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.

Fight the bite, day and night

Cover up

  • Wear long, loose fitting, 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 a repellent, preferably containing less than 35 percent diethyltoluamide (DEET). Always read the instructions
  • Apply repellent after sunscreen.

Important repellent information

Use insect repellent, preferably containing diethyltoluamide (DEET). High concentrations of DEET protect better, but concentrations over 35% (about 350 g/L) are not recommended if there is a choice of products available. This is because in rare cases they can cause poisoning. Other products containing 20–25% picaridin (about 200–250 g/L) and those containing about 30% oil of lemon eucalyptus (equating to about 20% para-methane-diol (PMD)) can also be used. Repellents should not be applied to wounds, irritated skin, eyes or mouth.

Note that vitamin B doesn’t prevent mosquito bites.


  • Stay in places with screens on windows and doors or sleep under mosquito nets.
  • Use air conditioning or fans if available.
  • Use insect sprays indoors when mosquitoes are around.
  • Use mosquito coils.
  • Stay away from places where mosquitoes are most active or breeding such as stagnant water.
  • Use zip-up screens on tents.

[Title: Fight the bite, day and night]

Travelling overseas?

Fight the bite day and night.

[Dr Laupepa Va'a to camera]

Talofa lava, my name is Dr Laupepa Va'a from the Ministry of Health.

Mosquitoes in some countries can spread diseases like dengue fever, malaria, yellow fever and the Zika virus that can make you or your loved ones very sick.

The best way to avoid these diseases is to avoid getting bitten during the day, and at night!  

Encourage family and other group members to do this too. Everyone needs to be kept safe.

[Footage of insect repellent being applied to a child as well as arms, hands and feet]

Simple things work best:

Use insect repellent, especially when you are outside. Some work better than others. You can find more information about this on our website.

[Footage showing sunscreen being applied, followed by insect repellent]

If you use both sunscreen and insect repellent, put the sunscreen on first and then the repellent.

[Footage showing a long sleeved shirt being rolled down, buttoning up shirt, adjusting long pants, hat being put on child's head]

Wear clothes that protect you from mosquitoes: light coloured long-sleeved shirts, long pants and hats are ideal.

[Footage showing clothes being sprayed with insect repellent]

You can spray your clothing with insect repellent too to help stop mosquitoes biting through your clothes.

[Footage showing insect repellent being reapplied to arms and feet]

Remember to reapply the repellent as you would on your skin, because it wears off over time.

[Footage showing mosquito coil being lit and image of tent with screen door]

You can use mosquito coils and if you’re camping, use insect screens on tents.

[Footage showing air conditioning unit and ceiling fan]

When you’re inside:

Turn on the air conditioning if you have it - cool air keeps mosquitoes away.

[Footage showing insect spray being used and image of insect screen on door/window]

Use insect sprays and try to stay in places with insect screens on windows and doors.

[Still images showing mosquito nets over beds]

If you are not staying somewhere with air conditioning or insect screens, sleep under a mosquito net at night, or put on  insect repellent before you go to bed.

[Dr Laupepa Va'a to camera]

If you feel sick during your trip or after you come home, get medical advice.

If you are back in NZ you can call Healthline for free. Or see your family doctor and make sure you tell them about your travel.

You can find out more on the Ministry of Health website.

The Safe Travel website has more detailed information about health risks overseas, including diseases like dengue 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.
Back to top