Why you should trust us
In addition to being editor-at-large here at Wirecutter, I also write about tech and travel for CNET, Forbes, and Wirecutter's parent company, The New York Times. Perhaps more relevant to this guide, I spend a good chunk of each year as a digital nomad, living months at a time in different countries all over the world. My current country count is 50, spread across six continents, and since I travel with a lot of electronics gear for work, being able to plug in is obviously crucial.
I've owned and used many different types of universal-style travel adapters, and several different companies' worth of plug adapters, plus I've talked with countless travelers about what they like ... or, more important, what they hate. We also got some advice from Wirecutter editor Mark Smirniotis, who covers the power devices beat.
Who should get this
Do you travel? Are you going to travel? Do you want to be able to charge or use electronic devices in a different country? If so, you're probably going to need a travel plug adapter. There's a variety of different outlet types around the world, not to mention different voltages and frequencies, so you can't expect your phone charger to just plug in and work wherever you're headed. Sure, Canada, Mexico, Japan, and many other countries use the same small pair of prongs as the US, but places like continental Europe, the UK, Australia, India, Russia, and pretty much everywhere else do not.
You have two main choices when it comes to travel plug adapters: the universal-style travel adapters (that's one device with multiple sets of prongs that you extend and retract) and smaller, individual plug adapters that usually come in sets. Both have pros and cons.
Should you get a universal travel adapter or a simple plug adapter?
Universal travel adapters are for the person who wants one handy adapter that will work in just about every country. You can keep it next to your passport and toss it in your luggage when you're packing. The ones we considered have USB ports, so you don't need to worry about bringing a separate charger for anything that charges via USB (think phones and noise-cancelling earbuds). However, these are bulky, they have parts that can break, and even the best will take longer to charge your phone or tablet than will a good multiport USB wall charger.
The alternative is small and simple plug adapters. These attach to the prongs of your current USB charger (whether it's a multiport one or the charger that came with your device) to allow them to fit into a foreign outlet. These can work because nearly every modern charger can adjust to the available voltage in pretty much every country, as long as you can adapt the prongs to fit in the outlet. (More on this in Do you need a voltage converter?) These are great for people who already have a multiport USB charger they like and don't want to deal with the additional bulk of a universal travel adapter. Also, these are necessary if you're traveling to a country that has outlets incompatible with any of the four types included in a universal adapter (which, as that sentence reveals, aren't actually universal).
The choice between universal travel adapters and individual plug adapters ultimately comes down to personal preference. Both types work, and different people will like or dislike each. If you're not sure which will be best for you, read each section here closely.
Here's the big caveat: If you're planning on bringing something with you that has a motor, a heating element, or a single power cord that leads directly from the plug to the device (i.e. there's no power brick or wall wart), it almost certainly won't work with a travel plug adapter. Most people will only need one of the adapter choices we recommend, but very occasionally there's a piece of gear that needs a voltage converter. For more on that topic, also check out the voltage converters section below.
Where in the world will your travel plug adapter work?
All universal travel adapters have four different sets of prongs, which cover most countries most Americans tend to travel to. First is the big, wide-blade UK-style plug. This will work in places like the UK, obviously, and also Ireland, Hong Kong, and some other parts of Asia and the Middle East.
Next is the round Europe-style plug, aka the Europlug. However, this is where we run into complications. This plug should work in most of Europe—it was designed, in fact, to fit into a wide range of European outlet types. For instance, parts of Italy, Switzerland, and Denmark each use different plugs from one another. Should this double-round one work in those locations? Yes. Will it? Hard to say. I've stayed in places where my Europlug didn't work, yet it did in the hostel before and the hotel after—all within the same small region of a country. With any luck, if this happens to you, the place you're staying will have a power strip that will let you plug in, though there's no guarantee of that.
Third is the angled small-blade style found in Australia, New Zealand, Fiji and other parts of Oceania, and a few other areas. Some universal adapters have one set of blades for this and the US style—you just manually rotate the blades into the correct position depending on where you are. In our testing, we had no trouble getting them to work.
