Here’s a tip for photographers and other electronics users who travel to foreign countries. If you use a digital camera or other electronic device such as a laptop computer, cell phone or iPod that needs its battery charged, as well as an electric hair dryer or an iron for your clothes, bring a voltage converter or transformer or both. I recently found out the hard way in Paraguay that my Nikon camera’s battery can not be charged by connecting it to an electric wall socket there, as we do in the United States, without an adapter. South American countries use 220 volt current, as used in Europe, rather than 120 volts that we have in the U.S. Also, 220 volt plugs in foreign countries often have two round pins instead of flat prongs. Central American countries use the same 110/120 volt current that we have, however, as does Japan.

Not all voltage converters work well with electronic devices. When we tried using a converter with my son Aaron´s iPod sparks flew at the wall socket. The lesson learned is that a converter that is used for higher power appliances like electric irons or hair dryers should not be used for charging batteries. Use a lower power transformer for electronics instead. Note the distinction between high power “electric” and low power “electronic” products.

For example, the Nikon camera web site page, “Can I take my digital SLR camera overseas on a vacation?”, advises caution in using battery chargers with Nikon cameras overseas as some third party A/C adapters may not support Nikon’s dual voltage systems. The site also notes that the power cords supplied with Nikon equipment are designed for 110 volts and could fail or overheat when used with higher voltage. The site recommends that travelers obtain local power cords upon arrival at their destinations making sure that new cords fit the adapter you plan to use. See http://support.nikonusa.com/app/answers/detail/a_id/60/kw/electricity%20transformer/related/1 for more details.

So check with the manufacturers of your digital camera and other electronic devices for acceptable converters, transformers and power cords. Also take a look at a great web site, http://www.travelcollectivegroup.com, which gives information for every country. Of course another option for photographers is to bring a film camera as a backup. I wish I still had my old Nikon F model 35mm camera.