Can I Use my Hair Dryer in Spain? – U.S. electrical appliances FAQ

Travel tips

by Katie Goldstein

Shortly after moving to Madrid, I plugged in an electric toothbrush charger from the U.S. with only a plug adapter. The friendly little green charger light didn’t turn on. And it never did again.

I hope that you all will be smarter than I was and read up before doing something like that. The main problem with bringing electronics from the U.S. to use here is the difference in voltage. The voltage in Spain (and most of Europe) is 220V/50Hz, whereas in the States it’s 110V/60Hz. More expensive electronics like laptops, iPods, and Lithium-ion battery chargers for digital cameras are conveniently dual voltage. For these items you only need a plug adapter (here the plugs are round pins instead of flat blades), which can be purchased in any ferretería (hardware store) for less than a Euro.

For everything else it’s just a little more complicated. Some small appliances, like hair dryers, are dual voltage—my mom’s had a toggle switch that allowed her to use it in Spain, though she says it blew a little differently. This may be the best option because the other choice for these smaller appliances is to buy a voltage converter, which don’t always work. I ended up with a European charger for my toothbrush after the manufacturer told me a converter wouldn’t even work.

Whatever you do, just don’t plug your hair dryer in with only an adapter! Have you ruined any appliances while on holiday abroad?


Comment from Delmar
Date: November 1, 2007, 3:57 pm

I brought over a new Macbook to use while working for a year in Madrid. It didn’t burn out while I was in Spain, but a day after I got back to the U.S. the battery died. Luckily I had extended coverage, so I didn’t have to pay for a new one.

Comment from Amy
Date: November 1, 2007, 4:49 pm

I fried a CD-player alarm clock years ago. I thought I was doing the right thing by using a converter, but it turns out that there is ALSO a special kind of converter designed for electronics! It was under warranty from Sears so I got a new one but I later read the fine print and found out that lots of warranties are void if you take the item out of the country. Of course that’s hard to prove. Also, before coming this time I bought a massive step-down transformer that can handle up to 750 watts (and weighs about 15 pounds) so that I can use my Crock Pot.

Comment from Katie
Date: November 2, 2007, 12:55 pm

@Delmar: I’ve been using my iBook in Spain with an adapter for over two years with no problems at all! Sounds like yours was a problem with the computer battery itself.

@Amy: Dang! A 15-pound transformer?! I hope that’s worth it! Glad to hear that it works, though. Is it strange that I’ve never used a crock pot in my life?