How (Not?) To Deal With Cockroaches In Vietnam

What if I were to tell you that I, the world travelling, strong-willed, kick-ass woman that I like to claim I am, have a crippling phobia of…


Yes, me. I’m absolutely petrified of them. I can’t even look at pictures of roaches (even the word is ew) without getting the icks. I’m officially the world’s worst backpacker! Then again, our experience in Sapa is also testimony to that.

I’m terrified of them to the extent that I’d rather spend a night in solitary confinement with nothing else other than a dayglo poster of Dave Cameron to keep me company than be anywhere near one (and Dave terrifies me too, although for completely different reasons). So certain events over the last 10 days have been pretty traumatic for me (and there’s nothing dramatic about this statement, okay?).

I'm so disgusted by them, I can't even bring myself to use real pictures of them on this post

I can’t even bring myself to use real pictures of them on this post

We’re currently staying in a lovely apartment in D1 of Saigon, Vietnam – and it really is lovely. We’re not slumming it. We have a shiny new kitchen, hot water, A/C, an actual dining table, the works! But upon moving in, we quickly realised that we were misled. We’re not alone here. We have some unwanted housemates. Actually, we appear to have several of them (and counting).

Within a few days of being here, I found the first cockroach. Upon coming home one evening, I saw it scurrying up the wall and disappearing to God knows where. I screamed. I jumped. I cried. I declared that I would never set foot in the kitchen again. And since then, we’ve continued to find these disgusting creatures every other day.

And may I add here that we’re not dealing with cockroaches of the teeny tiny variety, like you find in Dubai. We’re dealing with a mutant strain of mouse-sized cockroaches, people. They’re not pretty. At all.

The worst surprise visit came one morning when I had just woken up. I sleepily walked into the kitchen, excited by the prospect of eggs and freshly brewed coffee for breakfast. I went to grab a bowl that was overturned on the side of the sink, and as I lifted it, a cockroach of the mutant variety made a quick dash for it across the kitchen surface.

“Urghhhhhhhhhhharghghhhhhhhhhh!!!” I yelled as I jumped around like a lunatic. This was followed by repeat renditions of a song that I’ve composed. You might like it:

Ew. Ew. Ew. Ew. Ew. Ew. Ewwwwwww. EW!



We’re now on our fifth sighting. Our landlady – a sweet Vietnamese lady who understands English but can’t speak it very well – seems to be amused by our daily text messages that regale our experiences. We’ve asked her to do something to deal with the situation. The situation, at present, is still not dealt with.

Today she sent us a message asking us if we’d seen anymore of them since her staff had come and sprayed the place. By spraying, I must add here, she means take a can of Raid, and spray it down the drain for five minutes. Now why hadn’t we thought of that!

So we told her we saw one more since then, and she proceeded to send the following:

“I think they like to see foreigners more than Vietnamese :-)”

She smiley faced us!  I really think that we must sound ridiculous to her with our Western phobias. So, in short, she’s not taking us seriously, therefore I’ve had to come up with my own ways to deal with our houseguests.

Here are my tips on how you should deal with the problem if you ever encounter it:

1. Before entering any room, throw the door open and then proceed to jump back three metres. From there, observe whether there are any brown beasts lurking in viewpoint. If it’s clear to proceed, take a few steps forward and observe further. If in doubt, call your partner over for him/her to have a look while you repeatedly ask “what about over there?”

2. When peeing, leave the door wide open in case you have to make a quick exit at any given point. Don’t sit fully to ensure quicker exit times.

3. When washing up, stand as far away from the sink as humanly possible. This will also allow you to quickly exit the area should any of our brown beasts make an unwelcome appearance among the suds.

4. Better still, refuse to cook or ever enter the kitchen again. Most of them tend to hang out there.

5. If your partner finally gets sick and tired of having to cook because you refuse to enter the kitchen, tell them you’ll happily oblige should he/she first go in and inspect the area. This involves overturning all bowls that are drying on the side to ensure that there are no nasty surprises lurking there, opening all the cupboards, and looking around the bin area.

6. At night, leave all the lights on. I do this on the basis of the theory that they don’t like light much.

7. Then remember that you’ve seen plenty of them lurking outside on the well-lit streets, and spend most the night awake because you’re too freaked out to close your eyes. One might run across your face, you know.

8. Compulsively take out the bin every time you put some rubbish in it. They love dirt. Don’t leave any of it lying around. With this fact in mind, also yell at your partner every time he/she spills any crumbs on the floor.

9. If all else fails, pack your bags and declare that you’re quitting your travels and going back to England because it’s cold so there are no cockroaches there. Then remember that the aforementioned Dave Cameron still runs the country, proceed to unpack your backpack, and do the sensible thing of asking your landlady to get pest control in instead.

What travel-induced phobias do you have?


  • Lol

    • Andrea


  • myseasonedtravels

    Haha! This post made me laugh

    • Andrea

      Lol – yeah, even Ankit says the same. We’re here for at least another two months. I guess I should get used to them!