The last, the small US-style blades, mean you could use our picks to visit the US and other countries that have the same plugs—if, that is, you're reading this from outside the US.
What are the places not covered by these four styles? Some parts of Brazil, South Africa, India, and more. I've stayed in parts of Italy, for example, that should have Europlugs but only had something called Type L. I've stayed in houses in Brazil that had Type N, but the Europlug fit enough to work. In others, it wouldn't.
To find out which plugs you might need while traveling, refer to the excellent Wikipedia article called Mains electricity by country that shows pictures of (almost) all the possible plugs and outlets, along with a list of the world's countries and (almost all of) the style or styles they use. This is invaluable information to check before you leave. If multiple plug types are listed for a specific country and you're staying in an older building, you should probably assume its outlets will require whatever plug isn't on a universal travel adapter, since these only have the most common, newer varieties of plugs.
Which brings us to perhaps the most important fact: Getting your gear to work in different countries isn't quite as simple as it should be, and there's no single solution that's guaranteed to work for everyone. Our picks should work for you, but you may have some random piece of equipment, or be traveling to some country, for which our "good for most" picks just won't work. (Case in point: One Wirecutter editor visited Iceland recently. The house she stayed in had outlets unlike anything on Wikipedia's chart, and the plug adapters she'd used elsewhere in Reykjavik didn't fit at all. It turns out the mystery sockets belonged to an obscure Italian system from the 1960s that was popular in Iceland for a time. Luckily, the hosts had power strips in the house that her adapters fit into.) We'll try to mention such potential caveats when we can, but the world is a big place, and when it comes to electricity and wall outlets, there's a lot of variation. That's important to keep in mind.
How we picked
There are approximately 70 billion universal travel plug adapters on the Web. However, after spending 20 hours staring at them, I found there's only about a dozen basic designs—and countless "companies" selling them. Among those dozen or so actually different products, I saw a few distinctions that helped narrow the field. Since most options had four USB ports, that seemed like a reasonable minimum to require. Their maximum power output, rated in amps, became a determining factor in our rankings. The higher the maximum output, the faster the port will charge your gear.
Some plugs came with a replaceable fuse, which seemed like a good idea, and a few included a replacement for said fuse, which seemed even better. This way, if either you plug the adapter into a sketchy outlet or a roommate at the hostel uses your adapter to plug in their completely necessary portable arc welder, the fuse will go, not your adapter. Then it's just a matter of swapping in the included spare fuse and you're good to go.
These fuses have a maximum power rating, and therefore the adapters have a maximum wattage rating. However, you shouldn't be connecting anything with a high enough power draw to trip these fuses. Check out Do you need a voltage converter? for more information. The short version is that recharging portable electronic devices is fine, but powering anything that has a motor or heats up is not. Nearly every appliance or device has its power draw written on it somewhere, so worst case, you can compare that to what's listed on the adapter. And so you don't have to look it up, volts × amps = watts.
The other option we considered and tested is individual plug adapters. These small adapters attach to the prongs of your current charger so they'll plug into a foreign outlet. In deciding which of these to test, we judged by size and available plug-type options. As you'll see with our two picks, one is exceptionally small, and the other offers sturdier plugs that are available in a range of plug types that's wide enough to cover you no matter where in the world you're headed.
How we tested
The universal travel adapters are far more similar to one another than they are different. However, getting in a dozen and playing with them for a while revealed that some felt better put together than others. After spending several minutes with each one, forcefully extending the various plugs, slamming them back in, and just being fairly rough with them, I found it easy to tell which felt like they'd last a few trips, and which wouldn't. None felt like you'd own them for a lifetime. Since none are expensive, though, this didn't seem like a major issue. All had a US-style plug, so I tested each one in several outlets around my house—some new, some old. I didn't find much difference in how they fit and worked. I connected several chargers and plugs to the output side of each adapter as well. Again, not much difference. Last, I checked how bright the LED on each was, since a too-bright LED keeping me awake has been a pet peeve of mine for years. Many USB chargers have LEDs bright enough to practically read from; I eliminated any universal adapter that had this problem.
