Going to France? Do Not Forget Your Power Adaptors

By: Phil Chavanne

When preparing your trip to Paris, do not forget to pack the right adaptors for your small appliances. Otherwise you will get yourself into trouble.

Twice the voltage

European power typically comes out of the electrical outlets at 230-240 volts, while 110 volts is the US standard. If your electric shaver is not rated to operate at between 110 volts and 240 volts, it will burn out when you plug it in a French socket.

Should you travel with an electric shaver or a portable CD player, look at the voltage it supports. If it harbors a converter ó a small device which converts a 110 volt current into a 9-12 volt current, also called a transformer ó verify the input voltage of your device. The label should clearly state which voltage it accepts. If it states Ď110 Voltsí, thatís not good enough. You will burn both converter and appliance when you plug them in an electrical outlet overseas.

Therefore pack only those appliances which work in the 110-240 volt power band, or at a low voltage (such as 9-12 volts) when they come with a transformer.

Transformers for laptop computers are often rated to work at 100-240 volts. Still, make sure to check yours beforehand. If your laptop only operates at 110 volts, go to a Radio Shack store, and buy a suitable multi-voltage converter for your specific model.

Likewise with battery chargers for cell phones and digital cameras; they too should be checked. Some battery chargers wonít accept the higher 240-volt current, some will. The labels on your battery charger and on the transformer that often comes with the charger will tell you what you need to know.

Plug differences

The electrodes (terminals) on a US plug are flat. The electrodes on a French plug are cylindrical. French wall outlets only accept these cylindrical plugs.

This means you wonít be able to plug your flat American plug into a regular French outlet.

Buy yourself a cheap adaptor. They come in various shapes and forms. The more sophisticated allow you to plug your devices anywhere in the world.
You should be able to find inexpensive ones at your local hardware store. Call before you drive there, not all stores carry these items. You can also find travel adaptors at the airport.

Transformers are not adaptors

Transformers and converters modify the characteristics of the current which is input in your appliance.

Adaptors are simpler devices which allow you to connect your US plug in a European or French outlet.

Do not confuse one for the other. A converter is heavier because it features a metal coil. An adaptor on the other hand is usually light because itís all plastic with a few metallic parts.

Sometimes transformers also operate as adaptors. In such a case, their male terminals will be shaped to match the receiving socket.


Hairdryers usually suck in a large amount of power. If yours does not operate at between 110 and 240 volts, you will have to buy a bulky transformer.

I advise you not to pack this appliance, but simply call the hotel to check whether they provide blow-dryers in the rooms.

(Written with Vincent Ramelli)

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***About the Author***
A known expert of the French capital, Phil Chavanne shares his inside knowledge of Paris at Paris-Eiffel-Tower-News.com, a free guide offering useful advices on Paris hotels, restaurants and landmarks to the traveler on his way to France.

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