Last updated: 16 March 2021
What type of plugs and sockets are used in the United Kingdom?
When you are going on a trip to the UK, be sure to pack the appropriate travel plug adapter that fits the local sockets. But what do those electrical outlets look like? In the UK, type G is the official standard. Unlike almost all other European countries, the United Kingdom has standardized on its own plug and socket system, which is incompatible with the power outlet system used in Continental Europe.
What is the mains voltage in the United Kingdom?
Just like the rest of Europe, the voltage in the UK is 230 volts and the frequency is 50 Hz.
Type G plugs and sockets started appearing in 1946 and the standard was first published in 1947. By the end of the 1950s, it had replaced the earlier type D and type M outlets (BS 546) in new installations in the UK, and by the end of the 1960s, most earlier installations had been rewired to the new standard.
Almost all of the UK’s former colonies have adopted one of Britain’s plug and socket standards: either the obsolete types D and/or M, or the current type G. In many cases, the countries that became independent before the introduction of the type G standard (e.g. India, Nepal, South Africa, Namibia) still use types D or M. The ones that gained their independence after 1947 (e.g. Kuwait, Malaysia, Sri Lanka, Kenya) were already using the type G standard and of course they simply kept the system.
Type G wall sockets almost always include switches for extra safety. UK plugs are no doubt among the safest in the world, but also among the most hulking and cumbersome. That’s why people often make fun of them saying that a British plug is mostly bigger than the appliance it is connected to… Moreover, the bottom-heavy design of the plug makes it a perfect caltrop.
The type G standard (British Standard 1363) requires use of a three-wire grounded and fused plug for all connections to the power mains. Two-wire appliances are not earthed, but they have a plastic grounding pin which only serves to open the shutters of the outlet. The lack of such an earth pin on a type C plug makes it impossible to connect it to a type G receptacle, although it can actually be forced into the socket by sticking a pointy object into the centre hole of the power outlet, which opens up the two other holes. Just to be perfectly clear, this is not a piece of advice; it’s simply an observation…
Click here for a global map showing the spread of the different plug types used around the world.
Click here for a detailed list of the countries of the world with their respective plug and outlet types, voltage and frequency.