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.
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.
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.
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!