For the plug adapters, I tried plugging in several devices, as well as inserting them into outlets around my house. I checked how tight the connections were and how they felt overall. Would they fall apart with simple use or perhaps hold up to being tossed around in bags for a few weeks or months?
In reality, the testing for all the adapter types didn't reveal much variation in terms of performance. These are all remarkably similar products. How they felt to use and their different features played a far bigger role in establishing our final picks.
Our pick: Epicka Universal Travel Adapter
While all the universal travel adapters we tested included the same three types of plugs (plus the familiar US-style one), they differed in how many USB ports each had and how quickly they could charge—and that's where the Epicka Universal Travel Adapter excelled. It has five USB ports: four of the standard USB-A size and one of the newer USB-C. (You may not have a USB-C device at the moment, but you likely will in the future.) These will let you charge, say, three phones, two tablets, and—via the adapter's main plug—a camera battery that has its own wall charger, all at once.
In addition, and just as important, is the maximum power output: 5.6 amps. This was the highest of all the adapters we considered, which means you can charge more of your devices at higher speeds before hitting the max output. Keep in mind that the maximum output per USB-A port is 2.4 amps, the max on the USB-C port is 3 amps, and if you're using all five ports you won't be able to charge every connected device at full speed—it'll only give you that 5.6 amp output in total. The output is still far lower than what you can get from a decent USB charger combined with our pick for a simple plug adapter (more on that in the plug adapter section, below), but it's significantly better than most universal travel adapters, which often max out under 3 amps total.
The Epicka has three sliders on one side, with a button on the other to lock/unlock your chosen plug in place. This arrangement feels more secure than the semi-locking or slide-locking system that some other universals use. However, this is plastic-on-plastic, so don't expect a tank. As these things go, the Epicka feels sturdy. The US and Australia share a pair of prongs—you twist the prongs manually to set them up for an angled Australia-style outlet.
The four regular USB plugs are all on one side, which is tidier than the "flailing gibbon" look of some other designs—our runner-up pick, the Bonaker, for example.
The above details were what put the Epicka at the top of our list, but the adapter has a few other features that are the cherry on top, so to speak. For instance, it comes with a small nylon case and a USB cable with a split end, so it works with either Micro-USB or Lightning devices. While the adapter has an LED to show you it's working, the glow isn't so bright as to be a distraction at night.
One last note. There are multiple Epicka universal adapters, and even Epicka can't keep the names straight. We've seen this one called, variously, Universal Travel Adapter, International Travel Adapter, Travel Adapter-2, Universal USB Travel Power Adapter (2018), and even Universal Travel Adapter One Worldwide International Wall Charger AC Plug Adaptor with 5.6A Smart Power 3.0A USB Type-C for USA EU UK AUS Cell Phone Tablet Laptop (Grey). Best to follow the link above. Also, you may find another company selling a twin of this. The Epicka has the most reviews and offers free shipping with Prime. The other options we saw have few or no reviews, or charge outrageous shipping costs.
Flaws but not dealbreakers
As with all of these adapters, I wouldn't expect the Epicka to last forever. Given its locking design and case, it's probably going to last longer than many others, but all of these are almost entirely inexpensive plastic devices. Just something to keep in mind.
While the prongs themselves felt secure, and being able to lock them into place was nice, it's entirely possible that the size and weight of the adapter, plus whatever you've plugged into it, could pull it out of an outlet. That is, unfortunately, a risk with every universal adapter.