  • The reason she doesn’t take you seriously is because she can’t do much about it. These roaches roam the street, no matter how well/how many times you deal with the house, those from outside will come back and replace their dead “comrades”.

    You’re right in that they prefer to make their appearances from the drains at night. What I do is every time before I go to sleep, all holes in the kitchen and toilet will be sealed: Place a glass or bowl over sink hole, cover the lid of the toilet bowl, that kind of stuff. Just make sure they have no way to make their entrance.

    • Andrea

      Thanks for the advice – we’ll try that!

  • Oi! I would scream, jump, and cry…and would make Sergey go into every room before I do! I am cool with geckos, can handle seeing a mouse, and even deal with giant bugs of whatever variety. But cockroaches…I just can’t!

    • Andrea

      Haha, same here! I don’t mind geckos and mice, but cockroaches make my skin crawl!

  • This made me squeamish. I mean, there are a lot of cockroaches here in NYC, and they are the real New Yorkers. But the illustration 🙂

    • Andrea

      Hahaha, yeah – ew, right?

  • Oh my goodness. I had my very FIRST cockroach sighting indoors a few days ago. I can’t believe I’ve been in SEA for 4 months and this was the first one I’ve seen inside our living space. It was huge. And I’m SOOOO terrified of them too. My WORST fear 🙁 :(. D was the one who saw it first in the living room/kitchen. I was still in the bedroom but my purse was in there, and I threw a fit and yelled at him to go back out and get my purse if he wanted me to leave the house. Otherwise, I was totally going to just seal myself up inside the room for forever. Thankfully, the next day, we saw it again and sprayed it with raid and now it’s dead. I’m hoping that’s the only one.

    If I’m in your situation and see multiple ones like that, I don’t think I can continue to live there. 🙁

    I’m actually in the middle of writing a draft on my cockroach encounter, lol!!

    • Andrea

      Wow, I’m surprised that you hadn’t seen one yet! That’s quite an achievement, as they’re everywhere here in Vietnam! Your story made me laugh – you’re just like me! Have you seen any more?

      We haven’t since the landlady had the place sprayed, but I’ve just seen what looks like roach poop in the bathroom, so I’m NOT impressed. Seriously cannot take cockroaches 🙁

      • Thankfully, that was the only huge one! We’ve had a couple of little ones but those don’t scare me as much. After we sprayed the big one and it died, both of us were too scared to pick it up to throw away, so we waited for a few days until the maid came and had her do it, lol!

  • Renuka Singh

    That was hilarious! I am also scared of cockroaches and everything else. In fact, I never switch the lights off whenever I am in a hotel room.

    • Andrea

      Seems like we have the same phobia, Renuka. I cannot stand them!

  • I absolutely loved this Andrea, it’s so funny!
    As myself I’m not a huge fan of cockroaches either, but spending sometime in SEA really helped me to deal with them without (or almost) freaking out every time I saw one.

    – Franca

    • Andrea

      Thank you! Yeah, I was hoping that I’d get used to them but if anything I’m more afraid of them than ever. I’m such a wuss!

  • I absolutely hate cockroaches!
    And they have that counter-attack habit of running straight towards you…

    Eewww, eeewww, indeed!

    • Andrea

      They do run straight at you, don’t they? Stupid, dirty, disgusting things….

  • Julia

    I once quarantined one in the living room in my apartment in Izmir, that was HUGE. Worse of all they fly there. Not a fan.

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  • Yo I iz totes getting you. I lived in Thailand for 5 months, they were everywhere on the street, and I saw them twice in my room(I was on the 1st floor of a new. Once I killed it, 2nd time I missed, it crept into my wardrobe, and I called my (female) friend to come kill it; she lived on the other part of the city, but she had a crush on me so she did it. I think a good idea is to spill some wine in a bowl in your apartment, and let it just stay there; if there are any in your place, they will get attracted to it and you’ll be able to kill them with fire (according to an article I read).

    Other method is to get a flat much higher up in the building, me thinks.

  • John Plunkett

    I was a contractor in Afghanistan for two years. One night a whole lot of noise woke me and my friends up fro the back of the tent. Someone had put down one of those large mouse or rat trap sticky pads. A cobra had come into the tent and got caught in it. He was not happy and neither were we. I started using the top bunks

  • marie

    I just moved to Vietnam, Go Vap specifically and have seen my first 2 in the past 24hours. The first was just having a siesta on the steps and I didn’t know it so I stepped on it.

    It was nonplussed and proceeded to casually walk off before lifting off into the air.


    I’m going to buy some Raid today, make a door sweep out of a hundred layers of some packing tape and attach it to my door. I’m also keeping my A/C set to Antartica temperatures because they probably hate the cold. There’s an opening in my bathroom wall that opens to the great outdoors. (WHY) Could they be coming in from there?

    These things are going to make me cancel my visa and get the heck out of dodge.