Travel Adaptor UK     Travel Adaptor US
 
 

Universal Travel Adaptors

These plug adaptors attempt to solve the problems faced by frequent travellers by providing a worldwide travel adaptor in one package. Whilst some companies make 'world kits' they are really nothing more than a collection of individual plug adaptors - bulky and it's easy to lose the component parts. A true universal travel adaptor has the advantage of being one single, compact unit that has selectable pins that are configured to fit the most commonly found sockets around the world. The selection is usually made using a slider which pushes out the desired pins from the body of the adaptor. An added advantage is that these adaptors will also accept multiple plug types so they truly approach an 'any plug to any socket' solution.


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How do They Work?

See the Skross World Adaptor 2 in action. We think that this is one of the best thought out universal adaptors, notice that it even comes with a compartment for spare fuses.





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Which Adaptor is Best?

This ultimately depends upon your needs but in choosing you should consider the following points:
  • Is USB connectivity required?
  • Do you need to operate earthed appliances?
  • What power do you need?
  • Connectivity - does it cover all the countries that you will be travelling to?

Many people swear by the Swiss World Adaptor but we are seeing a lot of knock offs around and don't recommend them because of this. If you want the best we think that the Skross World Adaptor 2 is the one to go for (or the Orei M8 if you need the earthed version).

USB Connectivity

Some universal adaptors include one or more USB ports which enables you to charge a wide range of compatible electronic hand-held devices such as mobile phones, PDAs, MP3 players, GPS, game consoles and bluetooth accessories such as headsets and headphones.

If this kind of functionality is important to you make sure that the model you choose includes this option as not all of them do. More often than not though the USB charging module is a separate unit that plugs into the adaptor itself so you will not be able to charge USB devices and use the adaptor to plug in your other appliances at the same time. If you want an adaptor with integrated USB ports that can be used at the same time that you have an electrical device plugged in you should take a look at the worldwide adapters with onboard USB.

Earthed vs Unearthed

The UK is different to many countries in that all sockets are earthed and all plugs have a earth pin (even though it is not always used). Many countries have a mixture of 2 pin (unearthed) and 3 pin (earthed) sockets and this complicates the use of travel adaptors.

In general most travel appliances will not need a earth connection as it is generally larger appliances that need earthing. The majority of travel adaptors (both worldwide and country specific) are unearthed, only connecting to the socket with 2 pins. If you need to connect a earthed appliance then you will need a 3 pin adaptor like the Orei M8 that is specifically sold as being earthed.

How do you tell if an appliance needs earthing? Unfortunately it's not so simple because these days many appliances are fitted with a 3 pin plug as standard (irrespective of whether they need it or not). If the earth pin is plastic then the appliance does not need to be earthed. Other than that you would need to dismantle either the plug (if it's not the moulded in one variety) or the appliance to see if a earth wire is connected or contact the manufacturer / check the manual.

A word of warning - If you purchase a 3 pin (earthed) adaptor it will generally only be able to connect to earthed sockets because the plug will not push in unless the socket has a hole to accept the 3rd pin. The European Schuko plug is an exception to this as it uses two side clips as opposed to a pin for earthing. Whilst most countries have fitted only earthed sockets as standard for many years now there are still a lot of the older type of 2 pin sockets in many counries including the US and Europe. You may find that you need one adaptor for your earthed appliances and a separate one for the unearthed ones.

To make matters worse an increasing number of modern sockets have shutters fitted to the live and neutral slots. This is a safety measure to ensure that children can't poke paper clips and the like into the socket and electrocute themselves. The downside is that the slots are usually opened by the earth pin (which is longer) as you push the plug in. This means that you may not be able to use unearthed adaptors in this type of socket even if the appliance doesn't need earthing.

Power Requirements

Cheaper adaptors tend to be rated at 2.5 A or lower, better ones may be capable of operating at up to 10 A or more. If you have higher powered appliances such as a hairdryer or iron you may need to select a higher rated adaptor to suit.

Connectivity

The most obvious thing is to check that the adaptor is compatible with the sockets in all the countries that you will be visiting. In general most universal style adaptors can connect to sockets of the following types:

  • Type A / B - USA, Canada, Central America, Japan
  • Type C / E / F - Spain, France, Germany, Austria, the Netherlands, Sweden, Norway, Finland, Portugal, Eastern Europe, Belgium, Poland, Slovakia, the Czech Republic, Tunisia and Morocco
  • Type G (Standard UK Plug) - UK, Ireland, Cyprus, Malta, Malaysia, Singapore and Hong Kong
  • Type I - Australia, China, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea and Argentina

Some adaptors also cover:
  • Type J - Switzerland
  • Type L - Italy

Most universal adaptors do not cover:
  • Type D - India, Sri Lanka, Nepal and Namibia
  • Type H - Israel
  • Type K - Denmark
  • Type M - South Africa
  • Type N - Brazil

Annoyingly the better quality universal adaptors do not seem to cater for the rathar idiosyncratic UK 2 pin shaver plugs which means that Brits may have to carry a shaver adaptor as well if you have an electric razor. As is so often the case the budget versions are more likely to accept a UK shaver plug but as they all seem to fail pretty quickly anyway we still would'nt bother with them.


