When it comes to electricity in Thailand, things are fairly simple—although it may not look that way when glancing up at the power lines.
Thailand runs off of 220 volts at 50 hertz.
If you come from a country that runs off of 220 volts or similar, you should have no trouble adapting to the electricity here.
But if you come from a country that runs off of 110 volts or similar, you may need some adapters and converters.
As I wrote in the intro, Thailand runs on 220 volts.
Most of your electronics—like cell phones, tablets, and laptops—come with chargers and plugs that work on both 110 volt systems and 220 volt systems.
But hair dryers, irons, and other small appliances from the West may not be rated for 220 volt systems.
If you’re unsure what voltage or hertz your country runs off, you can refer to this list of voltage ratings by country.
It’s important to check the rating plate of any electronic or appliance that you bring from back home and want to use in Thailand before you plug it into an outlet.
Now, this doesn’t mean you can’t use that 110 volt vacuum or food blender you brought with you. You still can. But you’ll need a 220 volt to 110 volt step-down transformer. You may hear some people refer to this as a converter.
More about transformers and converters in this section [link to it].
Hertz in Thailand is 50 hertz. Most appliances from the West run off of 60 hertz.
If you run your 60 hertz appliance from back home on 50 hertz it will reduce the speed of the motor by 20%, which can also cause issues with the rate at which the motor cools.
You probably won’t notice any drop in performance in your appliance unless you measure it with an electric meter.
We ran our 110 volt, 60 hertz vacuum from America for five years on a converter and never ran into any problems—until our cleaning lady plugged it directly into the 220 volt electrical socket and burned the motor out.
Speaking of which.
What Do Thailand’s Power Outlets Look Like?
In Thailand, you will come across a myriad of power outlets. Some old, some new.
When we lived in our first condo in Bangkok, I was shocked (no pun intended) to find that whenever we plugged something into an outlet, it sparked.
This is because outlets in Thailand don’t have a defined neutral slot.
In America, one prong on your plug will be slightly longer than the other. And one slot of the outlet will be slightly longer than the other.
This means you can only plug it into the outlet in only one direction.
But in Thailand the slots are the same size, so when you plug something in you run the risk of reversing the neutral and hot legs, which causes the spark.
Two-Pronged Power Outlets
There are still plenty of two-prong outlets built into walls in Thailand’s houses, condos, and offices.
I used to teach English at a car parts manufacturing company in Chon Buri, and all of their outlets were two-pronged outlets.
I had to buy an adapter to plug my laptop into the outlets.
Three-Pronged Power Outlets
Most outlets nowadays will be your standard three-prong outlets.
Three-pronged outlets in Thailand are made for both flat and rounded plug prongs.
The funny thing is, new outlets have childproof mechanisms built into them. You have to push really hard to get the plug into the outlet.
Don’t be surprised if you wake up in the morning to find that your electrical outlet spit the plug of your charger out during the night.
What Do Thailand’s Power Plugs Look Like?
Like electrical outlets, Thailand electrical plugs come in all sorts of designs.
Small appliances like table-top fans usually have two prongs, while larger appliances like washing machines have three prongs—one for grounding.
And as opposed to the flat prongs you’re used to seeing back home, most electronics and appliances plugs’ are rounded.
Two-Pronged Power Plugs
Two-pronged plugs are the first of the two standard plugs you’ll find in Thailand.
These plugs have two flat or rounded prongs and will fit into any standard two- or three-pronged outlet.
The only issue you may face with these plugs is that you can’t plug rounded two-prong plugs into outlets made for flat prongs.
In this case you need an adapter. Jump to the section [link here] on adapters to find out more.
On the other hand, you should be able to plug a two-prong plug with flat prongs into a outlet made for rounded prongs because these types of outlets usually accommodate both flat and rounded prongs.
Three-Pronged Power Plugs
Three-pronged plugs are the second of the two standard plugs you’ll find in Thailand.
These plugs have two flat or rounded prongs and one rounded prong for grounding.
They will also fit into any standard three-pronged outlet.
Similar to two-prong plugs, you can’t plug rounded three-prong plugs into outlets made for flat prongs.
In this case you need an adapter. Jump to the section [link here] on adapters to find out more.
You should be able to plug a three-prong plug with flat prongs into an outlet made for rounded prongs because these types of outlets usually accomodate both flat and rounded prongs.
