Avoiding bug bites while travelling

Bugs like mosquitoes, ticks and tsetse flies can give you diseases when they bite you. While mosquitoes in New Zealand don’t carry diseases, in other countries they can be dangerous.

The Safe Travel website has more detailed information about health risks overseas, including diseases like dengue fever or malaria that are carried by insects. Check their site for current health alerts.

Bugs to be aware of

  • Mosquitoes that carry malaria or Japanese encephalitis are more active in the evening and at night. If you’re travelling in an area that has these diseases, be especially vigilant at those times.  
  • Mosquitoes that carry dengue, yellow fever or Zika are more active in the daytime.
  • Tsetse flies are large flies found in mid-continental Africa, particularly in vegetated areas. Their bite can cause sleeping sickness.
  • Ticks flourish in warm, humid climates such as the Australian bush. They can carry many diseases.

How to avoid being bitten


  • Use screens on doors and windows.
  • Use insect sprays.
  • Use mosquito coils.
  • Use a mosquito net over your bed at night. You can spray this with pesticide if you wish.
  • Turn on air conditioning if you have it – this is very effective at keeping mosquitoes out of a room.


  • Wear a repellent cream or spray, preferably containing diethyltoluamide (DEET). Repellents containing less than 35% DEET are recommended because higher concentrations are no more effective – they just work for longer – and in rare cases they can cause poisoning. Other products containing 20-25% picaridin and those containing about 30% lemon eucalyptus oil (equating to about 20% para-methane-diol (PMD)) are also appropriate to use. Repellents should not be applied to wounds, irritated skin, eyes or mouth.

  • Wear protective clothing such as long-sleeved shirts, long pants and hats. Clothing can be treated with repellent.
  • Wear light-coloured clothing – ticks and other critters are more easily detected on a light background and tsetse flies are attracted to dark, contrasting colours.
  • Use zip-up screens on tents.
  • Avoid places where mosquitoes are most active, such as swampy areas.

Note that vitamin B doesn’t prevent mosquito bites.

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