A Guide to Electronics Abroad

by Heather Robinette / Mar 16, 2016 /
Heather Robinette's picture

Studying abroad is an exciting time, and a lot of preparation is needed in preparing to live in another country for an extended period of time. One small detail that can easily be overlooked is how you plan to power your electronics while you are away from home. This can easily be taken for granted and not thought of until it is too late, aka your first night abroad. Although seemingly simple, you do want to make sure you have a good understanding of electricity before trying to power anything. I’ve put together some information to help you better understand how it works and what to buy before you go!

A Guide to Electronics Abroad

Plug/Prongs:

When you first start looking you will find different types of plug adapters. There are several different types for different parts of the world. For the United Kingdom, you will be looking for Type G, the British plug. It has three rectangular pins. You are able to plug your normal two prong plug into one side and the other side plugs into the UK outlet.
Voltage (V) and Hertz (Hz):

In the United States, electricity is normally 110 or 120 volts at a frequency of 60 Hz. Electricity in the United Kingdom is generally 220 volts and a frequency of 50 Hz. In regards to the Hertz, most electrical devices will not be affected by the cycle change, and in a lot of cases, they will support both cycles. One thing you will notice when plugging anything in is that due to the difference in voltage your items will charge much faster, but they will also start to get hot. I never left anything plug in for a long period of time, but I can guess that you could end up frying your item if you do so.

Do I need an adapter or converter?

Start by looking at the back of the devices you want to use while studying abroad. If they fall into the range of 100 ~ 240V and 50/60 Hz, they will work with the Type G adapter shown above. Items like your laptop and camera battery chargers usually have a dual voltage feature so they will be able to handle the conversion on their own. If it reads a single voltage (110V or 120V), then you will need a step-down converter.

When buying a converter, you’ll need to consider both the voltage and the wattage, which can normally be found on the device. If not, just multiply the voltage and amps to get the wattage. Make sure the converter has a rating of at least 10% higher than your device.

A Guide to Electronics Abroad

Hi / Low Converter and Adapter Set:

My recommendation would be to get a Hi/Low converter and adapter set. This provides you with a converter that has the capability of being on a low setting (cell phone charging) or a high setting (straighter or curling iron) and includes adapters for several countries. I ended up purchasing one of these before studying abroad and didn’t have any issues. Most electronic items these days are designed for the voltage range from 100V to 240V so you don’t necessarily need a converter, but personally I saw it as a fairly inexpensive investment to ensure I wouldn’t have any issues.

High/Low Power Selector Switch

0 watts to 25 watts Low Setting for Shavers, Battery Chargers, Etc.
26 watts to 1,875 watts High Setting for Irons, Hair Dryers, Etc.
Includes 5 Adapter Plugs & Zippered Travel Pouch

Personal Experience:

Personally, I did quite a bit of research about electricity before studying abroad so I had an idea of how everything would work. I took a Hi/Low converter with me and didn’t have any issues. The only downside is the converter can be quite large and bulky. You will need to keep that in mind when you are plugging it in, because that is a lot of weight to hang from the electrical outlet. I always tried to add some support under the converter. I would say the biggest thing is to keep an eye on your items and don’t leave them plugged in more than 20 mins. I remember plugging in my straighter and it seemed like it was almost instantly hot. I never had the straightener plugged in more than a few minutes. Regardless of the straightener settings, it would continue to get hotter. If you plan on using a straighter or other high voltage items another option would be to just purchase it there. It really depends on your comfort level with purchasing an unfamiliar straightener. But, as they told us while we were preparing, they do have the same items over there so don’t over think it too much. The last recommendation is to consider purchasing several adapters or you will only be able to plug one thing in at a time. They do offer adapters with multiple plug-ins, just keep in mind they are not converters.

I hope this information is able to help you while you are preparing to study abroad in London. Make sure to check all of your devices before you go so you know what to expect when trying to use or charge the items. It is never a fun experience to find out you can’t use them. Hopefully my experience can you help you in your future adventure!

 

Heather Robinette is the London Study Abroad Editor for Wandering Educators. She notes, "During the summer of 2011, I studied abroad for six weeks in London at the University of Westminster with Academics Programs International. I graduated from Kansas State University in Manhattan, KS in December 2012 with a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration. I currently work as a marketing analyst for a small company in central Texas. I currently work as a marketing coordinator for a real estate firm in Las Vegas, NV. I am also pursuing my MBA. While I was abroad in London, I was able to create many unforgettable memories that I will never forget! My study abroad experience helped me gain various skills, but above all else, it helped me to learn more about myself and the world around me." You can find her online at http://www.heatherrobinette.com/