The 21st-century traveler is followed by a cloud of gadgets and electronic appliances. Traveling light these days means carrying an ultra-thin laptop, a slim digital camera and maybe a handheld GPS machine. While the infrastructure in Southeast Asia varies, there’s plenty of support for the electronic traveler.
Cell phones and iPods are practically an extension of the self these days, and more travelers than ever are keeping them on hand while overseas. Even the backpacker cult, once known for its bare-bone thrift and aversion to excess weight, has made a few allowances. The flashpacker may look like an old-school backpacker, but on closer inspection they’re carrying an arsenal of gadgets.
Across Southeast Asia, standard voltages range from 220 to 230V. Vietnam is the major exception, with a few communities still operating on 127V, but these are expected to join the rest of the region at 220V in the near future. Travelers bringing electronics from the Americas may need an electronic converter to keep their equipment safe.
If you’re heading to Asia and planning to take a few electronics along for the ride, consider these tips before setting out:
Checking for dual-voltage equipment
Electronics with a simple cord and standard plug use the voltage supplied from the socket, but some electronics with adapters are more flexible. Check the sticker on your notebook adapter or cell phone charger. If it indicates an input range of 100 to 240V (50/60Hz), you can safely use it almost anywhere in the world.
Travelers who opt to carry expensive electronics with have to be on guard 24 hours a day. A notebook or camera bag is an easy mark for thieves, and it can’t be concealed as easily as cash. You’ll have to decide each day how to secure your belongings or else lug them around with you. This is an especially important consideration in unsecured budget hotels.
An equipment insurance policy will give you the peace of mind to enjoy your holiday without fretting over your expensive electronics. Just be sure to carry a flash drive or extra memory card to backup your favorite pictures along the way.
Travel adaptor plugs come in many shapes and sizes but the best purchase is the multi-adaptor, which tends to fit most plugs and sockets. These adaptor plugs usually come with inbuilt power surge protection and voltage adaptors too.
When shopping for a travel adaptor plug, run through the compatibility list and check it against your travel itinerary, making sure that you have all the plugs you require as they can be hard to find in some smaller countries.
If you’re traveling with electronics from the US that don’t accept dual-voltage, you’ll need to pick up a converter before plugging into a 220 to 240V socket. Small, non-heating appliances (like a shaver or CD player) can use a 50-Watt converter for up to 30 minutes, or an 85-Watt converter continuously. Use a 2,000-Watt converter for electronics with a heating element (think clothes steamers, hair dryers and coffee makers).
Save yourself the headache of deciding which converter to use by investing in a single 50/2,000-Watt converter that automatically detects how much wattage your appliance needs.
Traveling with a laptop
Gone are the days of wading through spyware and sticky internet connections in internet cafés. Carrying a laptop on an overseas trip is increasingly common. Hotels, cafés and shopping centers are responding with wireless internet zones and special work stations for notebooks. A notebook pairs nicely with a digital camera, giving travelers the chance to store photos with ease and upload them to their blog or social network.