Mosquito Nets – Traveling in Southeast Asia

So you’re packed, ready to go and heading to Southeast Asia… but have you decided whether to bring along a mosquito net? This was the same question I had asked myself before I embarked on my trip to Southeast Asia. Most of what I had brought on my trip, I had planned to take before leaving my home country but I knew it would be months before I ever made it to SE Asia on my travel route since I was starting in Europe. So I kept asking myself, “Do I need to buy a mosquito net? Is it worth bringing a mosquito net from home? Won’t the places I stay in already have them?” After 4 months traveling through Southeast Asia, I can offer some travel advice when it comes to these nagging questions.

But first, getting to the true reasons why you would even need a mosquito net…

The main two things you want to avoid getting while in Southeast Asia is Malaria and to a lesser degree Dengue Fever. Yes you can catch both in this area and yes both are serious. Without going into all the details (as conditions and treatments are changing rapidly) you can find more information in this article about Malaria in Southeast Asia. And for those unfamiliar with Dengue Fever, here is an article discussing Dengue Fever… what it is, how it’s transmitted, its symptoms and how to treat it. The truth is, both suck and you want to do everything you can to avoid getting either one!

So getting at the heart of why I decided to write this article in the first place, my friend had caught Dengue Fever while we were traveling in Thailand! From the symptoms she had, I first thought she had Malaria but after getting to the hospital, we later found out it was Dengue. She first started feeling bad while we were hiking and she later got much worse as the day progressed. For more on our experience, you can catch my post, “Huay Xai to Chang Rai Thailand“. To make a long story short, it definitely altered our travel plans and our route for the next 7 days…

So is it worth buying a mosquito net and keeping it with you? The best questions to ask yourself is where you plan on traveling as well as where you plan to sleep at night. For instance, if you’re traveling into Bangkok or Hanoi and only planning to stay in the big cities for your travels, chances are you’ll be less at risk. Busy cities just aren’t going to have as much of a problem with mosquitoes like more remote or wooded areas. However, if you’re backpacking and plan to spend time outside the big cities and do things most backpackers do like go hiking, visit small towns, take a trip into the jungles, etc. then you’ll have a much more ‘at risk’ trip (although more fun) than the average traveler or tourist.

Mosquito Nets - Traveling in Southeast Asia - Bamboo hut

This is definitely the “open air” type of hut I’m referring to…

The other factor to consider is the places you’ll be staying in. Going from sleeping in tents out in the jungles to a night in a hotel in the big city will make a big difference in deciding whether packing a mosquito net is really necessary. However, I have stayed in some very shady guesthouses with broken screens on the windows as well as hostels and guesthouses that have a practice of leaving windows open day and night. For the most part though, you can always check out a room before staying to see if it is likely mosquito proof.

Mosquito Nets - Traveling in Southeast Asia

We used these mosquito nets in a small bamboo hut in Laos. There were no glass windows in the place, just open air surrounding us at night

So that first question you ask, is it worth buying one from home? Well, if you’re leaving from your home country and traveling straight to SE Asia for the beginning of your trip, it could be worth getting one then since you may only be carrying it a short number of days before needing it. However, keep in mind most places will have these available for sale. Of course if you’re like me and you love to do your research on all the different types of travel gear including reading reviews on the best stuff, seeing the ratings on quality, checking to make sure you buy things light weight… well then, buying from home may be the best way to go as you’ll likely not have this luxury of selection, research and time at your disposal when buying one overseas.

When we traveled in Laos, we had stopped in for a while to volunteer for 10 days in a small village outside of Vang Vieng. We stayed in an open air hut with nothing but sleeping bags on the floor but with mosquito nets draped over us. To be honest, I was more relieved to be able to keep out the huge spiders and scorpions that were around than the mosquitoes.

Scorpion in Vang Vieng Laos

This little guy was NOT getting in past my mosquito net! (At least I was hoping) – I figured a shot of one of the scorpions we found in Laos would be better than a nasty mosquito shot…

Either way, it served its purpose for us. We were definitely putting on mosquito spray during the day which was very helpful.

In the end, the decision on whether to buy a mosquito net and use it when needed is completely up to you. My goal is just to educate you about the area and aid in the decision-making process as everyone is different. You could compare it to those travelers that buy travel insurance before leaving home vs. those that never buy any. Some people will do it, others will just take the chance. The decision to buy one or even use one when you travel is entirely up to you. I didn’t come across too many travelers that kept one in their bag but there were a good many of us that were using them when needed in certain areas. I always say, better safe than sorry. And you sure don’t want to end up like my friend that caught Dengue!

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8 Comments... Join the conversation below

  • Francis Cassidy November 24, 2013, 11:52 am

    Great article Rory. I planning on heading to SE Asia at some point next year, and choose not to bring a net from home, thinking I’d pick one up on the road nearer the time.

    I did read somewhere that in many risk areas in SE Asia that a net will be provided, but that many are torn in places. Is this the case in your experience?

    • Rory November 24, 2013, 1:29 pm

      Yes, you could do that and be fine. Especially if you don’t want to lug one around before you get there. As for the ones that are torn, this is common. Same with window screens. Often they’ll have holes in them. I always carried some black duct tape with me for random situations and this came in handy more than once for that specific thing. I basically took apart a pen so I was left with about 2″ worth then wrapped duct tape around it several times that way it was small and compact for traveling. Comes in handy for all those torn mosquito nets, screens and quite a bit more ‘backpacking fixes’:)

  • Trevor January 2, 2014, 12:02 am

    I let my friend use one of my spare net tents for her trip to Vietnam last year and she said that at night, she could literally hear the spiders and roaches running across the wood floor of her hostel room. I gave her the tent for the mosquitoes but she said she didn’t even care about the mosquitoes when she saw the spiders, she was just glad to have something between her and the spiders at night.

    How quickly did your friend recover from dengue fever? That must have been rough!

    • Rory January 2, 2014, 12:02 pm

      Wow that sounds like a rough place! Hopefully they just stayed there that one night…Reminds me of the time I slept on the floor an open air hut in Laos with scorpions and spiders scurrying about. I had that net tucked up underneath me!

      My friend was sick w/ Dengue for about 5 days. We had gone to three different hospitals for care before all was said and done. Definitely not fun!

  • Tom Wallace July 23, 2014, 12:25 pm

    Thanks Rory. There’s a few backpackers websites suggesting not taking a net. It all depends where you go of course but there are some good compact and light ones these days that provide a safe guard. I’ve been east and west of Bali and frequently not found nets. Much easier to buy and pack b4 you go.

    • Rory July 23, 2014, 1:55 pm

      Yes, and that can be the problem. I’m actually planning a trip to Indonesia soon and wasn’t sure how things were going to be there with needing a mosquito net. I’d say for anyone planning to spend a lot of time outside the city areas, it can be a great idea to grab one before you go. I even kept duct tape in my pack in case there were some screens with holes in them in the windows. Ridiculous but works! Some areas are definitely worse than others… thanks for the comment!

  • Laura Blosser September 23, 2015, 2:48 am

    So which net did you end up getting?

    • Rory September 23, 2015, 7:16 am

      Hi Laura, I actually ended up using my friend’s who I was traveling with for quite some time although we only needed it in certain situations (when we were staying in open air huts or villas like you see in this post. Where are you traveling to?

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