Questions You Need to Ask Yourself Before Getting a Tattoo in Asia

I’ve heard a million stories about getting a tattoo in Asia. Good ones and bad ones. Ugly tattoos, beautiful tattoos, fading tattoos, drunk tattoos… You name it. Getting one in, for example, Southeast Asia is pretty common and I do not wonder why since there are tattoo shops behind every corner. After all, you get a memory that for sure lasts forever. I still suggest you think a little further and don’t go to the first shop you see and make a spontaneous decision. It sounds like fun to some but it might end up with a very very bad result.

To get the best outcome possible ask these questions from yourself.

Getting a tattoo sign on shop
Don’t go to the first tattoo shop in your eyesight. Picture by Maria Oswalt // Unsplash

1. What do I need to know before getting a tattoo?

There is a lot of information online about tattoos and with a little effort you can find out everything you need to know before getting one. Think about your skin type and healing time. If you have more sensitive skin, it might be an idea to get the good old Asian stick and poke „bamboo tattoo“. They also heal a lot faster than the ones made with a machine. In general, search for things you want to know; checklists, pain, aftercare, what to expect, etcetera. Do your research!

In Asia, it’s also a big thing to get a Sak Yant tattoo made by a monk. If you are thinking about Sak Yant, first learn about its 2000 year history and the traditions the monks have in making them in the temples. After getting one, there are also a lot of rules you should follow!

Dragon with a meaning
You don’t have to have a meaning behind your tattoo. Photo by Jousi Osorio // Unsplash

2. Does the tattoo have to have a meaning?

Tattoos do not have to have meaning. Some people like that they do, some people don’t care, it’s all up to you. People take them for different reasons, for some, it might be that they are beautiful and look good. Or, you want to take it in the memory of something. Most likely the study abroad semester or travels in Asia in this case. Choose a design you want and think about the size and placement. If it’s somewhere you can see it, then, of course, you’ll be reminded more often about it.

Remember that many (especially traditional) tattoos have a meaning behind them already in some cultures, so you might want to Google your idea first. For example, a skull in some cultures represents death and is considered very rebellious.

Getting inked costs money, make sure you have some by reading our blog post How to Save Money?

3. How do I choose the design? 

Do you want it especially designed for you or do you want to choose from a template? If you find the right artist and tattoo shop, they might have the perfect template for you that is still original and one of a kind. So, there’s nothing wrong with going with the ready-to-go template if you find the perfect match to the idea you have. For the design, making a collection to Instagram’s „saved posts“ is a perfect way to get the idea of what kind of styles you like and what is the design you want to be inked on you.

Next, research the tattooing styles, there are a lot of them. Choose whether you want a black and white or a colorful tattoo. A few years ago also red line tattoos were a thing if you’re thinking about something abnormal. Use your imagination and with the right artist, the sky is the limit. 

Black and white traditional style
Search the internet for inspiration. Photo by Nathan Dumlao // Unsplash

4. How to choose the right tattoo shop and artist?

Search the tattoo shop beforehand from our wonderful internet and see if it’s reliable and has good reviews. Also, check out the artists, they all have a personal style.  When you then actually step into the shop, you should feel comfortable, although a little nervous. If you’re suspicious, just turn away and go somewhere else. There are so many shops in Asia, each of them different from the general vibe to the styles they tattoo.

Before the actual tattooing, you also get to see the stencil on your skin. If you have anything to say about it, now is the time to speak up and they’ll alternate it for you, you are a paying customer after all. Plus, remember that it’ll be forever on your skin so you will want it to be perfect for you. 

From our destinations in Asia, Thailand has a huge variety of tattoo shops!

5. Recommendations

Now, after the basics, let’s get into the recommendations. Since everybody has their own style they want, I don’t want to recommend any particular shop in Asia, but something to ease your way in finding the one for you. So, check out these websites/apps!

  1. Good old trusty Tripadvisor. They have a huge selection of places and recommendations. Yes, also tattoo shops!
  2. A search engine for getting a tattoo: Tattoodo. On top of the location, you can also search for a specific style you want.
Machine tattooing
The sky is the limit with the right artist. Photo by Allef Vinicius // Unsplash

After all, getting a tattoo in Asia isn’t that much different than anywhere else. If you have any further questions, we recommend asking your tattoo artist!

Asia Exchange is a Finnish company providing study abroad opportunities in the Asia Pacific for students from all around the world. Want to get travel tips and new blog posts straight to your inbox? Subscribe to our monthly newsletter! If you have any questions about studying abroad, feel free to contact us! We’ll get back to you as soon as possible.

This article was written by our marketing intern Jenna! 


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