Kotor: Beauty and the Bedbugs

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If ever I had to banished to a small town for the rest of my life, never going beyond the city walls, there would be no better place than Kotor, Montenegro.

I fell in love hard and fast with this beautiful little town.  Kotor is brimming with things that I love: interesting architecture, an incredible natural setting, a genuine small-town feel.  Priests wave hello to tourists here.  Children play football in the streets.

Kotor is like a dream world, set against the most beautiful gray-green mountains you’ve ever seen.

Why would you ever want to go beyond those walls?

I was also looking forward to my final HostelWorld stay: Montenegro Hostel.  It was the one hostel that I specifically requested from HostelWorld.  I knew from as soon as I saw its website that I wanted to stay there!

Montenegro Hostel

I loved this hostel right away.  The location was perfect, right in the heart of the old town.  We had a view of the mountains outside.  It was beautiful, with cozy rooms and an interior dining room decorated to look like a patio.  “It brings the outside of Kotor to the inside,” the girl behind the desk told me.

“I think this is going to be my favorite hostel,” I told Dave as we settled in.  “I love it so much already.”

The next morning, I woke up itchy with what I thought were mosquito bites all over my right arm.

Dave disagreed — he thought they were bedbugs, having seen a bedbug the night before.  I had always thought bedbugs were invisible to the naked eye, so I didn’t believe him.

After our second night, more and more bites appeared, and on my left arm as well.  I counted over 40 bites, yet held on to the belief that it was just mosquitos that were getting me.

But by the time guys at the hostel started saying, “Whooooa!  What happened to your arm, dude?”  I knew I couldn’t deny it any longer.


How I’ve managed to travel for this long without getting bedbugs is beyond me.  And I’m very thankful for that, as BEDBUGS SUCK.

Imagine an uncontrollable itching spreading over your body and NEVER GOING AWAY.  I spent the night desperately scratching my arms in my sleep, prompting Dave to grab my wrists and hiss, “STOP SCRATCHING!” throughout the night.  “YOU DON’T KNOW HOW BAD IT IS!” I would hiss back.

(Dave, for his part, was bite-free and handsome as always.  I’ve since learned that some people don’t react to bedbug bites at all.)

We examined the bed and realized that the bedbugs were nesting primarily in the cloth headboard.  We informed the staff and they were shocked, saying that they’ve never had bedbugs in that room before. They cleaned the room, changed the bedding, and vacuumed all over.  That final night in Montenegro, I didn’t get any new bites.

“So am I supposed to burn my clothes now or something?” I asked Dave.

Turns out the days of burning your clothes are thankfully in the past.  While bedbug remedies vary, we decided to isolate all of the clothing items that had come out of our backpacks (easily done, as this was the final stop on our Balkans trip).  When we got back to England, we washed EVERYTHING we brought on the trip in hot water, which seemed to do the trick.

Not scratching the bites helped speed up the healing.  I was significantly itchy after a few days and was completely fine within a week.  No treatment is necessary for bedbugs.

The Truth

Bedbugs can happen anywhere, anytime.  $3 a night hostels, five-star hotels, and anywhere in between.  It happens primarily when guests bring bedbugs to new locations without realizing it.

I agonized over what to do about the review and talked about my options with Colm from HostelWorld, because I know that a bad review can disproportionately affect a company’s business.  I do not want to hurt Montenegro Hostel’s business.  I sympathize with their predicament — I know that having a blogger get bedbugs was one of the last things they would want to happen.

After thinking it over for weeks, I decided that telling anything less than the complete truth would be dishonest.  Bedbugs are a BIG thing to leave out, and I couldn’t do that in good conscience.

Know this: I really loved this hostel.  I would even stay there again.  But I would look for bedbugs first.  As I now know, they are very visible.

Montenegro Hostel Breakdown

Location: Absolutely perfect location in the heart of the old town.  It’s across from a bar that gets loud at night, but it shuts down at around midnight.  The view above is from our window.

Staff: Very helpful and friendly staff.

Social Atmosphere: The dining room and bar is a great place to meet people, and they serve a 5 euro dinner every night.  It’s a chill, casual hostel — not a party place, but a pretty good hostel for meeting people.

Internet: Excellent in-room wifi.

Cost: $18.40 per person for two people in a private double with shared bath and a view of the mountains.  There are also dorms.

Drawbacks: The bedbug situation.  I wish it hadn’t happened.

Many thanks to HostelWorld and Montenegro Hostel for the complimentary stay.  All opinions, as always, are my own.

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49 thoughts on “Kotor: Beauty and the Bedbugs”

  1. We can sympathize. We once had bed bugs brought into our apartment by a pet sitter. They’re a nightmare. As bad as it is to get bit while traveling, at least you can leave the hostel.