Another risk with any universal adapter—as we mentioned above—is that it's not going to work where you're headed. Epicka claims it will work in 150 countries, but there are more than 200 countries (the exact number is harder to pin down than you might realize). And even in each of those 150 countries, there's no guarantee that the adapter will work in every outlet in every building. Plug adapters are a somewhat safer bet to work specifically where you're going, but they have their own downsides, which we'll discuss below.
Also, while the Epicka is a little smaller than some of the others we tested, all universal adapters are much bulkier than plug adapters. As someone who has spent most of the past five years traveling, I feel plug adapters are far easier and less annoying to deal with. This is largely why we have two recommendations for that category.
Runner-up: Bonaker Universal Travel Adapter
The Bonaker Universal Travel Adapter offers the same mix of plug types and only one fewer USB port than our top pick. It charges more slowly than does our top pick, but it's speedier than most other universal adapters. The plastic exterior has a nice, premium-feeling texture. The adapter also has a replaceable fuse and a spare, like our top pick. If the Epicka is sold out, the Bonaker is a close second, both in terms of features and performance.
The Bonaker's four USB ports have a maximum total output of 4.5 amps. Two of the ports are labeled "2.4A," indicating that they'll max out at 2.4. The other two ports have no amperage marked, but we reached out to Bonaker and confirmed that they also max out at 2.4. (If you charge four devices at once, be aware that the ports will only provide around 1.125 amps each.)
The sliders to engage the prongs feel about the same as the Epicka, which is to say "fine" and "better than others," but they're always a reminder of the inexpensive build quality. These sliders lock into place—you push them down slightly to release them before sliding them back inside. This system doesn't feel as secure as the Epicka's design, but it's close.
The Bonaker comes with a hard, artificial-leather case that has enough extra space to fit a short USB cable or two.
Our pick: Ceptics International Worldwide Travel Plug Adapter 5 Piece Set
The Ceptics Plug Adapter set combines everything we were looking for in plug adapters: small size, solid build quality, and—well, small size is really the thing here. Each adapter is no larger than it needs to be to fit over the American-style prongs of your charger. The plastic feels solid and not flimsy. Each adapter has the region or countries it should be used in written on the side. The five plugs in the set are the same four as you'll find on the universal adapters recommended above, plus the thicker, round European-style prongs used in parts of France, parts of Asia, and elsewhere.
Though the set comes with a small case, you probably wouldn't be traveling with the entire set very often. Instead, you'd pack just the specific adapter or adapters you'd be using on each trip. These are for the person who wants to travel as light and as simply as possible. I myself, and my friends who travel frequently, swear by these small, inexpensive adapters. Also, if you have a USB multiport charger you like or a charger that's especially fast, you can use that charger with just a tiny, almost weightless plug at the end.
However, plug adapters aren't for everyone, and that's why they're not our main pick. For one thing, if you don't already own a multiport USB wall charger, you'll still have to get one if you don't want to carry a charger for each device. Also, depending on what you're connecting with these plug adapters, your charger or device could wobble and maybe fall out. The connections inside are solid enough that this shouldn't happen, but it's possible. Our universal-adapter picks, as well as the other Ceptics set we discuss below, have a larger "face" for your charger to brace against—more like that of a traditional outlet—so there's less chance of gravity having its way with your gear.
Being small and inexpensive, plug adapters are not built for high-power, high-wattage items, though hopefully we've persuaded you to leave those at home. If you're charging a battery, you should be fine. If you're running a motor, probably not. Laptops, yes; mini-fridges, no.
Last, these things being so small, you could easily lose them in your bag or leave them behind in an outlet somewhere, if you're the type of person who loses things. (That's why I usually keep mine connected to my charger.)
For a hardcore traveler like me, these are my pick. They're cheap, light, and small, and they work.
Runner-up: Ceptics Adapter Plug Set for Worldwide International Travel Use
Though made by the same company as the Ceptics International Worldwide Travel Plug Adapter 5 Piece Set—and bearing a confusingly similar name—the plug adapters in the Ceptics Adapter Plug Set for Worldwide International Travel Use are, as you can see, a completely different design. They're much larger than the other Ceptics (let's call the previous set Ceptics Black and this one Ceptics White for simplicity). Nonetheless, they're each smaller than a universal adapter, and they have one key benefit over our top plug-adapter pick: You can purchase them in multipacks for individual regions, including regions beyond those covered by the Ceptics Black set.
