Take the Bite Out of Your Trip

By Scott Vogel
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, January 27, 2008

Q. My wife and I plan to visit the Indian subcontinent next month. During previous trips we encountered mosquitoes in the bedroom, even during the cold months. They not only bit us but kept us awake with their "singing." Can you suggest a remedy?

Kafayat Rahmani, Manassas

A. Not for their singing, unfortunately, which is not among the animal kingdom's most lullaby-esque. As for the biting, there are several reasonably effective antidotes, although visiting India during the "cold months" from October to February (when average low temperatures hover between 40 and 60 degrees, depending on the latitude) is not one of them. Mosquitoes and the illnesses they can carry -- among them malaria and something called chikungunya fever -- are present at all times of the year.

"Travelers should not use temperature as a guideline on what type of protection they need against mosquitoes," says Shelly Diaz, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Centers for Disease Control. No matter when you visit a bug-prone area, "avoid outdoor activity at dawn, dusk and after dark, when mosquitoes are most active." Additionally, all the usual precautions apply, including minimizing skin exposure through the use of hats, long pants and long-sleeved shirts, and using DEET-containing repellent properly. (Detailed information is available on the CDC's "Travelers' Health" page at

Keep in mind, however, that repellents -- as the name implies -- will only repel bugs, which is why the World Health Organization's recommendations include spraying indoor areas with an aerosol insecticide before bedtime. Also, "bed nets are a good idea if your room isn't properly screened," Diaz says.

"Nets can be used either with or without insecticide treatment," says the WHO Web site, in a report titled "International Travel and Health" that you can download free at "However, treated nets are much more effective."

Obviously, much depends on where you go on the subcontinent. If you've any doubt about the regions you're traveling to and the potential dangers they pose, plan to visit a specialist in travel medicine well before your departure date. (The CDC Web site has links to help you find one in your area.)

Says Diaz, "The travel medicine specialist can go over the itinerary and help them determine more-specific risks." Depending on your destination, these can include the aforementioned malaria, dengue fever, Japanese encephalitis and that chikungunya fever, which we'd love to tell you more about, but we quickly clicked out of the page after seeing the profuse rash it causes.

Two friends and I are looking for a travel midpoint that we can each get to via nonstop flights. One lives in Tokyo, one in New York and I live in Reston. Do you have any suggestions?

Barbara Judge, Reston

Three friends, three glittering world cities. Where to go? By the way, we often get compromise destination questions here at Q&A, and our general rule is to pick places that require the shortest average flying time for the participants. With that in mind, you're going on a trip for three to -- cue "Price Is Right" music -- SEATTLE! Boasting several nonstop flights for all involved, a great culinary scene, a dynamic theater community and a coffee culture that practically begs old friends to spend hours catching up, Seattle is just a touch less exotic than our No. 2 recommendation: Vancouver. British Columbia's largest metropolis is almost as convenient for the parties involved and possesses just as much to recommend it, even as the 2010 Winter Olympics loom large on the horizon. Oh, yeah, don't forget: Tickets for the games go on sale this October. For more information, visit


With regard to the reader interested in taking a cross-country driving trip (Jan. 20), Ilona Carroll of Chevy Chase writes: "I went on one this past summer. . . . 'Let's Go Roadtripping USA: The Complete Coast-to-Coast Guide to America' book was extremely helpful and fun. It points out entertaining and obscure sights, budget accommodations (and campsites) and good places to eat." Porzia Purves of Mechanicsville says to "get yourself an atlas, highlighter and a notebook. Plan to take three weeks of the best time off you can, and start planning your trip today. . . . Challenge yourself to find something unique and memorable in each state, and most of all take your time and have fun. It's worth it." Donna Murphey of Harrisonburg, Va., suggests a different timetable. "Three weeks is not enough," she writes. "There is so much to see in this big country, you couldn't see it all if you spent an entire year traveling."

Send queries by e-mail ( or U.S. mail (Travel Q&A, Washington Post Travel Section, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071). Please include your name and town.

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