Know Before You Go: Voltage & Adapters in Scotland

by Keith Savage · 9 comments

Understanding which adapters to take to Scotland

In the last month I’ve written a couple of posts aimed at preparing first-time travelers to Scotland for a wonderful trip. I’ve tackled Scotland’s incredible right-to-roam policy and renting a car, and today I continue this so-called “Know Before You Go” series with another practical topic: Voltage, adapters, and things electrical. This is far from the sexiest thing to write about, but, since I can’t seem to travel without lugging around at least four devices, getting it wrong hurts.

There are two main areas you need to consider when ensuring your devices will work in other countries: Voltage and outlet adapters. Voltage is the “power” of the electricity coming through the outlet to devices. In most of the world (including Scotland), outlets are calibrated to 220v-240v. In the United States, however, our outlets are calibrated for 120v. The higher voltage in Scotland and other places is the result of a more modern electrical infrastructure that provides greater flexibility and nominally better energy efficiency. The United States’ more archaic system is simply the cost of being a pioneer.

What does this mean for travelers? Every device that can be charged via outlets is built to accept a certain voltage range. You need to ensure that your device can handle the higher voltage in Scotland. For example, though it’s a bit hard to see, the iPhone plug below lists the input as 100-240v. This means you can plug it into Scottish outlets with just an adapter (see below). It does not require a voltage converter.

Voltage converter? Some older devices and appliances like hair dryers and curling irons may only accept 120v. If you tried plugging those into Scottish outlets you’d risk frying the device. In this situation, you need an adapter AND a voltage converter (pictured below). The converter steps down the voltage to the lower American voltage of 110v/120v. These days, most devices like laptops, smartphones, surfaces, etc. do not require a voltage converter, and truthfully I can’t remember the last time I brought one on a trip. The key here is to check all your devices to see what voltages they accept. If any list only 110v/120v, then you need to bring a converter.

Adapters are the other main concern. Outlet sockets in Scotland and the UK are different from the rest of the world. Everyone is different from everyone, really. As you can see in the pictures of UK adapters below, the adapters you need to use in Scotland have three massive, rectangular prongs spaced fairly far apart. The backsides of these adapters fit just about every other plug configuration on the planet. The number of adapters you want to bring depends on the number of devices you have, but trust me when I tell you that you don’t want to be fighting with your significant other for charging time. Just think of all the things you might need to charge: Laptop, phone, iPad, kindle, camera batteries, etc.

Important note: If you have any grounded, three-prong plugs, be sure to purchase an adapter that accepts three-pronged plugs. You can’t see it in the photo below, but the beige adapter accepts three-pronged plugs and the blue one does not. It seems obvious, but I made this mistake on a recent trip to Switzerland.

It’s as simple (and complicated) as that. To summarize:

  1. Gather together the devices you intend to bring.
  2. Check what voltages they accept.
  3. If necessary, purchase a voltage converter (for those devices that only accept 110v/120v).
  4. Purchase UK outlet adapters for both grounded and non-grounded plugs.

You will now never be without sweet electricity on your trip to Scotland. Just don’t forget to flick on the switch on the outlet first! Questions? Throw them in the comments!

Next week: A look at my packing list for Scotland.

NeilNo Gravatar May 18, 2016 at 9:12 PM

Something else to consider…*blush*… don’t ask me how I know this!

Having been to the UK before, on our three-weeker last August, we came (properly) equipped with adapters and made sure all of our electronic stuff was “dual voltage”…ie., things would run on either 120v or 240v. No issues there…

Now for WHATEVER reason, I threw in a 5-outlet power strip so we could plug any rechargeable stuff in in just one place instead of scattering things all over the room and using multiple UK-sty;e adapters. I, uh, forgot to check that the power strip was dual voltage. As a result, when I plugged it into the wall, with the UK adapter, it popped the breaker that controlled ALL the outlets throughout the entire place we were staying at!

Now we all know that when you do that at home, we go check the breaker, reset the one that popped and Bob’s your uncle. However, most places in the UK, the staff are NOT allowed to do that. They have to call an electrician to do it for them…a visit, flip the breaker, give the accommodations a bill…

LOL…don’t place yourself in that situation! 🙂

Keith SavageNo Gravatar May 18, 2016 at 9:20 PM

Whoops! Thanks for the hard-earned advice, Neil.

Joanie MurrayNo Gravatar May 16, 2016 at 9:56 AM

Just as an additional bit of information, I’ve checked with all of the accommodations I have booked for our September trip, to see if any supplied a hair dryer. They all do. So, one less thing to pack. Some may even have adapters to borrow, but I would not count on the converter. All worth checking into beforehand.

Keith SavageNo Gravatar May 11, 2016 at 4:31 PM

Sorry, folks – I don’t have the packing list put together yet! Some tips though: Waterproof windbreaker with a hood, waterproof all-purpose shoes, and dress in layers.

Lee GordonNo Gravatar May 11, 2016 at 4:20 PM

Hi Keith–

Any chance you can send me a first draft of the “what to pack” article? We’re leaving on Friday the 13th (yikes) for Scotland!


sheilaNo Gravatar May 11, 2016 at 3:21 PM

You can avoid conflict with your SO over access to chargers by using one of these –

6 gadgets can charge at the same time, and only one adapter is needed, so less bulky to carry about. Also – sockets/outlets are sometimes at a premium in smaller hotels and B&Bs – a unit like this (others are available) takes care of that problem.

sheilaNo Gravatar May 11, 2016 at 3:29 PM

Hmm. I see links don’t work. WHat I suggested above, is a 6-port 60watt charger, available from a number of suppliers, including A*mazon.

LizNo Gravatar May 11, 2016 at 2:43 PM

Do you have your packing list done? I’m leaving on the 23rd and want to pack light. I keep changing my mind.. Will be there til mid June. Any suggestions? Torrid on and Lochleven area.

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