How to avoid mosquitoes in Thailand
Let’s make sure Thailand’s mosquitoes are firmly uninvited from your holiday. Here's what you need to know..
How to avoid mosquitoes in Thailand
Are you coming to Thailand with the glum knowledge that you’re a walking mosquito magnet? Mosquitoes in Thailand are a big question if you’re new to the tropics or coming with children. However, protecting yourself is easy, once you know a few local tricks (and what to bring with you). Let’s make sure Thailand’s mosquitoes are firmly uninvited from your holiday. Here's what you need to know...
Mosquito protection 101
Are there mosquitoes in Thailand?
Oh, you bet there are. Thailand’s tropical and there’s lots of water – mosquito heaven. Your experiences with mosquitoes in Thailand will vary, depending on (A) where you’re coming from, and, (B) whereabouts in Thailand you plan to spend your time. If you’re used to the tropics and/or mosquitoes – there’s nothing unusual about the number and ferocity of Thai mozzies. However, if you can usually eat dinner outside without mosquito interruption, then they’ll seem a greater nuisance.
1. Use reliable repellent
My favourite: Incognito Anti-Mosquito Spray
FYI – I'm not sponsored, paid or perked in any way to promote this, or any product. I "discovered" Incognito on Amazon and buy the stuff in boat-loads as a normal customer turned raving fan (I nearly love it as much as coffee).
How to prevent mosquito bites in Thailand?
As when escaping a crocodile on foot… you don’t need to out-run him, you just need to out-run someone else. Mosquitoes only need a finite amount of blood per day – no one said it had to be yours. As such, my first recommendation is to go 'Incognito' against Thai mosquitoes. Incognito, in my opinion, is THE best mosquito repellent for Thailand, by a wide mile. I absolutely swear by this stuff – it's DEET-free, and, in my ongoing, (nearly decade-long) Incognito love affair test phase, I've found it works perfectly against Thai mosquitoes *and* house flies.
More good news – Not only does the stuff work – REALLY work – but they're a totally ethical company, too – no animal testing, solar-powered offices, electric vehicles, 10% of profits to environmental charities and on and on. They're seriously the good guys.
Here's the bad news – since Covid , Incognito has disappeared from Amazon U.S. and Amazon Canada and is now (as far as I can tell) only available in the UK, where the company is based, and occasionally on Amazon Europe. I don't know whether it's a supply-chain situation or a permanent change (I'm keeping an eye open and will update if it changes). For now, if you're in North America or elsewhere internationally, perhaps you can find a nice Brit to mail you some. (You can't buy it in Thailand so no luck there).
North American alternatives
Otherwise, three highly reviewed natural (DEET-free and cruelty-free) options available in the U.S. and Canada are:
- Murphy's Naturals Lemon Eucalyptus Insect Repellent
- Wondercide Mosquito, Tick, Fly, and Insect Repellent
- California Baby Natural Bug Repellant Spray
All of the above, including Incognito, come in multi-packs of two or three bottles. For a 10-day or two-week trip, I'd generously estimate one bottle (100-ish mls) per person, however, I prefer to have backups and like to keep a bottle in my toiletries bag for after the shower and another in my day bag/handbag. It's not something I want to feel like I have to ration. Like gin =)
Tip: If you can't be swayed to the Whole Foods netherworld, Sawyer Products Premium Insect Repellent has stronger chemicals (20% Picaridin), but no DEET. Of any 'middle ground' (not-totally-natural, but DEET-free) mosquito repellent – this one is most popular with my readers, though I haven't used it myself (and wouldn't, as I love Incognito so much).
Do you need mosquito repellent in Thailand?
As a piece of fresh meat, yes. YES. Left to cavort as they like, even one mosquito can inflict a dotty red mess on your legs. The few seconds it takes to apply some bug spray will ensure your trip is so much more enjoyable.
When is best to apply it?
Get in the habit of applying bug spray whenever you go outside in Thailand – especially around your ankles and knees. I keep one bottle of Incognito in my toiletries bag and spray it on immediately after drying from the shower, before getting dressed. This way any areas that might get covered, like beneath a bra strap, are protected. I keep a second bottle in my bag and reapply as needed through the day – particularly into the evening.
Double up on your insect repellant when heading away from civilisation or towards adventure: any hiking, zip-lining, bike tours, etc. Experience has taught me to nearly empty the bottle on any exposed skin before taking a Bangkok canal tour – it might be the most mosquito-bitey part of Thailand.
More ways to protect yourself
2. Add a mosquito repellent bracelet
The easiest, laziest way to protect yourself. Absolutely the best trick in the book – put mosquito protection ‘up your sleeve’. These mosquito-repelling bracelets are totally natural and DEET-free. Your choice here is only aesthetic – the plastic spiral bracelets are the most popular and come individually wrapped to ensure efficacy. The neoprene wristbands are soft, and a good idea for kids, babies and sensitive-skin wussies. Their protective magic lasts between 10-15 days. Both varieties are waterproof.
