Monday, February 1, 2010

Heather in Kuwait: what gadgets to bring on a long trip


By Heather Wardell

I am writing this article from Kuwait, on a two-week visit to a friend who's been working here for four years. As a technology-obsessed traveler, I spent ages trying to decide which devices to bring on the trip. So many wanted to travel with me: Palm Treo, laptop, GPS watch since my friend and I will be running a race in Dubai, camera, iPod shuffle... the list was extensive.

Too extensive, as I'll mention later, but for now just know that I didn't want to be absent any of the electronic comforts of home.

"There's more to traveling with electronics than figuring out how to stuff them all into your luggage."

But there's no point in taking electronics on a trip unless you'll be able to charge them as needed, and as I soon found out, there's more to traveling with electronics than figuring out how to stuff them all into your luggage.

Know your plugs and power

You need to check out the plug shape and the voltage used in the places you'll be visiting. The Electricity Around the World Web site showed me that Kuwait's power outlets supply 240 volts at a frequency of 50 Hertz, and that the outlet shape is very different from my Canadian outlets, which supply 120 volts at a frequency of 60 Hertz. I obviously needed a plug adaptor, and I'll talk about those in a minute, but to my surprise I didn't need any voltage converters.

Figure A shows the power cable from my Palm Treo. The important section is circled in red. As you can see, this particular plug can handle anything from 100 to 240 volts, at frequencies from 50 to 60 Hertz. As it turned out, all of my electronics had this same ability to convert the voltage themselves, and so I didn't need to bring along a transformer. It's vital to check this, though, as the wrong voltage will not do your devices any favors. Can you say "sizzle"?


Check your devices to ensure they can handle the destination's voltage and frequency. (click for larger image)

Once you've either determined that your electronics can handle the voltage or acquired a transforming device (available from any electronics store) to make them handle it, it's time to deal with the plug shape. The Electronics Around the World site also provides that information, and I suggest that you get an adaptor for each outlet type it says can be found in the places you'll be visiting.

You can buy adaptors singly, again at most electronic stores, or as a combination piece that lets you pull out the plug you need then change it to a different one for another country. From my research, the combination pieces tend to have more difficulties than the straight-forward adaptors, so unless you are planning to travel the world I suggest getting only the adaptors you actually need.