Sunday, July 17, 2005

Power converting in Russia

All notebook computers sold in the world today come with a "brick", a step-down-transformer/power-supply which transforms wall voltage and frequencies to something appropriate for the notebook. All notebook computer bricks will say something like "110-240v, 50-60 HZ". They are non-polarized, and non-grounded. So all you have to do is make the plug fit in the wall. This is done with $10 gadgets, "universal plugs", available in many flavors even at Staples, and they always include the "two big round prongs" which fit into the wall in Russia & elsewhere. You can probably get these in Russia, but I haven't seen any at the many electronic stores I've been to so far, so it's best to get one or two before you leave.

The converters are probably not available because it is hard for russians to travel outside of the country ... not many countries let Russians in unless they have some money. The EU apparently has a "$10,000 in the bank" rule for Russians, so the average Russian can't travel to countries their parents saved from Hitler. The minority of rich Russians can, of course.

Note that not all electronic devices have "good bricks"! My cellphone and my wireless router had them, but my razor, and my Altec-Lansing iPod speakers did not. Luckily, electronics are cheaper in Russia than in the US. That includes things like batteries and blank CD's & DVD's -- it is absurd to bring these to Russia. They are everywhere. A good electric razor will only set you back a couple of bucks.

If you have a few US electronic devices, it's a good idea to bring a little power-strip, or a three-way plug -- anything that lets you plug more than one US device into a single US socket. You won't be able to get such a thing here. The Russian equivalents are available everywhere, of course, and they come in handy for other reasons.

Note that it's no problem to bring these things into the country, if you go through the green "nothing to declare" line at customs. There's a "personal use" allowance ... or that's what I read on the Internet. There's no sign anywhere here of such an official policy. Of course, I haven't left Russia yet ... maybe that's when they tell you the rules.


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