3. Safeguard your space (and your sleep)
There’s nothing worse than waking up to the sound of a mosquito near your head. Especially when you’re jet-lagged. If you’d like a repellant to work in your hotel room overnight, Incognito offers a portable room refresher that lasts 6 weeks. I've used it myself and love its total set-and-forget convenience. It's a small plastic time with magic inside. Just pack it in your suitcase and open the lid in your hotel room on arrival. It has a light scent and cannot spill. Compared to the terrifying toxicity of the burnable coils (not to mention the fire hazard and limited period of use), this is an ideal travel solution.
Additionally, the highly reviewed Mosqui-Go-Duo is a travel plug-in that fits Thai plugs and is the right voltage. It's extremely popular with blog readers (I haven’t tried it myself as – again – Incognito has a more natural alternative). As well, leave your fan circulating, and the air-conditioning on while you sleep at night.
Note: As with Incognito products, I've noticed that the Mosqui-Go-Duo is occasionally unavailable on Amazon – I'm guessing another Covid/supply chain thing – but it always pops back up. So if it's there now and you want it, best to grab it.
U.S. alternative? While the above options, currently, are only available on Amazon UK, the best natural option I can find (that's easy to travel with) is Murphy's Naturals Mosquito Repellent Candle. (It comes in its own travel tin). If you're staying somewhere with outside space and are looking forward to happy hours/dinners/evening contemplation (AND can be trusted to be safe and attentive to an open flame), it's an alternative to locally available mosquito coils.
4. Get squeaky clean (but don't add scent)
Instead of scented body washes, use (A) unscented soap or, better yet, (B) insect-repelling soaps infused with essential oils that mosquitoes avoid. Again, Incognito to the rescue with a mosquito-repelling citronella hair and body wash.
A U.S. body wash alternative is a travel-sized Dr Bronner's – either unscented or eucalyptus.
Once you're squeaky clean, consider a triple-threat combo with an unscented deodorant. Avoid aftershave or perfume to better avoid mosquitoes.
5. Lather your loofah ...
This one's weird – but it one thousand per cent works and is probably the step you'll like best. Start your mosquito war before you leave for Thailand: hit the shower, and lather up a loofah. Exfoliate your skin with one of these beauties – a loofah with a citronella, mosquito-repelling bar of soap inside. Again, it's from Incognito – so it's 100% natural.
I was dubious when I first used myself as a guinea pig ... today, dozen or more loofahs later, I'm a rabid convert. What's the science? Exfoliating your skin eliminates the chemical combos that result from (A) perspiration and (B) dead skin cells mixing ... a concoction that attracts mosquitoes to you. Deny them their drug of choice!
U.S. alternatives are Wondercide's Repel Soap Bar (which uses citronella and geranium) and "Ain't Buggin Me" Soap (which uses citronella, eucalyptus and lemongrass), then exfoliate with your own loofah. This soap pocket/pouch easily accommodates a DIY approach or ... if you prefer military precision, there's the Tactical Scrubber (which sounds very serious indeed).
6. Wipe-on warfare and more
In addition to a quality mosquito repellent spray, bracelets, toiletries and 'no-fly zone' devices like plug-ins or candles, you've got even more choices to fine-tune your mosquito defence. Consider 'wipe-on warfare' for kids or babies, as you'll have greater control in application versus a spray.
Speaking of control – never forget you have choices. In addition to using quality mosquito repellent, there are lots of ways to prevent mozzie bites. Here are 5 more ways to enjoy Thailand mosquito-free:
- Lotion: Incognito Insect Repellent Lotion (UK)
- Balm: Murphy's Naturals Mosquito Repellent Balm
- Roll-on: Incognito Insect Repellent Roll-On (UK)
- Clip-on: PARA'KITO Mosquito Insect & Bug Repellent Clip
- Patches: RiptGear Mosquito Repellent Patches
Tips for mosquito bite relief
How to treat mosquito bites in Thailand?
While it looks like a toy, the Zap Ease Bite Relief device is a piece of engineering magic. I was scared to try it – expecting self-inflicted electrocution. I can vouch that it's 100% painless, very effective, and weirdly compulsive. The U.S. equivalent, bite away®, looks like a pregnancy test but does the same zappy job in 3 to 5 seconds.
How to handle mosquito bites like a pro?
Should the unthinkable happen and you get bitten, these are my favourite methods for stopping any discomfort. (If you get bitten after taking all of the above precautions? 10:1 it happened on a Bangkok canal tour – battleground zero for mosquito warfare).
