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Insta Q&A: Electronics Enigma

Christina Talcott

True story: A few years back, while traveling in Italy, I plunged my entire hotel into darkness by plugging my hairdryer into the wrong kind of outlet, or something. Luckily, it was a small hotel. Anyway, I can definitely relate to the question we recently received from Nancey Parker of Maryland, who has a flatiron problem. I can't understand it, but I can relate to it. And since I'm hopeless when it comes to voltage and converters, I'm hoping someone a little more savvy can help her.

Now, pay attention, because it gets complicated. Nancey writes:

Our daughter is travelling with a group to Israel at the end of the month. When in France, she had trouble with my older voltage converter/plugs kit and her rechargeable camera batteries. Our cameras do not have dual voltage AA battery chargers. She also uses a flatiron to straighten her hair. Plugs are not a problem as many stores carry adapters here. However, everyplace I look has a different converter for low voltage batteries and for high wattage irons.

I suggested she buy a flatiron overseas, as I couldn't find any dual-voltage ones here, and they don't work well, as I have experienced. People who have gone on this trip say there are no places where she could buy a flatiron. She intends to study in the Middle East next year, and we don't think she should be hauling two separate converters abroad. It looks like we will have to get a new camera. Any suggestions?

I confess, she lost me with the camera charger. Can anyone out there (a.) understand this problem and (b.) recommend a solution?

By Christina Talcott |  February 4, 2009; 12:08 PM ET  | Category:  Insta-Q&A , K.C. Summers
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No need to understand the problem, but the solution is simple.

Buy the iron and rechargeable battery charger in Israel. She will end up spending more money on an assortment of converters that may be heavy and will get lost or just burn out over time.

No one really needs converters anymore. Appliances that are meant to travel (like digital cameras, cellphones) come ready for 110/220V and 50/60 Hz. Ovens and Washing Machines don't - so leave them home.

If she is really attached to the charger, she can stay home -,Places-to-Visit.aspx

Posted by: elliot123 | February 4, 2009 12:42 PM

For the flatiron: It's been a while since I traveled overseas, but I remember having a converter that handled appliances at two different wattage levels. The higher wattage was for appliances with heating elements, the lower was for other things. Wattage is printed on the appliance, check it and set the converter appropriately.

I would try to find a dual-wattage converter. Try some place like Radio Shack. It might be possible to find a flatiron in the Middle East, but it might not be, or it might be very expensive. I know a hair dryer + curling iron isn't the same, but that might be a third option, and those appliances are definitely available in the Middle East.

The battery charger is a more difficult thing since the voltage, wattage and hertz can be sensitive. You might be better off just buying a new digital camera that runs on regular disposable batteries.

Regardless, when using a voltage converter, be careful not to go off and forget it, there's a real risk of fire.

Posted by: northgs | February 4, 2009 3:04 PM

I just went to Amazon and searched for "dual voltage flat iron" and dozens of options came up.

Posted by: ShawnDC | February 4, 2009 4:32 PM

If the item has a voltage converter (i.e. that little black box) with the 110/240V-50/60Hz written on it you can use it overseas. I do it with my laptop in Europe. You just need to stop in a hardware store and buy the plug that goes between your power cord and that country's electrical outlet for about a dollar or two.

Posted by: charley42 | February 4, 2009 9:11 PM

Not the cheapest out there, but I have a CHI dual voltage travel flat iron that I've used overseas- bought it at Trade Secret. Heats up faster on 220V than 110V so it may not seem as great if testing out in the US first. A whole list of the very expensive to the very cheap:

As for the camera... what kind of battery does it take?

Posted by: zan20 | February 4, 2009 9:17 PM

Need a new camera means.....batteries got fried and they seem unable to find replacement batteries for them---thus theyt need to replace the camera.

If the issue is replacing batteries for your camera try online sites or a place like Batteries Plus.

Posted by: djp98374 | February 5, 2009 4:27 PM

maybe she should just get a haircut, ditch the flatiron and maybe her mom should stop coddling her.

Posted by: jjtwo | February 6, 2009 11:19 AM

Wow. Why so angry?

Posted by: ArlingtonVA3 | February 6, 2009 12:15 PM

On second thought....I wonder if her daughter claimed the camera got fried just so she could get the latest greatest camera from mommy and daddy's monopoly money.

Posted by: djp98374 | February 6, 2009 1:38 PM

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