I lay awake in my top bunk unable to sleep. It was midnight in Krakow and I tossed and turned, trying not to scratch at the itches that seemed to be creeping up all over my arms and legs. I had seen a few mosquitos in the room, but didn’t hear any near me during the night. Finally, I slept.
A couple days later Ricky and I compared bites. They were red, but not swollen like mosquito bites. They lined our feet and fingers and covered Ricky’s back.
They couldn’t possibly be bedbugs, right? I couldn’t fathom what we would do if they were.
We left Krakow for one night in Warsaw. Again, bites.
Long story short, they were bedbugs and they traveled all the way to Latvia with us. It was a nightmare.
And it happened again.
Luckily, we knew what to look for and what to do, but many other travelers aren’t as lucky, which means they’ll be stuck with the bugs for a while, sharing them along the tourist trail to other travelers and places of accommodation. Don’t let this be you!
If you’ve ever had bedbugs, you know it’s a downright nightmare. If you haven’t, please keep reading so you know what to look for and how to deal with bedbugs while traveling.
CHECK YOUR BED
The first thing you should do when you get to a new hostel, hotel, or guesthouse is check the beds for signs of bedbugs. Take the sheets from the sides of the mattress and peel back the mattress seams. The bugs like to hang out here and will sleep there during the day. Even if you don’t see the actual bugs, there will be traces if they are living there. Look for black dots on the mattress, sheets, or bed frames. They look like ink blots, but they’re actually poop stains.
In the above photo, you can see the dark splotches and inside the hole is a bedbug. This was found in the Beijing Sanlitun Youth Hostel in December 2017. The hostel was absolutely infested. Watch the video at the end of this post for our experience with this place.
You won’t often see them alive and running around, but early morning is your best bet for spotting them. If you see one, catch it and put it in a cup, jar, or some other container to show the property.
TELL THE PROPERTY
Make sure the hostel/hotel/guesthouse knows they have bedbugs. Keep in mind that bedbugs often prefer a clean place so having bedbugs doesn’t mean the hotel is dirty. It’s also very possible that the property didn’t know about the bedbugs and that they haven’t been around very long.
It is important to let the property know so that they can remedy the situation. Bedbugs need to be cleared out as soon as possible to prevent other travelers from bringing them around. Once the property knows, they can hopefully close down for a day or two while they treat the issue.
Unfortunately, our Beijing hostel did not care about the bedbugs. Again, check out the video below for their insane responses to the issue.
If you have found traces of bedbugs and have no other option than to stay where you are, prevent contamination by keeping your belongings away from the bed and preferably off the floor. Inside the bathroom is best if you have a private bathroom. If not, keep your bags as far away from the beds as possible. If your things are near the bed the bugs will crawl into them in the morning (they are nocturnal). If you don’t have a choice but to leave your things near the bed, go buy some bin bags/trash bags and double bag EVERYTHING. Make sure to tie them nice and tight. In this way, the bugs may get into your backpack/luggage but won’t be in your actual things. They’ll be easier to manage this way.
RECOGNIZE THE SIGNS
If you checked your room and found no signs of them, or forgot to check, there may still be bedbugs. The bites are different from other bites in that they show up in lines or clusters, usually on the extremities (hands, feet, legs, arms) and warm spots (bra lines, underwear lines). They’ll be red and extremely itchy. They may swell a little, but not exactly in the same way as mosquito bites.
The bites often take a couple of days to develop, so it’s possible that you may not realize you had them until you’ve left the property where you got them. If you continue to get more bites, it’s very possible you’re carrying some nasty little stowaways in your luggage. In that case…
KILL THEM WITH FIRE
Ok, maybe not fire, but at least very very high heat.
The good news is that you’re traveling and you have a limited amount of space where the bedbugs can be. As soon as you find that there are bedbugs in the property, you need to find an alternate place to stay and a laundry facility with high heat washers and dryers. In some areas where dryers are not as common, you may want to try a hotel. Sometimes they will let non-guests use their facilities. We had luck at a Holiday Inn.
Before you check in to your next place, do the laundry. This means EVERYTHING.
Anything that can be washed, throw into the machine on high heat. Big backpacks, coats, and things like that can be thrown directly into the dryer for at least 45 minutes on high heat.
Everything that cannot be washed or dried needs to be checked by hand. This includes suitcase (if you don’t use a backpack), books, electronics, pouches, and every random thing you own. Put it all on the floor and check EVERY SINGLE THING. It’s a lot of work. It sucks. And it’s necessary.
If you found bedbugs when you arrived at the property but weren’t able to change location and did bag all of your items, you’ll only need to dry the backpack, as long as you’re sure the bags were tied tight enough.
It’s much better to take a few hours to do laundry and check belongings than it is to spread the bedbugs everywhere you go and keep getting bitten.
|That big fat one was under my pillow. Yuck!|
We cannot stress enough how important it is that you decontaminate as soon as possible. You may think you’ll be able to get rid of them when you get home, but there have even been cases of airplanes becoming infested with bedbugs, as well as other travelers’ luggage in the place. The longer you wait, the more the bugs spread.
In short, you need to be able to identify bedbugs and their signs and wash wash wash if you find them.
To see our experience with bedbugs in Beijing, watch the video below!