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The best universal travel adaptors that we have seen will allow you to connect all of the following plugs to any of the sockets:

Input Plug Types Accepted
Type A Plug
Type A Plug
Type B Plug
Type B Plug
Type C Plug
Type C Plug
Type E Plug
Type E Plug
Type F Plug
Type F Plug
 
Type G Plug
Type G Plug
Type I Plug
Type I Plug
Type I ungrounded Plug
Type I (ungrounded) Plug
Type J Plug
Type J Plug
Type L Plug
Type L Plug
 
Output Suitable for These Sockets
Type A Socket
Type A Socket
Type B Socket
Type B Socket
Type C Socket
Type C Socket
Type F Socket
Type F Socket
Type G Socket
Type G Socket
 
Type I Socket
Type I Socket
Type J Socket
Type J Socket
Type L Socket
Type L Socket
   

Voltage Considerations

Please be aware that whilst a universal travel adaptor will allow you to physically plug your devices into a different socket it will not change the voltage or frequency of the supply. If the supply voltage is different in the countries that you will be visiting you will have to check any appliances that you wish to use carefully to see what voltage / frequency is specified. Items such as laptops will often specify "100 - 240V 50/60 Hz" either on the equipment or the power supply (if it has one). If not then you may need a transformer to operate your appliance. It is worth noting that trying to operate a 230V device on 120V usually results in reduced performance but is generally not dangerous (but it may damage the device!). On the contrary operating devices designed for 120V on 230V is highly dangerous and may result in fire, serious injury and irrepairable damage to the device.

A transformer or voltage converter may solve the voltage issue but will not alter the different frequency of the supply. Some countries use 50 Hz, others 60 Hz. In practical terms this makes little difference as most travel appliances will run at either frequency. Some items with motors, such as hairdryers and some clocks will run a little faster or slower than intended but it is not likely to be problematic. Check your device - it may say 50/60 Hz which indicates that it is compatible with either frequency. If you are in doubt or have expensive equipment check with the manufacturer first as some equipment may be damaged by running on an incorrect frequency. Here is a useful discussion on the effects of different supply frequency.

Our Recommendations

Product recommendations are not available at this time

Budget

Best budget universal travel adaptor

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On Board USB

Best universal travel adaptor with USB

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Unearthed

Best unearthed universal travel adaptor

Out of stock
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Earthed

Best earthed universal travel adaptor

Out of stock
More details

Countries Usually Supported

Afghanistan, Albania, Algeria, Andorra, Anguilla, Antigua/Barbuda, Argentina, Armenia, Aruba, Australia, Austria, Azores, Bahamas, Bahrein, Balearic Islands, Bangladesh, Barbados, Belgium, Belize, Benin, Bermuda, Bhutan, Bolivia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Botswana, Brazil, Brunei, Bulgaria, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cambodia, Cameroon, Canada, Canary Islands, Cape Verde, Cayman Island, Central African Republic, Chad, Channel Islands, Chile, China, Colombia, Comoros, Union of the, Congo, Democratic Republic of the, Congo, Republic of the, Cook Islands, Costa Rica, Croatia, Cuba, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Côte d'Ivoire, Djibouti, Dominica, Dominican Republic, East Timor, Ecuador, El Salvador, England, Equatorial Guinea, Estonia, Ethiopia, Falkland-Inseln, Fiji, Finland, France, French Guyana, Gambia, Republic of the, Georgia, Germany, Ghana, Gibraltar, Greece, Greenland, Grenada, Guadeloupe, Guam, Guatemala, Guinea, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, Hong Kong, Hungary, Iceland, Indonesia, Ireland, Isle of Man, Italy, Jamaica, Japan, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Kiribati, Korea, South, Kuwait, Laos, Latvia, Lebanon, Liberia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Macau, Macedonia, Madagascar, Madeira, Malawi, Malaysia, Maldives, Mali, Malta, Martinique, Mauritius, Mexico, Micronesia, Moldova, Monaco, Mongolia, Montenegro, Montserrat, Mozambique, Myanmar (Burma), Nauru, Netherlands, Netherlands Antilles, New Caledonia, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Niger, Nigeria, Norway, Okinawa, Oman, Panama, Papua New Guinea, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Qatar, Romania, Russia, Samoa, Samoa (American part), Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Serbia, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, St. Kitts-Nevis, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Suriname, Republic of, Sweden, Switzerland, Syria, Tahiti, Taiwan, Tajikistan, Tanzania, Thailand, Tonga, Trinidad & Tobago, Tunisia, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Uganda, Ukraine, United Kingdom, United States of America, Uruguay, Uzbekistan, Vanuatu, Venezuela, Vietnam, Virgin Islands, Yemen, Zambia, Zimbabwe
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