London is an electric place to visit – both figuratively and literally. As you research and plan your trip to London, you might have realized that things work a little differently across the pond than they do here in North America. Specifically, the U.K. uses entirely different electricity technology – different plugs, different outlets, heck, they ever use a different voltage in London!
Over the course of my many visits to London, I’ve learned which electrical equipment I need; if you’re planning your first trip to London, you might have some questions. It’s not the most thrilling topic, but it is important to understand how to keep your important electronics safe and functioning while abroad.
If you want to learn more about the electrical system in the U.K., you’ve come to the right place. This post will cover the basics of voltage in London, how that affects the plugs and outlets, and what you need to do to use (and protect) your electronics while visiting London. Read on to discover the wondrous world of Type G plugs and the powerful power system that necessitates them.
What Voltage is Used in London?
Like most cities in the world, electricity in London is different, and that has a direct impact on the plugs, outlets, and voltages appliances use. Finding out what the voltage in London is, is crucial to make sure you’ll be able to charge and use everyday appliances, like iPhones, laptops, hairdryers, etc.
If you’re traveling from the United States, you’ll see that electrical grids in the U.K. deliver higher voltage and frequency. The standard voltage in the U.S. is 120 V, and the frequency is 60 Hz, whereas in London, the sockets deliver 230 V and the electrical grid’s frequency is 50Hz. Keep in mind this is the standard supply voltage in London, and it may vary in other regions of the U.K.
This substantial difference in voltage will require you to take a few measures to ensure you can plug in your appliances and they’ll work safely. Still, you’ll be able to use appliances rated between 220V and 240V safely.
Can U.S. Plugs be Used in the U.K.?
When it comes to the question of whether you can use U.S./North American plugs in London or the U.K., the answer is, unfortunately, no: you won’t be able to use an American plug as it will not fit in the U.K. power outlet.
Does this mean you can’t use your appliances in London? No, you’ll just have to buy a power adapter suitable for charging electronics in London, but I’ll get to that later. First, let’s focus on the differences between each plug.
In the U.S., “Type A” and “B” plugs are the most common ones. Type A has two flat parallel pins; Type B is the plug that comes with two flat parallel pins and a grounding pin. In the U.K., appliances come with “Type G” plugs, which have three rectangular pins or blades in a triangular pattern and a fuse, usually 3 amp, to protect smaller appliances when charging. You might find some areas and countries within the U.K. that use Type D and M plugs, although they’re not that common anymore.
How are Electrical Outlets Different in London?
Same as the plugs, outlets in London are also different from the U.S. ones. They feature a design that corresponds to the plug’s design. So, in the U.K., you’ll find “Type G” outlets. These outlets have three rectangular prongs arranged in a triangular fashion and a ground. They also have a small switch that allows electricity to flow. U.K. outlets supply 230 V and 50 Hz.
In the United States, you’ll find “Type A” and “B” sockets. Type A plugs have two flat pins arranged in a parallel fashion, whereas Type B plugs come with two flat parallel pins and include a round grounding pin that is longer. U.S. outlets provide 120 Volts and 60 Hz.
Can I Use My U.S. Charging Cables in London?
Overall, yes, you’ll be able to use your charging cables in the U.K. Like iPhones, laptops, and iPads, most appliances today come with chargers that can run on any voltage between 100 and 240. What you will need is a plug adapter to convert the U.S. 2 prong to the U.K.-style outlet – but more on that below.
However, in this new era of ubiquitous international travel, many hotels and Airbnbs already have USB outlets in the wall, so you might not even need a plug adapter for charging specific devices. Please, remember that plug adapters only “change” the shape of the plug to fit in the U.K. outlet, but it doesn’t change the voltage.
Do I Need an Adapter, Converter, or Both?
If only there was a short answer about whether you need a travel adapter or travel converter for London. As I’ve mentioned before, American plugs won’t fit into U.K. outlets or sockets, so you’ll definitely need a travel adapter to adapt America’s two-prong plugs into the U.K.’s three-prong outlets. If you’re planning to travel to mainland Europe, I recommend you buy a Universal Adapter since you’ll find different outlets in all countries.
Given the voltage in London is higher than in the U.S., you may need a converter to use appliances safely and avoid electrical hazards. Whether and which power converter you need depends on the electrical device that you want to use and its voltage. You’ll need a power converter if you’re going to charge or use devices rated below 220V. Check out if your devices are dual voltage. In this case, you won’t need a power adapter as these devices can accept both 110-120V and 220-240V.
I personally don’t own a travel converter as I don’t bring anything with me that requires one. I do have recommendations on the best travel adapters for London (some adapters on my list are also converters), and here’s a good travel converter for London, if you determine you need one of those separately.
Have any other questions about voltage in London, which plugs to use, or anything else electrical about visiting the U.K.? Let me know in the comments or join my London Travel Tips Facebook group!