My EU collection of plugs for various outlets, converters, and power strips is ever-evolving. Part of it is necessity and part is aesthetic… if plugs can have an aesthetic. (Spoiler Alert: They can.) As an expat, you will quickly gain a collection similar to mine.
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Portugal runs on 230V supply voltage (AC) and 50 Hz frequency. Check any electronics you are bringing. Most newer computers, for example, will have a dual voltage rating of 110 to 240V. Since Portugal’s electrical supply runs within that range, you don’t need a converter; you are good to go with just the plug adapter. Do be aware of the fact that US DVD players most likely will not play DVDs (Blue Ray, etc.) from the EU. I brought some of my favorite DVDs with me (I mean, what? You expected me to NOT have my own copies of The Princess Bride or Buckaroo Banzai?) When I went shopping on Amazon Spain for a DVD player, I made sure it said “Multi Region Code Zone” so I could play old and new DVDs. I cannot yet recommend a DVD player, except to say pay a little more and go with a name brand like Sony. The two off-brand units I have bought crapped out within a year. For the difference in price, it’s a no-brainer.
Unless you’re moving into brand-new build, you most likely won’t have enough outlets in your home. Why?
Right off the bat, the amount of outlets in a house is cut in half. In the US, two plug outlets are standard; here it is one outlet, one plug. This gets particularly tricky in places like the kitchen where you have a number of small appliances, and any place you have a television with all its accompanying paraphernalia. Portugal has two outlet/plug types, C and F. C has the two round pins and F has two round pins with the clips inside. A type F socket can take C and F plugs, but a Type C can only take a Type C plug. Honestly, I’ve never paid attention to the clips on the F sockets and I haven’t set anything on fire yet. Doesn’t mean I won’t, just that I haven’t. Okay. Just kidding about not knowing—they’re grounds. Over here, they call it “earthing” not grounding. They are used for more high-energy appliances, like TVs and microwaves.
Whether you’re visiting or living here, the first thing you will want to have is an adapter/converter. A friend gave me two of these as a going away gift and they’ve been put to heavy use. I still haven’t changed over my HP laptop’s power cord, so this converter has been in constant use for almost three years. It also has two USB charging ports that are handy-dandy for charging phones. When I bought my Portuguese phone, it came with an EU charger that plugs into a wall socket and the USB to Android cord works with both my Portuguese and US phones. Usually, I just plug my phone into a charging cord on the adapter because I am sitting right next to it for about eight or ten hours a day. These particular converters are worth their weight in gold. You’ll want to have a few extra around the casa for visiting States-based friends.
If you’re going to be traveling, you might want to check the specific plugs for each country. I took a quick weekend trip up to Scotland last year and did not have the proper adapter. The hotel had plenty of EU to UK adapters, but alas, not US to UK.
Extension Cords and Power Strips
One of the first things I bought when I arrived (right after the coffeemaker, as a matter of fact) was a three-socket extension cord. I was in an Airbnb which had about three and a half feet of “kitchen.” Basically, it was a short counter with a small sink and two burner stove top. The microwave was in a cabinet below and the refrigerator was around the corner in the hall. A lot of the Airbnbs here are one apartment split into two separate rentals. The “kitchen” is usually a converted closet space. My first two Airbnbs did not have outlets for the kitchen. (They really didn’t have kitchens—think studio apartment or college dorm.) In fact, in my first place, all of the outlets were about a foot off the floor. Unfortunately, the cord to the electric kettle was about eight inches. No tea for me! I bought an extension power strip, two meters, with three sockets and used that to plug in my coffeemaker and the toaster. (Toasters are a whole ‘nother thing here.) Bathrooms here are stingy with the outlets, too. Hairdryers, curling irons, electric shavers, heated towel racks… not happening in the average bathroom.
So yeah. Meters and feet. I have three separate extension cords with power strips and the cords can be a pain in the neck. The more cord, the more cord to clean. They tend to attract and capture dust and somehow manage to get sticky. What’s up with that? But the other problem that I kinda-sorta caused myself was that I bought a couple of power strips with much-longer-than-necessary cords. Yes, the longer cord came in handy in that first Airbnb, but now that I’m settled in one place, a one or two meter cord will do. The excess cords get in the way of Vinnie, my robot vacuum, so I spend time grabbing up lengths of cord to make sure he doesn’t get caught up in them. (Or worse, pull the TV over.) I invested in a packet of zip ties to coil and neaten up the cords, but they still attract dust and dirt.
Then, my buddy Carlos came to visit, and in addition to stocking up my fridge and pantry with every type of junk food known to man, he picked up this handy-dandy four-way plug.
We picked this up at the local grocery store (Continente). There are some on Amazon Spain that take both the C and F type plugs, which might work better for your AV equipment. This little four-plug doohickey has replaced the power strip that handled my TV, modem, and router. I also picked up a couple of two-fers, one for the toaster and blender in the kitchen and an extra so I can plug in both the lamp and my phone charger in my bedroom. Everything looks a lot neater and yay, less work for me. Whew! Talk about your luxury!
Now, that being said, you do NOT want to plug anything heavy-duty into these. In the winter, I use a space heater to take the chill off in the evenings. (I purchased mine from Amazon Spain, but there are plenty of places to buy them locally, most notably Wortens or Leroy Merlin. I just couldn’t carry them back from the store on my scooter.) Space heaters get plugged directly into the wall outlet, as does the charging unit for my scooter. I did buy a heavy-duty extension cord to charge my scooter. On days when I know my upstairs neighbor is not home, I’ll drop the line from my first-floor apartment to the lobby where my scooter is parked. More often, I remove the battery and carry it up to my apartment and charge it, but it’s nice to have the option to drop the line.
My apartment was built (I think) about 2005. Even though that’s fairly new, the builder didn’t go crazy with the plugs. Yes, they are spaced well in each room, usually one on a short wall, two on a long wall, but because they are only one socket, you will end up investing in a few of these gadgets. Modern living seems to require a multitude of electronics. Fortunately, converters, adapters, and power strips are relatively inexpensive and easy to find. Know that it is easier (and probably less expensive) to pick up an adapter/converter or two before you fly over. Airport giftshops carry them at outrageous prices and it is sometimes difficult to find even everyday things in a new country, especially when you’re coming off a twenty-hour flight and are jetlagged to the gills. Be prepared.