Why travel to get a tattoo?
Tattoo tourism has grown exponentially over the past decade thanks to social media, where tattoo lovers can browse the work of artists across the world and book an appointment at the tap of a button. But why choose to go overseas for a tattoo? Here are some common reasons:
- Experience different cultures: Tattoos are a tradition in many different cultures across the world, and each culture has its own unique designs and techniques. By travelling for a tattoo, you can immerse yourself in the local culture, generating a deeper appreciation for the significance of tattoos in a particular country. Bear in mind that some people may find it disrespectful to get a culturally significant tattoo if you have no connection to that culture or fail to understand the importance of the tattoo, so make sure to do your research and always be respectful of the country you are visiting.
- Work with iconic artists: Each tattoo artist has their own style, so by travelling to a different country to get a tattoo, you have the opportunity to get a completely unique piece of artwork tattooed onto your body. Plus, much like meeting a celebrity, there’s the prestige of being able to say ‘I’ve got a tattoo by [insert tattooist’s name here]’.
- Go on an adventure: While some people might go to a country for the sole purpose of being tattooed before flying home, you could make your trip into a bit of an adventure by exploring the country itself, sampling the foods, talking to the locals and sightseeing.
- Create memories: As with all trips, tattoo tourism is a chance to build memories. Not to mention, your tattoo is a souvenir of your trip, reminding you of the good times whenever you look at it.
Interested in tattoo tourism but don’t want your trip to cost the earth? Read our tips for how to travel on a budget.
Tattoo tourism: The most popular tattooists around the world
There are thousands of tattooists across the world, but only a few who have soared to untouchable heights with their fame. Whether renowned for skill alone, or thanks to celebrity clientele, you’ll likely find yourself on a long waitlist if you’re keen on getting inked by these names. Let’s take a look at some of the most popular tattoo artists in the world.
Buscalan, The Philippines
Whang-od Oggay, often referred to simply as Whang-od, is a centenarian tattoo artist from The Philippines. She is a living legend and one of the last mambabatok (traditional tattooists), keeping alive ancient techniques and local tribal designs. She uses thorns from the pomelo tree, bamboo sticks and a mixture of water and soot to create intricate and symbolic tattoos on her clients. These tattoos often feature motifs inspired by Kalinga culture and nature, and they hold deep cultural and spiritual significance for the people of her tribe.
Owner of Scrimshaw Tattoo studio in the Pigneto district of Rome, Serena Caponera’s work comprises comic book-like depictions of fantasy characters. Her Little Soul series often features characters with human bodies attached to heads that are either inanimate objects or those of animals such as dogs, bears and dinosaurs. Tattooing in black and white, Caponera’s distinctive designs feature bold lines and dotwork to create a stunning contrast on the skin.
Los Angeles, USA
Dr. Woo is a name synonymous with fine-line tattooing and realism. He got his start on Sunset Strip in Hollywood under the guidance of Mark Mahoney, known as the founding father of black and grey art with a single needle. His studio in Los Angeles attracts clients from all over the world, thanks to his mastery of detail. You might have seen his work on the likes of Zoe Kravitz, Ellie Goulding, Miley Cyrus and Kid Cudi.
Horiyoshi III, whose real name is Yoshihito Nakano, is a world-renowned Japanese tattoo artist and master of traditional Japanese tattooing, known as Irezumi. He is often regarded as one of the most influential and respected tattoo artists globally, particularly in the realm of Japanese-style tattooing. Horiyoshi III’s impact on the world of tattooing extends beyond his tattoo parlour; he has also authored several books and been the subject of documentaries, further spreading awareness of Japanese tattoo culture. It can cost tens of thousands of pounds to be tattooed by Horiyoshi III, and his designs have been known to take years to complete.
New York, USA
Described by Vogue as ‘the most famous tattoo artist in the world’, Keith “Bang Bang” McCurdy has tattooed Rihanna, Justin Bieber and Cara Delevingne, amongst many other famous names. He earned the nickname “Bang Bang” due to the distinctive sound of his tattoo machine. He is particularly renowned for his work on hyper-realistic portrait tattoos, which often capture the likeness of famous personalities with incredible precision and detail. Recently, Bang Bang teamed up with researchers to develop a new light-sensitive ink in order to create tattoos that disappear and reappear under certain lighting.
What you should know about getting a tattoo abroad
There are some similarities between the precautions you should take before getting a tattoo in your own country versus abroad. For example, always research your chosen tattooist thoroughly to make sure that you are happy with their style and technique, and contact them beforehand to ensure that they are willing to tattoo the design that you have in mind. You should also research their health and safety accreditations, and make sure that you have planned enough time in your schedule for the tattoo itself as well as the recovery.
In terms of precautions that should be taken in specific regards to getting tattooed abroad, here are our tips:
- Be aware of language barriers: Ensure you can effectively communicate your design, expectations, and any specific requests to the tattoo artist. Consider using translation apps or bringing a friend who speaks the local language if needed.
- Get to know local tattoo laws: Familiarise yourself with the local tattoo laws and regulations in your destination. Some places may have age restrictions, specific licensing requirements or cultural considerations regarding tattoos.
- Understand the full cost of your tattoo with currency conversion in mind: This can vary widely depending on the destination, the complexity of the design and the artist’s reputation. Enquire about payment methods, including local currency or credit cards, and clarify any deposit requirements.
- Swot up on travel restrictions: Some countries may have regulations regarding tattooed individuals entering certain facilities or religious sites. Make sure to research these restrictions in advance.