Everything You Need to Know About International Adapters

From Spain to South Africa, you'll never be powerless again.

Design by Maitane Romagosa for Thrillist | Photos courtesy of
Design by Maitane Romagosa for Thrillist | Photos courtesy of
Design by Maitane Romagosa for Thrillist | Photos courtesy of

When it comes to international travel essentials-the best neck pillow for a red-eye flight, all that head-scratching paperwork, the list goes on-we don’t talk about electronic adapters nearly enough. For some reason, it’s often the last thing to cross our minds when compiling a packing list, despite the fact that communicating with the rest of the world could very well be impossible without them (though in some cases, that could be a good thing).

Yet if you Google your destination’s plug type, you’ll often find the results aren’t very clear. The difference between Type M and N, for instance? Who knows. Then there are those universal adapters that claim to support 150 countries, but never really do. On a recent trip to South Africa, for example, I learned the hard way that the country actually supports three different plug types. I ended up having to buy two adapters-US to EU and EU to Type M-to form a composite adapter. And that sucker was as big as a brick.

Don’t let this be you. To make sure you’ve got all your plugs covered and then some, we compiled a list of every type, as well as some helpful information for navigating all kinds of electricity situations overseas.

Why do countries even have different plug types?

Similar to the divide between the metric and imperial systems, the origin of national plug types is closely entwined with both advancements in technology and politics. In the 1880s, when American inventors like Thomas Edison and Nikola Tesla built the world’s first modern electrical grid, they established 110 volts as the standard-the perfect amount to power indoor lights. But when other countries began to build their own grids-and needed to account for appliances beyond lights-they started to make improvements on the American design. The Europeans, for example, found that operating at 220 to 230 volts was the most cost-effective, providing more energy with less copper wiring.

In 1986, the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) tried to get everyone to settle on type N as the universal plug, but only Brazil followed through-and they didn’t even fully implement them until 2007. After all, it would mean spending a whole lot of time, effort, and money replacing outlets, re-modeling buildings, and manufacturing new appliances. So, ultimately, the onus is on us now.

Navigating the international power adapter labyrinth

It’s always a good idea to do your research and purchase the specific adapter you’ll need prior to your trip. Airports tend to mainly supply universal adapters (see above), and they almost always cost double the price. Thankfully you can easily search for individual plug adapters online or in-store at places like Amazon or Best Buy. Not only is there a greater chance you’ll score the correct plug type, but you’ll also be able to choose the “grounded version,” a term used to describe a three-pronged design that prevents dangerous electric shocks by sending any extra power directly into the ground.

If you rather not amass a collection of individual plugs, you can opt for a universal adapter, but just know there’s a chance your country might not be accounted for-countries like that abide by their own rules like South Africa, Brazil, and India, for example, tend to be a toss-up. They’re also rarely grounded and, not to mention, extra bulky.

And if it’s the night before your trip and you can’t seem to find the right adapter anywhere-we’ve all been there-don’t sweat it: Many hotels, airplanes, and charging stations are equipped with USB ports these days, so you’ll be able to charge basic devices like cell phones, tablets, smart watches, and wireless headphones without needing a plug.

What’s the difference between an adapter and a converter?

The purpose of an adapter is to transform the plug already affixed to your electronic device into one that can fit into foreign sockets. Converters, on the other hand, alter the voltage of an outlet to match that of your device. The United States operates on 110 to 120 volts of electricity, while other countries, like France, might operate on a voltage of 230. If you plug a 110-volt hair dryer into a 230-volt socket, for example, the difference in voltage can cause the appliance to short circuit.

To figure out whether or not you need a converter, check to see if your device is labeled as dual- or multi-voltage (this will be indicated by a range of printed numbers, i.e. 110-220V, 100-240V). If your desination’s voltage falls within this range, you don’t need a converter. These days, most laptops, kindles, and smartphones are dual-voltage, but it’s always a good idea to double check.

International Plug Type Guide: Where they’re used and what they look like

Design by Maitane Romagosa for Thrillist | Photos courtesy of
Design by Maitane Romagosa for Thrillist | Photos courtesy of
Design by Maitane Romagosa for Thrillist | Photos courtesy of

Type A

Used in the US, Canada, Mexico, and Japan (ungrounded); marked by two flat pins, side-by-side.

Type B

Used in the US, Canada, and Mexico (grounded); marked by two flat pins, side-by-side, with a third rounded pin centered below.