    Bed bugs are hardy little critters, can get just about anywhere, and can live up to two years without feeding. Heat kills them good, though. If you suspect bed bugs in the future, simply find a clothes dryer and throw everything inside for a cycle. Afterward, check the lint trap. If you were carrying any, you’ll see them there, good and dead.

  2. Ew! My biggest nightmare. Luckily, heat does kill them. When we travel, even to 5 Star hotels, we don’t put anything on carpet, I inspect the bedding and I spray everything with an essential oil mixture that’s supposed to kill them. When we get home- NOTHING comes into the house before going into the clothes dryer. I’m not sure the temperature in a hot wash is hot enough to kill these critters. And once they penetrate your house, it’s VERY expensive and a bit toxic to get rid of them. Any hotel can get them- it’s not a cleanliness issue- it’s an issue of someone bringing them in- they LOVE to travel. TG- we’ve been good so far.

  3. What a nightmare ! Looking at your picture, somehow I could feel the itch 🙁
    I’ve never seen bed bugs before. I need to remember all the tips. Just in case…..

  4. Hey! I stayed at that hostel a few months ago! (I promise I didn’t bring the bedbugs – nor there weren’t any on my bed there either).

    They seem to have done some paint and furniture upgrades, it looks great! I loved it. Nice conversations in the balcony with the night shift girl. Awesome staff. I am sorry that this happened to you there of all places, but it can happen anywhere. It would not stop me from going to such a sweet and perfectly located hostel again, and I still recommend everyone to give it a chance.

    I loved that little town too. The dramatic Montenegrin coastline, the old buildings, exploring the walls all the way up the mountain, even the pizza with ketchup grows on you. The only bad thing about Montenegro was that I felt it was a lot more expensive than the rest of the countries in the region, and Podgorica was probably the most dull and anti-climatic place ever, but the coast and the Tara river region are totally worth it.

    1. Alf, I’m glad to hear you loved the hostel, too! I really enjoyed my time there. Such a great place to hang out.

      Montenegro is a lot cheaper than the Dalmatian coast of Croatia — I can definitely tell you that!

  5. Ick ick ick! I’ve gotten spider bites, but now I wonder if they were from bedbugs- not entirely sure how to identify. As I travel a fair bit and have really temperamental skin that reacts violently I’m always worry that this sort of thing will befall me. I always try to stay in newer accommodation, but I don’t know if that helps against bedbugs necessarily. About to start a trip with Busabout tomorrow and will be sleeping in strange hostel beds for the next 8 days… Crossing my fingers!

    Tell me, though, is your reaction normal or an extreme case? Those bites are large in size and number! Glad for your honesty.

    1. You know, I don’t think choosing newer accommodation would make a difference. Bedbugs can really be anywhere.

      I’m not sure if this is an extreme reaction (and that was just on the first day, it got MUCH worse!). I definitely scratched more than I should have, which made them swell up. But if you Google, you’ll immediately see a LOT more horrifying images!

      The telltale sign of bedbugs: three or more bites in a row. As in breakfast, lunch, and dinner for the little buggers.

  6. You handled that situation beautifully! You’re absolutely right, bed bugs can happen anywhere and hopefully your experience won’t disuade people from staying at this hostel because other than the bugs, it sounds pretty great. Good to hear the days of burning clothes are over… I thought I had bed bugs in Thailand and agonized over the thought of my things being permanently infested. (They turned out to be some bug that lives on elephants – even weirder.) Safe travels and thanks for the honest review!

  7. That sounds horrible! I always look for bed bugs, but just last night I crawled into a hotel bed and almost immediately jumped out because I forgot to check! I am so paranoid about bringing them home with me. Thankfully I haven’t encountered any yet. The hostel looks like a nice place to stay though, glad you liked it otherwise.

  8. o0o. Your situation looks similar to the time Q got an outdoor massage in Bali. They massaged this cream onto her and told her to lay still for about 10 minutes while the cream soaked in. During this time, this is when Q’s backside got attacked. We’re talking 30+ bites from either mosquitoes or midge flies. We wondered if they were bed bugs too, luckily it wasn’t. Still… Q is the type that scars from bug bites… =(

    1. Wow, that’s also crazy. And scarring from bed bugs? Yikes!

      I’ve been lucky enough not to have encounters with bugs too badly. The worst encounter was hiking near Machu Picchu in Peru – some sort of weird fly.

  9. I got bed bugs once when I moved into an employer-provided flat above a bar in London. It does suck! Telling the full story about the bed bugs was the right thing to do, too. You handled it well in your post and in no way have discouraged me from seeking this place out in the future! It’s one of the risks you take when traveling internationally.

