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Phileas Fogg and Passepartout approach the Swiss Alps

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Traveling to other countries will make you personally aware that the planet operates on basically two different electrical systems. All electrical devices are usually designed to operate on one or the other system.  Besides the world having two different electrical systems, there are multiple plug types that have been devised to go with each system. The human mind is never idle! The United States and a few other countries operate on the 110V system.  The rest of the world uses the 220V system.

The resources below will take you directly to worldwide electricity guides that will tell you the system and plug types for each country of the world.

Some Worldwide Traveler  Electrical Guides
Voltage and plug requirements 

Five Golden Electricity Rules

Here are five golden electricity rules related to electricity when traveling:

The Five Golden Electricity Rules

  • Know the voltage, hertz and amps of your electrical devices. Many electrical devices, and most electronic devices, such as tablets, laptops, and camera and recorder chargers, electric shavers, etc., are dual-voltage. This means they will operate on either 110V or 220V systems, the two voltage systems in common use worldwide.  Most electronic devices are auto-dual-voltage and automatically change to the correct voltage when you plug the device into a wall outlet.
  • Check to confirm whether your device has a dual-voltage capability and, if so, is it automatic or does it has a manual switch to set the voltage.  Many hairdryers still have a manual switch to switch between 110V and 220V. Make sure you have switched it to the proper voltage before you plug it in.   
  • Take Along a Set of Adapter Plugs. Even if your device will automatically or manually be switchable to both voltage systems (110V or 220V), you will likely need a different adapter plug to be able to plug your power cord into a wall outlet in a given country or city. Yes, that's right --even if it is the same voltage type! Remember you are on the Planet Earth and not on some advanced planet with universal electricity.
  • Make sure your adapter plugs are compatible with all your device cords or an extension cord you are taking.  Before you go, always try out your electrical cord plugs with any adapters or extension cords to make sure everything is compatible.  For example, not all 110v plugs have the same prongs.
  • Take an extension cord. Don't laugh.  It may come in handy. See below.
Some Tips
  • It is better to use a dual voltage appliance than to carry along an electrical converter. Especially if it is just a hair dryer or travel iron. 

  • Even with a dual-voltage appliance, you will probably still need an adapter plug. Buy a universal set of them to take along and not just ones for specific countries. Or at least buy a set for a region (e.g., Western Europe). No matter how well you have researched the countries and cities you will be visiting, you will eventually encounter the unexpected.

  • Use your hair dryer on the low setting if you are not sure the hotel electrical system can handle the amps on the high setting.

  • About That extension cord

    Take a 15-ft extension cord. Even if you stay in a good hotel in a country.  You will eventually encounter one of the following conditions: The bathroom does not have an electrical outlet at all. The bathroom has an electrical outlet but it is only for electric shavers. If you plug your hair dryer in a bathroom outlet (on high) you may overload the system and then lights out!  The only mirror is not in the bathroom but in another part of your hotel room (O.K., a 1% possibility but it does happen.)   Maybe the electrical outlet you want to use isn't working.

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