Type C

Used in parts of Europe, South America, and Asia (ungrounded); marked by two rounded pins, side-by-side.

Type D

Used in India, Bangladesh, the Maldives, Nepal, and Pakistan (grounded); marked by one thick rounded pin and two smaller rounded pins arranged in a triangle.

Type E

Used in France, Belgium, Poland, Slovakia, and Czech Republic (grounded); marked by two rounded pins, side-by-side, with a grounding clip at the top.

Design by Maitane Romagosa for Thrillist | Photos courtesy of
Design by Maitane Romagosa for Thrillist | Photos courtesy of
Design by Maitane Romagosa for Thrillist | Photos courtesy of

Type F

Used in most of Europe (excluding UK or Ireland) and Russia (grounded); marked by two rounded pins, side-by-side, with two grounding clips above and below.

Type G

Used in the UK, Ireland, Malta, Malaysia, and Singapore (grounded); marked by three rectangular pins arranged in a triangle.

Type H 

Used in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territory (grounded); marked by three rounded pins arranged in an upside-down triangle.

Type I 

Used in Australia, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, China, and Argentina (grounded and ungrounded); marked by two or three flat pins arranged at an angle.

Type J 

Used in Switzerland and Lichtenstein (grounded); marked by three rounded pins arranged in a condensed, upside-down triangle.

Design by Maitane Romagosa for Thrillist | Photos courtesy of
Design by Maitane Romagosa for Thrillist | Photos courtesy of
Design by Maitane Romagosa for Thrillist | Photos courtesy of

Type K

Used in Denmark and Greenland use type K (grounded); marked by two rounded pins, side-by-side, with a semi-rounded pin below.

Type L

Used in Italy and Chile (grounded); marked by three rounded pins arranged horizontally.

Type M 

Used in parts of South Africa (grounded); marked by three large rounded pins arranged in a triangle.

Type N 

Used in parts of South Africa and Brazil (grounded); marked by three rounded pins arranged in a narrow triangle.

Type O 

Used in Thailand (grounded); marked by one longer rounded pin and two shorter rounded pins arranged in a triangle.

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Jessica Sulima is a staff writer on the Travel team at Thrillist. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram


Ditch your Phone for ‘Dome Life’ in this Pastoral Paradise Outside Port Macquarie 

A responsible, sustainable travel choice for escaping big city life for a few days.

nature domes port macquarie
Photo: Nature Domes

The urge to get as far away as possible from the incessant noise and pressures of ‘big city life’ has witnessed increasingly more of us turn to off-grid adventures for our holidays: polled travellers at the start of 2023 and 55% of us wanted to spend our holidays ‘off-grid’.  Achieving total disconnection from the unyielding demands of our digitised lives via some kind of off-grid nature time—soft or adventurous—is positioned not only as a holiday but, indeed, a necessity for our mental health. 

Tom’s Creek Nature Domes, an accommodation collection of geodesic domes dotted across a lush rural property in Greater Port Macquarie (a few hours’ drive from Sydney, NSW), offers a travel experience that is truly ‘off-grid’. In the figurative ‘wellness travel’ sense of the word, and literally, they run on their own independent power supply—bolstered by solar—and rely not on the town grid. 

Ten minutes before you arrive at the gates for a stay at Tom’s Creek Nature Domes, your phone goes into ‘SOS ONLY’. Apple Maps gives up, and you’re pushed out of your comfort zone, driving down unsealed roads in the dark, dodging dozens of dozing cows. Then, you must ditch your car altogether and hoist yourself into an open-air, all-terrain 4WD with gargantuan wheels. It’s great fun being driven through muddy gullies in this buggy; you feel like Laura Dern and Jeff Goldblum in Jurassic Park.  As your buggy pulls in front of your personal Nature Dome, it’s not far off that “Welcome…to Jurassic Park” jaw-dropping moment—your futuristic-looking home is completely engulfed by thriving native bushland; beyond the outdoor campfire lie expansive hills and valleys of green farmland, dotted with sheep and trees. You’re almost waiting to see a roaming brachiosaurus glide past, munching on a towering gum tree…instead, a few inquisitive llamas trot past your Dome to check out their new visitor. 