  10. Bedbugs are the WORST but they happen everywhere. Just look at NYC – bedbugs are ravaging some of the most popular and most expensive clothing stores there. I had bedbugs in Thailand once – I did the exact same thing you did, I tossed everything – including shoes and my backpack – into the laundry and everything was fine. But hey – as much as bedbugs are awful (more so for you with that reaction!! I only get small red bumps – non itchy) they are better than a cockroach infestation. At least in my mind. I can handle bed bugs – I scream like the little girl I am when cockroaches are around! AND unrelated to bedbugs – I absolutely ADORED Kotor. By far from of the prettiest places I’ve ever visited!

  11. That sucks about the bedbugs, Kate. I’ve picked them up once before and god, they’re icky and itch like hell. The Korean pharmacist looked repulsed when I pulled up the translation for “scabies” in my phone dictionary and gave me some lotion that worked like a treat. Had to fork out for all new bedding, though – and not sure how they even got there to begin with?!

    Anyhow, the location of your hostel and Kotor itself look absolutely stunning! You’re winning me over with Montenegro now 🙂

  12. Ah, I completely sympathise. Steve and I got attacked by bed bugs in Sao Palulo in an otherwise amazing hostel. The poor owner was horrified. He closed the whole dorm and had it fumigated! The bites were so so itchy though. We used some hydrocortisone cream on them, which seemed to do the trick – kind of.

  13. Glad you were able to get rid of them! I like people’s tips about the dryer. Great to know.

    What I really like about your blog, Kate, is your honesty and integrity. I think you still portrayed the hostel in a good light, and I’d consider staying there. You tackled the bed bug situation with a lot of maturity and poise. Keep it up!

  14. I’m glad you brought up the fact that bed bugs can happen anywhere, to anyone. As you said, an issue for 5-star hotels and cheap hostels alike. I’ve been lucky in my travels to have avoided bed bugs, but I know a lot of people who have gotten them and it’s no picnic. Bugs aside, I’m drooling at your beautiful photos of Kotor. Happy travels!

  15. Just wanted to stop by and compliment you on the tone you took with this article. In my (very!) humble opinion, I think you did a fantastic job of being fair to both the hostel that sponsored you and to your readers. Makes me appreciate your writing even more to see such an intelligently explained and honest post. Cheers! 🙂

  16. Bedbugs are my worst travel nightmare! It’s just the thought of little insects crawling all over you and sucking your blood when you’re sleeping that scares the crap out of me. I had an unfortunate encounter with bedbugs once when I was traveling in Qatar, and the itching didn’t go away for 4 months! I always check for them now when I’m traveling.

  17. Oh no – bedbugs is probably the last thing you expected, I know it would be for me – yuck!!! Visited Kotor last year during a trip to Croatia and Bosnia – agree that it’s very beautiful in that medieval type of way – very photogenic too – did you climb the hill?

  18. Great post. I’ve always wanted to get to Montenegro! Bed bugs do suck, lucky enough to be one of those people who don’t get bitten but i’ve seen the effects, not cool. I always take a sheet that i’ve stitched into a home made sleeping bag liner I take with me when I travel in case the beds are a bit dodgy, works for me.

  19. Eeeek! I know just how wretched bedbugs are as I experienced them a few years ago when I stayed at a hostel in Brussels. Thankfully I was only there one night, but it scarred me (thankfully only emotionally!), and now I fastidiously check the beds of every place I stay (last night I though I saw one here in Hiroshima, but thankfully, just a random flea!). Too bad that happened, because no matter how great a place is otherwise, that would definitely put a damper on things… not feeling safe in your bed is the worst!

  20. Glad you were honest! You’re right bedbugs can happen anywhere, but warning visiting to check and know what to be prepared for is priceless advise! Thanks for your honesty! Sorry for your bedbug experience! You have been very lucky with all the travel you do to not have gotten any bites until now!

    Sally Stretton

  21. I think you handled this review perfectly. You have to mention it, but it’s important to know that bed bugs can happen anywhere. It’s not just a problem with cleanliness, it’s uncontrollable. I had bed bugs in a chain hotel I stayed at and since then have been paranoid. I always look on this one bed bug site before booking and have found that a ridiculous number of places in cities around the world have had them at some point. It sucks to get them, but it’s important to report so the hotel or hostel can fix their problem.

  22. I had a similar thing happen to me when i was traveling! only when i got home i found that they hitched a ride in my luggage. It was a major infestation. and cost me thousands of dollars to get rid of them. now when i travel i use luggage from http://www.thermalstrike.com because they have bed bug protection. I hope you didn’t have to fight them at home like i did.

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