St Moritz Travel Planner by Tom Brosnahan

  Switzerland's Electricity
220-240 volts, 50 Hertz, as in the rest of Europe. Read the specifications on your electrical device carefully—you may be able to plug it in without damage.


Switzerland operates on 220-240 volts AC, 50 Hz, with round-prong European-style plugs.

(Prongs on the plugs today are thinner than they were a few decades ago, so if you have an old plug or adapter, it may not fit into today's Swiss outlets.)

Cick here for the full story of preparing for European electricity.

110-120-volt or 220-240-volt?

Check your appliances before leaving home to see what you'll need to plug in when you travel in Switzerland.

Many appliances with their own power adapters (such as laptop computers and digital cameras) can be plugged into either 110-120-volt or 220-240-volt sockets/points and will adapt to the voltage automatically.

Read the technical stuff on your power adapter to see (the power adapter is the little gizmo, usually black and rectangular, that's in the power line between your laptop or camera and the socket/point.) Look for "INPUT: A.C. 100-240V":

INPUT: A.C. 100-240V

If it reads that way, it can operate on either voltage. If it says something like "INPUT: 100-125V", then it can't run on Switzerland's 220-240 volts and you'll need to bring a transformer. (If you connect a 100-125V device to a 220-240V outlet/point, the higher voltage will damage your device or its transformer).

Power Adapter
A device which can safely be connected to either
100-125V 60Hz or 220-240V 50Hz electrical systems.

Switzerland's Type J Plug

Switzerland uses a Type J plug, which differs from many other European plugs. Here are plug adapters that will alow you to connect in Switzerland:

Switzerland, Europe & UK

A large multi-adapter accepts North American, UK & Euro plugs, and fits into Swiss and other European sockets/points, including the ground/earth connection. Some multi-adapters work in up to 150 differernt countries. This is your most useful solution for your charging station (see below), because it's solid and secure in the wall outlet/point.

150-country multi-adapter
(click for more)

Charging Station

If you're like most travelers on a trip to Europe, you've got several electronic devices to charge each day.

Your Swiss hotel room may have only one electrical outlet, and that in an inconvenient place. Usually, though, there are more outlets than one, and they aren't all near the floor behind the bed, so if you have a plug adapter you can charge one device. 

When we travel in Switzerland, we need to charge all of the following devices:

2 Digital cameras
2 Laptop computers
2 Mobile phones
1 Tablet computer
1 Electric toothbrush
1 Kindle book reader

That's 9 devices in all!

When we arrive in a hotel room, we set up a charging station using a power cord splitter or a power strip.

Power Cord Splitter

A power cord splitter (or power splitter cord) is an electrical wire with a North American plug at one end and two or more North American sockets on separate wires at the other end. Plug the splitter into an adapter in a French outlet, and you've got several independent sockets in which to plug your numerous electrical devices.

Power cord splitter
Power cord splitters.
Click on the photo for more information.

A splitter is particularly useful if your devices have extra-large plugs or transformers: there's plenty of room on each independent socket. (This is an advantage over a power strip—see below).

Plug a second splitter cord into one of the sockets and you can have up to seven sockets available; or use the two splitters in different locations in your hotel room or apartment.

Power Strip

power strip (or power tap) is a device providing multiple sockets/outlets (usually 6 or 8) connected to a cord with a plug on the end. Several devices can be plugged into the power strip. When the plug on the cord is plugged into an electrical outlet, all of the sockets receive electrical current. In effect, a power strip turns one socket/outlet into 6 or 8 sockets—which is what travelers need these days.

With a power strip, you only need one plug adapter: for the plug on the power strip cord. All of your home-country devices are then plugged into the power strip.

Simple power strips/taps—no surge protector circuitry.
Click on the photo for more information & where to find them.

But...Surge Suppressors?

But here's the challenge: most power strips sold in North America and some other countries are also surge suppressors, meaning that they contain electronic circuitry to detect and stop electrical power surges that could damage your electronic equipment. If this electronic circuitry is designed to operate only on North American-standard 120-volt 60-Hertz electric current, and you plug such a surge suppressor into a European outlet which provides 240-volt, 50-Hertz current, the surge suppressor will burn out, or even explode!

We learned this the hard way. The explosion wasn't all that dramatic, but it destroyed the surge suppressor, and thus we didn't have the use of it for the rest of our trip. It was junk. We threw it away.

Hardware and electronics stores usually display many more surge supressors than simple power strips, so shop carefully. Look at the label on the unit itself. If you see the term surge supressor or surge protector on it, and the rating of 110-120 voltsdo not use it in Europe (or in any country that provides 240-volt, 50-Hertz current).

A simple power strip merely connects several plugs to one socket. It contains no electronic circuitry to detect or suppress surges, but in my experience power surges are not a big problem in France.

If the power strip you find includes USB power ports, it may include electronic circuitry intended only for North American 120-volt, 60-Hertz electricity. If so, it will be destroyed if plugged into European 240-volt, 50-Hertz electricity.

The power strip shown below features four USB charging ports, three North American 3-prong plug sockets, a five-foot (1.5-meter) extension cord—and NO surge protection. Rated at 100-240 volts AC, 50/60 Hertz, it's suitable for both North American & European use—if you don't need to plug in big power transformers.

For more information, and where to buy adapters, power strips and more, click here.

Extension Cord

Many power cord splitters, adapters and power strips may come with short plug cords, and we often find that we need an extension cord to position our charging station conveniently because power sockets/outlets in European hotels and apartments/flats are not always in convenient locations. 

It's worth it to carry at least a 1- or 2-meter (3- or 6-foot) three-wire extension cord to run from the wall outlet to the horizontal surface where you position your charging station and all your electrical devices. (Why three-wire? Because your power cord splitter or power strip will have a three-prong plug on it.) 

Click on the photo for details & how to find it. 

Consider a longer extension cord—or two of them, especially if you plan to stay in mid-price, budget or historic hotels, B&Bs, or apartments/flats.

—by Tom Brosnahan



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