6 Questions To Ask Yourself Before Getting A Tattoo Abroad

by | Dec 5, 2012 | Thailand, Travel Tips | 3 comments

I love tattoos.. I love the stories behind them and the light in someones eye when they talk about what their tattoo means or where they got it. Can you guess what kinds of tattoos fascinate me most?

You got it, travel tattoos. Whether the person got the tattoo on their travels or the tattoo is a symbol of their love of travel, they are by far the most interesting and the closest to my heart. I also love script tattoos since I connect with words more than images.

It seems that every time I leave the country, the itch for a tattoo comes back and boy is that itch strong. I have mixed feelings about getting tattoos while you’re traveling. I’ve done it, twice actually, but each time it was such a pain to keep clean and let heal. It meant that this past summer, traveling through the scorching hot countries (this initially said cities.. dear lord. clearly final exams are not good for me) of Cambodia and Vietnam, I wasn’t allowed to go in the water. That when it poured with rain, I began to panic about the fresh tattoo on my ankle that was about to be splashed with dirty water from the puddles I was walking through.

I have three tattoos: the first I got at home and the other two both done in Thailand, one done in a hut.

Yes, I know, cue horrified looks and questions of whether I was drunk when I got them. No, I wasn’t drunk. The first I got in the city of Chiang Mai on my very first weekend in the country. Me and some girls I had just met decided that we were going to get tattoos. All of ours turned out great, some getting the five lines of protection, another girl “no regrets” in Thai and me “and so it goes” on my wrist. Mine turned out good, at first. Until two days later when I couldn’t resist tubing in a river that elephants bathed in daily. I blame that for the way my tattoo looks now.

There are a few important things to consider before getting a tattoo abroad.

  • Is this a spur of the moment decision that you’re going to regret later? Or will it actually hold meaning to you in a year’s time? I mean, if anything, at least it will remind you of the destination you were in. Don’t make a hasty decision. Think about it, you have time. This is important to remember especially if it is your first tattoo.
  • Are you planning to go swimming during your trip? Swimming can alter the appearance and healing process of a new tattoo. You should wait at least two weeks for the flaking and peeling to be done and the scab has fallen off.
  • Are you drunk? If you are, it might be wise to wait until morning before making your final decision. Not only will you wake up with a pounding headache and a strange tattoo on your body, drinking will also make you bleed more during the tattoo process. The end result of that is more scabbing and an uglier tattoo. (Many countries won’t tattoo you if you’ve been drinking but we all know that some will).
  • Is the shop clean. Are their needles individually packaged, brand new and sterile? Does the artist use fresh latex gloves? Is the ink fresh and being poured into small disposable cups?
  • Is the artist talented? Check out the artist’s books. The tattoo artist will usually have a book of previous work he or she has done that you can flip through to see what you think of their work.
  • Are you getting a word or phrase from another language or a symbol from another culture? Make sure you do your research! Think of what you want and if it’s a word or phrase, ask a bunch of different locals what it means. You don’t want a word in Thai that you think means “happiness” but actually says “food” or something stupid. That’s embarrassing.

I personally think that getting tattoos, whether at home or abroad, is awesome and I know I will be getting many more on my travels. All of what I said above is just guidelines, some things to think about. Ultimately, getting a tattoo is your decision. After all, I know a few people who’ve ended up with gorgeous tattoos after a night of drinking in Thailand. I also know people who had only thought about what they were getting for an hour before they decided to get inked and they still love it. What do you think about tattoos in general? Have you gotten a travel related tattoo?

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