Up until about six months ago I had been extremely lucky with avoiding bed bugs while traveling. Over the last ten years of trips I’ve really only been bitten once, and in that case it was only about 10 bites. However, recently I just can’t catch a break. I’ve had such bad luck I woke up one morning in Lima with about 200 bites and damn those things hurt. So, post four seperate cases in the last six months I thought I’d share my learnings, so if God forbid you wake up in itching agony you know how to deal with it.

1. how to tell if you’ve been bitten

Bed bug bites and mosquito bites come up really similarly on me, so at first it can be hard to tell which is which. There are a few telltale signs for bed bugs though:

  • They take a lot longer than mosquito bites to come up, half-a-day to a full day on me. So you most likely won’t wake up with them first thing in the morning. And they will develop and get worse throughout the day.
  • Bed bugs bite in clusters so you’ll usually have a line of at least 4 in one area. And they usually appear around where the sheets would fall off your body in the night. Legs, arms, hands, lower back and stomach.
  • They hang around a lot longer than mosquito bites. If untreated with oral antihistamine they can last up to two weeks.

2.tell your hostel straight away and move rooms

As soon as you notice any bites inform your reception desk. They should be extremely apologetic and offer for you to move rooms straight away. The hostel may try and say that you bought them with you, however if your bites haven’t come up straight away in the morning you can be pretty sure they are from the bed you slept in last night. Finally you should be offered compensation, if they don’t, ask for it. Also tell them you’re going to buy something to treat the bites and you will need compensation for that too.

3. buy antihistamine tablets and cream

Get yourself straight to a pharmacy and get an oral antihistamine. The first time I had bed bugs while traveling was in Nicaragua and I just used a topical cream. While it soothed the itching for a few hours the bites were big and red and hung around for two weeks. An oral antihistamine treats both the swelling and the itchiness and when I got my 200 bites in Lima I went and got myself some tablets straight away, the bites cleared up in about four days. Make sure you keep your receipts though as you need your hostel to compensate you.

4. take your clothes to be washed and dried in heat

To stop the little buggers from following you to your next hotel, the best thing you can do is take all your clothes to a laundry mat and get them washed in hot water and dried in a tumble drier. I understand you won’t be able to do this with all of your clothes as some might be delicate. For those, pop them in plastic bags and pop them in the freezer for a day.

5. ask for compensation

You are well within your rights to demand compensation from your hostel for any costs incurred in the treatment of your bed bugs while traveling as well as a refund on the bed you stayed in. In Lima my treatments ended up costing me about $40USD (which is over a day’s budget). I totally understand if you’re nervous or don’t feel confident asking for this, but it is the hostel’s responsibility to make sure their property is not infested. Take a friend with you or remind them about websites like TripAdviser, Hostelworld and booking.com where you might need to warn other tourists about the bedbug situation in the hostel and the lack of compensation… Harsh I know. But desperate times call for desperate measures.

6. take these steps to avoid it happening again

As they say, once bitten twice shy. After an experience with bed bugs while traveling you want to do everything you can to avoid it happening again. Or minimising the impact when it does.

  • Never put your suitcase on the bed. This will stop the chance of bedbugs spreading into the clothes in your bag
  • Do a thorough check of every bed you stay in. Bed bugs leave telltale signs on bedding and mattresses and you can spend five minutes when you move into any room doing the following to minimise your chance of being bitten:
    • Check the sheets for the bugs themselves. They are about 5mm long and are visible to the naked eye
    • Check your bedding for any little flecks of blood. This is a telltale sign
    • Run your hands over the sheets and mattress to feel for shells. It will feel like there are little flecks of dirt under your skin. These are the shells the bed bugs lose as they grow.

all over what to do about What To Do About Bed Bugs While Traveling? here are more travel hacks.

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Bed bugs while traveling


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