Travel adapters and their mysteries

”The best way
to learn, is from
your mistakes.”

It’s a saying that many people use and most of the time it’s true. And for me it’s mostly for the most stupid and smallest mistakes you can think of. An example of one of these small mistakes that I have been through, has everything to do with travel adapters.

Travel adapters and their mysteries

The first difference

Belgium versus The Netherlands

Travel adapters and their mysteries
The version from The Netherlands

Because of my parents I had the chance to visit a small part of the world, mostly Europe. But even though you only travel in Europe, you will be confronted pretty quickly with different electricity plugs. Even the Netherlands (only 30 minutes away by car) has a different plug.

Travel adapters and their mysteries
The Belgium version

The difference is small, therefore you are able to use your electronic devices most of the time. Often, but not always. And then you have Japan, they use the same plug as the United States.

Long, long time ago ….

This difference was not so important not so long ago. Before, when you went on vacation you did not take as many devices with you that needed to be charged, but times have changed; I now take many devices that need charging. A camera, laptop, tablet, … For all these devices I need to watch out that I can plug them in everywhere I go.

Travel adapters and their mysteries
The Japanese version

This difference is, I think, the most common. I looked up this information when I went to Japan the first time. But when I was looking I also read about another difference; A difference of which I didn’t think immediately. The difference in mains power systems, i.e. voltage and frequency.

voltage and frequency (The second difference)

Travel adapters and their mysteries
World map of all the different voltage and frequency

Most of the world uses a voltage between 200-240 V and a frequency of 50 Hz. All the countries that I ever visit before I went to Japan where countries with this voltage and frequency. But just like Japan uses the same plug than USA, they also share the same voltage and frequency of 100-127 V/60 Hz.

In general, this difference doesn’t give a lot problems. My electronic devices (200-240 V/50 Hz) don’t break if I use them with a lower voltage, but there are a few points that need consideration.

Read the small letters

Travel adapters and their mysteries
Check the range

There are small letters on the charger of your electronic devices. If you read them closely you’ll see that they say which voltage and frequency they use. Most of the chargers say you can use them on a voltage net between 100-240 V. But this is not with every device. The charger of e.g. my laptop and tablet can be used with 100-240 V, but the charger of my rechargeable batteries has limitations. If you use a different voltage than indicated, the device may not charge or charging may be incredibly slow.

Travel adapters and their mysteries
My battery charger did not work everywhere

The biggest difference I noticed between a frequency of 100-140 V and 200-240 V is that it takes much more time to charge electronic devices. In Belgium it takes 3 to 4 hours to charge my tablet, when it is almost fully drained. In Japan it could take between 7 and 8 hours. Although this difference is less known, I kept this in mind. And before I left I searched for a different battery charger. But what is it now, that I didn’t predict before I left? Like I mentioned before it was something very small and stupid, it was the contact of my laptop with my travel adapter.

My first world problem….

Travel adapters and their mysteriesA laptop is a pretty heavy electronic device. Therefore the contact plug has (almost)  always an earthing pin. The Belgian version is a really big and heavy-built thing and didn’t fit my travel adapter. There I was in Japan. I checked as much as I could, but in the end it seemed I didn’t check not everything. I had never checked before I left if all my plugs fit my travel plug socket. But this time I will not let myself be fooled again.

Travel adapters and their mysteries
My first world problem

Some useful links

If you are looking for more information on plugs, power sockets or electric power supply, here are some links.

If you have remarks, suggestions, or questions you can always post them in the comments section, on my Facebook page, Google+ page or through Twitter.

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