They are every traveler’s (and hotel owner’s) nightmare, they are bigger than you thought and they can survive without blood for an entire year. Eek! Meet your worst travel enemies: bed bugs! In today’s post I will be talking to you about how to avoid these nasty little creatures and what to do when you discover them.
Last summer I was traveling through Romania when I had my first ever encounter with these bad boys. Somewhere in the outskirts of Transylvania, in a clean hostel, there they were.
There were hundreds of them, creeping through the mattresses at night, looking for a speck of blood or two. And I was their victim, big time!
How I knew it was bed bugs
The first time I thought of bed bugs was when I discovered some really, really itchy red bites on my legs. Being a highly wanted prey for mosquitoes, I thought some bug repellent would be the answer. I was wrong. The day after my bites had tripled and I hadn’t heard a mosquito in days. I was suspicious, but busy enough to avoid the burden of checking under the mattresses.
It was only the day after ,when I woke up with one of them staring at me from my blanket, that I knew for sure something wasn’t right. It was also the first day in my life that I realized these bugs aren’t so tiny you can’t see them with the human eye, as this was a full grown big boy (or girl) checking me out. It was right then and there that I started searching for what to do. This is what I found:
Bed bugs don’t carry diseases
Well, phew! Although I was basically perforated, I didn’t have to worry about any aftermath, as these ‘innocent’ creatures can’t infect you with anything. They do bite an awful lot, so there’s no reason to stop here.
It can happen anywhere!
I always thought cheap, dirty hostels had bed bugs. Well, they do, but clean and organized hostels, hotels and B&B’s are also eligible candidates. In other words, you could find bedbugs in a four star hotel, although that’s a situation more unlikely to happen. But there were periods where home and apartment owners were in great panic because their houses got infected. Of course it doesn’t help when hostels or hotels are lazy about their problem, so the amount of bugs can definitely say something about the place you are staying in.
Bed bugs like to travel
In some way bedbugs are like us, only creepy and way more sexual. Bed bugs spread quickly. Not only are they fast when it comes to reproduction, they are also world travelers. Backpacks, suitcases, clothing, you name it and they’re there! Making sure your suitcase/ backpack is closed and not on the floor is a must if you want to avoid having unexpected guests.
Source: Michael Wunderli
Bed bug bites are mostly confused with spider or mosquito bites
They just itch a whole lot more! Checking for bites regularly can prevent further damage. Also, you don’t want to be scratching your bites, as they tend to scar really fast. Bed bugs tend to bite in a row, so if you find two or more bites in a row, you know what time it is.
My favorite… Bed bugs are like cockroaches, expensive and almost impossible to get rid of . They can survive a year without blood, seek out travel companions and are immune to most spray poisons they sell in the shops. Great, just great!
How to deal with bed bugs
Before I freak you out too much, there are of course ways to avoid bed bugs. Most of them work properly, although you can always have some really bad luck. Here’s how to check:
Check the hostel/ hotel linen for blood stains.
This is an easy way of checking is there has been any history with bed bugs, but it can also freak you out a little bit if the sheets are older. It could be the problem is already gone, but you can never be too careful! A good option is to take your own linen, although hostels mostly refuse this.
Read hostel reviews
Wherever it is that you book your hostel, check their reviews! Sometimes typing in the name of the hostel in a search engine + bed bugs will give you some results. A traveler who encountered bedbugs in a hostel is mostly prepared to leave a remark about this on sites as Tripadvisor. (Also great for finding cockroaches). Be sure to check the recent information travelers have written.
Okay, that’s nice. But I already found them. What do I do now?
Well… Instead of screaming bloody murder, there are a few things you can do:
Tell the hostel staff!
By their reaction you can mostly tell if this has been a problem before. When the hostel staff take immediate action, you can at least trust them about discovering the problem for the first time, just like you. If they tell you there’s not such a thing, be careful. Mostly these are the lazy hostel owners, who know they have that particular problem but don’t act fast enough to really get rid of it. Symptom control or not doing anything at all is not how to solve this.
Close your luggage!
Keeping your suitcase or backpack closed is very important if you don’t bed bugs to travel with you! Close all luggage items and preferably store them somewhere higher than the floor. Bed bugs do climb, but at least you will not make it easy on them. Keeping your clothing in plastic zipper bags will not only keep your laundry separated, it will also decrease the chance of bringing your new friends home. You can also choose to store your luggage in a bathroom, as the bugs usually don’t seek out tiled and cold places like toilets and bathrooms. By all means, try not to spread them by bringing them to other hostels as well.
Wash, heat, dry and kill!
Wash everything you had with you on that particular trip. Clothing is usually a problem because you can’t wash it on a really high temperature. Putting stuff in the fridge for a long time (months) will help as well. Be sure to clean your entire backpack with boiling water (if possible) and put it in the dryer. In my case I washed everything I owned when I got back and I refused to bring my suitcase inside. Actually, I threw it away…
In the very unfortunate event that you have brought them home, call pest control.
There are sprays on the market that say they will take care of your pest problem, but searching for them on the internet told me they didn’t work. Having a professional to take a look at it will definitely solve the problem if you act accordingly (which means fast!) Like I said, these bugs are really hard to get rid of and the last thing you want is creating an unlivable situation for yourself, in your own home!
This guide will hopefully help you when experiencing bed bug related incidents, but I want you to know it’s not here to scare you out of traveling at all. Chances are you will meet a couple of bed bugs at least once in your life, and if you are cautious enough, this shouldn’t be a really big problem. All I can say is to enjoy wherever you go and maybe check your linen before you go to sleep, but that’s it. May all your travels be as bug free as possible!