How to avoid bedbugs in Southeast Asia

Places where . . .
  • I have encountered lots of bedbugs: Bali, Sarawak, Malaysia, Singapore.
  • I have not seen any bedbugs: Bangkok, Chang Mai, Cambodia, Laos, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Burma.
How to choose a hotel room with respect to avoiding bed bugs:
  1. Look on the walls. Do you see any tiny black or pink (photo) round things crawling around up there?
  2. Look on the wall nearest the bed. Do you see any bloodstains? If the room has bedbugs, a previous guest will have squashed some on the wall, causing the bloodstain.
  3. Look at the bed cover -- if there is one. Do you see anything crawling on it? I once examined a mattress cover (in Bali) and discovered there were thousands of tiny bedbugs crawling over it and within the fibers of the mattress cover.
If the answer to any of the above questions is "yes," look for another room on another floor or corridor. But keep your eyes on the hallway walls. If the walls of the hallways crawl with bedbugs, nearby rooms are likely also infected.

Photo: bedbug doll available from Giant Microbes website.


  1. I have just found a hostel infested in Melaka, Malaysia, and only 2 weeks before there was one in Sydney too. I just hope that not every hostel in SE Asia is like this. I was travelling in central America and never came across this problem, though I wasn't as aware of them, and I think many people just put it down to mosquitoes, and the bites take 12-24 hours to show up on me. Perhaps there should be a name and shame bed bug site?

  2. I've heard Australia had a problem, but did not encounter any when I was there.

    In SE Asia, they seem to be focused south of Thailand. I have never come across any in the more northern parts of the region.

    As a follow-up to your suggestion, I think guidebook authors should learn how to spot them, and advise readers (and warn hotels).

    Hotels and hostels need to provide separate luggage storage closets, and insist that guests use them. Putting packs on beds causes them to spread.

  3. I have lived and traveled throughout Asia for the last 6 years. I have encountered bed bugs probably over 20 times and carried them in my luggage and back to my home on numerous occasions: Laos (Vientiane, in a both a moderate and high-priced hotel), Myanmar (Yangon, mid-level hotel and in a Taxi!), Thailand (Khaosan, which is completely infested, bungalow on Railey beach near Phuket, various apartments and at nice spa), and Viet Nam (Guesthouse).

    As you can probably guess, bed bugs and I don't quite get along to well, but they at least seem to like me. Many people don't actually notice that they have been bit by bed bugs because apparently only 30% of people react to their bites.

    Here is an article which can explain about bed bugs in more detail.

  4. I've lived in Asia for nine years and never once come across a bedbug in hundreds of hotels and apartments I've stayed in.

    America on the other hand is completely infested right now. Seems like a good time to not visit the US.

  5. Getting rid of bed bugs is different than getting rid of termites or other types of pests...this is horrible, and things just seem like they keep getting worse. I was at war with bedbugs for what seemed like forever. The biggest problem I had was trying to find a non-toxic and professional solution.

  6. Thanks for sharing your insights. It's good to know how to avoid bedbugs.

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  7. Most developing nations have lots of bed bugs, even outside Asia. I'm surprised you found some in Singapore, though.

  8. I found tons of them in Cambodia, Malaysia, and Bali

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