General Question

Jeruba's avatar

Using your U.S.-purchased laptop in Europe: what do you have to know?

Asked by Jeruba (50070points) July 8th, 2009

If you live in the U.S. and are taking your Dell laptop, Asus netbook, or any other portable computer along on a trip to Europe, what do you need to know?

— Can you plug in your power supply as long as you use an adapter for European current? or will it blow up your laptop and/or your power supply?

— How about recharging your battery?

Once you’ve over come those hurdles,

— As long as you have a wireless Internet connection, can you just access your usual ISP without going through any additional hoops?

— If you want to use a dialup connection, is it going to work?

— Anything else to know? In particular, anything to be prepared for when it comes to customs?

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5 Answers

Jack79's avatar

The most important thing to remember is the current. If you just use a plug adaptor it will in fact blow up your laptop. You need to use one that transforms 220V into 110V, make sure it’s meant for this particular job (I think also the Hz are different, but not sure if that matters, I’m sure someone else knows details better).

The battery will be recharged through your own cable, once you have set up the transformer (or whatever that machine is called) you’ll be getting 110V just like in the US, and can basically plug in any device you’d use at home.

No, you cannot access your ISP. I don’t think you could access your ISP from a different city. You’ll need to access one of the local ISPs, either get a new connection (you can buy limited-time cards in some countries) or log onto a local WiFi network, which can sometimes be for free. Most netcafes in big cities allow you to log onto theirs for a small fee. Restaurants and cafeterias may often offer WiFi for free if you sit and get something at their table. It basically depends on where you are.

Dialup will work (assuming you have a phone line) but you have to set it up on your computer. Just like in the good-old days.

You’ll have to open your laptop at every control point, but security is so strict everywhere now that they’ll strip search you anyway, and the laptop is the least of your problems. I was at the airport just today actually and had a problem getting my laptop fan through, they checked it quite thorougly to make sure it was just a fan and not a bomb. Normally you shouldn’t be asked to pay taxes. Worst case scenario (it happened a lot in the old days) you’ll have to declare it at customs, it gets written on your passport, and then they have to check you left the country with it and didn’t sell it. But nowadays almost everyone has a laptop, so they’re not that bothered, it’s considered a personal item, rather than an imported piece of high-tech merchandise (unless you go to Belarus or Albania).

cwilbur's avatar

I know that Apple offers a set of power adapters—its power bricks are designed to convert either 110V or 220V, and you just need the right bits to plug the adapter into the wall. I’d expect that Dell or Asus or whatever other company would offer something similar.

whitenoise's avatar

I have been travelling the world for my job for about half of my time during the last five years and i know of no laptop brand that needs a voltage converter. You should check the voltage requirements for your laptop’s power supply to rate 100–240V, but if you have one exclusively for the US (ie restricted to 110 volts), I would be surprised. Don’t worry about the cycles. (Europe is on 50hz.)

In general you will find most hotels in Europe will offer you wifi access or ethernet, but it is very common to charge you an additional fee for it. In general, you will be able to use VPN over them.

Throughout Europe you can use a single plug adapter, except for the UK. They have a particular UK plug.

You will in general find no dial-up service and using dial-up services from your hotel room will be very expensive. If you are set on using dial-up, check with your ISP before you leave for a dial-in number and protocol in the country (countries) you travel to, although I do not think that is a viable route.

In many European countries there are public wifi-hotspots. For those you will need to purchase credits. For instance through T-mobile. Many of these credits are to be used in a specific country and cannot be carried cross-border.

A last tip: when you do bring your laptop, don’t leave it in the train.

Lightlyseared's avatar

In the UK McDonalds provide free wifi and (surprisingly) decent coffee.

The_Compassionate_Heretic's avatar

Most modern electronics are dual voltage capable so all you would need is a adapter for the region you’re traveling to. In fact using a voltage converter would be really bad for an item that has dual voltage support. Check the power supply for your device and it will tell you if it is, or is not.

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