Good morning class. Good. Morrrrning. Miss. Roberts.
Today, kids, we’re going to learn about a topic near and fear to most backpackers hearts, the bed bug.
Now I’m probably breaking the cardinal rule of Fight Club here, especially amongst the hostel world where you do not talk about bed bugs. Instead everyone is hush hush while a red, spotty, and itchy guest shyly waits for the reception counter to clear out and whispers “I think I have bed bugs.” It’s like the nomad version of head lice in primary school. Embarrassing, but it happens to near on everyone.
Not me personally as yet. I’m banking on having super human blood they don’t like, as discovered on a recent trip to Nicaragua. Apparently the critters are quite common in the region and my traveling partners both itched their way through a week of crawling skin, bags in the sun, and drying and steaming the living anything out of their clothes. I’m 90 per cent sure I also had bugs in my bed, sight seen (and felt), but remained unscathed. It doesn’t stop you being paranoid about being a carrier, as these suckers are the best hitchhikers. So what have I learnt about avoiding these fun times? Apart from advising first hand that sleeping in a hammock, floor or poolside bed is not the solution.
The story goes that hostels are dirty bite harbouring fest pits. Not exactly. The story is flawed. The first time I encountered the suckers was on a bus tour around Italy staying in hotels. Not all bugs are poor backpackers. They stay classy too.
The culprit for our initial Nicaraguan bug experience may have been a crusty looking, shower avoiding Aussie but personal hygiene has little to do with whether you get them or not. Although being smart can help.
Don’t put your bag near the bed, or your clothes on the bed. This is how they spread. It will be difficult not to put your own person on the bed so go right ahead. Try sleeping naked. Sure there could still be more bites in weird and special places and you may get a few weird looks or creepy new friends, but at least your clothes will have the all clear.
Avoid bed hopping especially if you know a place might be infested. It’s pretty awkward when you have to tell reception you slept in a few different beds. But no judgement here.
And what do you do if the infesting festies get you? The best way to tell is if you have bites that go in a line. Not sure why bed bugs are so anal or OCD but apparently this is the best way to say “yay, I have bed bugs.”
First things first, let your hostel know. This will be a test as to the extent of their hostel experience and expertise. Sure, you see reviews about “don’t go there, they have bed bugs”, but if the reception desk gets the dealing part right, this damning review is less likely. Once you’ve whispered your beef, they should check the bites and be able to diagnose your condition pretty quickly. They should advise you to bring your bag and all your belongings from your room and do one or all of the below. Place in black garbage bags and place in the hot, hot sun. Steam, wash and dry on high heat everything. Pro, you will finally have clean clothes since you’ve been cheap and haven’t had anything washed in weeks. Stank.
Essentially that room could go on lockdown, and if this is not possible, they will wash, steam and solution the bed.
It’s probably also a good idea to wash yourself well if this is not currently standard.
Now the only thing you should be left with is paranoia and a creepy story. The good news is they don’t carry diseases. If only the same could be said for every promiscuous traveller.