Bed bugs are one of the many hassles that the average backpacker has to deal with. They’re these little brown bugs that normally come out to bite you at night, and they leave lines or rows of red bite-marks in your skin. The bites are quite annoying, but disappear after a few days.
These damn bugs are quite hard to notice, because not only are they really small, but they hide in the mattress, or curtains, or even small cracks in walls. Since they tend to bite at night, it’s harder to spot them, and you don’t realize they attacked you until the next day when you wake up full of bites.
After traveling for more than a year around Australia, New Zealand and Asia, I had heard all sorts of stories but never really had any incident with these famous insects. Until I got to Malaysia.
Episode number 1.
I stayed for one week in a small apartment close to a yoga center I was gworking for. After a week I quit because the owners didn’t respect our agreement, but that’s another story. What matters is that after the first night I woke up full of red bites. I told the owners and they said it was impossible, it had never happened before. I guess nothing’s worse than those who don’t wanna see.
I had to look online for solutions. And so I vaccumed the entire room, mattress, walls, furniture, everything, then took the bed sheets and the clothes I had worn and washed them and then put them in the drying machine at the hottest temperature. Finally, I cleaned the floor with detergent and tea tree oil.
It worked. The next six nights I didn’t have any trouble.
Episode number 2.
After leaving the yoga center I went to a nice hostel in Kuala Lumpur. It was actually pretty clean, and I slept for two nights by myself in a dorm for four people.
On the third morning this girl moved in.
“Hey what’s up? Is this your first day in Malaysia?”
“Hey! No it’s not. Iv’e been here for two days but they just moved me because last night their were bed bugs in my bed”, she said.
All good. Until the next morning.
I woke up, again, full of bit-marks all in like lines going down my arms, legs, back and even hands and feet. The damn bugs had probably gotten into the girl’s bags and now she brought them into my room.
We asked the staff to clean it and they did. They even sprayed it with some chemical and asked us to leave the room for a few hours.
It didn’t work. Fourth morning with more bite-marks.
They moved us to another room. I was already paranoid about them, so before I went to bed I thoroughly checked the entire room, with a flashlight and all, looking under mattresses and beds, but I couldn’t find one.
Finally! I could sleep properly.
At around midnight I woke up feeling uncomfortable. My arm was itching. That’s weird, I thought. I stayed still trying to distinguish if it was an old bite, a new one or just my mind playing games with me. But then I felt it.
It was like a tiny cockroach walking on my arm. Because it was dark I couldn’t see anything, but I felt it, and wanted to kill it, so I didn’t move much and grabbed my cellphone from under my pillow. I turned on the flashlight and saw it.
A fucking bed bug!
I killed it by crushing it with my fingers, and it spilled out a lot of blood, just like when you smash a mosquito against a flat surface. Disgusting.
I started looking for more and I found them on the wall. There was eleven of them. I smashed all of them, leaving red blood marks on the white wall. I was too lazy to ask for them to switch me to another room, so I just tried to ignore them and went back to bed.
When I was finally falling asleep again, I started feeling more of these tiny animals walking around my arms, legs and back. I could feel their tiny little legs crawling over me. I could visualize these insects moving to and fro, biting my arms just like sewing machine sewing the seams of a pant, point after point, perfectly aligned, even symmetrical.
I couldn’t bare it any longer.
I got up pretty agitated, turned on the flashlight and found more of them in the bed sheets, these bugs the color of poop were everywhere. I went down to the reception and showed them the marks. It wasn’t just a few, it looked like I had chicken pox.
They moved me to a private room for no additional cost and left me there for the remaining two nights of my stay.
Advice and tips for bed bugs:
Noticing them is pretty easy. They’re literally red bite-marks that are close together in lines or rows, either vertical or horizontal. The bed bug tends to bite more than once, so that’s why you see these bite alignments.
If you do have them, alert the hostel staff straightaway so they clean the room. If it’s in you own house start cleaning.
Wash all your clothes, including towels, bags, etc. Then put them in the drier and dry them at the highest temperature.
Vacuum everything, from mattress, to bed sheets, furniture, floor and walls. Everything.
Wash the floor with disinfectant, detergent and tea tree oil.
For the bites just wash them gently with soap and warm water. Avoid scratching and after a few days they’ll disappear. You can also use anti-allergic crèmes if you prefer.
Keep all of your belongings away from the floor, put them on chairs or tables, and preferably not on top of the bed.
If you already washed everything, but still are not sure if you they’re all gone, or you’re staying at the same hostel, put your clothing in plastic bags, not inside your backpack, and keep them in the bags until you leave.
Finally, tell the hostel that you’ll give them a bad review on Hostelworld or Facebook and hopefully they’ll give you back the money for the nights you had to deal with such pests!