BED BUGS!! After years of avoiding the dreaded scurge of backpackers , I finally encountered these little buggers in the flesh (which is to say, they encountered my flesh). After reading up on how to treat my hundreds of bites, how to make sure I didn’t bring any bugs with me, and how to make sure my first bed bug encounter was my last, I put together some tips on dealing with these irritating little critters…

How to avoid bed bugs

When you arrive at your accommodation, be sure to check the bed for bugs. These irritating creatures can be found hiding under the lip of the mattress during the day, before coming out to feast at night. Even if you can’t spot them, you may find the telltale brownish dots of excrement (not only is it bug poo, it’s bug poo that’s made up of human blood, how gross is that?!).


As you’re doing your bed bug check, be sure not to leave your luggage on or near the bed, as the bugs can hitch a ride on your luggage (more on that later). If possible, put your luggage in the bathroom, as this is the spot where they are least likely to be.


Looking back on our recent bed bug encounter, all the signs were there, we just didn’t bother to look for them.

How to identify bugs and bites

Bed bugs look like this…



They can grow as big as an apple seed, they are brown in colour, but turn reddish after a feed, and they generally look like a nightmarish insect that’s after your blood.


Bed bug bites are red and raised and can easily be mistaken for mosquito bites. They’re usually found on the arms and torso, and sometimes occur in lines, where your skin touches the mattress. The bites are irritating, but not dangerous, and bed bugs don’t carry diseases.


Photo courtesy of Andybrookestar

Photo courtesy of Andybrookestar


Some people react to bites more severely than others. For example, my arms, back, and even face were covered in hundreds of red bites that thankfully didn’t itch that much, while others had just a few bites that itched severely, and Adam didn’t have a single bite (jammy sod).


Antihistamine creams and pills can reduce the swelling and itching. Unfortunately, insect repellents do nothing to protect from bites.


How to deal with a bed bug problem

If you notice you’ve been bitten, let the staff at your accommodation know. You should be entitled to cancel the rest of your stay with a refund (for us, asking for a refund involved other guests angrily pointing at the ridiculous number of bites on my arms and ordering me to lift my top to show the staff my bitten back- not that much fun feeling like a freak show).


The next step is to make sure you don’t take any teeny hitchhikers with you in your luggage. Wash everything that may have come into contact with bed bugs in the hottest water possible. Anything that can’t be machine washed (like your rucksack) should be scrubbed thoroughly. Placing items in a black plastic bag and leave it in direct sunlight for a day any remaining should kill any remaining bugs. Our hostel thankfully washed all of our clothes for us, and we thoroughly scrubbed our rucksacks, which seems to have done the trick!


If you do take any bugs home with you, they can be a nightmare to get rid of. Start by buying a mattress protector, that will prevent bugs from passing between the mattress and sheets. The bugs that are trapped on the sheets can be destroyed by a good boil wash. To prevent them spreading from your bed to elsewhere in the house, pull the bed a few inches from the wall and place each leg in a dish of water. If the bugs have already left your bed and are running rampant through your home, it’s probably time to call an exterminator (though in reality these are only used in the most extreme of cases).


Hope you’ve found these tips useful. If you have any more tips, be sure to add them to the comments! Now sleep tight, and don’t let the… well, you know the rest.

Leave a Reply