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I have an international power converter that looks like this one. (I bought mine several years ago; it's not that exact one.) I used this converter to power a US phone-battery charger in Barcelona yesterday. Today in Rome, though, I'm not getting power through it. (Update: I'm told here that it's an adapter, not a converter.)

As far as I've been able to tell, Spain and Italy have the same power standards. The converter's indicator light comes on, but the indicator light on the charger doesn't. I tried plugging my tablet in and that didn't detect power either.

Both devices are rated for input of 120-240V (not 120/240), according to text stamped on their plugs. I also have a USB charger with European adapter and that charges my phone and tablet just fine. But I've been needing two batteries to get through a day of tourism, hence the desire to use the battery charger (which is not USB) too. The battery charger is the ony reason for the adapter, and the only thing I'd plugged into it until I started debugging.

I can find an electronics store here tomorrow, but what should I look for? Or is the problem not my converter but something else, possibly including hotel issues? (The place isn't very new or well-appointed.)

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    Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – Mark Mayo Sep 16 '16 at 7:29
  • So, what happened? – Revetahw Sep 24 '16 at 23:34
  • @Fiksdal now that I'm home I could complete the diagnostics. The battery charger and the original adapter both failed; which direction the causality ran (assuming there was causality) I don't know. I bought another adapter there, and I'll replace the charger now that I know it's part of the problem. – Monica Cellio Sep 25 '16 at 2:31
  • @MonicaCellio I see. Glad you figured it out! :) – Revetahw Sep 25 '16 at 21:01
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There may be something wrong with the adapter, or it may be something else. You can try and isolate the problem. The problem is either:

A: The electric sockets in the hotel room. (This seems unlikely since the European USB charger works.)

or

B: Your plug-adapter. (This is what I'd personally bet on.) BTW, Italy has these funny three-pin plugs, maybe that's related? (Thanks, @shoover.) Or maybe it just recently broke in in some way?

or

C: Your devices. (There are two of them, so this seems less likely. That is, assuming they do support up to 240V.)

  1. Try the European USB charger in the plug-adapter. (Thanks @user568458.) If this doesn't work, then you know it's B and you can skip straight to 3. If it does work, then move on to 2.
  2. Take your tablet and battery charger to a coffee shop or library or something like that and try to charge there, to see if that works. If it does, then it suggests A. That would mean you could complain to the hotel. If charging doesn't work in the coffee shop either, then move on:
  3. Go look for a new adapter. Rather than telling you what to look for I'll just advise you to find a shop that lets you try (with your own devices) before you buy. That way, you'll know for sure whether it works or not. It's also good if there's a shopkeeper who can assist you. Ask specifically about the three-pin thing. If someone assists you, and even new adapters don't work, then it suggests C. (Which is another story.)
  4. If the new adapter does work in the shop, but still not in the hotel room, it suggests A. You can then consider asking for another room or to have it fixed.

If, after returning with a new adapter and it then works in the hotel room, it suggests B.

Here's the same advice expressed in a diagram:

enter image description here

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    The OP already wrote that two different chargers did not work and that she could go and buy another widget, I don't think this answer provides the explanation she is looking for. – Relaxed Sep 14 '16 at 22:17
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    If I understood right, she can test if the adaptor is bust without needing to take it anywhere, by taking the European-plug charger that does work, plugging that into the adaptor (which, if it's like the pictured ones, can take any plug), then plugging that into the wall. If going through the adaptor stops the good charger working, then the problem is the adaptor. If it works fine, the problem is probably with her other charger. – user568458 Sep 15 '16 at 0:48
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    I recently traveled from the USA to Italy and Germany on the same trip. Before I left, I purchased two separate adapters. One was labeled "for Europe" and the map highlighted nearly every country except Italy. The other was labeled "for Italy" and as you can see, the two are different. Each one worked as expected in its targeted country. – shoover Sep 15 '16 at 4:14
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    @pnuts: Another common name for "plug adapter" is "travel adapter". People who never travel usually never need one. A question is on topic if it's about travel and travel adapters are about travel. An answer is on topic if it addresses the question. This is a lot more on topic than a recent question about the design and history of a museum! – hippietrail Sep 15 '16 at 11:02
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    @shoover I'm Italian. Yes they are different but most of the time you can "gently" push the plug and they will fit and work correctly (but doing this many times might bend a bit the pins...). Also German-style plugs are not unknown in Italy, and you often see at least one in the kitchen, while they are less common in other parts of the house. – Bakuriu Sep 15 '16 at 15:11
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The item you linked to has a surge protector built in. Have checked to see if yours tripped the surge protector?

If you tripped the circuit breaker or blew the fuse, then no power would reach your charger.

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    Small adapters like that typically have resettable fuses which go back to normal when you remove the load. They do break down, but are often not replaceable, so a permanently tripped fuse means it's essentially broken. – Dmitry Grigoryev Sep 15 '16 at 6:32
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The adapter linked to in your question is not a power converter. That is a plug adapter which changes the shape of the connection but not the voltage or frequency.

As long as the device you are plugging into it is also voltage-switching, it should work. If it does not, then the adapter either died or the hotel outlets are not functioning properly. Unfortunately, if they are not, then it may be the cause of death of the adapter.

Now, if your device is not voltage-switching, the power in Europe which is higher than that in the US, will most likely fry your device. So be sure to read the compliance of every device and charger you connect.

