South Africa power converters - Do I need a power converter for South Africa?

What does a power converter for South Africa do?

Power converters allow travellers to use a 100, 110 or 120 volt electrical device with a 230 volt South African power outlet.

Also known as: electrical converter, electrical transformer, voltage converter, power transformer or voltage transformer.

What is the difference between a power converter and a power adapter?

A lightweight, cheap and small power adapter (or plug adapter) will change the shape of the plug on your device to fit into a power outlet in South Africa, but an expensive and bulkier power converter [3] transforms the voltage of 230 volts from a South African power outlet to work with a non-230 volt device.

Do I need a power converter for South Africa?

If you are travelling to South Africa from another region make sure that the device can accept a 230 volt power supply.

  • You need a step down power converter [4] if you are travelling to South Africa from a country that uses 100-120 volts and your appliance doesn't support 230 volts. See our list of world power outlets guide to find out which voltage is used in your country.
  • You don't need a power converter if you already use either a single voltage appliance that works with 230 volts or one that supports dual voltage.
  • Devices which are designed to work with a lower voltage (for example 110 volts) and then used with 230 volts run the risk of an electrical fire hazard, blowing a fuse or damage to your device unless a step down power converter [4] is used.
  • You won't need a power converter if you need to recharge a smaller electrical device such as a cell phone or laptop as these are typically dual voltage and designed for international use, but you should always always check the device for dual voltage support prior to your journey.
  • When supplying power to high wattage appliances or generate heat (for example hair dryers or clothes irons) then you will need to use a bulkier higher wattage heavy duty power converter [5].
  • It should be more cost effective to use a smaller lightweight dual voltage travel appliance than paying for a much heavier power converter to South Africa simply to use your existing domestic appliance.
  • Read these travel guides on travelling with clothes irons, curling irons, hairdryers and hair straighteners in South African power outlets , along with recommendations on some affordable dual voltage alternatives.

Will I need a power converter for South Africa if I'm visiting from America?

The 230 volts used in a plug outlet in South Africa is different to an 110 volt American supply so please use a step down power converter [4] if your charger or appliance doesn't support dual voltage.

What converter do I need for South Africa?

To use any 100, 110 or 120 volt appliance in South Africa you need to buy a step down power converter [4].

What is the difference between a converter and a power transformer?

Voltage converter

What is the difference between a converter and a power transformer?

Converters and transformers are both used to change one voltage to another, but this ambiguity can cause confusion as their purposes are different:

  • Power converters are designed for simple electrical appliances which typically generate heat or use motors such as clothes irons, shavers or hair dryers. Transformers are designed for more complex electronic items such as televisions or games consoles.
  • Buying a power converter is cheaper than buying a power transformer.
  • Power transformers are larger and heavier making them more suited for permanent residential use; for example an expat wishing to use an imported television would need to use a transformer for this purpose.
  • Power converters are more suitable for travellers wishing to bring domestic appliances abroad such as hair dryers or flat irons. However, it is more practical and cost effective to purchase a dual voltage appliance designed for travel rather than a heavier power converter.
  • Power converters are suitable for 2 pin ungrounded appliances, it could be harder to find a converter if you want to use a grounded 3 pin appliance.
  • Transformers can be used constantly however it is recommended that converters are used for no longer than a couple of hours at a time.
  • Shops may sell transformers under the name of converters, for the purposes this guide we will be referring to both converters and transformers as converters.

How to convert 230 volts to 110 volts

  1. Use a step down power converter [4] to allow you to use a 110 or 120 volt appliance with a 230 volt South African power outlet.
  2. If the power converter doesn't include the correct shaped plug then it will also be necessary to plug in the power cord from the power converter into a power adapter for South Africa before plugging that into a South African power outlet.
  3. Some power converters include the ability to perform both step up and step down voltage conversions, therefore it may be necessary to manually switch the converter to output the voltage to the 110-120 volt range.
  4. Plug your appliance into the converter and turn the power on, your 110-120 volt appliance can now be used with a 230 volt South African power outlet.

What voltage does South Africa use?

South Africa uses 230 volts in their standard power outlets.

How to tell the voltage of my device

Single voltage hair straighteners

How to tell the voltage of my device

A simple way to tell if a device is dual voltage is to check for numbers printed on the supplied charger or on the appliance itself, typically near to where the power cord sits. The location might vary depending on the make and model of your unit, it could also be written in the instruction manual or on the box.

  • Single voltage devices might have a specific number - such as 120V.
  • Single voltage devices could also have a small voltage range (around 20 volts) with a dash to accomodate small voltage fluctuations - such as 220-240V.
  • Dual voltage devices will say a larger voltage range separated with a slash - such as 100/240V.

  1. - South Africa Wikipedia page.
  2. - International Electrotechnical Commission World Plugs
  3. Power converter - A step up step down power converter converts 110-120 volts up to 220-240 volts and 220-240 volts down to 110-120 Volts.
  4. Step down power converter - A step down power converter allows a 100-120 volt appliance to be used in a 220-240 volt power outlet.
  5. Heavy duty power converter - A 5000 watt heavy duty step up and step down power converter used to convert voltages for domestic appliances, power tools, televisions, heating appliances and motors.