The Ceptics White are small, but not as small as the Ceptics Black. That extra size does offer one benefit, however: These adapters have more of a face on the output side, so there's more surface for your charger to lean against. This means your charger is less likely to fall out. Again, neither set of plugs we tested had loose connections, but this is always a risk, as chargers vary. One other difference: In place of the two-pronged US plug we saw in our other picks, this set includes the three-pronged grounded version.
The real benefit to the Ceptics Whites, however, is not their physical characteristics. This range is one of your only options if you want to buy a plug adapter for a specific region or country. Headed to India or South Africa? A universal adapter probably won't work, but you can get a three-pack of Ceptics that will. You can also buy the offset three-prong and in-line three-prong for Switzerland and Italy, respectively, as well as plugs for Israel and Brazil, both the thin and the thick European plugs, and of course, Australia and UK versions too. They cost less than $10 per set. Any of those links will bring you to a page that lets you choose among plugs for different regions—definitely verify at checkout that you've picked the correct ones!
These adapters are ideal for someone headed to a country not covered by a universal adapter, or who has multiple chargers they want to plug in while traveling. They're not quite as compact as the Ceptics Black adapters, but for most people, this difference in size won't be an issue. I've traveled with these Ceptics plugs for many years, and they show no signs of wear.
What to look forward to
The main advance I've seen over the years has been more and more powerful USB ports on universal adapters. That's a trend likely to continue.
One interesting adapter on the horizon is the Mu One. We mention the older Mu in the Competition section below: It's a very thin charger with two USB ports. However, these ports offer very little power output. The One aims to remedy this by using a single USB-C port that will supply up to 3 amps at 15 volts for fast-charging phones or even laptops. We like the design and the fast charging, but the projected price, about $65, is high. After a successful IndieGoGo campaign, the One is due to start shipping in December 2018.
Do you need a voltage converter?
Every adapter you see in this guide merely sends the current from the wall directly to whatever you plug into it. These are not voltage converters. Which is to say, if you're in the UK, whatever you plug into the front of the adapter is going to get the UK's 220 volts/50 hertz electricity, not the 120 volt/60 hertz that you'd get in the US. Travel plug adapters don't convert the voltage; they only convert the plug. (Our universal picks do convert the local current to USB voltage, but only for the USB ports.)
However, for the vast majority of people, this is all you need. It's exceptionally rare that anyone would need a voltage converter anymore. This is because most so-called wall warts, like on your phone charger or your camera's battery charger, will convert the wall voltage into what it needs automatically.
Take a look at your charger. Somewhere, it should say "100–220V 50/60Hz." This means it can accept anything between 100 V and 220 V, which covers domestic electricity pretty much everywhere, and either 50 Hz or 60 Hz, which again covers everything. If your charger doesn'tsay this, it might not work with a travel adapter. If it only says "120V–60Hz," it will almost certainly not work—or not work correctly—with a travel adapter.
But here's the other reason we don't recommend buying a voltage converter: Your device might not work even with one. Anything with a motor (like hair dryers), anything with a heating element (like a clothing iron or a curling iron), or anything with a plug that goes directly to the device (as in no wall wart), probably won't work in another country regardless of what kind of converter or adapter you bring. The good news is, pretty much every hotel, hostel, and Airbnb will have a hair dryer you can borrow. This is one of those times where we can't cover everything you might want to bring, but for the vast majority of you, you don't need a voltage converter. Either it's not necessary, or the device that needs one won't work anyway. Worst case, if it's something cheap and you really need it—a hot pot or an electric kettle, say—consider buying one at your destination.
