In this world of modern electrical appliances, there are few of us who do not have one or more electrical items that we rely on a daily basis. Working out whether you can use these items abroad or not can be a headache, but less of a headache than arriving only to discover you can’t use any of your electrical goods.

Cellular phones, digital cameras, hairdryers, personal audio players, travel irons and even notebook computers can all be considered essential accompaniments to an overseas trip. Though some hotels may supply irons and hairdryers, for many visitors bringing their own is a primary concern.

Of greater concern for all travelers bound for overseas destinations, however, is whether or not their electrical items are compatible with the local voltage, cycle frequency and socket type. Before packing anything electrical, first ensure that the electrical items in question can be used safely at your destination.

In the US, for example, appliances operate on 110 volts while in the vast majority of other countries across the globe, 220 to 240 volts are standard. Therefore, for US visitors heading to other parts of the world or non-US visitors planning a trip stateside, there is a need to establish whether or not their appliances are designed to work on dual voltages.

For goods that operate on a single voltage only, an electrical converter is necessary. Sitting between the socket and the appliance’s original plug, converters can be used to either step up or step down the voltage. They are a good solution for hairdryers, travel irons, battery chargers and short-use conveniences but are not designed for anything requiring continuous use.

Check how many cycles per second your appliances are set to operate. Fifty hertz or 60Hz are the usual frequencies and while most products will handle both, some won’t. Using an appliance that cannot accept dual frequencies can result in irreparable damage to the item or the blowing of a fuse in the establishment where you attempt to use it.

If your appliances operate at the same voltage and frequency that is used in your holiday destination, then your only issue will be to establish whether your current plugs are compatible with the wall sockets. This is the least bothersome issue and in cases of incompatibility, a travel adaptor is all that is necessary.

Single adaptors are available but those that can be adjusted to fit the majority of the world’s socket types are best for anyone planning to visit more than one country on a single trip or who is likely to travel abroad again in the future.

There are a number of other issues worth considering. One of the most important being that the power supply in many countries is not grounded. The obvious effect of this is that users can get small but nonetheless nasty electric shocks from their appliances, particularly those with large metallic sections such as notebook computers.

Unfortunately, there is no quick or easy short-term solution to this problem so the best advice is to take care with metal-covered appliances and in the case of notebooks, using them unplugged with a fully charged battery is the best option.