If you're going to be traveling to a part of the world where mosquitoes are prevalent, you'll probably already know that one of your biggest annoyances is going to be trying to avoid getting bitten.
Unfortunately, if you're looking for an entirely mosquito-free vacation, your options are going to be limited. In fact, there are only five countries in the world that aren't home to a single mosquito: Antarctica, French Polynesia, Iceland, New Caledonia, and the Seychelles.
Not only are mosquito bites incredibly irritating, their bites can transmit some pretty scary diseases. Dengue fever, malaria, yellow fever, West Nile virus -- catch any of these and you'll be having a memorable trip, but not for the reasons you first thought.
In this article, we share our top tips for avoiding mosquito bites:
Research Which Mosquitoes Are Prevalent in the Area
There are three different types of mosquito that are classed as dangerous and should be avoided.
Culex mosquitoes: These mosquitoes are carriers of West Nile fever, Japanese encephalitis, and lymphatic filariasis. The mosquitoes are small and delicate, and rather plain looking. It exists throughout the tropics. It's the least dangerous of the mosquitoes we're going to discuss, as it is not a vector for some truly nasty diseases, such as malaria or dengue fever. Culex mosquitoes bite at any time of the day.
Anopheles mosquitoes: These mosquitoes are carriers of malaria and are easily identified, thanks to their black and white striped wings.
They're found worldwide, with the exception of the countries mentioned above, and they actively bite just before dawn and just after sunset.
Aedes mosquitoes: This type of mosquito is the most dangerous you can come across. They're carriers of dengue fever, yellow fever, Rift Valley fever, and Chikungunya.
Like the anopheles mosquitoes, you can easily identify aedes mosquitoes: they have a black and white striped body that's easy to spot. While less prevalent than the other types of mosquitoes, their haunts are rapidly expanding, thanks to globilization. They can be found in Southeast Asia, the Americas, Caribbean, Africa, the Middle East, and even Europe. Aedes mosquitoes prefer to bite indoors and will usually target humans. They also bite during the daytime.
Research which mosquitoes are going to be prevalent in the areas you're going to be traveling to, so you know what to be on the look out for, and at what times of day you need to be most careful.
Cover Up As Much as You Can
The less skin you're showing, the less likely it is that you're to be bitten so you'll want to make sure you cover up as much as possible, with long sleeves and pants if you're going to be spending time in mosquito-ridden areas.
Given that mosquitoes live largely in the tropical and sub-tropical regions of the world, it's understandable that you don't want to be wandering around in hot temperatures and 100% humidity in pants and a sweater. Instead, look for floaty long-sleeved cotton shirts to help to keep you cool and some baggy pants for your bottom half.
You definitely don't want to be out exploring in the midday sun in a pair of jeans!
If you're female, sarongs are the perfect travel accessory for covering up exposed skin during the heat of the day.
Use Insect Repellent and Re-Apply Often
The best way to repel mosquitoes is by using insect repellent, and the most effect of these are the ones that contain DEET. Aim to use repellents that have a concentration of 30% and above, upping the percentage if you're in the tropics. We use 50%-75% concentration when mosquitoes are a danger.
In our experience, natural insect repellents (those without chemicals or DEET) do not perform particularly well and are no match for chemical formulae. If you're opposed to the idea of using DEET, here are some links to natural repellents that others have had success with:
- Natural Insect Repellents That Work
- Natural Mosquito Repellents - What You Need to Know
Mosquito Coils Are a Good Back-Up Option
Mosquito coils are a small spiral made up of pyrethrum powder. You light the outer edge of the spiral and it burns slowly towards the inside, producing a mosquito-repelling smoke as it does so. While it's not the most convenient option, it's a good back-up if you don't have repellent.
They're small and lightweight, so we do recommend carrying a small pack and using them in case of emergencies. Each coil lasts for between six and eight hours, and you don't need to use them all in one go, so they're great value for money.
I've found them to be good for using in guesthouses before you head to sleep to make sure the mosquitoes are all out of the room before you turn off the lights. They're also good for using if you're sitting outside on a balcony.
Most restaurants in countries that have mosquitoes will usually have coils that you can light underneath your table so you don't need to carry them around with you outside of your room.
Mosquito Nets Aren't Worth Traveling With, But Use Them if You Have Them!
We'd estimate that 80% of the guesthouses we've stayed at in regions that have a lot of mosquitoes have provided us with a mosquito net -- and the ones that haven't usually don't have a problem with mosquitoes.
If you choose to stay in a well-sealed room as opposed to a hole-ridden bungalow on a beach then mosquitos will be far less of a problem. However, for peace of mind, you could carry a small mosquito net in case you end up somewhere without one. The nets pack up extremely small and are very light so won't be a noticeable addition to your pack. A lot of the mosquito nets you'll come across in guesthouses will have small holes and be dirty, as they'll have been used for years, so it definitely helps to pack your own so that you're 100% sure of the quality.
Mosquito Patches Actually Work
We've been very impressed with the mosquito patches we've used around the world and found them to be effective as a back-up if we're ever out of insect repellent. Simply stick the patches on your clothes if you're heading out and don't want to cover up, or you can either sleep with one stuck on your bed to keep mosquitoes away during the night.
Hang Out Where The Mosquitoes Don't
Mosquitoes are weak fliers so heading anywhere with even so much as a light breeze will help keep them away, as will using the fan in your room. If you don't have a mosquito net, you can aim a fan at your body to keep them away.
Mosquitoes also hate smoke, which is part of the reason why mosquito coils are effective. Campfires are therefore great places to avoid getting bitten.
I've used all of the tips mentioned in this article over the past four years I've been traveling and rarely get bitten. It can be a pain to carry all of these items in your backpack so as a bare minimum I recommend using insect repellent with a high concentration of DEET and covering up at times when mosquitoes are most likely to bite.