What Is The Difference Between A Voltage Converter And A Travel Adapter?


Are you going to visit a foreign country soon and can’t decide whether to carry an adapter or a converter? This is a common confusion among international travelers as they can’t figure out the difference between a travel adapter and voltage converter. Most of the travelers think that both are the same but actually, these are two different devices.

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Before we look at the difference between an adapter and a converter, let’s first understand why you might need one such device on your next foreign trip. Do you know in most of the western countries, including the U.S. the electrical systems operate at 110-120 volts while other countries use 220-240 volts? This is because each country has set some national standards and nothing has been done so far to achieve electrical standardization. Moreover, except Brazil and South Africa, most countries use alternating current (AC) to deliver electricity while some use direct current (DC).

Moreover, if you’re a frequent traveler, you might have noticed that electrical sockets are also of different shapes and sizes in different countries. For instance, you will find the two-flat-prong style in the United States and Canada. And this will change to the two-round-prong style in European countries and to the three-rectangular-prong style in the UK. Considering all such differences, you will need to carry a travel adapter or a converter. Now, let’s take a look at these devices.

Travel Adapters

The purpose of using a travel adapter is to bridge the difference between the shape of your appliance’s plug and that of a foreign wall socket. It is used to overcome the physical incompatibility of the interfaces by allowing you to plug your current device into another plug. These travel adapters also come in a variety of shapes and sizes. This means you need to research the type of adapter you’ll require in the country you’re about to visit.

However, an adapter is just a component connected in between interfaces of two systems. It does not change the voltage and your device will receive the actual voltage from the electrical plug. As such, if the voltage is different from that in your home country, you might need a power converter, in addition to an adapter.

Voltage Converters

You will need a converter if you need to convert the voltage and frequency between countries. A voltage converter can help you in changing the voltages, from 110V to 220V or to other voltages used around the world. As such, this device not only offers connectivity but also changes the form of the medium passing through the component. In addition to this, a converter may convert the frequency (in AC power distribution), or convert the signal form (from analog to digital). As compared to adapters, these are more expensive because voltage converters can also work as travel adapters.

Adapter vs. Converter

Now, you may ask whether you should carry a travel adapter or travel voltage converter. The answer to this question actually depends on your destinations that whether or not you need to convert voltages.

Countries where voltage is not an issue, you’ll just need a travel adapter to deal with the differences in plug sizes and shapes. However, if you need to deal with a difference in voltage such as from 110V to 220V European current or vice versa – then you should carry a travel converter. It is noteworthy here that most of the modern electronics such as laptops and smartphones are designed to handle different voltages. So, if your appliances are multi-voltage, you might just need a travel adapter.