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Travel converters are a necessity when globetrotting. Without these simple tools, your devices may not work or may fry because of improper usage. In order to safely plug something in, it is important to first know the difference between an adapter and a converter.
What You Need to Know About Power Converters
The terms converter and adapter are thrown around interchangeably; however, they are not the same thing. An adapter serves a simple function: it changes the shape of the plug in order to fit the local outlet. An adapter simply allows the user to plug in their device, but the adapter does NOT change the voltage to the appropriate level. This is the number one reason people fry their personal care products.
American devices operate on lower voltages than international devices. For this reason, when plugging in a hair dryer (which takes 120v) with an adapter, the appliance will fry due to the 240v flowing in the hotel.
Enter a converter. A converter serves dual purposes: it changes the shape of the plug to help it fit the local outlets, and it steps down the local voltage to accommodate American voltage requirements. This way, when you plug in the same 120v hair dryer, using a converter, the converter takes the 240v from the hotel and steps it down to 120v, allowing you to use the appliance without any potential for frying it.
The best worldwide travel converters can accommodate Type I plugs (like the ones used in Australia and China), Type G plugs (found in the UK), Type E/F plugs (for most European countries), Type L plugs (found in Italy) and Type A plugs (like the ones used in North and South America).
There is some good news: most modern mobile devices operate on dual voltage. This means that using an adapter may work just fine. For my own sanity though, and as a sort of personal fail-safe, I still use a converter in order to make sure that my electronics are getting only what is generally used in America, rather than what it may be able to handle as a dual voltage device.
The best travel converters will help power up your tablet, gaming consoles, e-readers and more, while offering safety features like surge protection and protection from over-heating. We’ve found portable power converters that are about the size of a notebook or smaller, letting you easily fit them in a carry-on bag, pouch or coat pocket.
Before you head on your next trip, pick up one of these options from our list to keep your devices charged and voltage regulated while traveling abroad.
1. Bestek Universal Travel Converter
The Bestek Universal travel adapter and converter is great for those on the move with a multitude of digital devices.
Get four USB charging ports and three AC sockets. Use the included five-foot cable to plug the unit in. What we like: the USB outputs are completely isolated from the AC power to prevent your devices from being damaged.
This unit has a ton of built-in safety features to prevent over-currents, over-heating and short-circuiting. There is also built-in surge protection.
PROS: Ability to charge seven devices at once is super handy.
CONS: This an adapter and converter; however, it is not built to handle personal care appliance voltage conversion. If you are charging multiple devices, the total wattage needs to be less than 250 watts to prevent overheating.
2. Foval Travel Converter
Foval’s travel converter covers a wide range of international electrical systems. The set comes with four plug adapters and one EU plug cable. Simply select the one that corresponds to your current location and plug it in.
This unit is engineered with a quiet fan to manage internal temperature and is equipped with a surge protector function to keep your devices safe from electrical surges.
PROS: Multiple safety features which give peace of mind when traveling.
CONS: Rated as unable to handle personal care appliances such as a hair dryer or straightener.
3. HYTED Travel Converter
HYTED’s travel adapter and converter is capable of charging multiple devices at once, while acting as an adapter and as a converter. Set the unit to adapter mode when charging dual voltage devices (such as a cell phone). Use the converter mode when charging personal care appliances (like an iron or hair dryer).
The HYTED unit safely steps down local voltage to handle a number of travel accessories, including hair dryers. When not in use, tuck the cube-sized unit into your pocket or bag.
This set includes the durable, drop-proof converter and a travel pouch for safe storage.
PROS: Can handle personal care appliances. The smallest, most portable size on our list.
CONS: Doesn’t work with low wattage appliances or electronic devices like a shaver or coffee machine.