The Backpackers Scourge: Bedbugs

Travelled by Brucini on 26 September 2008 | 7 Comments

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Brucini Brucini

Brucini started seriously travelling after attempting to move to Queenstown, New Zealand, in 1996.Inspired by drunkenly meeting a world of travelers on a Kiwi Experience bus, he changed his plans and roamed the world for a year. ...Find out more!

The Backpackers Scourge: Bedbugs
The Backpackers Scourge: Bedbugs

I’m itching just thinking about them.  Bedbugs are arguably the most feared enemy of the backpacker.

You may well have encountered these blood-suckers on your travels.  If you haven’t yet, you probably will.  I certainly have and it’s not something I want to repeat.  A recent report noted they were increasing because of the popularity of budget air flights in Europe which was allowing them to move around more easily.  The article, however, may not have been symptomatic of a present situation in as much as it looked more like a press release for a notable pest control company.  They are nevertheless a constant in the travelling life, especially in temperate environments.

Some tips for avoiding getting bitten and treatment:

  • When arriving in a hostel room, don’t just tip the contents of your pack onto the ground.  Bugs may crawl in.  Seal bags at night also.
  • Check along seams of mattress.  Make sure you lift up sheets and under the mattress.  You might even ask about the type of matresses in the hostel since some are more resistant to any type of insect occupation than others.
  • Check within the bed frame if there are openings and especially porous wooden constructions where bugs may reside.  Compliant standards now necessitate metal only bunk constructions in hostels.
  • Don’t be fooled by a clean looking room or how much the room costs: always check.  Even though the sheets may be changed mattress protectors and bed bases may not always be subject to cleaning regimes.
  • Depending on where you are travelling, sleep in your own silk bed sheet.  Decent hostels will never let people sleep in their own sleeping bags which might carry bugs from property to property.
  • If you’ve been in accommodation or have travelled with people who have been bitten it might be worthwhile doing a hot wash of all your clothing and inspecting bags.  It’s not uncommon for someone to be bitten in the bed next to you.  That doesn’t mean you won’t have your turn next or are carrying them.
  • If you can’t find any sign but you are still suspicious of the room, rub tea tree oil on exposed skin (face, hands, neck) before going to bed.  Bugs hate the stuff and its a great natural antiseptic to apply to any insect bite.
  • If you are bitten, try to capture the bug so you have evidence when you report the bug presence.  The least you can do to prompt the accommodation owners to take action and spare your fellow travellers.
  • Don’t scratch the bites, you could end up scarring.  It will take at least 72 hours for bites to lose their inflammation depending on your reaction.  Keep regularly applying tea tree oil and grin and bear the itchiness.

Still not scratching?  Check out this National Geographic YouTube video:

Image courtesy of the Bedbugs Group on Flickr

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