Tag Archives: bed bugs

Backpacking Bed Bugs: How To Rid Yourself Of Them On The Road

Bed bugs. Ugh. the one thing that sure fire knows how to ruin all travel. For me, I am allergic to them. The sheer number of times I have woken up to slapping one on my leg and catching it in the act of feasting on me is numerous. The bites from there swell up into giant circles an inch in diameter and make me shake. The insomnia I experience settling down to sleep after an attack can last weeks and it is always never far from the back of my mind when I set down into a new place.

On the internet you will see all kinds of tools to help deal with this problem and most involve using a dryer. But I put to you, what does one do exactly when they are in the middle of nowhere in the tropics in wet season and there is not a dryer to be found anywhere? So here are my tips of the trade. How to avoid the pesky pains… and if you do have an encounter, things that you can do to get rid of them.

Avoiding Bed Bugs

The rules of the land are as such. Never ever enter a room or move your luggage in until you have inspected the mattresses and surrounding wooden areas for bed bugs. I don’t even need to tell you that if you find one, hightail it out of there quick smart.

The most tell tale signs on sheets, mattresses and bed frames are small brown spots. Where they basically have had their feast and passed it on through. For heavy infestations you will actually find clumps of eggs together in the corners of the mattresses and bed frames and often you will find the bug. My gut will tell me quite frequently whether they are there or not. It is like I am so well honed these days I can smell the creepy things. Anyway, even if you have the slightest feeling they are there, get the hell out and go somewhere else.

What To Do If You Are Exposed

Treating Your Bites

One morning I woke up after spending the night on a sleeper train in India to find that my entire face had been mauled by bed bugs. I had about 7 bites in total each about the size of an American quarter.


They can be some of the most sore, itchy and persistently lasting bites that you will ever manage. I recommend hauling arse to a pharmacy to get the following to help….

  • Antihistamines – these will not only help you to calm down and sleep better but will help take the itch out of the bite.
  • Cortisone cream – a secondary measure to the antihistamine if you can get it is a hydrocortisone cream such as betamethasone. Use only a tiny amount on each bite and it will help to reduce the localized swelling, pain and itch.
  • Tiger balm can also help. I had one morning where I woke up still drunk in Thailand shaking from being bitten by bed bugs across my back and a lovely Thai woman sat and rubbed tiger balm into my back to try and calm me down whilst I sat shaking and jittery and refusing to go back into any room sleeping. “It’s OK honey, it’s OK”.

If at any point you are in a place like I was in Malang and there is no other place to sleep but this hostel then there are certain things you can do. I for one refuse to sleep in the room if I have been bitten in it. I have slept on the floor or couch of a hotel lobby 3 times now because I refuse to go back in. If you are in a place where you can’t find any and yet your gut suspects they are there you can set your bed up like this:


The best thing to use is a giant plastic shower curtain made out of smooth and slippery plastic. They can’t walk on smooth plastic.  If I have no shower curtain I have been known to put garbage bags taped together over the bed and tucked on at the sides and then use a sleep sheet on top.

To protect your luggage while in this situation either put it in a garbage bag or sit it on a sheet of plastic or garbage bag on the floor making sure all of the parts of your bag are on the plastic.


Getting Them Out Of Your Luggage Before Moving On

The most difficult thing for a backpacker to deal with is getting rid of them if you think you have them. Which of course is all well and good when you are in a country with industrial dryers. But when in Indonesia, India, Malaysia even, this just wasn’t happening. So then we have to come up with creative means with which to solve the problem.

My tools of the trade are

  • Black garbage bags (must be black)
  • 90 percent rubbing alcohol. 70 percent will work but the more alcohol the better.
  • A brush. Dish brushes or this solid brush I have in the photo is good.
  • A packet of wipes
  • A can of bug spray containing permethrin, allethrin or any other chemical known to kill bed bugs. In developing countries these are easier to get your hands on than in the first world as many of them are controlled substances here.


If you are in a place that is ridiculously hot, the aim is to get the bed bug’s core temperature to 50 degrees celcius for over an hour. This will be enough to kill them. Loosely tie all of your stuff made out of material in separate garbage bags. If they are crammed too tightly packed then the temperature won’t get through all of the stuff in the bag and the bug won’t get hot enough to die.


Any of the stuff you have that is plastic or has smooth surfaces wipe it over with 80% rubbing alcohol or alcohol wipes. Also if you have books and electronics check in the nooks and crannies and especially all of the seams of the books. I have found a hatchling in a book of mine before. Freaked the hell out of me. Got rid of that thing quick smart.

I also take to my bags and in all the creases with a can of permethrin. This stuff will kill any bug on contact. It will not kill the eggs, so you will need to find a dryer in coming days or wait until it gets hot enough to put the bag into a black garbage bag for a day or two in the hot sun.


Do all of these things and you should be fine. Remember, the best defence is checking before you even get a problem. If you do have a problem, your best weapon is the plastic bag. Anything that has a chance of being exposed, including your clothes goes straight into a plastic bag until you have time and space to deal with it effectively. After all of this stuff, if you get the opportunity to throw your stuff into a dryer, definitely take it, because the last thing you want to be doing is taking these little bastards home!

Happy killing spree and ridding your stuff of these awful vermin… and remember, goodnight, sleep tight, don’t let the bed bugs bite!




Murphy’s Law #1 – The first 48 hours of my holiday

We have all heard it and as the age old adage of Murphy goes “what can go wrong, will go wrong”. On top of this there is even the amendment “if there is a possibility of several things going wrong, then the thing that will go wrong will be the one that will do the most damage”. And then there is the other variation of where everything just goes wrong with the first of course being “the worst”. So with that in mind, let the story of my first 48 hours of holiday begin (that bitch Karma is totally not getting a Christmas card this year).

