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Should you plug it in? Adapters vs Transformers and what to use where.


Before you plug anything in in Israel, stop and check.  Is it safe, or will it send your house up in smoke?  Do you need an adapter, a transformer, or can you just plug it in as-is?  The wrong answer is one you’ll deeply regret. 

Before you plug in any appliance, you’ll need to understand the basics of Israeli outlets.

Disclaimer:  I’m not an electrician.  In fact, whatever the furthest thing is from an electrician, that's me. That said, I do know a thing or two, both from wikipedia and from harsh personal experience.

Here’s the least you need to know: 

Israeli outlets have more electricity in them than the ones in North America.

Here’s what a standard 3-prong (grounded) outlet looks like here:


If you peer at the holes very closely, you’ll see that they accommodate both “slot” plugs and “round” plugs.  The round ones are European and the slots are distinctly Israeli.


Standard outlets here have 220V running through them instead of 120V.  If that sounds like a lot of juice, it’s because it is (I think it’s the same amount that powers those jumbo dryer outlets in North America).

So it goes without saying – you can’t just plug stuff in willy-nilly.  Unless you want it all to catch fire.  And yes, I mean this literally.  I literally saw a beloved telephone we’d shlepped across the ocean go up in smoke.

There are two ways to plug stuff in that comes from North America:  an adapter and a transformer.  An adapter (shown below) changes the plug-holes ONLY; it doesn’t change the electricity. 


So if you use an adapter, you still have super-strong Israel juice going into your appliance.

This super-strong Israel electricity juice will fry most appliances in seconds.

What do you need an ADAPTER for?

We have about six to ten of these little adapters, and they’re wonderful.  We regularly lend them out to guests desperate to charge their phones, etc.

But a little adapter like this will ONLY work for devices that have a transformer built in.  This includes appliances like chargers, shavers, computer plugs and a few other things.

How do you know if they have a transformer built in?  Most of these appliances have a black “brick” thing at the end of the wire (seen here at right). 

Even if there’s a “brick,” check before you plug it in!  Peer at it very closely; somewhere on that “brick,” in teeny tiny print, the manufacturer has written how much juice it can take. 

It’s usually a range – like 100-220V. 


(This one can handle 160V to 240V.)

The brick will automatically take the electricity you put in and switch it to the amount your device needs.  Nifty!  But it’s not always the SAME range, which means you must always READ the brick!!!

Wikivoyage cautions

Never assume the voltage is correct just because the plug fits.

Just because it’s a brick doesn’t guarantee that it will give a safe amount of electricity to your appliance.  Like the cordless phone that we shipped all the way here from Toronto… only to fry it like so much cheap bacon the first time I plugged it (with an adapter) into an Israeli power bar.

I figured that since I’d plugged in my laptop (with an adapter) to the SAME power bar, the phone would certainly be okay.

  • Adapter + Laptop = many happy computation-hours
  • Adapter + Cordless Phone = “what’s that funny smell?”

That phone never worked again. 

Why?  What we really needed to power the phone was not an adapter, but a transformer.

What do you need a TRANSFORMER for?

If you want to use North American appliances with that hot Israeli electricity, you’re usually going to need not just a simple adapter, but a TRANSFORMER.  Specifically, you want a “step-down” transformer.  That takes the BIG power and turns it into LITTLE power that your device can handle.

A step-down transformer is a black metal box that hums when you plug it in.  It will probably come with a few plug adapters so you can plug it in anywhere in the world.  The ones I’ve seen have a light-up light switch on the front so you can tell if it’s getting power.  Here’s one very much like ours.


(On the front, it has two shapes of plugs so you can plug in different appliances from around the world.)

We bought a nice transformer for about $50 before we left Toronto and use it to power our printer, my husband’s shaver, and a few other “legacy” things that we couldn’t give up. 

HINT:  If you’re only getting one transformer, bring along a power bar!  The transformer can power multiple items at the same time, as long as the TOTAL wattage of your appliances does not exceed the wattage capability of the transformer.  I think.  Remember, I’m not an electrician.

What can you run on a transformer?  Kitchen appliances, high-tech stuff like computer, personal care appliances (like my epilator), medical devices like CPAP (I’m not an electrician, so please check on any medically necessary equipment before you come!).

I also have a small cheap converter that I bought for $25 at WalMart.  I use it to power my North American Oster blender, because I got sick of buying blenders here only to have them break.


In both cases, transformers and converters should be unplugged and/or powered off when not in use, because they’ll suck electricity and possibly set themselves on fire.  Some of the cheaper ones are also not intended for prolonged or digital use, like with a computer.

In case you’re wondering, travelling the other way is generally safer.   There is little chance that the weak North American electricity will harm your Israeli devices.

However, just because you won’t blow them up doesn’t mean those appliances will work in North America.  Tech things like chargers and computers probably will, but to use 220–240V appliances on a 110V North American power supply, you will need a “step-up” transformer to turn the SMALL electricity there into BIG electricity your device can use.

Perhaps all of this can also serve as a useful metaphor for how POWERFUL Israel is, spiritually. To make the most successful start here, we must TRANSFORM ourselves, to make ourselves ready.  Or, if not transform, then at least we must be ready to ADAPT our ordinary ways of doing things.

Like I said, I may not be an electrician, but luckily, I do know a thing or two about life in Israel.

Tzivia / צִיבְיָה

1 comment:

  1. Super advice (for a non-electrician you did great) and I love how you ended the post. Thank you!


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