One occasional exception is electric razors. These often fall into the "single cable, no wall wart, has a motor" category. Which is to say, they probably won't work without a voltage converter. (Again, check the fine print near the plug or on the device itself.) Many hotels have a shaver plug in the bathroom, with a US-style outlet and US-style 110 volt-or-so voltage. However, not every hotel will have these, and they're very rare in hostels and Airbnbs. If you need one, best to call ahead and see if your hotel has them. Or use disposables on your trip.
It's worth noting again for clarity, USB is USB, so if you're just plugging in a USB cable, unless something is horribly wrong, one USB port's voltage is the same as any other USB port's voltage. How fast that port will charge your gear will vary (that's related to amperage), but unless the charger is faulty, a USB port shouldn't damage your gear.
We considered many more adapters than those listed here. However, the majority of travel adapters available boil down to just a dozen or so designs sold by myriad companies. We've listed two representatives of each of the most common designs, but in most cases, many more exist. Chances are, if it looks similar and has similar specs, it's probably the same inside.
Universal travel adapters
Askali, Unidapt, others: Only 3.4 amps maximum output, which means it'll take longer to charge all of your devices.
Bluegogo: Only two USB and slower-charging than our picks.
Bonazza, Urbo, others: Feels flimsy, even compared with others here. Two-piece design is more cumbersome than helpful. Only 3.4 amps maximum output.
Conair Travel Smart: It has only one USB port, with a maximum of 1 amp, but with three outlets, it's one of the few travel adapters that lets you plug in multiple non-USB devices.
Eagle Creek USB Universal Travel Adapt Pro: This astonishingly overpriced (it's several times more expensive than our universal-adapter pick) and terribly designed product wouldn't be worth mentioning if it did not have the Eagle Creek name on it and were not sold at REI. A disappointing offering by otherwise great companies.
Epicka (2017), Loop: Epicka calls this a 2017 model on its site. Our main pick has one additional USB port and faster charging.
Flight 001 5-in-1 Universal Travel Adapter + USB Box Set: Interesting interlocking design and great colors, but only two USB ports with 2.1 amps max each.
LezGo, Ougrand (green): Same shape as the Askali, but with a USB-C in place of one of the regular USB connections; 3.4 amp max total.
Monoprice Compact Cube Universal Travel Adapter: I own one of these, and it's fine, but if you're going the universal route, our picks have USB charging for just a few dollars more. If you don't need USB charging, our plug-adapter picks are probably better choices. Insten is a similar product but with, apparently, surge suppression built in. But as there's no way to change the fuse, this is likely one-and-done if you plug in something too powerful.
Mu Worldwide Traveller Duo: This "flat" charger has a clever and interesting design—but only two USB ports with a max of 1.2 amp in all. An updated version with much higher output is on the horizon (see What to look forward to, above).
Ougrand (blue), Huanuo: A bit bulky, with three regular USB ports and one USB-C; 3.4 amps maximum.
WGGE, Jollyfit: Only 2.4 amps max, less than either of our picks.
Bestek Grounded Universal Worldwide Plug: Likely made in the same factory as the Ceptics White plugs, the Bestek set looks the same and is roughly the same price. It offers a wide variety of plug types, but lacks the Type C Europlug that's common in most adapter sets and usable across most of Europe. (The Europlug was invented to fit into a wide range of European outlet types.) If our Ceptics White pick is sold out, these will also work.
Lewis N. Clark Adapter Plug Kit: This kit from REI looks fine, but it is more expensive and has one less plug compared with our Ceptics pick.
Insignia Global Travel Adapter Kit: The Insignia has a clever interlocking and compact design, akin to that of the Flight 001 universal adapter (above), and the individual plugs feel solid. However, it is expensive compared with our picks, and it doesn't offer anything that you couldn't do with our picks just by connecting them end to end (if you wanted to).
Tessan Plug Adapter Set: The same as the Ceptics White, but in black and missing the grounded US-type plug.
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