Wouldn't it be terrible if you got all the way round to the other side of the world, only to discover none of your electrical appliances fit the plug sockets?
Luckily, a lot of plug sockets in Asia are already compatible with UK or US sockets (but not both). It can be strange for British travelers that all over Europe they need an adapter, but Thailand, Singapore and Malaysia have British plugs.
The same can be said for US/Canadian travelers going to countries like Japan and Taiwan; in most cases, the sockets are exactly the same.
This article is going to go into more details about what appliances are compatible where, and give information about voltages and adapters as well.
Are All Asian Countries The Same?
Unfortunately not. While you might be able to travel all around Europe with just one adapter, the situation is different in Asia. Many countries do overlap though, so you won't exactly need an arsenal of adapters for your time spent there.
The most common sockets are the US/Canadian grounded and non-grounded (2 and 3 slots) and the British grounded (3 slots).
It's not just whether or not your plug will physically fit into a socket that you should consider. You also need to pay attention to voltage. Asia tends to use 100-120V but some places have the stronger ranges in the 200's. This isn't a problem for most modern "digital age" technology like computers, cellphones, tablets. They are built to be compatible with mixed voltages.
Other appliances like shavers, hairdryers, curling irons and similar gadgets might have problems though. The wrong voltage could fry them, cause a fire, or be otherwise unusable. As time goes by, more and more of these appliances are being designed to work for all voltages, but the vast majority still don't, so check before you use them.
Most appliances will have the acceptable voltage listed on the power cable somewhere. It might say something like "100-240V" or simply "120V" or even "115/230V". Where two voltages are listed with a slash, the appliance usually has a switch somewhere that allows you to change to the right voltage.
The main thing you need to worry about is when only one voltage is listed. Using it in any other socket can likely fry the appliance. You'll need a voltage transformer as well as the physical adapter in this case.
Japan uses the same sockets as North America, although on a lower voltage (100V). Most electric gadgets will work fine in Japan if you're from the US or Canada, and most Europeans/Brits will only need to worry about a physical adapter and not the voltage. You may find that things run slower than they do back home though, as the lower voltage leaves them wanting more.
That wait for toast just got longer!
Taiwan uses the same sockets as Japan, with the addition of the North American-style "grounded" plug. This is the one with the third, round pin, as shown below.
Not every plug socket will have the third pin, but you can easily find adapters or extension cables that have them, and most apartments will have at least one or two instances of this socket type. Taiwan uses 100-120 volts, which is the standard range in America and Canada too.
Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Hong Kong
These countries, and several others in the region, all use British 3-pin plug sockets, largely due to British influence in the area in the past. These are typically 220V.
China is a mixed bag. Most sockets are designed to work with all plug types, so they are like built-in adapters. This means that most of the time you won't need to carry any adapters, but you'll still need to check voltages. China's usual voltage is 220V.
Multi-Purpose Travel Adapters
It's very easy these days to buy universal adapters that work in any situation. US to UK? No problem. Europe to Japan? No problem. If you're going to live in Asia and will be taking multiple appliances and chargers, it'd be advisable to take one or two of these with you. It's much easier to use a universal adapter, but you can always get one that is specifically for converting plugs from your country to your new country.
Remember though, check the voltage! Most travel adapters only change the physical aspect of the plug and don't affect voltage. You might well want to invest in a step-up or step-down transformer, depending on what you're taking.
If it's something small like a hair dryer, it might even be better to just buy one in the new country.
It's not as complicated as you may have feared, but you should still check voltages all the same. As a general rule, laptops, cellphones, and other "digital age" technology SHOULD be fine, but other household appliances are likely to have voltage mismatch issues, unless you are going from North America to Japan or Taiwan.