One of these days, I was packing the bags to go to Brazil with my partner, when he asked me which type of plug we should take there. We have European and American plugs and I wasn’t sure if these were going to fit the Brazilian outlets.
Brazil currently uses the outlet callet type N, with 2 round pins plus a third one, called the ground pin, slightly misaligned with the other two. The type C plug will also fit the type N socket as well. Depending on where in the country, it can be 110V or 220V.
Most European plugs will also work on Brazilian outlets. However, there are some other considerations other than purely the type of socket or outlet, such as similar formats that might not fit and voltage.
Which is the right shape for a plug in Brazil?
Over the years, several plug types were used in Brazil according to the region and year of construction of the building. In 2000, it was decided by INMETRO (Brazilian Industrial Quality Council) to standardize the outlets to what is called the type N by the IEC.
The new standard became mandatory in 2011, however, in older buildings, you might see that you have different outlet shapes. Usually, you will find at least a few sockets with the newer format available in those houses since you are not able to buy new electric appliances in other formats anymore.
This can be confusing to the traveler who wishes to ensure they are taking the right socket with them.
The type N is prevalent in most places a tourist would visit, and a type C will also fit those sockets. The type C is commonly used in Europe, so if you have one of those, you can take that with you as most times this will work.
Just be careful not to be confused with type E, which looks very similar but has a wider diameter. It is usually found in hairdryers and other energy-heavy electronic devices. Plugs for cellulars and smaller devices will likely have the appropriate size.
We have a video talking about the plugs and what to pack if you’re going to Brazil, so if you want to know more, check out this video:
Fun Fact: South Africa also adopted the type F plug back in 2013, so if you get a plug for Brazil or you are coming from South Africa, you will be able to use it in both countries!
Voltage and Frequency according to the region
Brazil has 2 types of voltage: 110V (127V) and 220V. Most of the Southeast (where Rio and São Paulo are) uses predominantly 110V whereas in the Northeast and South (where Salvador in the northeast and Florianópolis in the South are) use mostly 220V.
The differences in the country energy infrastructure are dated back to when the first electricity companies started their business in Brazil and their preferred voltage system.
As a rule of thumb, 220V is cheaper (even though very little compared to 110V) but 110V is safer.
Ideally, the best thing a traveler can do is to take bivolt equipment, especially if traveling all over the country. If this is not possible, please always make sure to check the voltage of the outlet you intend to use to avoid damages to your devices or even to your health.
Most countries will have a variation around 110V or 220V (for example 120V in the USA and 127V in Brazil). These are generally supported by the closer voltage standard.
For the frequency, the entire country runs on 60 Hz, so there are no variations according to the region. Usually, it doesn’t matter if it is different from your home country. The frequency variation impacts mainly clocks (that can be ahead of time or delayed according to the frequency) and motors (that can run faster or slower).
If you are not using any of those (your Apple Watch doesn’t count, it doesn’t have a clockwork system, it pulls the correct time from the internet), you likely don’t need to worry about it.
What about USB charging?
In the bigger cities like Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo, you can probably find hotels that will have a USB port directly from the outlet for you to charge in the reputable hotels. Hostels are usually good in terms of having this feature in their bedrooms and common rooms.
However, this is still not very common as it is in Europe, so I would suggest you don’t rely on this way of charging.
Other methods for charging your device
Nowadays we all travel with many devices that need constant charging, so keeping up with this can be a challenge, specially if you cannot use the same plug as back home.
A few other things you can do to minimize this hassle are:
Bring a portable charger
This will not necessarily solve the issue with the plug, but it will allow you to rely less on the need to charge your devices constantly via the outlet.
So if you buy just one plug and use it to charge your portable charges, it will help you distribute the charging time along the day, instead of needing several plugs you will only use for this one trip and then put in the back of a drawer until you lose it when moving houses.
I always take mine (in fact, I take 2 every time) with me on my travels (and just normal days out when I know I will be out for several hours). I usually leave one charging back at the hotel during the day (especially when they have the USB charging port we talked about).
This allows me to charge my devices on the go and I usually just swap the charger every time one of them runs out of battery.
This charger on Amazon seems to be very lightweight (only 180g or 6.35 oz) and can charge phones from 2 to 3 times each cycle, according to the model of your phone.
If you don’t really want to rely too much on charging it very often, you can go for a more powerful option like this also on Amazon. It can charge phones up to 6.8 times per charging cycle!
More often than not, hotel and hostel reception desks are able to provide you a temporary charger. Ask them for “carregador“, the Brazilian word for charger.
They will probably be able to lend you cables as well if you lose or break yours. Just make sure to give it back once you are done using it!
You can also ask them to have your device charging with them for a period of time, if they don’t have a spare one and you really need some battery on your phone. Don’t forget to put it on airplane mode for a much faster charging time.
Put it in charging docks at the malls and some attractions
There are some venues that will have a pay-per-charge totem. You can put your phone or device locked inside a small box, where it will stay charging while you go around doing your things.
You can usually pay by card on these stations and they are generally available in malls and near TelCo representative shops (like TIM and Claro in Brazil).
Buy a solar powered power bank
It is very likely that one of the reasons why you are visiting Brazil is to enjoy some sunshine. Why not make use of that gorgeous weather to power up your devices as well? You can find some options on Amazon, and they are not as expensive as I would have thought.
Check this option that doubles down as a flashlight. It takes 6 hours to charge (think at that time on the beach) and can charge an iPhone around 2 to 3 times according to the model.
A power bank is usually a bit bigger than a portable charger, so just make sure to have a backpack or somewhere to store it when going around. Also, this should go in your hand luggage, so make room for it to avoid issues during the flight check-in.
Buy the adapter on the destination
You can probably find adapters for Canada and Mexico pretty easily in the United States main retailers. However, for more distant countries, such as Brazil, this can be a bit harder.
However, it is usually easier to find these adapters at your destination. Airports are usually the safest bet in terms of guaranteeing you can find the adapter you are looking for.
In touristic neighborhoods, such as Copacabana and Ipanema in Rio, you can find those being sold in drugstores, supermarkets, newspaper stands, and stationery shops, such as Kalunga.
Going to the main malls in the city you are in is usually also a safe bet to find those.
Do I need different plugs if I am going to continue my trip to other countries in South America?
While type C seems to be the most generally available in South American countries, each one of them has its particularities. We assembled this table of the plug types, voltage, and frequency of all countries according to IEC, the International Electrotechnical Commission.
You can see the full list of countries here. We added the United States standards for comparison.
If you have a type C and a type A, you are covered for pretty much all of your travel through South America.
Country Plug Type Electric Potential Frequency United States A, B 120V 60 Hz Argentina C, Y 220V 50 Hz Bolivia A, C 115V, 230V 50 Hz Brazil C, N 127V, 220V 60 Hz Chile C, L 220V 50 Hz Colombia A, B 110V 60 Hz Ecuador A, B 120V 60 Hz French Guiana C, D, E 220V 50 Hz Guyana A, B, D, G 240V 60 Hz Paraguay C 220V 50 Hz Peru A, B, C 220V 60 Hz Suriname C, F 127V 60 Hz Uruguay C, F, I, L 230V 50 Hz Venezuela A, B 120V 60 Hz
I recommend you always have with you a universal plug with you, so you don’t need to worry about the type of plugs each country uses, so that you don’t end up taking back home several converters that you might not have a use for later.