Whenever you install a new appliance, always make sure that it’s grounded. That green wire dangling from the back of your washing machine could save your life if connected the right way.
Spend enough time in Thailand and you’ll also notice that hot water heaters are usually installed in the shower, right next to the water line. It’s bizarre, I know.
But make sure that the water heaters in your place are grounded the right way. As you know, water and electricity don’t mix.
For basic electronics like phones, tablets, and even laptops, you can get a standard Thailand power adapter to convert a three-prong plug into a two-prong plug to fit into a two-pronged outlet.
If you’re wondering where to buy power adapters in Thailand, check out the following:
If you need to step-down the voltage from 220 volts to 110 volts, then you need a converter or transformer.
More about these in the next section.
220 Volt to 110 Volt Electric Converters and Transformers
This is where all the fun actually begins, and may be your reason for landing on this page.
If you’re like my wife and me, you’ve probably brought some appliances from back home to use in Thailand only to find out they run on 110 volts, not 220 volts.
Don’t worry, you can still use your 110 volt vacuum or blender in Thailand.
Calculating Your Electrical Needs
You can’t just buy any old 220 volt to 110 volt step-down electric converter or transformer.
You have to do a little math first.
Method 1. Find the amps by calculating the volts and watts.
My Oster shaver is 110 volts and 45 watts. I add those numbers to this calculator and it tells me I need a converter rated for at least 0.375 amps.
Now that I know the volts (110), watts (45), and amps (0.375), I can shop around for the best 220 volt to 110 volt step-down transformer with these ratings.
Luckily, for small gadgets like shavers, HomePro has just the right size transformers.
Method 2. Find the watts by multiplying the volts by the amps.
If you need to find out how many watts your appliance is rated for, multiply the volts by the amps. Again, you can find this info on your appliances rating plate.
We had a vacuum cleaner we wanted to ship to Thailand when we moved here. But to use it, we had to buy a large enough converter. The 200 watt converter from HomePro just wouldn’t do it.
So we calculated the volts (110) by the amps (10) listed on the vacuum cleaner’s rating plate and found out we needed a 1,100 watt, 220 volt to 110 volt step-down converter.
Where to Buy Transformers and Converters
As I mentioned in the previous section, you can buy small transformers and converters in Thailand at HomePro.
But for the bigger converters, you have to venture deep into the heart of Bangkok.
For large converters, go to Yaowarat Road in the China Town section of Bangkok. We picked up our 2,000 watt converter there for 2,000 baht ($60).
Thailand has a relatively stable power supply throughout the year but outages do occur.
When we first moved to Thailand in 2014 and rented a condo, we did experience a lot of power outages—especially during rainy season.
At least once per storm our lights went out. This is why I recommend having a few flashlights in easy to get to places. The outages never lasted more than an hour or so, but they were inconvenient.
Since we moved to a newer townhome, and then a detached house, we’ve only had a handful of power outages over the years. And they never last longer than an hour.
Repairing and Converting Electric Motors
If you bring your 120 volt appliance to Thailand and accidentally run it on a 220 volt circuit, as we used to say in America—you’ll burn the newness right off of it.
If this is the case do not trash the appliance. You can take it to a repair shop and have the motor replaced or switched to a 220 volt motor for under 1,000 baht.
I recommend going to Amorn Electronics at the Old Siam Tower mall. There are a lot of Amorn branches around Bangkok and the surrounding area. But if you need your motor replaced go to one at Old Siam Tower—that’s the main repair shop.
Electrical Dangers in Thailand
No guide to electricity in Thailand would be complete without mentioning the very real dangers of electrical shock in Thailand.
It’s not often, but you do hear stories of people—sometimes children—dying from electrical shock after touching an ungrounded pole or swimming in an electrified pool.
One time we were eating at a very upscale outdoor restaurant and it was drizzling outside. So the waiters shuffled us back inside, and on the way in we noticed a live electric wire dancing and sparking on the wet grass near the bathroom.
We told the staff and thought they’d immediately fix it. When I went to the bathroom at the end of our dinner, the wire was still there, crackling on the grass.
Call me crazy, but I constantly tell my daughters never to touch metal poles wherever we are. And I always dip my toe in the pool before they jump in.
If you have the right power adapters and electrical converters, you can use any of your electronics or appliances on Thailand electricity.
Just remember to check the rating plate of your gadgets, do the math, and buy the right adapters and converters.
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