This article is the second part of the series called Using Electricity Safely While Abroad, by ESC (download the full guide as a PDF) and composed of:
- Simple rules for Electrical Safety Abroad while visiting other countries than the UK;
- Questions and answers related to using the electrical appliances abroad.
In the first part we saw a brief guide to the safe use of electricity in the countries outside of the UK – what are the dangers of using electricity abroad and some simple rules of keeping yourself safe while abroad from the UK. In the article below there is a series of most commonly asked questions + their answer regarding traveling abroad AND using electrical devices / accessories outside the UK:
- Can I use UK electrical appliances safely abroad?
- What are the travel adaptors?
- Which travel adaptor should I use?
- What are voltage converters/transformers?
- How can I tell if an appliance is dual voltage rated?
- Can I buy electrical appliances abroad and use them safely back in the UK?
- What countries use a different voltage / frequency than the UK one?
Using electricity safely while abroad(2)
Questions and answers on using electrical appliances abroad from the UK
Can I use UK electrical appliances safely abroad?
Yes, but you must consider the type of socket, the voltage and the frequency of the electricity supply used in the country you are visiting. In most cases a travel adaptor will be needed to allow an appliance to be plugged into the socket of another country. Where the supply voltage is different you may need to use a voltage transformer or converter unless the electrical appliance or it’s power supply is dual voltage rated. If the frequency is different, the normal operation of an electrical appliance may also be affected. For example, a 50Hz clock may run faster on a 60Hz electricity supply. For travellers to Europe only the socket type needs to be considered as the voltage and frequency are the same as the UK.
What are the travel adaptors?
A travel adaptor is a device that simply allows you to plug any UK electrical appliance into a foreign electrical socket. It is important to note that it does not convert the voltage or frequency.
Which travel adaptor should I use?
Different countries use different electrical sockets. Before you travel you need to know the type of socket used in the country you are visiting so that you can take the correct adaptor with you. As there are over a dozen different styles of plugs and sockets used throughout the world, there are travel adaptors available that are designed for use in more than one country.
Some travel adaptors are not suitable for appliances that require an earth connection and should only be used with double insulated equipment. Double insulated appliances will be marked with a  <double square> symbol. Before plugging an appliance into an adaptor check that it does not exceed the maximum power rating shown in AMPS or WATTS on the adaptor. For safety, all modern travel adaptors must meet BS 5733.
What are voltage converters/transformers?
In countries where the voltage is 100 – 127 v and the appliance, or its power supply, is not dual voltage rated, you will need to use a voltage transformer or converter to allow the appliance to work safely and properly. Both voltage converters and transformers increase the voltage, but some ‘electronic’ appliances such as CD players, TV’s, radios, computers, etc are not suitable for use with converters. If unsure, check with the manufacturer. Also, converters should only be used for short periods of time (1 – 2 hours) where most transformers can be used continuously. Most voltage converters and transformers come supplied with plug adaptors so you may not need to buy a separate travel adaptor.
All converters and transformers will have a maximum power rating (AMPS or WATTS) so make sure that any appliance you intend to use does not exceed this rating. The diagram below shows the different voltages and frequencies used worldwide.
How can I tell if an appliance is dual voltage rated?
The appliance rating plate should show if the appliance, or its power supply, is dual voltage rated. It will say INPUT: 100 – 240V ~. Whilst some dual voltage appliances automatically adjust to the input voltage, some have a switch to manually select the correct voltage. If you are unsure about your appliance, always check with the manufacturer.
Can I buy electrical appliances abroad and use them safely back in the UK?
Due to the differences already explained in this guide, we would not recommend buying electrical appliances abroad for use back in the UK.
Read the first part of this guide – Simple electrical safety rules for your holiday abroad, or consult other Electrical Safety Tips – via the Electrical Safety Articles.