Sunday, March 4, 2012

Plugs and Outlets

American plugs and outlets
In the USA, household electric voltage is 110 at a frequency of 60 Hz.  Throughout Europe, it is 220 volts and a frequency of 50 Hz.

Experienced travelers know that you need a converter to adjust the voltage so that electrical products from one continent will work in another area.  When I moved over here I didn't even bother to bring any big electronics, such as a TV, because I knew it would be better to just buy something over here.

Aside from the converter you also need to have the right kind of plug so that your power cord will fit in to the outlet.  So even though the voltage is uniform throughout Europe, the plugs and the outlets can be different.

In the United Kingdom, Ireland, Malta and Cyprus they use the British 3-prong plugs.

The 4 mm plug is the most versatile plug in Europe.  It is used everywhere except for where the British 3-prong outlet is used.  It can use the 4 mm or 5 mm outlets.  Most of my small appliances (iPhone charger, electric shaver, camera charger) have a 4 mm plug.

The 4 mm outlet is not grounded so it is being phased out in most of Europe.  Just the outlet; not the plug.

Through most of Europe the 5 mm outlet is used.  Again, you can use a 4 mm plug in a 5 mm outlet.  My flat has 5 mm outlets.

Italy has its own plug and outlet.  The plug looks like the 4 mm plug except that it has a grounding pin.  The good thing is that a 4 mm plug adapter will work in an Italian 3 pin outlet.

Finally there is a plug and outlet that is used in Switzerland and Liechtenstein.  It looks like the Italian version except that the grounding pin in the center is not parallel with the other pins.  A 4 mm plug adapter will work in a Swiss outlet.

None of this really causes me any trouble when I travel.  My small appliances with a 4 mm plug work everywhere except with that funky British outlet so then I just take along a UK plug adapter.  And when I'm in Italy I just make sure to bring along my 4 mm adapter so that I can plug in my laptop.

Update:  The UAE uses the UK plugs too.

Update:  SingaporeHong Kong and Macau each use the UK plugs as well.

South Africa plug
Update:  South Africa has a 3-prong plug similar to the UK plug but the prongs are all round.  The outlet also has the UK on/off toggle.

India plug

Update:  India uses a plug similar to South Africa but the prong size is a bit different.


  1. I didn't know that there were electric sockets in trees - I think you mean 'Cyprus,' NOT 'Cypress' :-) But the the rest of your advice is extremely helpful & sound. However, beware of using adaptors long-term with heavy duty electrical goods. It has dangers as we discovered

    1. Thanks for catching my mistake Ricky. Cheers, Christopher