When you are buying some electronic gadget that is going to be used all around the globe, ponder the following items to avoid several technical headaches.
There are two different voltages used in the world. Broadly speaking, 240V is used in Europe, Asia, Australia and Africa, and 110V in Americas and Japan. There are of course some exceptions, for example, in Brazil and Belize, both voltages are used, and in some countries the voltage is 115V or 230V. The frequency differs a little bit, too. The frequency of 240V currency is 50Hz and 110V uses 60Hz.
Make sure that every AC adapter accepts voltage in between 100-240V and both frequencies. This is the case with most of laptops and mobile phones, but PDA chargers, for example, may accept only one type of voltage. If you are not able to get universal adapter, buy a voltage converter. They are cheap but unfortunately quite heavy and sometimes unreliable.
The different voltage and frequency is not enough, but there are several different plugs used in the world. 110V countries use two or three flat bladed plugs. In some countries only two bladed plugs are used. The situation is worse with 240V countries as there are several different plugs:
- two round pins plug, used in Europe, Asia and Africa
- three round pins plug, used in Asia and Africa
- three rectangular blades plug, used in Great Britain and Commonwealth
- three oblique flat blades plug, used in Oceania
There are several minor plug types for South Africa, Lesotho, El Salvador, Maldives, and Switzerland, among others.
You can buy adapters from the airports and borrow them from hotel receptions. The most common plug types are bundled to a universal adapter, sold in travel and department stores. One solution is to buy different cords between the adapter and the socket. This is preferable if you are planning to stay longer, as adapters have tendency to fit badly to the socket or plug and thus cause unwanted breaks in electricity supply. This happens quite easily, for example, when you move your laptop in the hotel room.
As you may have guessed, telephone plugs are also different in various parts of the world. Fortunately most of the hotel telephones have a separate modem jack that is universal (RJ-11). So buy a cable whose both ends fit to the modem jack in the laptop and you are quite safe.
World has also several mobile networks. GSM is the most widely deployed, available in every continent. Japan is one of the rare countries that do not have GSM network. In some other countries, especially in Americas, the GSM coverage is limited to the bigger cities. All the other mobile networks, such as CDMA and TDMA, are more local and they cannot offer true global mobility.
To make things more complicated, GSM networks use three different frequencies: 900, 1800 and 1900 MHz. Fortunately modern phones are able to use them all and they can automatically switch to correct frequency. Check also with your local operator that they have roaming agreements for every country you are planning to visit. If the operator does not have agreement in place, your phone will be dead even if there is a network. You can only make emergency calls. Check the situation with your operator, usually the information is available on operator’s web site.