Have you ever traveled abroad only to find that your electronics don’t work on their power system? Or that the outlets in your room won’t accept your appliances? Well then, read on.

Overall, two different electrical systems operate in the world.  The 110 system runs on voltages from 100v to 127v, and the 220 system uses voltages from 220v to 240v. Some countries operate at 50Hz and others at 60Hz, but that’s usually not a problem, as most devices work on either frequency.

In general, North, Central, and parts of South America, along with the western half of Japan, use 110 volts at 60 Hz. Almost everyone else uses 220v at 50 Hz. In the spirit of being different, however, Tokyo, Madagascar, and some islands in the Caribbean use 110 at 50 Hz, while South Korea, Guyana, and Peru use 220 at 60 Hz.  Brazil, the Philippines, and Saudi Arabia even run different systems in different parts of the country.

So before you embark on that trip of a lifetime, take a look at the back of the device you want to bring. If it says “100-240V, 50/60 Hz“, it will work on either system. Otherwise, you’ll need to investigate a little. Make a note of the voltage your appliance uses and compare that to the voltage system in the country you’re visiting. To use a 220V-240V appliance at 110V, a transformer will be required. To run an 110V appliance at 220V; either a transformer or a less expensive 110 to 220 converter may be used.

Your choice of whether to use a converter or transformer will be determined by the type of device involved. A 110 to 220 transformer will usually suffice for appliances that use a heating element or electric motor, such as an electric blanket or hair-dryer. Devices that have electronic chips or circuits, such as a TV, VCR, computer, printer, or even a battery charger, will need a transformer.

Another important factor to consider- different countries use different shaped plugs- even within the same voltage system. Italy and Germany, for example, both work at 220 but use a completely different style of plug.

All this may seem a little overwhelming, but it really isn’t. Just follow a few easy steps and you’ll be fine. Compare the voltage of your device to the voltage used in the country you’re visiting. Determine if you’ll need a transformer or a less expensive 110 to 220 converter. Check the style of plug required where you’re going. It’s that simple. So no matter what system your destination runs on, keep your phone charged, your hair dry, and mostly; don’t forget to have a great time.