November 2nd, 2017
Travel tattoos have a bad rep, but if you're the kind of person who likes tattoos, you're probably the kind of person who doesn't care. A tattoo from abroad holds a deeper meaning then a tattoo from home. It represents that deep yearning for travel - that wanderlust obsession - which is likely a fundamental part of who you are, at least at this moment in time. It represents the memory of a trip overseas; the friends you made, the way you pushed your limits, the history and culture of wherever you are. If you're in a country where living costs are lower, then you could also be getting a bargain. Understandably, people have a natural aversion to cheap tattoos, considering them to be poor quality and unsafe. Here's everything you need to know about ensuring high levels of safety and quality.
The Tattoo Parlour
You can tell a lot from the moment you walk into a tattoo shop. The studio itself should have hospital style hygiene procedures. That means having a separate room where the tattoing takes place. This room should be spotless, with food and drink never entering. As long as everything looks clean, it probably is. There will likely be a separate waiting area, which won't have these same standards. The room where the tattooing takes place, however, should remind you of being at the dentist. A really hardcore, gothic punk dentist.
In a first world country, you may just trust that the needle being used is fine. However, if you're in a foreign country, it might not have the same regulations so you need to be a bit more vigilent. The needle used should be brand new, in sealed packaging. Needles also have a use by date on them, so check that this hasn't passed. For larger tattoos, check that your tattoo artist will use more than one, brand new, in date, sealed needle. Once they've finished with a needle, check that it is going in the bin. Tattoo needles are not reusable.
The part of your body being tattooed should be shaved and cleaned before applying the stencil. Never let an artist tattoo skin that hasn't been sterilized. During, they should be continually wiping. Once it is finished they should clean it once more, apply some lotion and gently wrap it in cling film. If these steps aren't being followed, you could be putting yourself at risk.
So you chose to get a tattoo while holidaying in a hot, beachside location? The bad news is you'll have to spend the next two weeks avoiding the sun and swimming. The first couple of weeks after getting the tattoo are the most important. You can't just carry on with your trip as if everything is normal. That tattoo needs to be carefully unwrapped, washed, creamed and rewrapped, if you want it to stay uninfected and look at its best. For a complete rundown on tattoo aftercare, click here. A professional tattooist should give you this information themselves, but they may assume you already know. They will usually offer their own lotion for free or for a small price. If they don't have any lotion, be worried.
This is less a matter of safety and more a matter of aesthetics. However, if the artist is no good at art, then you'll be more likely to regret your tattoo and it won't age as well. Any respectable tattoo artist has a large portfolio, which you can spend as long as you like looking through. Check the accuracy of the linework. Are the lines fine and on point or are they fuzzy and vague? Does the shading look realistic? If you're wanting something difficult like a face, check for other examples of faces in their work. Faces can often come out looking creepy if they're even slightly off. What looks good on paper might not look so good on skin, so check for photos of the finished product. Most companies will also have an online presence with customer reviews.
If In Doubt, Bail Out
You've been told this a thousand times, but a tattoo is a lifelong commitment that you don't take lightly. If something doesn't feel right, then find somewhere else. Every city in the world will have at least one legitimate tattoo shop, so don't think the first one you find is your only option. Once you understand the process that is involved in making sure tattoos are clean and safe, then there is no reason to visit a tattoo parlour that deviates from this standard.
Getting a tattoo abroad needn't be different to getting one in your hometown. However, in places where regulations are lacking, it is up to the tattoo shop owners themselves to introduce rigorous health and safety procedures. As long as you have all the knowledge contained in this article, you have the ability to judge a tattoo artist for yourself. Don't be afraid to ask questions before they begin to check that everything is in order. Once you've got the tattoo, it becomes your responsibility to look after it properly. A few weeks of careful care is totally worth it though. There's nothing like having a lifelong, meaningful product with you at all time, that isn't taking up space in your backpack.
Add The Wanderer to your subscriptions feedThe Wanderer