Europe Vacation and Travel Guide



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Browse our Guide to help you with your move to Europe.  We have everything you need to help you with your transition and getting settled in.

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Germany offers a variety of landscapes from the coast in the north to the Bavarian Alps in the south.  The country boasts a multitude of historical towns and cities, romantic castles, and excellent museums.  The tourism infrastructure is well developed and most of the people speak English. 

Our Favorite Germany Vacation Destinations

US Air Force | US Army | US Navy | US Marine Corps
Berlin | Heidelberg | Frankfurt | Munich | Stuttgart

PCSing or going on TDY to Germany?
Use this page as your guide!


The electrical system in Europe is 220/240 volts and 50 Hertz whereas the United States operates on a 110/120 volt, 60 Hertz system.  Likewise, the shape of the plugs themselves differ, with US plugs having two flat prongs and European plugs having two round prongs.  Although the majority of on-post housing units are equipped with some American style 110 volt wall outlets, there never seems to be enough of them an the ones that are there aren't always located where we would want them, and off-post housing has not 110 volt outlets.  Therefore, in order to operate our American appliances safely here in Germany, three types of electrical hardware are still widely used: transformers, converters, and adapters.  Each of these items has a distinct purpose and should not be confused. 

PLUG Adapters
Plug adapters merely allow an American style plug to fit into a German style outlet, and do not convert/transform the voltage of the electricity.  Plug adapters can be used in conjunction with a German light bulb to operate your American lamps.  They are also used to plug in "dual voltage" appliances.  Dual voltage appliances are those appliances that are designed to operate safely on both 110 volt and 220 volt electricity.  Some items make the switch automatically, but most dual voltage appliances have a switch, knob, or other mechanism that must be adjusted from the 110 setting to the 220 setting.  Once the appliance is switched to the higher voltage setting, a plug adapter can then be used to operate the appliance on a 220v outlet.  A metal plate affixed to the appliance should indicate whether or not it is dual voltage.

Step-Down Converters
Voltage converters can be found for less than $20 at most travel shops.  People often mistake these items for transformers, but there is a difference.  Like transformers, step-down converters change the electricity voltage from 220v to 110v, but unlike transformers, converters are not designed for continuous use.  These converters should only be used for relatively short periods of time (45min to 1hr).  Additionally most converters can only be used for ungrounded appliances (2 pins on the plug), and should only be used with electric (and not electronic) appliances.  Hair dryers, irons, electric tooth brushes, rechargers, razors, curling irons, and other appliances with simple heating elements or small motors should work fine on a converter.  Converters must be unplugged from the wall when not in use.  The proper use of a converter is to first plug an adapter (if needed) into the wall outlet, plug the apploiance into the converter, an then and only then plug the converter with the appliance plugged into it into the wall outlet.  NOTE: A few companies do manufacture more sophisticated converters specifically designed to use with laptops and other electronic equipment. 

Unlike their $20 cousin, the converter, transformers are relatively expensive.  New transformers can be purchased prior to your arrival from various travel stores or websites.  Once in country, they can be purchased prior to your arrival from various travel stores or websites.  Once in country, they can be purchased from the Powerzone and range from $26 for the 75W to $185 for the 2000W.  Used transformers can be purchased at Thrift Shops on post for about 1/2 the price of a new one.  There are no organizations that lend transformers.

There are two types of voltage transformers: 1) Step-down voltage transformers are used overseas to convert the electricity from 220v to 110v so you can operate your favorite American appliances in Germany.  2) And when you find a new favorite appliance of the 220v German variety, take it back and use it in the States with a step-up voltage transformer that converts the electricity there from 110v to 220v. 

Transformers are sold in various sizes based on how much wattage they can support.  Therefore one must pay careful attention to the wattage ratings of the appliances to be plugged into a transformer.  The wattage rating of the transformer must always be larger than the wattage rating of the appliance to be plugged into it (plug a 25% butter to allow for heat build-up in the transformer).  When plugging multiple items into a power strip, then into the transformer, you must calculate the combined wattage of all appliances and the power strip, then add an additional 25% to that total.

You can find your appliances voltage and wattage requirements listed on the manufacturer's label located on the back or bottom of the appliance of in the specifications section of the appliance owner's manual.  The label or manual will show the input voltage (100, 120, 220, 240 written as 120 volts, 120V, 120 volts AC, or 120VAC), the wattage (100 watts or 100W), or the amperage (0.5 Amps or 0.5A or 500mA).  In some cases, the voltage and amperage will be listed, but not the wattage.  If this is the case, simply multiply the voltage by the amperage rating to find the wattage rating.  Volts x Amps = Watts.

Below is a guide for the size transfomers typically needed for common appliances.  Use this as a guide only.  Always check your appliance first.

Transformer Size Appliances the Transformer can handle
75 W small, low-wattage appliances such as radios, tape recorders, and some televisions
300 W larger radios, stereo consoles, electric blankets, hand mixers, small fans, and most TV sets
500 W stand mixers, blenders, and some stereo equipment
750 W projectors, some sewing machines, and small electric broom-type vacuums
1000 W small heaters, some coffee makers, and vacuums
1600 W most appliances that have heating elements such as toasters, electric frying pans, irons, and grills

AC Cycles
American 110 volt electricity is generated at 60 Hz (Cycles) Alternating Current and German 220 volt electricity is generated at 50 Hz (Cycles) Alternating Current.  Transformers do not convert the hertz so the difference in cycles may cause the motor in your 60Hz North American appliance to operate slightly slower when used on 50Hz foreign electricity.  This cycle difference will cause electric clocks and timing circuits to keep incorrect time (that American alarm clock is going to lose about 10 minutes every hour, so buy a German clock soon after arrival).  Even the American 110v outlets in housing operate at the slower hertz cycle.  Most modern electronic equipment like battery chargers, computers, printers, stereos, tape and CD players, VCR/DVD players, etc. are usually not affect by the difference in cycles and adjust themselves accordingly to the slower cycles.

Another important consideration when using American appliances here is polarity because you may damage your appliances if the polarity flow is incorrect.  Because the prongs on a German plug are exactly the same size, the plug on the end of your transformer will plug into the wall either way.  However, when plugging an American appliance with a ground pin (ie a 3-prong plug), it is important that the transformer plug be inserted in a specific direction at the wall to insure compatible polarity.  To determine proper wall-to-plug polarity, use a polarity tester.  These can be purchased for a couple of dollars on post.  If the tester indicates that the polarity is reversed, simply remove the transformer plug from the wall, turn it over, and reinsert it.  Polarity should then be fine.  Polarity is not of importance when plugging 2-prong appliances in transformers.




Heidelberg CastleHeidelberg
Heidelberg is the very image of romantic Germany.  The city's 17th Century red sandstone castle ruin and the old bridge are two of the most majestic sights in all of Germany.

Neuschwanstein CastleNeuschwanstein
Venture into the Bavarian Alps and visit the fairy tale landmark upon which the Walt Disney based his Disney Land Castle: Mad King Ludwig's Schloss Neuschwanstein.

Vacation Tips

Browse our options below to help plan your vacation activities.  Don't miss these sights and activities.  Preview our photos before you go.



Ulm Cathedral
Vatican City


UNESCO World Heritage




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Czech Republic

Northern Ireland