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8 Steps To Getting A Tattoo Abroad


I’ve got two tattoos and both were inked whilst I was on my travels. The first on a girly holiday to Turkey and the second, and much larger one, when I was travelling alone in Thailand. I love both of them for different reasons and whenever I look at them (it’s so strange how quickly your eyes and brain forget they are there, especially if they’re not in an obvious place on your body) I’m taken back to those carefree happy moments.

But tattoos can also be a souvenir you wished you hadn’t paid for, kicking yourself for not splashing out on a tacky sombrero hat or naff shotglass instead.


If you’re thinking about getting an everlasting memento from your travels then here’s my advice:

1.One of the most important things when deciding on getting tatted up is choosing a design that you know you’re going to love seeing every single day for the rest of your life. Mahoosive decision, especially for many backpackers who prefer to ‘live in the moment’. Check the spelling and grammar and don’t be afraid to speak up if you spot a mistake, it’s your body that will have to bear that misplaced apostrophe forever more. If you’re getting something written in a foreign language, please for the love of cheeseburgers make sure it says what you think it says. Nobody wants to walk around with chicken fried rice on their shoulder, when the Chinese symbol should have said love. Also, respect the culture of the country where the tattoo originates from to make sure it’s placed the right way up and on the right part of the body so as not to offend the locals.

2. The second most important thing, is to choose a tattoo parlour that’s clean, reputable and has some talented artists working there. Not the first one you wander past just because your feet are aching and it’s getting too hot to be trekking around a town you’ve never visited before.


3. Your health is without doubt something you should never mess with, no matter how cheap the guy with a stinking dog lying at his curled brown toenails is offering to do it for you. Everything should be disinfected, clean as a sparkling whistle and certificates of their accreditations easy to see. Make sure the needle is individually wrapped and unwrapped in front of you and the place smells sterile.

4. Check out their portfolio, make sure you like their style and previous inkings as yours will be very similar. Don’t be afraid to ask questions that may seem a bit daft, this is a big decision and they’re here to help you. If they don’t give you the answers you like then get up and walk away, you need to trust your gut here guys. Even though both times I’ve been inked the tattooist couldn’t speak a word of English, I made sure I was happy with the hygiene levels and had someone working in the shop who could translate.


5. That leads me to my next point – price. When you’re on your hols or backpacking usually you’re on a budget or at least looking to get a deal so that you can have more spends for booze. Ahem. But when deciding on a tattoo that – let me repeat will be on your body for life– price shouldn’t be an issue. Especially if it’s a large piece you’re planning, obviously that’s not going to come cheap, but if you think about how long you’re going to have this work of art then actually it’s just pennies.

Ok, so you’ve chosen a friendly, hygienic and well rated tattoo parlour, you’ve decided on a design and booked your appointment. Now to prepare!

6. Don’t even think about doing this drunk or off your face on who knows what. Hopefully, a reputable tattooist won’t even let you in their shop in this state but some may not be so on the ball. It’s going to hurt but you don’t need to self-medicate beforehand. Man up.


7. Eat a full meal to make sure your blood sugar levels are fine, have a shower (this hygiene thing isn’t just a one way street) and depending on how long you’re going to be sat in the tattooist chair pack your bag with things to distract you. It took six painful hours for my second tattoo and for most of this I had my headphones in, iPod on and singing to my fave tunes to take my mind off it. Although now when I hear some of these songs I’m taken back to gritting my teeth waiting for the tattooist to say it’s finished!



8. Aftercare is the holy grail of keeping your ink looking inkrecible – sorry. Don’t do what this backpacker that I met in Bangkok did and scratch it so much it bleeds. Leave the clingflim wrap on for as long as you’ve been told, only touch it with clean hands and layer up that bepanthen (nappy rash cream) all over it. Stay out of the sun, avoid swimming and when it’s healed always try to keep it moisturised and drenched in high factor sun cream on future holidays. You’ve suffered for this art, keep it looking bang tidy.

Have you ever had a tattoo abroad? What were your experiences?

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