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Travel with John Bermont

The original do-it-yourself travel guide to Europe ℠

Electric Power Converters

Why You Should NEVER Use a Converter in Europe.
Power voltage converters destroy your electronic gizmos — phones, ipads, cameras, computers, chargers.

A graph of American electricity versus converted European electricity.

This graph illustrates how AC voltage changes in a fraction of a second, an eighth of a second to be more exact. The blue line traces the voltage in a smooth alternating sine wave coming from an American electrical outlet. The red line shows what the voltage looks like coming out of a "converter" when used in Europe. That voltage has a very hard landing 50 times a second. It is not the sine wave that your gizmos need. There are more blue peaks than red peaks because American electricity flips faster, 60 times per second from positive to negative. The frequency of European current is only 50 Hz. This has a severe effect on the performance of many American devices.

Carpe diem. Vivere bene! Gratia Deo.

Chapter 11 part 1 of

HOW TO EUROPE: The Complete Travelers Handbook
John Bermont

John Bermont — Chef du Site

This entire book is published totally free on-line by the author, photographer, and webmaster, yours truly, with help from my daughter Stephanie. I welcome all questions, comments, and complaints. For contact information please see NOTE TO READERS. Updated 30 January 2015.

Brought to you by
Euro-Shoppe is your go-to Internet source for travel supplies.
Your Go-To Travel Store

Sizzle, sizzle, spark, and pop.

This Internet edition of chapter 11 is divided into two parts:

  1. Electric Power Converters: Why You Should NEVER Use a Converter in Europe.
  2. European Electricity: Voltage, Frequency, Watts. Converters, Plugs, Adapters..

The purpose of this page is to bring you up to full power on the biggest buggy-boo facing international travelers — "electric converters".


220 ≠ 110

The voltage throughout Europe is 220. American voltage is only 110. Knowing if and when you must change European electricity so that it can be safely used in your gizmos is a significant nuisance for travelers. How do you do that? You should not even try.

Smoking the Hookah

A lot of travel supply companies and travel writers on the web recommend that you use a "converter" to change European 220 volts down to 110 volts so that you can use your electrical things in Europe. This is dangerous nonsense. Power voltage converters destroy your electronic gizmos — phones, ipads, cameras, computers, and their chargers. I am flabbergasted at some of the rubbish I read on the Internet, and saddened by the emails I get from people who got sparks and smoke when they plugged in a converter.

Do not use a converter in Europe on anything.

Who says so?

How do you know you can trust me on this? Briefly, some of my qualifications are: earned my degree in chemical engineering cum laude, built and regularly used a number of electronic test instruments (e.g. volt-ohm meter, wave generator, oscilliscope), lived in four European cities accumulating a total of over seven years with feet on the ground day to day in 220 volt lands, and traveled extensively through scores of foreign countries on four continents since long before the Internet was invented.

I have popped the hotel fuses and fried my gear more than once. Even after years of travel in Europe I made one of my worst mistakes ever in summer 2015. I blew up the power supply of my desk top computer after arriving in Haarlem, The Netherlands on another expedition for the cause. And I mean, BLEW IT UP! There were sparks, bangs, and smoke everywhere. I knew better, but I became too familiar with 220 volts and got careless.

Click on my mug shot above for my travel bio and even a full professional résumé.

If you do not know the meaning of voltage, watts, and frequency you have a choice. You can trust what you are reading here from a university educated, former Mensa member, midwestern American geezer, or you can put your life in the hands of a Chinese chipmunk selling stuff made by child labor with the help of dirt chutes in the USA. It is potentially your life, and it is your call.

So, end of lecture and on with the message.



A "converter" is an electronic device designed to reduce 220 volts to 110 volts. It does this by cutting off half of the peak-to-peak sine wave. Very simple. Thus, the electricity varies from zero to max volts and back to zero. It does not go to negative volts. It stays at zero volts for half of the sine wave. Therefore, what comes out of a converter is on-off power, at a frequency of 50 Hz. See the red line in the graph above.

Converters are suggested for use on hair dryers, irons, and other high wattage heating devices. If your high wattage equipment does not have a dual voltage switch, you might be able to use a converter. A converter is much lighter and smaller than a transformer of equal capacity, and it is definitely not a transformer. If it is used with something like a 400 watt slide projector, the lamp will burn out in a few seconds. Yup, I know — I did that. I've read that the 1,600 watt converters can also fry a 1,200 watt item.

