptors

As anyone who has ever travelled to different countries knows, voltages and frequencies that are used to power electronics vary greatly around the world. One country can require a certain plug style to handle a specific voltage, while the country next door may use an entirely different electrical system. When travelling, it is important for consumers to have access to the right plug and power adaptors in order to deal with the changing electrical scenarios that may be encountered.

Before buying plug and power adaptors, it can be helpful for the consumer to have a general idea regarding the functions of plug and power adaptors. Additionally, it helps to be aware of the different mains voltages and frequencies around the world and the wall sockets and plug styles that work with each of those systems. Consumers also benefit from knowing how they can utilise the online auction site eBay to find and purchase these adaptors that are an essential item for overseas travel.

Understanding Plugs, Voltage, and Frequencies Around the World

Most people are aware of the fact that plug styles change from country to country. What many people do not understand, however, is that there are two additional factors that define the use of electricity around the world: voltage and frequency.

Different Nominal Voltages Around the World

Nominal voltage defines the type of equipment a power supply is designed to work with. The nominal voltage supplied by a wall socket varies from country to country, meaning that a toaster that works in North America can cause sparks if plugged into a socket in the United Kingdom. This is because the nominal voltage in the UK is 230 volts, while that in North America is 120 volts.

Adapting an electrical appliance or device is not simply a matter of adapting the plug to a different plug design; it also involves adapting the item’s utilisation voltage to work with the nominal voltage in another country. Most electronics are designed to deal with a certain amount of variance in voltage; however, when large discrepancies, such as that from 120 volts to 230 volts, are encountered, this can lead to significant safety issues.

Different Frequencies Around the World

Even when countries share a nominal voltage, they may have a different frequency within that voltage. This means that the current cycles at a different speed. The frequency of a current is annotated in Hertz. As an example, consider South Korea and Egypt: both countries have a nominal voltage of 220 volts, but South Korea has a frequency of 60 Hz, and Egypt has a frequency of 50 Hz. Some electronics are designed to operate on a range of frequencies; however, if a consumer wants to be safe, adapting to cope with a fluctuation in frequency is as essential as adapting for voltage.

The changes in frequency and voltage around the world are quite dynamic, changing from country to country even within closely-knit geographical regions. The following chart lists some of the more prominent voltages and frequencies, along with the countries that use each system.

Voltage

Frequency

Countries

120 Volts

60 Hz

Bahamas, Bermuda, Canada, Central America, the United States and its territories, Venezuela

127 Volts

60 Hz

Mexico, Brazil, Madagascar Saudi Arabia

220 Volts

50 Hz

Argentina, Bangladesh, much of South America, much of Africa, China, Hong Kong, India, Thailand, the Middle East

230 Volts

50 Hz

The United Kingdom and Europe, Israel, Iraq, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Swaziland, Sudan, Uruguay

It is important for consumers to note that this is not a comprehensive list and that the countries they plan on visiting may not be listed here. Before travelling, individuals should research the voltage demands of the countries they plan on visiting and make sure that they have the appropriate tools to deal with variations in voltage and frequency.

Different Plug Types Around the World

Wall outlets and their corresponding plugs are different in many countries around the world. The list of plugs around the world is quite extensive, but there are a few prominent ones that dominate in some significant geographical regions.

The USA 2-pin Plug

The USA 2-pin plug, also referred to as a Type A or NEMA 1-15, has two rectangular parallel pins. The neutral pin in modern versions of this plug is slightly larger than the live pin.

The USA 3-pin Plug

The USA 3-pin plug, sometimes called the Type B plug or the NEMA 5-15, has the same core design as the USA 2-pin but with an additional, third circular pin placed beneath the two rectangular plug.

The Europlug

The Type C, or Europlug, has two thin circular pins side by side and a narrow form factor. It ports with a circular wall socket and is found throughout Europe.

The French Plug

The Type E, or French plug, has two circular pins and a large round form factor. It ports with a circular wall socket.

The Schuko Plug

The Schuko, or Type F, plug is a thick round plug with earthing clips on the side. Sometimes, older Schuckos can be seen without grounding elements.

The British Plug

Also known as the Type G plug, the British plug has two horizontally arrayed rectangular pins and one vertically arrayed rectangular pin above. It is one of the most stable plug types in the world.

Where Are the Plug Types Used?

The following table addresses each of the plug types discussed above, with some of the countries which use that plug type. The chart also goes through some additional plug types and their associated countries. This is not a comprehensive list, but it may used as a general reference. 

Plug Type

Countries Where Plug is Used

USA 2-pin and 3-pin

North America, Central America, and Japan, amongst others

Europlug

All European countries, except the United Kingdom, Ireland, Cyprus, and Malta

The French Plug

France, Belgium, Poland, Slovakia, the Czech Republic, Tunisia, and Morocco

The Schuko Plug

Germany, Austria, the Netherlands, Sweden, Norway, Finland, Portugal, Spain, and Eastern Europe

The British Plug

The UK, Ireland, Cyprus, Malta, Malaysia, Singapore, and Hong Kong

Type H

Israel

Type I

Australia, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, and Argentina

Type J

Switzerland and Liechtenstein

Type K

Denmark and Greenland

Type L

Italy and parts of North Africa

Type M

South Africa, Swaziland, and Lesotho

Type N

Brazil

Before travelling to a foreign country, consumers should confirm the plug type used in that country. Appropriate adaptors as well as voltage converters may be needed. As stated, the above list is not comprehensive, and consumers should verify their power needs before travelling to a country. 

Dealing with Voltage

After addressing the plug element of an electronic device, a consumer needs to look into the utilisation voltage of the device to adapt to a different country's nominal voltage. Voltage converters provide consumers with a way to operate an electronic device on a higher or lower nominal voltage. For example, a traveller going from the UK to the US needs to adapt a device that is designed to deal with 230 volts so that it can also run on the 120 volts nominal voltage in the US. Voltage converters that adapt a device to deal with a higher voltage are called Step Up converters; ones that adapt a device to deal with a lower voltage are called Step Down converters. Converters are often sold in tandem with plug adaptors as a complete package in country-specific solutions for travellers.

Buying Plug Adaptors and Voltage Converters on eBay

The online aggregator site eBay offers a wide array of choices for consumers looking for plug adaptors and voltage converters. The site also offers a convenient search interface which allows you to quickly run a search and begin looking through relevant listings. You can enter a term in the search bar on any page on the site to begin a search. If you have a specific country for which you need adaptors, use the country’s name in your search; general searches using terms such as "world travel adaptor" and "voltage converters" can give you an idea of the overall range of items available on the website.

When shopping on eBay, it can facilitate your purchasing process if you take a moment to evaluate the seller with whom you want to work. You can do this by looking through the seller's past auctions and reading the feedback the merchant has received from other customers. Taking the time to do this can help you find the right solution for your plug and converter needs when travelling.

Conclusion

Preparing for a trip or a move to a new country can be made a little easier by adequately adapting electronics for use in the new country ahead of time. Since plugs, outlets, voltage, and frequency change dramatically from country to country, individuals must prepare their electronics so that they do not damage equipment or cause a safety problem. Verifying the right voltage and plug requirements of a new country is essential for a traveller who needs to use electronics in another country.

Finding and purchasing voltage converters and plug adaptors is made easy online at the auction site eBay. As an aggregator site, eBay brings together multiple vendors, creating a wide catalogue of options to choose from. By simply running a search, looking through relevant listings, and taking the time to evaluate sellers, a consumer can access the voltage converters and plug adaptors that can lighten travel concerns a little.

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