Adapter vs Converter; 4 Differences are Well Described Here

If you decide to travel abroad, you’ll probably be advised to take a converter, adapter or both so that your electronics will work when you’re in another country. You need to know the difference between an adapter vs converter so that you buy or pack the right item. 

But what is the difference between an adapter and converter? We’ll share several differences in their form, function and application as well as give you a few tips to avoid mistakes when dealing with both converters and adapters.

Difference 01: Shape

Adapters are designed to adapt your electrical connection to the outlet at hand. An adapter may connect a 3 prong plug to a 2 prong outlet or vice versa. And adapter may let you plug a USB power cable into a wall outlet, assuming everything uses AC power. An adapter is necessary to connect many electronic power plugs into foreign power outlets.

A converter may or may not come with an adapter to fit a foreign power plug. This is why you might have to pack both an adapter and a converter for your trip. The converter would convert the different voltage level while the adapter lets both the converter and the device connect to the power port.

The Different Types of Shapes

The shape of the plugs in a region are known by letters. The types A and B are common in the United States and Canada. These types of outlets are also commonly used in Central America, Japan and the Caribbean.

Outlet types C, E and F are commonly used in Europe. They’re also used in some countries in Africa or Asia. Outlet type G is used in England, Ireland, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Singapore and some countries in Africa. 

Outlet type I is commonly used in Australia, China, New Zealand or Fiji. You can buy universal adapters that fit almost every power outlet except for type I. South Africa is the exception – they have a type M outlet that almost no one else uses.

Difference 02: Voltage

In the adapters vs converters discussion, understand that the biggest difference between them is voltage. Converters change the voltage of your device. This is a common requirement when you’re dealing with older single voltage appliances like 100 to 120 volt irons and hair dryers.

However, converters are rarely necessary if you have a 120/240 volt or dual voltage appliance.

Warning: Don’t assume a travel appliance is a dual-voltage travel version until you’ve verified it, or else you’ll cause serious damage when you plug it in without the necessary converter between it and the wall outlet. Don’t use a converter on something that is dual voltage, or you could damage it.
What type of voltage is used and How sensitive devices?

Know what type of voltage is used in an area and how sensitive your devices are to variations in voltage. Most US-made electrical appliances are designed for 110 volts. Japan, Canada, parts of South America and the Caribbean use voltages between 100 and 125; know whether or not your appliance can run off that before you assume you don’t need a converter.

Most of the rest of the world uses 220 to 240 volts. If you’re going from 120 to 240 volts, you must have a converter unless you want to risk frying your electronics and small appliances.

Note that most converters can only step up or step down voltage. That means you can use a converter to go from 220 to 110 volts or 110 volts to 220 volts, but few converters can safely go both ways.

Adapters do not change the electrical voltage, though they may alter the shape of the plug or serve another purpose. For example, you can buy adapters that let you connect an Apple device to a conventional laptop computer, and you can buy adapters that have additional safety features like surge protectors built in.

Difference 03: Design Complexity

Because converters are changing the power flowing through them, they have many more components than adapters.

Adapters only have a few conductors in them and the plugs that connect them to the wall and the incoming device plug.

They may not have fuses, surge protectors or other safety devices built into them.

Difference 04: Size and Weight

Power converters are typically larger and heavier. This is because they have to accept plugs and connect to power outlets like adapters, but they also have to convert the voltage flowing through them. This is why adapters are so much smaller, if they’re not built into a converter. 

Fortunately, that means an adapter and a converter together won’t take up much more space than the converter.


In the adapters vs converters equation, it all comes down to the voltage and plug type you have versus what they have in the countries you’ll be visiting.

Choose adapters and converters so that your devices will work without being damaged unless you want to end up carrying battery powered travel versions.

John S.

Hello guys! I'm a 37-years-old author, traveler, writer, blogger, and a camper. I enjoy life as much as I can and love to visit beautiful places in my RV. That's why while traveling I have decided to dedicate some time to share my experiences with everyone that might be interested in traveling, camping, and RVs.