To replace your adapter look for:

  • The same type of plug converter if your devices are voltage-switching. Those are usually called Universal plug adapters. You can also buy one which is specific to convert US-to-Europe plugs which are much cheaper and smaller.
  • An actual power converter if they are not. Note that power converters have a maximum wattage, so be sure to buy one which can support the devices you intend to plug.
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    The same thing worked in Spain. Again, while not incorrect or un informative in itself, I feel this answer fails to address the question. – Relaxed Sep 14 '16 at 22:19
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    OP has made it clear that her devices support up to 240V. – Revetahw Sep 14 '16 at 22:25
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    The OP seems confused, so I thought it be best to clarify, particularly after saying she has a power converter that looks like a plug adapter and the 120-240V (not 120/240) bit. – Itai Sep 14 '16 at 22:31
  • @Itai Fair enough. – Revetahw Sep 14 '16 at 22:35
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    I said 120-240 nor 120/240 because something I found via Google before asking said that matters. – Monica Cellio Sep 15 '16 at 16:37
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Although European countries have different plug & socket standards, they are mostly compatible as long as you can fit one into the other (e.g. you may be unable to use a German plug in a French socket). Also, the light on your adapter comes on, and the phone charger works, so the socket in your hotel room looks fine.

The only reasonable explanation I have is that your plug adapter broke down, since it's near impossible that your charger AND your tablet power supply both broke at the same time. You should buy a new adapter then.

  • If it were me I would also keep the current adapter or try to find something else to test it on. Just because as a programmer I hate not when problems are not deterministic (-: I would also hate it if I forked out for a new adapter and my stuff still didn't work. So OP try to test any new adapter you might buy with your device(s) before buying. – hippietrail Sep 15 '16 at 16:52
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    It appears the adapter failed despite the light coming on. I bought a new adapter and that powered the tablet (I only connected long enough to detect power, just in case that's risky). However, the battery charger still gets no power. My current theory is that the adapter failed and took the charger with it. I'll have to get through the rest of the trip without it. :-( – Monica Cellio Sep 15 '16 at 17:16
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    Yep, light sometimes merely indicates you get power at the input, without guaranteeing anything at the output. I'd guess the failure happened the other way around - a failed charger killed the adapter. Chargers are relatively complex yet cheap, meaning manufacturers have to cut corners. Anyway, I'm glad you got at least your tablet back. – Dmitry Grigoryev Sep 15 '16 at 21:09
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Pardon me if this was said and I missed it. There is probably a lamp, and maybe a coffee maker, hair dryer, or iron. Does it/they work in the same socket? Have you tried more than one socket?

These two things should be checked along with the adapter and chargers others have mentioned.

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I think the part of the question about the adapter working in Spain and not in Italy is of general interest to maybe some other people thinking to travel to Europe and questioning themselves about adapter, so here it goes


If, and I repeat if, your adapter is like the one in the photo, then I'd say that you are lucky that it worked in Spain without frying your phone charger.

USA use 110 volts. Spain and Italy use 220 volts.

Your adapter is just a pin adapter. I quote from the description of the one you linked, and if your is more or like the same be assured that this apply to you too:

This universal plug adapter is not a power converter,it just converts the power outlet plug type only, it does NOT convert electrical output current and voltage. Please make sure your device carries a electrical converter when you travel to other countries with different electrical output.

The voltage and current ratings printed on the adapter is just to tell you in which condition it is safe to use it, not that it somehow understands itself which combination of input and output voltage and current the connected device need.

So, to make it short and stay on Travel.se topic:

  • Your adapter is probably just a pin adapter
  • Maybe in Spain you found a better power line or maybe the opposite, and that made your charger work 220 volts is the theorical output. Italian power lines can go from 200 to 240 volts, sometimes even from 190 to 250, and who knows in Spain
  • Maybe you were just lucky to not have fried everything (yourself included; be more careful next time, please!)
  • When traveling you need both a pin adapter and a voltage adapter

Finally, the simple solution (OT per Travel.se, but who cares): if there is a TV in the room that you can disconnect from the power plug, disconnect it and reconnect with your adapter in between. If the TV works, your adapter is ok and everything I wrote above is correct. Or, even easier and less dangerous, ask at the desk if they can try the adapter with some appliance they have. Surely one of them will have a phone charger to try it.

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    OP says her chargers support up to 240 volts. And the phone charger mentioned in OP is European. – Revetahw Sep 15 '16 at 7:35
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    @Fiksdal: in all honesty I struggle to understand what exactly the OP has. I'm sure she has an adapter, a phone and a tablet. Then she say "Both devices are rated for input of 120-240V (not 120/240)", and the subjects are a lot less clear. Then she has an USB charger with an European adapter. She has too much things, it's not clear which one is what, and if it's just a device malfunctioning she is in the wrong place, it is totally OT here. That's the reason I was trying to split down the answer in different parts, one about traveling in general and one about her specific problem – motoDrizzt Sep 15 '16 at 7:59
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    Most "power bricks" and "chargers" these days are 110-240V 50-60 Hz. Do always check the label, because if you have one of the exceptions and plug it in to the wrong voltage you will fry it beyond repair, and might also fry the phone or computer it is connected to. But usually all you have to do is adapt the power pins to the wall outlet. – nigel222 Sep 15 '16 at 9:39
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    In my experience sensitive electronic devices are usually dual voltage. The things that usually do blow up overseas the most often are hair driers and electric shavers. – hippietrail Sep 15 '16 at 11:14
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    @motoDrizzt the plugs for the two devices have text on them saying 120-240V. The USB charger was sold as an international charger and has several plugs. The onky reason I brought the adapter was to power the battery charger; everything else is USB. – Monica Cellio Sep 15 '16 at 17:09

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