To fully capture the awe of inhabiting a geodesic dome for a few days, a little history of these futuristic-looking spherical structures helps. Consisting of interlocking triangular skeletal struts supported by (often transparent) light walls, geodesic domes were developed in the 20th century by American engineer and architect R. Buckminster Fuller, and were used for arenas. Smaller incarnations have evolved into a ‘future-proof’ form of modern housing: domes are able to withstand harsh elements due to the stability provided by the durable materials of their construction and their large surface area to volume ratio (which helps minimize wind impact and prevents the structure from collapsing). As housing, they’re also hugely energy efficient – their curved shape helps to conserve heat and reduce energy costs, making them less susceptible to temperature changes outside. The ample light let in by their panels further reduces the need for artificial power. 

Due to their low environmental impact, they’re an ideal sustainable travel choice. Of course, Tom’s Creek Nature Domes’ owner-operators, Cardia and Lee Forsyth, know all this, which is why they have set up their one-of-a-kind Nature Domes experience for the modern traveller. It’s also no surprise to learn that owner Lee is an electrical engineer—experienced in renewable energy—and that he designed the whole set-up. As well as the off-grid power supply, rainwater tanks are used, and the outdoor hot tub is heated by a wood fire—your campfire heats up your tub water via a large metal coil. Like most places in regional Australia, the nights get cold – but rather than blast a heater, the Domes provide you with hot water bottles, warm blankets, lush robes and heavy curtains to ward off the chill.

nature domes port macquarie
Photo: Nature Domes

You’ll need to be self-sufficient during your stay at the Domes, bringing your own food. Support local businesses and stock up in the town of Wauchope on your drive-in (and grab some pastries and coffee at Baked Culture while you’re at it). There’s a stovetop, fridge (stocked as per a mini bar), BBQs, lanterns and mozzie coils, and you can even order DIY S’More packs for fireside fun. The interiors of the Domes have a cosy, stylish fit-out, with a modern bathroom (and a proper flushing toilet—none of that drop bush toilet stuff). As there’s no mobile reception, pack a good book or make the most of treasures that lie waiting to be discovered at every turn: a bed chest full of board games, a cupboard crammed with retro DVDs, a stargazing telescope (the skies are ablaze come night time). Many of these activities are ideal for couples, but there’s plenty on offer for solo travellers, such as yoga mats, locally-made face masks and bath bombs for hot tub soaks. 

It’s these thoughtful human touches that reinforce the benefit of making a responsible travel choice by booking local and giving your money to a tourism operator in the Greater Port Macquarie Region, such as Tom’s Creek Nature Domes. The owners are still working on the property following the setbacks of COVID-19, and flooding in the region —a new series of Domes designed with families and groups in mind is under construction, along with an open-air, barn-style dining hall and garden stage. Once ready, the venue will be ideal for wedding celebrations, with wedding parties able to book out the property. They’ve already got one couple—who honeymooned at the Domes—ready and waiting. Just need to train up the llamas for ring-bearer duties! 

An abundance of favourite moments come to mind from my two-night stay at Tom’s Creek: sipping champagne and gourmet picnicking at the top of a hill on a giant swing under a tree, with a bird’s eye view of the entire property (the ‘Mountain Top picnic’ is a must-do activity add on during your stay), lying on a deckchair at night wrapped in a blanket gazing up at starry constellations and eating hot melted marshmallows, to revelling in the joys of travellers before me, scrawled on notes in a jar of wishes left by the telescope (you’re encouraged to write your own to add to the jar). But I’ll leave you with a gratitude journal entry I made while staying there. I will preface this by saying that I don’t actually keep a gratitude journal, but Tom’s Creek Nature Domes is just the kind of place that makes you want to start one. And so, waking up on my second morning at Tom’s —lacking any 4G bars to facilitate my bad habit of a morning Instagram scroll—I finally opened up a notebook and made my first journal entry:

‘I am grateful to wake up after a deep sleep and breathe in the biggest breaths of this clean air, purified by nature and scented with eucalyptus and rain. I am grateful for this steaming hot coffee brewed on a fire. I feel accomplished at having made myself. I am grateful for the skittish sheep that made me laugh as I enjoyed a long nature walk at dawn and the animated billy goats and friendly llamas overlooking my shoulder as I write this: agreeable company for any solo traveller. I’m grateful for total peace, absolute stillness.” 

Off-grid holiday status: unlocked.

Where: Tom’s Creek Nature Domes, Port Macquarie, 2001 Toms Creek Rd
Price: $450 per night, book at the Natura Domes website.

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