So you’ve found the perfect hostel: cheap, a clean kitchen, good social space and comfortable beds. Life is good—except what is that row of little, red, itchy bumps?
Bed bugs are bad news, and you’ll want to avoid any contact with these parasites at all costs. Luckily, with a little homework and preparation, you can minimize your chances of meeting bed bugs first hand.
Read Online Reviews
Google a hostel’s name (or even “Hostel name” + “bed bug”) to read up on reviews left by other travelers. A scorned bed bug victim will likely have a lot to say and will want to let the world know about their bed bug encounter. Pay close attention to recent reviews, as an older bed bug problem might have since been remedied by the hostel.
Be Wary of Package Tours with Free Hostels
My own experience with bed bugs came from a free night accommodation when I booked a sailing tour. My usually in-depth research skills were kicked aside in the name of saving money. Free is good; bed-bug-free is better. Do your homework, even if it’s a good deal.
BYO Sleeping Bag
Extra space is a rare luxury in a traveler’s backpack, but packing your own sleeping bag and using it on top of linens provided by a hostel is a good idea, providing you with an extra barrier against bed bugs.
Do an Inspection
Bed bugs are dark and small, ranging from from sesame seed-sized to apple seed-sized. Although they tend to be most active in the early down hours, it doesn’t hurt to do a quick inspection of the mattress, sheets and surrounding areas prior to jumping into bed. One exterminator recommends slowly blasting a hair dryer along the headboard and head side of the mattress, which is said to bring the bed bugs out.
Zero Tolerance Policy
If you find even ONE bed bug, alert the management and request to move to a new area (preferably far area from the first spot). If you can, get your deposit back and move somewhere else.
It’s not always practical, but if you want to be extra cautious, hard-sided luggage has fewer seams and bed-bug-permeable surfaces than soft-sided luggage. This means that they’re more likely to stay out of your stuff and travel back home with you.
Keep your Clothes in Baggies
If the hard-sided luggage is not an option, pack your clothes up in large Ziploc bags to keep the bed bugs out. As a bonus, this will keep your clothes organized, compacted and water-proof.
Keep Your Luggage off the Bed
Regardless of the your luggage type, try to keep it off the bed and even the ground, if possible. If it can be stashed on a desk or above a set of drawers, it’ll have a lower chance of coming in contact with bed bugs. If you are lucky enough to have a private bathroom, you can leave your luggage in there. Bed bugs typically avoid cold, tiled places like bathrooms.
When in Doubt, Wash
If you suspect you may have come into interaction with a bed bug, wash anything that could have come into contact with it—clothes, sheets, sleeping bags, pillow cases, etc. Wash it on the highest water temperature setting that the fabric allows. If something cannot be machine washed, stick it in the freezer overnight to kill any bed bugs.