Electricity in Europe - How to Use Power Sockets

Green european power plug + green cable
artpartner-images/Getty Images

With phones, laptops, and other tech being so important to the modern-day traveler, it's important to have the right gear on your trip. When traveling to Europe, one of the most important things to bring is a power converter, as the wall sockets are much different than in America. There also aren't as many outlets in hotel rooms as in the U.S. because electricity is very expensive in Europe.

Luckily, converters are affordable, but you'll need a different one depending on which European countries you're visiting.

Your best bet is to get an all-in-one adapter that works all around the world, however, you can also purchase one singular adapter if you only plan on visiting one country or city. For example, most of Europe uses C or E/F type plugs, however in the UK and Ireland, you will only find type G sockets. In Italy, you might see a type L outlet, and in Switzerland, you might find a type J plug. Make sure to double check all the plug types before you leave.

Keep in mind that most sockets in Europe have high levels of power (typically 220 volts at 50 cycles), twice the voltage of American power systems. It may be way too much for your appliance. Remember: an adapter plug doesn't convert the voltage.

Definitions For Electrical Conversion Devices
Plug Adapter - an interface that attaches between the American two-pronged plug and a specific European socket. The result is that the American appliance will be connected to European 220v 50 cycle electrical power.

Power Converter (or transformer) - converts the European 220v to 110 volts so that American appliances will operate on European Current. Watch that the power rating (in watts) exceeds the rating of all appliances you expect to plug in at one time.

European Electricity: Voltage

Voltage is the most important thing to look at; if you try to plug in a high-volt item into a standard line, it could electrocute you, cause a power outage, or fry your adapter. Hair dryers are usually the biggest problem. They take massive amounts of power. If you can't do without, you might consider buying one in Europe to make sure its power requirements match those of the countries in which the device is used.

Power Tips for Europe Travel

Before you jet off across the pond, make sure you've got the right gear for all your devices.

  • Determine which countries you'll be traveling in.
  • Choose the plug adapters you'll need in those specific countries.
  • Take stock of what appliances need power converters. Most modern laptops will automatically sense voltage changes and adapt; you may only need a plug adapter—check your owner's manual. Shaver's, and any small, electrically frugal items may still need a voltage converter (sometimes called a transformer). These are readily available as well. Hair dryers are a special case, as their power requirements are enormous. Your best bet is to leave the hair dryer at home and make sure to book a room at a hotel that offers one in each bathroom. If you must bring one, make sure you buy a heavy duty converter that will handle as much as 2000 watts (2 kilowatts).​
  • Most DSLR cameras will handle any voltage from 100 to 240 at 50/60 Hz. They are designed to work just about anywhere in the world, and the U.S. version will work in Europe by using a plug adapter. However, you may want to bring a converter just in case.