How To Prevent Bed Bugs When Traveling

by T-roy on January 19, 2010 · 19 comments

After my confession of getting bed bugs myself, I thought I would at least post some tips on how to prevent bed bugs when traveling from the research I did after getting them in Asia.

In the last 10 years, bed bug infestations has quadrupled. It’s not just hostels either, as 4-5 star hotels are getting hit with the same problem too.  Bed bugs do not discriminate and the traveler is the most susceptible to getting a case of them.  Since most countries in the world have outlawed the chemical DDT, bed bugs are coming back in a whole new way!

To be honest, there really isn’t a full proof way of detecting bed bugs in a room…I know that’s not what you wanted to hear, is it.  They can be hiding anywhere, strike anytime and it almost takes a case of them infecting someone before you can diagnose what it was.

Bed bugs can live as long as 18 months without having to feed.  Odds are, you might have stayed in a bug infested room already but nothing happened because they weren’t out on the prowl the night you slept.

That being said, you can still check for signs.  A good traveler should always ask to see the room first, but before you go straight to the bathroom once you hit the light, go to the bed first.  The bugs are nocturnal and only move around when it’s dark, so the best time for seeing signs (or one) of them is right after the light is turned on.

Things to look for when inspecting a room:

  • Check under the bed mattress first.  Look for stains of black or brown fecal mater.  You will normally find this around their nesting area.  Be sure to also check out the mattress tag, they love to hide their for some reason.
  • Check the sheets and pillow cases by pulling them back.  Try to see signs of tiny blood stains that they leave after feeding.
  • Check the back of the headboard for nesting areas as well.  You may also see translucent light brown skins in this area.
  • Check along the walls for cracks where you might see signs of fecal mater.  Most bed bugs nest in an area of 10-15ft from the bed.
  • If the room has furniture (couch or chairs) lift the cushions and inspect for the same signs as above.  Bed bugs can just as easily nest their.

Tips on how to avoid bed bugs:

  • Inspection on your part is the best thing.  Hotels/hostels aren’t going to tell you on a scale of 1-10 if there are bed bugs in the room they’re trying to sell you.
  • Never leave your bag or suitcase on the floor or bed.  Always store bags at an elevated area and if the room has a nightstand or luggage rack, use it.  Even on top of the TV is better then nothing.
  • If you suspect an infestation, immediately grab all your stuff and go to the front counter.  Inform the management of what you saw and request a room change or refund.  I, personally, would go with the refund as to me if one room is infested, then I assume the whole place is.  Believe me, the place your staying isn’t that great for the risk of getting torn up.  If you don’t believe me, see my other article I wrote here.
  • Note: if you paid $5 for your room in some 3rd world-country… just leave.  Getting huffy with the owner and making demands will do you little good.

What to do if you get infested:

  • Don’t mistake mosquito bites for bed bugs.  Bed bug bites normally come in rows of 3 and will not have a blood dot in the middle of the bite like a mosquito bite would leave.  When in doubt, ask!
  • HEAT, HEAT and more HEAT!  Wash your clothes and anything you can afford to get wet in the hottest water you can find.  I boiled hot water and dipped all my clothes into the pot 3x.  Bed bugs can take temperatures up to 100°F (38°c), so you need your water to be at least 120°F (49°c) plus.  It’s the only 100% way of making sure you rid your clothes of them and not take any home with you.
  • Don’t bother with freezing or chemicals.  Freezing them only puts the bug into hibernation and chemicals are sketchy at best.  If chemicals are your only option seek a professional.  He’ll have access to the good stuff that you can’t get over the counter.
  • See a doctor and get some meds to help with the healing.  It will speed up the recovery time of the bites and it’s better then having to walk around, say Thailand, in the middle of the summer with a long sleeve shirt.
  • Try to convince yourself afterward that every time you go to sleep something is not eating you.  It took me 3 months before I could get a good nights sleep after I got bitten, and it was all psychological.

Links to sites with good info on this subject:

About the Author:

is the author of 30 posts on Go Backpacking.

T-roy is taking an extended holiday from being responsible. Quitting his 6-figure salary job that was killing him with 12hr work days, he decided that this wasn't the life. He moved to Thailand and spent 3 months living a humble backpackers life and loved the experience so much he kept going. He now resides in Medellin, Colombia doing photography work while running his own travel blog: www.foggodyssey.com

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