My Travel Fear: Being Eaten By Bloodsuckers

One of my greatest travel fears is bloodsuckers. Unfortunately this does not refer to sexy vampires. I am talking about much less glamorous bloodsuckers. The ones that are, for one thing, real. The ones that hide away and come out at night when you are vulnerable and asleep. Bed bugs. My first and thankfully only experience of these nasty little creatures was in Sydney, Australia in 2005.

After a week staying in a hostel, I and a friend noticed that we were covered head to toe in raging red lumps. They were insanely inflamed and itchy as hell. A trip to the doctor confirmed we had in fact been tasty snacks for bed bugs. The bites can take up to seven days to appear and when they decided to show their ugly faces, they did so with some gusto. Our other friend, who took the top bunk, was completely untouched, while we spent the next several weeks self-consciously covering up our blemished arms and legs while we slowly healed.

Bed bug infestations are becoming more and more common, especially in places where travellers are constantly coming and going. While they do not carry any infections and their bites are not life threatening, they are extremely uncomfortable and take ages to disappear. Everybody has heard that famous saying: ‘goodnight don’t let the bed bugs bite’.

Before I had become a victim of the dreaded beg bugs, this is something I never really considered to be a real threat.  Although I knew that beg bugs existed, this saying was something I thought to be mythological – on a par with other bedtime scare-stories such as the bogeyman and the monster under the bed.

The knowledge that these creatures had been creeping around in the night, crawling all over me and feeding on my blood was disgusting. Research into bed bugs made my skin crawl as nothing repels them. With other bloodsucking insects such as mosquitos, you can use a protective net or layer yourself with insect repellent. But there is nothing that has been proven to be effective against bed bugs. One research project featured a bed-bug infested bed frame that was covered in insect repellent.

Did this deter the critters? No it did not. They instead continued to climb over the repellent-covered furniture until they were killed. These are some relentless insects. All we could do when we discovered there were bed bugs in the hostel was request a room in another building and move onto another hostel as soon as possible. Taking on advice from our research, we washed all of our clothes on a hot setting and checked our bags throughly – as travelling in people’s luggage is how beg bugs move around, spreading from one place to another.

Bed bugs can be found anywhere and are not exclusive to unclean places. Although a popular spot for them is inside bed frames, they can also be found under floorboards and even in light shades. Because bed bugs are so hard to get rid of once an infestation has taken hold, many hostels do not allow sleeping bags to be used – as these can harbour the insects.

For further information on how to spot bed bug problems, and deal with them, visit:

Have you ever been bitten by bed bugs whilst travelling?

This is the first part of a weekly series about some of my travel fears and insecurities in the run up to a six-month solo trip beginning in May.



  1. January 10, 2012 / 09:25

    What a freaky idea. Especially that the bites can take 7 days to develop, so you would not necessarily have any clear idea of where they came from if you were moving around a lot. I don’t think I have ever been hit by bed bugs, but we definitely gotten eaten through by sandflies in New Zealand. My wife is really sensitive and they itched her for a while.

  2. January 12, 2012 / 18:34

    Hi Andrew, ah the sandflies! I’ve been nibbled by them as well in Australia. The locals get bitten, but their bites are not visible because their skin becomes immune over the years and the bites don’t flare up. I remember a Aussie lady told me that all of her children were covered in insect bites growing up, but then after a while they stop appearing. I feel for your wife having sensitive skin, the itching can drive you insane. I used a lot of calamine lotion, he he.