Bed bugs; you’d be surprised at the amount of travellers who haven’t heard of them and the ones who have usually don’t know what they look like or what to do about them. We’ve run into them several times during our travels, it’s inevitable really, if you’re budget travelling, and once you get them, they are a pain to get rid of. So we thought we’d share what we learnt the hard way so you don’t have to. The key is to know the following How-to’s:
How to spot them:
- Bed bugs are nocturnal and normally only come out night, so you likely won’t see them crawling around your bed in plain sight. Some hostels actually have bug proof mattresses, these will be made from a type of plastic/leathery material and won’t have any outside seems. But if you’re accommodation just has normal mattresses use the following tips to check for bed bug activity:
- Check the seams of the mattress. This is where they like to hide or where they will leave traces such as tiny black spots. Try to check all around the mattress especially at the head of the bed, the side that’s touching a wall and the corners.
- Lift the mattress to check between it and whatever it’s resting on, e.g a box spring or some sort of frame. Once again check for tiny black dots or for the bugs themselves.
- Look for any untreated wood in the room or supporting the bed. They love to live in it and this will probably be your best bet at finding them, if they’re there. (They don’t like living in metal, so if your bed has a metal frame, thats one less thing to worry about.) Again look for tiny black spots.
- Try not to leave you’re bags or belongs on or near the bed. This way if you get bitten there is still a chance they won’t be in your bags.
- If you find anything let the hostel know right away and DO NOT stay there, its not worth risking it and having to deal with treating your bags and clothes.
- All of this should be done in hostels and hotels alike, bed bugs are not picky on which beds they prefer to infest.
People will tell you different things about how to get rid of bed bugs but we spoke first hand with an exterminator and these are the tips he gave us for getting them out of your bags and belongings.
How to get rid of them:
- Prevention is key but sometimes no matter how hard you try you may still have a run in with the damn things. If it’s a bad infestation they will most likely be everywhere, or at least their eggs will be and heat is the best way to kill them without using potentially harmful chemicals.
- The heat needs to be no less then 60 degrees and for no less then an hour.
- Put your clothes and anything else that can be in a dryer; small backpacks, toiletries case, laptop case, etc, on high heat for an hour. If the dryer doesn’t have temperature labels then there should be a setting for ‘whites and colours’, which will be the highest temperature you are able to use.
- If you can’t find a dryer big enough for you bags or backpacks don’t worry. Tie them air tight in large heavy duty black garbage bags and leave them out in the sun for at least a day, rotating every so often so all sides get the heat of the sun. Also make sure to try and keep them off a cool surface such as grass and what not. The cool temperatures may allow some eggs or bugs to stay alive.
- If you’ve unfortunately found them in your house you’ll have to call an exterminator.
One other thing (for backpackers especially) to be aware of is if you are buying a van, car, or 4×4 that has a bed in the back. This is how we first ran into bed bugs and how we’ve become well informed on how to deal with them. So if you are about to buy something with a bed in the back make sure to check as best you can for signs of bed bugs, if you’re at all the least bit suspicious, don’t buy the vehicle, its not worth the trouble. And in backpackers defence, most of us/them don’t know the signs or what to look for, they think they’re just getting mosquito or sandfly bites. Which is why we decided to write this post. The more people know about them the better chance we all have of not having to deal with them.