Because of the way that converters work they may destroy your equipment no matter what. Many normal electrical appliances these days include a chip in the control crcuit. Half a sine wave may be OK for a pure heating appliance from 1950 but the go-stop-go-stop of a converter can shake the shorts off a silicon chip immediately.

This is the inside of an electric converter.

What do guys do when they get a screwdriver in their hand? They take stuff apart. I removed the cover of a very old 1,000 watt "converter" just to show what it looks like inside. Here are the guts. It has a diode, a couple of resistors and capacitors, and a rheostat.

My "converter" traveled a few hundred thousand miles in its day but hasn't been on the road for over 20 years. I learned my lesson. There are enough challenges when traveling. It isn't necessary to manufacture more troubles with dangerous devices such as this.

The dimensions of this device measure 2½"x1½"x1½" and it weighs 64 grams, about 2 ounces.

I urge you to absolutely avoid using any device calling itself a converter. They are potentially hazardous to your equipment because you never know which of your appliances has an electronic control circuit in it. Those chips are ubiquitous. I receive a couple of emails a month from people who used a converter and were immediately blessed with an amazing light show from the converter or their gizmo, followed by blackout in their hotel room.

Six Cylinders or Bust, Probably Bust

Picture this as a situation similar to a converter: An engine is connected to a small cog wheel which is driving a big cog wheel. The big cog wheel is conected to a train. Now remove half of the cogs from the small drive wheel, all on one side. Next, rev that drive baby up to 3,000 revolutions per minute, RPM for short. If you are on that train my prediction is that you are going to have brown briefs, at least yellow, right now.


Transformers are another type of device which changes electrical voltage. Transformers transfer the full sine wave and are safe for virtually all electrical and electronic gizmos. However they are extremely heavy and bulky.

This is the inside of a transformer.

Since I already had the screwdriver handy I opened a small 50 watt transformer and cut back some of the insulation. The guts of this one consist of a couple dozen stacked steel plates (visible without opening it) and many strands of very thin copper wire.

Transformers are the traditional way of changing voltages, either up or down and by orders of magnitude. And transformers retain the full sine wave so they are safe for most gizmos. Transformers have been in use for over 140 years, basically since the dawn of electricity as we know it. Thank you Thomas Edison and George Westinghouse.

The body of this device is also about 2½"x1½"x1½" but it weighs five times as much as the "converter" pictured above. Copper and steel weigh more than air.

Dumbness or Deceit

Unfortunately, some merchants who sell electrical devices do not know a transformer from a converter. They use the words interchangeably. Some travel "gurus" do the same. This is really REALLY stupid. It is so stupid that you wonder if it is not stupid at all. Maybe it is deliberate deceit? The First Amendment protects free speech, but it doesn't guarantee that people know what they are talking about or that they are honest. Read the product description carefully before you buy.

For example, Walmart sells something they call a "US to EU Europe Travel Power Adapter Converter Wall Plug." That is a mouthful of krap. The device is nothing more than a plug adapter. You can blow up your gizmo with this three dollar piece of chink stuff.


Some merchants mention that converters should not be used with electronic devices. This caution is usually in small print or in a side bar of their advert. So, what should you use a converter for? The only devices that can safely be used with converters are heating appliances which do not have any electronic circuitry. That is old school.

Let us get up to date with technology. This is the 21st century. Almost everything these days has an electronic control circuit. That's a given so it isn't discussed. American distributors of home electrical devices expect that the device will be used in your home in the good old USA, not in some foreign 220 volt 50 Hertz land. My email indicates that travelers who contact the makers of their appliances to see if they can be used in Europe get absolutely no help from the "service" desks on this issue. The phone bank clerks in New Delhi who answer your call have a script book. This has all the answers they are allowed to give out, with an accent that only their cousin could understand.


You should be aware that warrantees are tightly written by lawyers to protect manufacturers against lawsuits brought by other clever lawyers. Warrantees do not guarantee that you will have sweet happiness with the product. I went to law school and aced torts so I can say that. Boilerplate warrantees are not subject to negotiation with a company service representative on the phone. The service rep wants to keep his or her job and is certainly not going to give you an out-of-school OK, or even advice on what to do.

