Booked travel to Europe and wondering if you need an adapter or converter? Here’s everything you need to know!
You may or may not know, but Europe’s electrical system is different from the one we have in the US. There are differently shaped plugs, and the electrical current is a different voltage. American appliances run using 110 volts while European appliances run on 220 volts.
I’ve traveled to Europe many times over the years and later moved to Ireland in 2020. Over the course of that time, I have relied heavily on outlet adapters to charge my phone and laptop while I’m on the road. I’ve gone through a few styles but eventually found one I love – I use it nearly daily since moving abroad.
Please know that this post is for general informational purposes only. I’m not an electrician, but I have been safely using my electronics abroad for years (and, unfortunately, broken more than one appliance by plugging it into an incompatible outlet!). If you have questions about a specific device, adapter, or converter, I encourage you to reach out to the manufacturer.
So, Do I Need an Adapter or Converter for Europe?
The simplest answer is that most travelers need to pack an adapter when they travel to Europe. This will allow you to charge simple electronics, like your phone and laptop, as well as anything that you might charge with a USB. Because the devices are usually dual voltage, all you’ll need to do is use an adapter to make the plug compatible with the local outlets.
Dual voltage means that a given device is able to automatically switch between 110 or 220 volts. You can check by reading the fine print on your devices, which will typically include a range of voltages that are safe to use with a particular charger.
My Macbook charger, for instance, includes text that reads, “Input: 100-240V” and that’s how I know that it’s compatible with both the 110 volts in the US and the 220 volts in the EU.
What About Appliances?
Appliances are any sort of electrical device that needs to be plugged into the electrical main. Think: lamps, TVs, blenders, kettles, and hair dryers.
Leave any appliances, like hair dryers or blenders, at home if you bought them in the US. Appliances need a different voltage and a converter or transformer to work, and it’s safer and easier to just buy a new one in Europe if you really need it. Most budget hotels offer hair dryers, or you can pick up an inexpensive one from a local shop.
I’ve traveled through and lived in Europe for years and have never purchased a converter. I have used them, but only in a few rare situations. For the average traveler to Europe, all you need to do is purchase an adapter and leave your appliances at home.
Remember, any appliances you buy in Europe won’t work when you bring them home – the problem runs both ways.
My Favorite Adapter
I love this Universal Adapter I found on Amazon. I’ve used others, but I love that this one has three USB ports, a USB-C port, and works with outlets in the EU, UK, US, and Australia. With one outlet, I can charge my computer, cell phone, headphones, and power bank – it’s super convenient!
This might be just me, but I love having a bright green adapter because it always stands out in my bag. I’ve had others that are black or white that work fine, but the ability to easily find my adapter is more important to me than having one that looks sleek. Plus, a bright green device is more likely to stand out when you do your final check of your hotel room or hostel.
Check Prices for a Universal Adapter on Amazon
Anyone moving to Europe or planning an extended stay might want to consider getting an EU or UK plug for their Apple devices. Because the plugs are replaceable and simply slide off the block, it’s pretty easy to switch them out. Apple sells a World Travel Adapter Kit for $30, and it will have the plugs you need for Europe.
Maybe I have a higher tolerance for inconvenience than others, but I used an adapter for several years before Jake finally swapped out our chargers. I wouldn’t go through the hassle for a short visit, but it has been nice to ditch the adapter after living in Europe for a few years.
Admittedly, it does feel nice to plug my Macbook charger directly into the outlet at a cafe in Paris (without the neon green block!).
What’s the Difference Between an Adapter and a Converter?
This is a device that plugs into the wall and allows you to easily plug in your electronics, even though the outlet is a different shape than your charger at home. Think of it like a device that takes the very end of your cord and swaps it for a different shape of plug.
A converter, by contrast, changes the voltage of the input. It’s more like swapping out the outlet that you’re plugging into, and is, accordingly, more expensive and more complicated. Without getting too technical, an adapter cannot adjust the voltage of the plug.
How Can I Bring an Appliance to Europe?
Simply put: I wouldn’t. When I moved to Ireland in 2020, I left all of my appliances behind. If you plug a 110 volt appliance into a 220 volt outlet, it can fry the appliance, blow an electric fuse, or worse. It might even be a fire hazard.
