Molly spent a summer backpacking through Thailand. Her goal is to share her unforgettable experience through stories and tips about Thailand
Don't Leave Home Without Repellent
In Thailand, many toiletries and first aid supplies are readily available for purchase, but insect repellent is not one of them. Supermarkets and convenience stores will often carry small bottles of Thai brand repellent that will only last a couple of applications. At bigger stores, you may find American brand insect repellent, but it will be in a small bottle at an inflated price. Skip the stress and buy insect repellent before you leave.
Depending on how long your trip is, you will need enough insect repellent to apply 1–2 times daily. While it is most important to apply insect repellent before hikes and outdoor adventures, you should apply repellent to protect yourself in any situation.
Not every hotel and B&B in Thailand is airtight and bug-free. Many of the smaller cities in Thailand are filled with foliage, flowers, and the insects that live in them. Even if you don't plan on trekking through the jungle, there will still be situations when you need to protect yourself from the environment around you.
Preparation for a Pest-Free Trip
- Buy enough insect repellent containing 20–50% DEET for the length of your trip.
- Soak or spray all clothing and gear with permethrin at least 48 hours before your trip.
- Pack and wear the proper clothing to protect your skin from insect exposure.
1. Bring DEET
DEET is the oil in insect repellents that keeps the bugs away. Insect repellents can be purchased with different percentages of DEET.
You should use repellent that has 20–50% DEET by volume. Typically, repellents with a higher percentage of DEET protect the skin for longer periods of exposure. However, you should not use repellents that have more than 50% DEET to avoid DEET toxicity. Repellents with higher than 50% DEET are not proven to be more effective than repellents with 20–50% DEET, only more dangerous to the skin.
Read More from WanderWisdom
DEET Wipes Work Wonders
Wipes are an excellent alternative to sprays and lotions, especially when traveling. Throw a bag of wipes in your pack for a convenient alternative to goops and sprays. In the hot and humid climate of Thailand, or any tropical climate, wipes are an effective way to apply repellent to sweaty skin. This package contains 15 wipes—many more uses than you will get from any travel-size bottle.
2. Bug-Proof Your Gear with Permethrin
Permethrin is an insect repellent designed for your clothing, bedding, and any gear that will be exposed. It is a strong chemical that repels mosquitoes, bed bugs, and other pesky insects. You can purchase permethrin at any outdoor store in either a spray bottle or soaking solution. Spraying your gear will give you up to six weeks of protection while soaking will last beyond six weeks.
Why you should use permethrin:
- Additional, long-lasting protection from insects
- Powerful chemical that does not harm the skin
- Significantly decreases insect bites when used with DEET
Permethrin Application Tips
- Spray or soak your gear at least 48 hours before your trip. It takes time for the permethrin to dry completely, and you don't want to pack damp clothes into your pack or suitcase.
- Apply several coats of permethrin to your gear if using the spray. Since it is a clear solution, it is hard to tell if you have thoroughly sprayed your gear.
- Spray your socks and hats, too. Mosquitoes are relentless and will find even the tiniest spot of exposed skin to bite. Thin materials like cotton do not protect your skin from mosquitoes, so be sure to spray everything, even your socks, headbands, scarves and hats.
3. Don't Leave Any Skin Exposed
In addition to applying insect repellent directly to your skin and soaking your clothes in permethrin, wear clothes that cover your entire body, especially in the jungle.
- Tuck your pant legs into your boots, tuck in your shirt and pop your collar. This will protect you from insect bites, and look cool doing it.
- Purchase a Buff, or convertible scarf that has built-in UV protection and repellent. A Buff, or any scarf, can be used as a dust guard, sun/insect protection, and a bandana. Always pack gear that has many uses, especially when you don't have room for excess.
- Buy soap with insect repellent for days when you cannot limit insect exposure (jungle trek, hiking tours, etc.).