- On the go: Bug Bite Itch & Sting Relief Stick
- Most popular: After-Bite Cream
- Travel-sized: Insect Bite Relief Soothing Balm
- Pen: After Bite Itch Eraser (smells bad, works great)
Tip: A small tube of hydrocortisone cream is great to have in your travel bag in case you’re bitten (it’ll take away the redness and itching). Keep it in your day bag rather than back at the hotel with your toiletries. Alternatively, stick with a name-brand that's saved you from scratching, every time: Benadryl Anti-Itch Gel. While Thai pharmacies are generally excellent, hydrocortisone cream is incredibly hard to find in Thailand. Locals use Tiger Balm, which is soothing but I find it does little for the redness of a mosquito bite.
What are mosquito bites like in Thailand?
In my experience, Thai mosquito bites don't itch as much as North American mosquito bites but turn into fairly significant red dots that can last for a week or more. On very rare occasions (just a few times in nearly twenty years of visits), I've either had a bad reaction to a bite (or have been bitten by a meaner insect than a mosquito) and developed a large red welt.
Tip: Caught short? Using a random tip from the internet, I applied a paste of water and bicarb/baking soda to the bite and found it was significantly reduced by the time the paste had dried. To do the same, please buy your bicarb/baking soda locally (DON’T bring a bag of random white powder into Thailand!). Any of the above would make a neater and certainly more convenient solution.
Your mosquito questions
Is there malaria/dengue fever in Thailand?
Yes, malaria is known in parts of Thailand, particularly rural northern areas and border regions (see map – dark red indicates malarial regions). Dengue fever occurs across a wider region. Take greater precaution if headed to Thailand’s ‘back and beyond’ as mosquitoes in such parts of Thailand can carry malaria, dengue fever and other diseases you definitely don't want. For what it's worth, Incognito insists it offers clinically proven malaria protection (and also repels houseflies). For the best precautions specific to your travel plans, I recommend checking with your country's health authority for their current (and expert) advice. Here's World Nomads on the subject:
For some good news, many popular Thai tourist destinations (including Phuket and Koh Samui) are malaria-free. Much is being done to reduce the incidence of dengue fever. I stress that the chances of getting dengue on Koh Samui, or elsewhere in Thailand, remain small. However, always tend with caution, use bug spray religiously and make sure you've got good travel insurance before your departure.
Is there malaria/dengue fever on Koh Samui?
Koh Samui does not have malaria. However, there are reported cases each year of dengue fever, or “dengue-lite” with similar symptoms of headaches, fever and fatigue. While it’s a rare occurrence (your experience is a million-to-one likely to be just a few red or itchy bites), you still wear your seatbelt as a precaution, right?
What are those mosquito coils? Do we need them? Where do we get them?
Restaurants, bars and hotels in Thailand often burn mosquito coils at ground level, especially in the evening. If you’d like to use coils on your hotel balcony, you could ask housekeeping for a few (if they’re not already provided), or buy your own at any 7-Eleven. They’re definitely not ‘natural’ but they do work. To stick with the holier-than-thou zero-toxicity, no animal-cruelty theme, try Incognito's citronella incense sticks or, in the U.S./Canada, Murphy’s Naturals Mosquito Repellent Incense Cones. Both are easy to pack and they weigh nothing.
Do we need mosquito nets for our beds?
You shouldn’t find mosquito nets necessary – unless you’re staying in an extremely basic bungalow (thatched walls or roofs) or are otherwise open to the elements. If you're winging your itinerary, will be staying in budget spots and want to know you're covered for any circumstance, this travel mosquito net packs to about the size of a dinner plate or frisbee. In general, if it's necessary, it will be provided and in many cases is just there for the dreamy tropical aesthetic.
Is there any special clothing for avoiding mosquitoes in Thailand?
For your day-to-day beach resort holiday, there’s no reason to adjust what you’ll wear in Thailand (though light colours are said to be less appealing to a mosquito selection panel). For a quick list, see:
In my experience, it's less about what you wear than making sure you've sprayed Incognito repellent underneath it all. (Top secret tip? Don't forget to spray your, um, bottom. Your juicy buns = mosquito Thanksgiving).
Do you need long sleeves or trousers?
For a beach or city holiday, don’t pack them especially as mosquito combat. It’s not necessary and you’ll be truly uncomfortable. The exception: if you’re heading off towards “nature” all exploratory, in which case balance the added mosquito protection against the need to stay cool. If you have light-weight ‘outdoorsy’ gear that will keep your arms and legs covered, by all means! At this point, you'll want to add socks and closed-toed shoes, as well. Again, don't miss my advice on what to wear in Thailand as well as the best shoes for Thailand.
Do we need DEET for Thailand? If so, what strength?