Further, 99.99% of warrantees are valid in the USA — ONLY. If you blow it up in France you pay for the replacement. You also pay for consequential damages. Huh? "Consequential damages" could include the value of the hotel you burned down, all of its contents, and all previously prospering people, pets, and produce on the premises. You won't be needing a restaurant guide book because you will be eating prison food until you make bail, if bail is even offered.

1,875 Watt Hair Blower — Oh Boy! or Uh Oh.

The most common appliance that travelers feel they need is a hair blower. NOT! The fact is that a hair blower is already installed in each room in virtually every hotel and other form of travelers' sleeping quarters in Europe these days. My experience over the past ten years includes hotels, B&B's, hostels, university dorms, and private homes in a few dozen countries, i.e., every place from Portugal to Estonia and Turkey to Ireland. Every room had a hair blower. I suspect that the reason for this is that 1,875 watt hair dryers have blown out the circuit breakers in so many places that the owners are just fed up with switching the power back on for you fluff-dry bad-hair-day-phobic Americans. Another reason might be that the hotel owners do not want their property going up in smoke when the circuits get overloaded.

So before you make room for that hair blower in your luggage and start hauling it around Europe find out from your hotels if a hair blower is not already provided. This fact is often specified in the web page of each facility. If not, email or phone in to find out.

The Safe Option

If you need a hair dryer, curling iron, laptop computer, cell phone, or similar item for your trip to Europe make sure that each item is rated and labeled for 220 volts and 50 Hz. Then all you need are plug adapters for the countries you are visiting. There are five plug types used in different European countries. Please visit my on-line store at Euro-Shoppe is your go-to Internet source for travel supplies. for the proper plug adapters and power strips. It couldn't be easier.

The electrical nameplate of an Apple lap top computer charger.

This is a typical electrical nameplate of a laptop computer. This one happens to be for a MacBook Pro but a similar label can be found on the chargers or cases of all laptop computers, phones, cameras, and such. Normally the charger is a little "black brick" but Apple's way is usually different. Apple chargers are little white bricks. Why do you need to look at this high tech data? Because if you don't you might seriously mess up your pretty little computer. They can be trouble enough even when handled properly. The only thing you really need to know from this label is Input: AC 100-240 V~, 50-60 Hz. That is the top line on the right side. Thus, this charger will operate just dandy fine in Europe without a "converter" or anything else, other than a simple plug adapter.


As stated in the first paragraph above, the purpose of this chapter 11 preface is to bring you up to full power on the biggest buggy-boo for international travelers — "converters" for your electrical stuff. I get more email on converters than on any other subject.

Now that you have dispensed with the idea of bringing a converter to Europe see European Electricity: Voltage, Frequency, Watts. Converters, Plugs, Adapters. for much more detail on what electrical hardware you might consider bringing, if any.

Have a good trip!


I welcome questions and comments. If you have any concerns about your trip to Europe that have not been covered well enough in this section please do not hesitate to write and ask. When you write please include relevant details, per the folowing paragraphs.


If you are seeking advice on whether or not to use your electrical gizmos in Europe please send the electrical specifications for your gizmos. This data is on the electrical nameplate of the gizmo or on the black brick (or white brick if you have an Apple product) as discussed and illustrated above. Include the following information in your email:
  -  volts (V or VAC)
  -  frequency (Hz)
  -  watts (W) or amps (A) or milliamps (ma) or volt-amps (VA).

If you do not send me this basic information for your specific devices I can not give you any advice. There are a zillion electrical gizmos on the market. I own five of them. I know ABSOLUTELY NOTHING about your tool or toy. I do not have time to look up your gizmo's specifications, and even if I did there is no guarantee that the information I find applies to the thing that you have in your hand. Manufacturers change products by the week. If you do not look at your own gizmo or brick (yes, the information is there) and you do not include the INPUT electrical specifications in your email my reply will be very simple — a reference to this paragraph. I do not want you to fry your computer or other gizmos, not to mention burn down your hotel and go to jail for mischief and manslaughter.

I do not assume anything. Electricity has no conscience. I am happy to reply personally to everyone who writes and who provides the information that I need in order to respond accurately.

I do not open attachments. I do not click links to web pages of any kind. Please include all of the INPUT data from your gizmos in the body of your email as noted above. I will reply in a day or two, usually.

By the way, please do not write and ask what kind of "converter" you should use. I get this question every day. STOP! STOP! NOW READ THIS. It is already written on this page and throughout this web site multiple multiple times - - -

My email address is [email protected].


