Tattoos can be the ultimate souvenir. They can be a permanent reminder of a trip you took. I have three tattoos, which I have gotten in three different countries.
The first is the symbol for Leo that I got when I was 16 and on exchange in France to the absolute horror of my mother who I managed to hide it from until I was 18.
The second one is on my back and is one of my favourite quotes from one of my favourite books ‘faithless is he that says farewell when the road darkens’ (Lord of the Rings- JRR Tolkien) which I got done right here in Melbourne.
My most recent one I got with my sister in Ko Lanta, Thailand. It’s a small heart on my other hip- I got mine on my right and Maddy got hers on her left.
The good thing with getting a tattoo overseas is that even if it’s something completely ridiculous it will always have meaning as a permanent souvenir of an overseas holiday.
But that’s not the only reason people get tattoos overseas- it can be a whole lot cheaper to get your tattoo done in places like Asia than it would be to get it back home in Australia.
However given Asia isn’t especially known for personal hygiene it’s important for your own health and safety that you follow a few rules when it comes to picking a tattoo place and getting your tattoo done while abroad.
1. Don’t do it while drunk
Not getting a tattoo while intoxicated isn’t just about picking something horrid or making a decision you are going to regret.
When you are drunk you are dehydrated and the needles and pain are more likely to make you pass out which isn’t good at all.
Make sure you are sobered up and hydrated before going to a tattoo place. This is especially important in the humidity .
2. Ask to see a clean unopened needle
Given how cheap needles are these days it is far cheaper for tattoo parlours to just buy a new needle for each client than actually attempt to wash them.
This makes it easier for you to pick a tattoo parlour that will actually show you a sterile packet before unwrapping it and loading it into the gun. This is what the guys in Ko Lanta did.
3. Inspect the ink
Some cheap places in South East Asia get cheap ink from China which can be hazardous as well as well as running and completely ruining your new tattoo.
The good places will be able to show you the paperwork or authentication certificates for their ink.
More importantly make sure you see them pour a new ink pot as using the same ink spot on multiple customer is equally unhygienic and dangerous.
4. Observe their work
If you have the time it might be good to just watch them do some tattoos or come back later when the tattoo of a customer is complete.
Most people are super happy to show off their new tattoos and this is a more reliable indicator of an artists work than simply photos that may have come from anywhere.
If they won’t let you look at their work chances are they aren’t worth your time and if there is no one there for you to watch getting tattooed that’s also a pretty good indicator you should be moving on!
5. Trust your instincts
Often you can tell when something is off so if you have any worries beyond just the nervousness that comes with getting a tattoo in the first place then you want to trust those instincts and get the hell out of there.
Instincts work the other way as well though- as soon as I entered Lanta Ink I knew we had come to the right place.
It was full of people including other travellers, the salon looked impeccable and fun, and the people were super friendly. They put us immediately at ease.
Getting a tattoo overseas can be an amazing experience but you still do need to be wary for your own personal health and safety.
For that reason I wouldn’t recommend the bamboo tattoos done by Monks that are so famous in Thailand. They use the exact same ink and the same needle for every customer which means there is a super high level of infection!
Have you ever gotten a tattoo overseas? What are your experiences- were they bad and good? Comment below with your experience and any helpful tips for our readers.