Getting to the Airport

I had a 2.30pm flight. It takes an hour and fifteen minutes according to Maps for me to to get to the airport. So I left home at 11am….

After hustling to try and get a ticket for 20 mins and getting the train to Luton I sat with a truckload of other impatient and cranky passengers whilst getting the entertainment of the year. This flamboyant gay guy covered in glitter proceeded to give everybody on the train an entire run down of his last night and pretty much his life whilst on the phone to his friends. Majority of people however couldn’t suppress their historical laughter as he proceeded to inform everybody that the other night he went out and did 14 shots of sambuca, blacked out and woke up with 23 Daim bars from Tesco. At this point I was optimistic and getting geared up for a good holiday.

Then the shit started to hit the fan… traffic was so bad on the highway that it took 45 minutes for a bus that would normally take 6 to ferry everyone to the airport. It is 1.30 pm. I have an hour until departure. I am full blown flipping my nut at this stage….

Checking In

Because Wizz Air are a disorganized cluster fuck of an operation, when I tried to check in online 2 days earlier it told me I couldn’t and needed to call customer service. So I called customer service. They told me to go and check in at the counter and it would be free.

So as I get to the airport there is a line bigger than Goliath and I was like “fuck this” and pushed through priority queue. I managed to get seen fairly quickly on the proviso I had no checked luggage because their conveyor system had shat itself and left everyone unable to check in.

It was at this time I was told that I was a “standby” passenger for the plane as they had overbooked it. Fury! I booked this flight 2 months in advance to attend a dental appointment the next day. I was getting on a flight one way or another or heads were going to roll. Their massive screw up lead me to this situation so they could fix it.

Standing By

While “standing by” I met a guy who was also on standby. He was graciously nonchalant about the situation because his boss was having a flip out. If he didn’t get back to the Formula One in Budapest to move a piece of equipment that only he was authorized to move by midnight the company would be fined 50,000 pounds. The guy says it serves his boss right for booking a cheap shit flight with 15 people on standby at the last minute.

Thankfully there was space and we got on the plane. But this wasn’t the last of the stand by… we sat there. Then sat there some more. Then I had a nap. Sat there some more. Read 75 pages of my book. And then sat there some more. After about an hour and a half of sitting on the tarmac going nowhere we were informed that the passenger manifest did not add the same as the number of people on board. So they had to figure out who the passenger was and then find their luggage. At some point a guy got irate on the plane and the cops had to be called to come and get him. The kids were even more off the show running up and down the aisles and hanging from the rafters like a pack of monkeys. One even tried to eat the apple core I put on the floor earlier because there was no bin. So shit was getting crazy and I had another nap and read some more….

5pm rolls around. We have been on a plane grounded for 2 and a half hours when Wizz Air tell us that they will be kindly making food and drink available for purchase. Riotous carnage then ensued and within five minutes we were allowed a free “snack or drink”. By the time I got to the end of the queue that whole thing had gone out the window and people were just taking whatever. I wound up with a sandwich, snickers bar and an orange juice. Eventually at 6pm, things got sorted and after 3 and a half hours of being on the tarmac we took off with a mass eruption of applause from everyone on board.


9pm Budapest time… finally arrived. Four hours behind schedule. Made my way to the hostel.

Midnight Snack

After checking into the hostel I had a chat to few people and went to bed. Dentist in the morning and I was just relieved to get there. It was hot, the window was open and I set about trying to sleep. I couldn’t shake the feeling that I was being gnawed at however and figured if it was on my toes it was probably mosquitoes. Within 3 hours my suspicions were confirmed and I caught a bed bug between my fingers and killed it. I took it out to reception and put it on the guys desk.

“I’m allergic and I can’t stay in there or any room where this is a risk” I told him. I took residence upstairs far away from any room with my stuff and slept (I use the term sleep loosely here) in the beanbag on the floor.

The following day he tells me that what I put on his desk wasn’t a bed bug and that my 9 glorious welts must be from a spider or a mosquito. I got angry. “I put that bug on your desk and you are going to make me out a liar?” He says “but I looked online and the bites don’t show up for a day or so”.

“Not if you’re allergic” I told him. But at this point I had to go to the dentist.


You know you are having a really shit day when the most positive aspect of your day is the fact that you only needed 2 fillings when you assumed you would need up to 6. With a half dead mouth, an incapacity to smile and a slightly happier wallet that I anticipated, I got on my bike back to the hostel to go fight with the manager.

Captive Passport Negotiations

 Upon my departure of the hostel in the morning, the staff told me that I had to pay 2 nights accommodation or no passport. I had ‘slept’ there one night. And refused to pay the second. Apparently I need to give them 24 hours notice. And I am like “not when I am in an antihistamine-induced half-coma because of your establishment.

Despite having physically presenting them a bug, I had to deal with the manager berating me like I was a child who knew nothing. “Do you even know what bed bugs look like?” I said to him “Yes. I have dealt with them up to 15 times now and I know what they look like and how my body responds to them.”. He told me he was going to have to “respectfully disagree with me” in his condescending arsehole tone and then gave me my passport back without me paying a cent. After getting my hands back on my passport I told him I didn’t appreciate being spoken down to and called a liar and that regardless of whether he “respectfully disagrees” it is in his best interests to do something about it and then I left.

The current state of a portion of my lower back

I then spent a good hour wandering around trying to find somewhere to stay that wasn’t full. And I did. For one night at least. But I still have to move the next night. I now lie here in my gloriously bed bug free bed (I hope) tired, covered in giant welts and cortisone cream still shaking and unable to sleep from my allergic reaction and hoping that the rest of my Balkan’s Adventure doesn’t keep this tone. If it does I might have to hang up the travel shoes for good and become a hermit.