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Plug adapters are needed throughout Europe. There are at least five models used in different countries.
Note: The highlighted #E number is purely arbitrary. It is meant to help quickly identify products in this advert column when you write in for electrical advice.

This adapter is for the standard grounded plug in France, Germany, and northern Europe. It does not fit in outlets of Italy, Switzerland, Ireland, and Britain.
#E-010 Grounded Universal 2 in 1 Schuko Plug Adapter Type E/F for Germany, France, Europe Grounded Universal 2 in 1 Plug Adapter
European Schuko plug.
4.8 mm prongs.
Equivalent to type E and F.

You can use this ungrounded Euro plug in some European countries.
#E-020 Universal 2 in 1 Plug Adapter Universal 2 in 1 Plug Adapter
Euro Plug
4.0 mm prongs.
Equivalent to type C.

This is a universal plug adapter for the UK and Ireland.
#E-030 Grounded Universal 2 in 1 Plug Adapter Type G England, Scotland, Wales, and Ireland AC Adapter Plug for use in England, Scotland, Wales, and Ireland
Equivalent to type G.

Here is the Swiss version.
#E-040 Grounded Universal 2 in 1 Plug Adapter Type J for Switzerland Grounded Universal 2 in 1 Plug Adapter
Type J for Switzerland

Here is the grounded Italian model.
#E-050 Grounded Universal 2 in 1 Plug Adapter Type L for Italy Grounded Universal 2 in 1 Plug Adapter
Type L for Italy

This 110-250 volt power surge strip has three universal outlets and an American grounded plug so it needs a plug adapter for the countries you are visiting. Make sure your gizmos are rated for 110-240 volts.
#E-060 SM-60 Universal 3 Outlet Power Strip / Surge Protector for Worldwide Travel. 110V-250V with Overload Protection. SM-60 Universal 3 Outlet Power Strip Surge Protector for Worldwide Travel. 110V-250V with Overload Protection.

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Amazon pays my site a small commission when you click and order an item, if you put it in your shopping cart within 24 hours based on the cookie they set on your computer. If you don't want to make a quick decision just put it in your shopping cart, think it over, and come back later. The revenue covers the cost of maintaing this web site and keeps it free to users.

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Have a good trip in life,
John Bermont

Note: Italicized notations by the author.

For small appliances travelers may find these true transformers useful. They deliver the full sine wave. Caution: The wattage rating is the max short term. For continuous duty I recommend that you select a transformer rated at two times the combined watts of all gizmos plugged it. But check your gizmo's electrical specification plate before buying one of these. Most electronic devices are dual voltage and can be plugged in any European outlet when using the appropriate plug adapter.
This 50 watt 220/110 volt step down transformer is good for very small 110 volt appliances and light duty chargers.
#E-070 Travel Smart by Conair 50-Watt International Transformer Travel Smart by Conair 50-Watt International Transformer
This 200 watt step up/down transformer is good for small appliances.
#E-080 Power Bright VC200W Voltage Transformer 200 Watt Step Up/Down 110/120 Volt - 220/240 Volt Power Bright VC200W Voltage Transformer 200 Watt
Step Up/Down
110/120 Volt-220/240 Volt

Transformers rated from 100 watts up to 3,000 watts can be found at the same link as this 200 watt transformer.
Make sure that your electrical appliances are 110-220 dual voltage so they will work in Europe.

Note: These appliances require a plug adapter, NOT a converter, for the countries you are visiting. See plug adapters above.
#E-130 Conair's Dual-Voltage Ionic Hair Dryer Vagabond Compact Styler
Conair's Dual-Voltage Ionic Hair Dryer

#E-140 Conair Flat Iron Ceramic Straightener Dual Voltage Conair Flat Iron 2" Ceramic Straightener
Dual Voltage

#E-150 Remington H-1015 All That Quick Curl Travel Hair Setter Travel Hair Setter
Dual Voltage
Remington H-1015

#E-160 SteamFast SF-717 Home-and-Away Mini Steam Iron (dual voltage) SteamFast SF-717 Home-and-Away Mini Steam Iron (dual voltage)
#E-170 Braun Series 1 150 Men's Shaver with Automatic Worldwide Voltage Adjustment Braun Series 1 150 Men's Shaver with Automatic Worldwide Voltage Adjustment


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