Bed bugs are a serious problem encountered by travellers throughout the world. They can be found on buses, on trains, in cinemas, in hostels and even in five-star hotels.
Although they are blood-sucking parasites, bed bugs do not transmit any disease and for most people the bites are no more irritating that a flea, mosquito or sand fly bite. However some people do have serious reactions to bed bug bites.
There is quite a stigma surrounding bed bugs and travellers that have been bitten often feel dirty and are ashamed to tell people about them, or they assume that it is the hostel’s fault and tell other travellers to avoid the hostel. However bed bugs can prefer cleaner environments and an isolated case of bed bugs is no indication of a bad hostel.
It is impossible for hostels to completely eliminate bed bugs but they can take steps to prevent bed bugs from becoming a serious problem. These include not having carpet, wallpaper and wooden furniture where bed bugs can hide and prohibiting guests from using their own sleeping bags. However one of the best things a hostel manager can do is to admit that the problem exists and react quickly whenever they hear of a case of bed bugs. Hostel managers that claim to never have bed bugs are living a lie and will inevitably be slow to act when bed bugs are found in their hostel.
There are a lot of misconceptions about bed bugs. A lot of people think that are so tiny that they are virtually invisible, however they are brown flat oval shaped insects that are around 5mm across and quite easy to spot on your bed.
It is quite easy to quickly inspect your room for bed bugs by checking for small dots of blood on the bed slats and around the seams of the mattresses, however blood spots could merely indicate a previous infestation that has been cleared up. Infested rooms may also have an unpleasant almond-like smell.
If you think you have bed bugs you should:
Tell the hostel staff so they can treat your room
Wash all your clothes and anything else that can be washed on the highest heat setting and dry in a clothes dryer for 20 minutes
Have a hot shower
Empty your backpack, clean it with boiling water and (if possible) dry in a clothes dryer for 20 minutes
Visually check anything that can’t be washed for signs of bed bugs