The solution is to purchase an outlet converter, which will change the outlet to be 110 volts and therefore compatible with US appliances.
I know other expats who have purchased converters to be able to use their TV sets or other devices in Europe, but these are fringe cases. Most people I know simply repurchase any appliance that requires more than a USB port to charge.
I wouldn’t personally depend on a converter when traveling, but this dual converter and adapter has decent reviews on Amazon. Keep in mind that if you blow a fuse in the converter, it will become a brick because there’s no easy way to reset it. From the reviews, you’d probably be OK with a curling iron or hair straightener, but you’re really trying your luck with a hair dryer.
If you’re moving abroad, consider buying a transformer. This device is a little heavier duty than a simple converter and will probably be more reliable. Here’s a highly rated transformer on Amazon.
Know the Difference: UK vs EU Plugs
Annoyingly, there are two different types of plugs in Europe and they are not interchangeable. For the UK and Ireland, you’ll need a three-pronged UK plug. For the rest of the EU, however, you’ll need a two-pronged EU plug.
My preferred solution, as I mentioned above, is to simply buy a universal adapter that is capable of changing between the two. You could, of course, instead buy separate adapters for the UK and the EU and bring both. Remember, even if you’re flying to Rome, it’s possible you’ll have a stopover in Dublin or London en route.
Adapters are not expensive in the grand scheme of things. I strongly recommend that you bring at least one per person.
These plugs have two small, round prongs. They typically reach deeper into the outlet than US or UK plugs. Sometimes, the outlets have a spring mechanism that you need to push past when plugging in your device. EU plugs are used throughout Europe, except in the UK and Ireland.
UK plugs have three flat prongs and are much larger than US plugs, which typically have two small, flat prongs. UK plugs are, as the name suggests, used in the UK and Ireland.
FAQs: Do I Need an Adapter or Converter for Europe?
Planning your trip and still have questions about adapters and converters in Europe? Here are the answers to some frequently asked questions from other travelers!
How do I know if I need an adapter or converter in Europe?
Check the voltage of your device. If the device runs on 110 volts, you will need a converter and an adapter to be able to use it in Europe (though I would recommend that you simply leave it at home). Devices with a 110/220 voltage should work in Europe with a simple plug adapter.
Most modern laptops, cell phones, tablets, and other small devices are dual voltage, so most travelers only need an outlet adapter.
I’m already in Europe, where can I find an adapter?
In the event that you arrive in Europe without an adapter, try to buy one at the airport before you leave. Failing that, visit a local grocery store or electronic stores, both of which may have adapters available. Often, European adapters only change from EU to UK plugs (or vice versa), so double check that you’ll be able to use it with your country’s plugs.
It’s very unlikely that you’ll find a universal adapter in a shop while traveling, but it doesn’t hurt to look. You can also ask your hostel or hotel if they have any that they can lend or give you. They may well have a box of forgotten adapters from previous travelers!
Do I need a phone adapter for Europe?
No, most modern cell phones are dual voltage. So, your phone cord and current adapter should work just fine in Europe. You can simply use an outlet adapter and plug in your phone like normal.
If you’re worried about your phone, you can always bring an external power bank and charge it using an adapter. This is far preferable to plugging a USB cord connected to your phone directly into a USB port at the airport, on a bus, or anywhere else they might be set up.
What kind of adapter do I need in Europe?
It depends on where in Europe you’ll be traveling. You’ll need a UK adapter to visit the UK and Ireland, and an EU adapter to visit the rest of Europe. I recommend buying a universal adapter, which will work throughout Europe. Often, universal adapters will also work in Australia and the US, among other destinations.
Conclusion: Do I Need an Adapter or Converter for Europe?
By now you know that you’ll need an adapter for traveling to Europe from the US, and ideally a universal adapter. These adapters will help you safely plug in your computer, cell phone, and other small devices, but they should not be used with any appliances. Universal adapters also make great gifts for someone traveling abroad.
Appliances will require a converter, which is overkill for most travelers to Europe. Instead, just buy a European version of the appliance (like a hair dryer) after you arrive.
I’ve never had an adapter break on me, but I have forgotten them on buses or in hotels. So, be sure to add an extra step to your hotel checkout routine to make sure that you have all of your adapters, too! Yet another reason I love having a bright green adapter.