What adapter do I need? Will my computer charger work? What's the electrical current? What do the wall sockets look like?

Why oh why have we not all come together in the world to decide a common electrical current and wall socket for the world? It makes travel difficult, especially if you are coming from the North America, a few countries in South America or Japan - the only places that use 110V instead of 220V.

But anyway, armed with a bit of knowledge and some adapters, you'll be able to use your electronic devices.

Electronics vs. Electrical Devices

Before packing your bags, understand the difference between electronics and electrical devices.

Electronics include things like

  • Your laptop (if your laptop plug is 3-pronged, you will most likely need a plug adapter)
  • Your smartphone
  • Your digital camera and charger
  • Your iPad or other devices

Your electronics will likely work with the use of a simple adapter. An adapter is a device that you put on plug at the end of your charger or other cord that allows it to fit into the wall socket of wherever you're traveling. Here are pictures of a few common types of adapters:

plug adapter pic 1.jpg
plug adapter pic 3.jpg
plug adapter pic 2.jpg

To make certain, check the AC power adapter (that big black box that goes between your computer, for example, and the plug in the wall). On the back you'll see some information. Look for "Input". If it says ~100V-240V, you're fine to travel with it all over the world. All you'll need is a wall plug adapter (more about those below).

If you're still not sure, you should check online with the manufacturer.

Your electrical devices are a different story.

Electrical devices include things like

  • Hair dryers
  • Curling irons
  • Electric shavers
  • Other things you most likely won't bring while you travel but stranger things have happened: toasters, blenders, electric kettles

    Your hair dryer, curling iron or electric shaver will require a converter if you're coming from a country that uses 110V (North America or Japan). A converter is a very large implement that converts the input from 220V to 110V for your device. If you don't use a converter, at best, you'll ruin your device. At worst, you'll see fireworks coming out of the wall socket.

    My advice is to leave anything that requires a converter at home. The hotel will provide a hair dryer in your room, and if you absolutely need other things, like hair curlers, then look for a travel set that doesn't require a converter. Here are a couple of pictures of common types of converters:

    plug converter pic 1.jpg

    The Accepting Wall Sockets in China

    Now to the actual wall socket. Here is a photo of the type of wall socket you're likely to see in Shanghai:

    china wall outlet 1.jpg


    This is what most wall sockets look like these days in China. The top socket takes a two-prong plug. The prongs must be the same size ("Type A"), although many modern devices with Type A plugs have one wider prong. Note that there is no outlet for a North American standard 3-pronged plug (common with laptops), so make sure to bring an adapter. 

    (If you're coming from Europe, all your devices will work - China uses the same voltage.)

    Adapters to Bring or Buy

    You can buy adapters before you leave at travel-supply stores, electronic stores, or on Amazon. Airports also sell universal adapters, especially in the international departure gate area. But if you don't get one before you go, you'll be able to pick them up easily in China (and they'll be a whole lot cheaper). The hotel should also be able to supply you one for free during your stay.