You’ll hear people swearing by full-strength DEET for avoiding mosquitoes in Thailand – isn’t it best? After DEET bleached my clothes (and a pair of black flip-flops were turned white), I'm terrified of the stuff. My (totally non-medical opinion) is that if it bleaches rubber on contact… what toxic things does it do to your inside bits?
The DEET choice is up to you and might depend on where in Thailand you’re headed. A few parts of Thailand have malaria, mostly along the Myanmar, Laos, Cambodia and Malaysian borders – though not in main tourist destinations like Bangkok, Phuket and Koh Samui. Unless I was heading into the absolute back of beyond (which, owing to a snake phobia, I wouldn't anyway), I personally would never use it. If you want to persevere with DEET, without melting your flip-flops, look for a lower percentage (10-30%).
Tip: For a more balanced view on DEET (admittedly mine is not), World Nomads has actual medical data for you and some tips for combining it with sunscreen. (Final tip? Avoid your eyes).
Any tips for choosing a hotel in Thailand without mosquitoes?
You're never going to find a Thai hotel without mosquitoes and hoping as such will set you up for disappointment. You're the visitor, they live there. Tips for fewer mosquitoes? Yes. First – geography. Mosquitoes in Thailand love still water and humid, airless environments. On the contrary, they can’t fly in a breeze. This often makes the beach twice as nice. (Also look for photos while hotel-hunting of ceiling fans and room fans).
Second – once you've got a shortlist of two or three hotels, ask them about their mosquito control methods. Many hotels in Thailand spray for mosquitoes, so you’ll find them much less a problem in your hotel than ‘out in the real world’. Some eco-resorts use only natural methods, while others regularly blast every square inch with a repellent fog. (To continue with the 'stay safe while avoiding chemicals' theme, Garrya Tongsai Bay uses the aforementioned natural mosquito fog – highly recommended).
What's the situation with Zika in Thailand?
I'm not a doctor and this totally isn't medical advice, but here's what the CDC currently has to say about Zika virus in Thailand (with a map here).
When is mosquito season in Thailand?
There’s either no mosquito season in Thailand, or it’s always mosquito season. The temperature, humidity and availability of fresh tourist meat are quite to their liking all year round. They might amp up their numbers in rainy season but who’s counting?
Where to buy mosquito repellent in Thailand?
Though local lemongrass formulas and ‘Off!’ brand sprays are available across Thailand (including every 7-Eleven and corner shop), I recommend that you bring at least some repellent from home so you’re ready right away (especially if you’re staying more than a short walk from a chemist/pharmacy). Do you have sensitive skin and/or will be coming to Thailand with children? If so, pack your preferred brand of repellant that you know to be suitable. (You will never find Incognito on Thai shelves). You'll always be able to find some mosquito repellent in Thailand, though the selection is far greater in Western countries. It's often cheaper, too.
When to wear mosquito repellent in Thailand?
Always, but especially in the evening. The mosquito that carries dengue, the Aedes Mozzie (rhymes with Hades), does fly during the day but is more likely to bite in the early morning and evening. Mosquitoes tend to be most active at everyone's favourite time – sunset. It's so pretty you remain blissfully unaware of the chomp-chomp-chomp happening at ankle level. Going out for the evening? Sunset cocktails? Mozzie spray as you walk out the door.
Any more random tips?
Just two – you'll like them.
Get a bat, go to battle
For another chemical-free option, older kids (and man-children) might love an electric mosquito bat – a masochistic sport you may or may not want to encourage. Available at most Thai shops, including Tesco, it dispatches a mosquito with a – I admit – very satisfying pop. Extra points if it sparks.
Electric mosquito rackets are banned in both carry-on and checked luggage on Bangkok Airways (and presumably other airlines as well). Use the one on Amazon for practice at home, and plan to leave any Thailand racketry behind when you leave.
Eat more B vitamins
Folklore (not actual science) suggests that Marmite and Vegemite (or any increase in B vitamins), as well as eating local ingredients (curries, etc) make you less appetising. To start topping up in advance, I can recommend the following unlikely combinations: Marmite and marmalade, or Marmite and avocado.
Worth a read
- Thailand Travel Safety Guide
- How to Avoid Mosquito Bites: What You Need to Know
- 10 Things to Check Before Checking Into a Budget Hotel
How to Avoid Mosquitoes in Thailand
If you're not reduced to a citronella blur, keep planning the (far more fun) aspects of your trip with hotel and travel guides below. Enjoy!
- Hotels: Where to Stay on Koh Samui?
- Travel Guides: The Best Thailand Travel Guides
- Sunsets: The Best Places for Sunsets on Koh Samui
P.S. You can find hundreds of useful Thailand travel tips in the archive, or subscribe by email and get all the details straight to your inbox. Enjoy!