The ultimate guide to getting a tattoo in Thailand
When it comes to tattoos, Thailand has a wonderfully vibrant history and culture surrounding the art form. Plenty of people flock to Thailand every year to enjoy the artwork and tattoo designs that the country has to offer. As of recent years, there have been some wonderful artists emerging in the local culture too.
If you’re heading to Thailand and considering getting a tattoo, it’s worth doing your research first. Whilst it’s a beautiful country with incredibly talented artists, it is important to consider that the laws on licensing and health are laxer than other countries in terms of tattooing.
This doesn’t mean that you can’t get tattooed in Thailand by any means, it simply means that you have to do your research. As with any country, there are some wonderfully talented and professional studios, alongside some much more dodgy studios too. As long as you do your research and find a great studio to create art for you, you’ll be sure to get a tattoo that makes you very happy.
So, how can you find the best studio? What should you be looking out for in terms of an artist? In this guide, we’ll be going over every key aspect of finding a wonderful tattoo studio to work with in Thailand. We’ll take a look at how to prepare for a tattoo, what to do on the day and how to look after your tattoo as well.
If you need more information about tattoos in Thailand or you’re looking for a great studio to work with, do make sure to read more on our website or contact us, we’re always happy to give advice or work with new clients whenever possible.
Why get tattooed in Thailand?
First things first, let’s consider why you would want to get tattooed in Thailand in the first place. One of the main reasons why it’s such a great place to get tattooed is that there’s a wealth of talented artists in Thailand, and you’re surely going to get a fantastic, original piece. Social media has been a great asset in showing off the new wave of talent in the country, as have other mediums like blogs and websites.
Another reason why it’s great to get tattooed in Thailand is that there’s a rich and vibrant history surrounding tattoos in the country. The traditional type of tattoo in Thailand is known as a Sak Yant tattoo, and we’ll be going over these in more depth in just a moment. There’s a wide blend of styles and approaches to the art too, with some studios opting for a more new-school approach, and some people still following the old-school methods.
Something else that’s appealing about getting tattooed in Thailand is the lower prices. Prices for getting tattooed in Thailand are often a lot lower than in other places, such as Australia or Europe. This can be very appealing to people, especially if they’re looking to pay for travel and accommodation at the same time.
Thailand is also a fantastic place to get tattooed because of the wonderful culture that’s present in the country. There’s such a wide community of artists and ink enthusiasts that you’re guaranteed to meet some interesting people on your travels.
Overall, it’s certainly a place to visit if you’re looking for beautiful body art, interesting people and bustling culture. Getting a tattoo in Thailand is an experience like no other.
History of tattooing in Thailand
When discussing tattoos in Thailand, it’s important to note the vibrant history behind this art form. Tattooing has been around for a very long time, as we’re sure you know, and there are some intriguing traditional methods being practiced in the country to this day.
Thai tattoos have been around for ages. The furthest back that tattoos date in Thai history is back to the Khmer Empire, in Angkor. It’s been a commonly held belief for years that these wonderful designs protected their wearers, and had magical benefits too. They were also heavily linked to people’s status and signified military rankings.
The traditional form of tattooing that is practiced in Thailand nowadays is known as Sak Yant tattooing. This breathtaking form of art is heavily spiritual and religious and linked very closely to the Buddhist religion.
In fact, if you want the full experience when getting a Sak Yant tattoo, you need to go to a temple and work on your design with a traditional master or teacher. They will have the knowledge of how to tattoo in the traditional manner and perform it in a ceremonial manner. They’re not performed with tattoo guns, they’re hand tapped with original tools.
Of course, you can always get the same designs done at a tattoo studio. It really depends on how personally invested in the history and spiritual side you are. At our studio you can get a Sak Yant Tatoo not only by machine, but also traditional bamboo by our ex-monk artist.
Generally speaking, tattooing in Thailand has always been interesting, but it’s become even more of a fascinating talking point nowadays. As with any culture, it’s been completely disrupted by the rise of social media, but this isn’t a bad thing. The rise in popularity and introduction of new styles and cultures has only served to make it more fascinating.
Things to consider when getting a tattoo
Now that we’ve covered why Thailand is such a wonderful hub for tattoos and how the history of the art looks, let’s take a look at what you need to be considering before getting a tattoo. As much as they can seem like just a fun little trinket to get while you’re on holiday, it’s worth remembering that tattoos last forever, and they require upkeep too.
A tattoo artist’s job involves preparing you adequately and helping you care for the tattoo as well. It’s all well and good getting a nice looking piece of art, but if you don’t know how to pick a good artist or look after it properly, you’ll just be wasting your money. That’s what we’ll be taking a look at in more depth now.
Plan out your design
The first step to take is to decide what you want to get tattooed. Sounds obvious, right? You would be surprised at the sheer amount of people who just hop out of bed and roll up to a studio without actually deciding what they want to get tattooed first.
You don’t have to have a fully fleshed out design, of course, that’s what your artist is there to help you with. It does help save you time and money beforehand if you have an idea of what you’d like to get tattooed, though. If you can take references or even sketches along with you, your artist will thank you for it. Remember, they’re not psychic! If you can’t articulate what you’d like to get done, you may need to spend more time thinking about it.
If you’re really stuck for ideas here, try to consider what it was that made you want to get tattooed in the first place. Did you see somebody on the street with a beautiful sleeve? Did your favorite celebrity get a backpiece done? Or did you see a beautiful painting and decide you wanted to immortalize it? Whatever your reasoning is, this will help you narrow down exactly what you’d like to get done.
Social media can be very helpful here too, although, try to avoid asking your artist to just copy another artist’s work. This is considered rude and distasteful, for both your artist and the original artist. It’s okay to be inspired by another tattoo, but just copying is bad.
Try to have an ideal placement, size, and color scheme in mind too. Being flexible always helps here, but having a rough idea will save you and your artist time as well. For example, your artist will be able to advise you on where your design will look best on your body. Some designs may not work so well in some areas, as they may warp or distort on the body.
Something that’s worth noting is that tattoos don’t necessarily have to be super meaningful. We get clients that want tattoos for such a wide variety of reasons, ranging from commemorating someone or celebrating their favorite flower to reclaiming their body or helping themselves feel beautiful again.
It’s the same with piercings and other types of body modification. If it makes you feel empowered and beautiful, then it’s worth getting it regardless of what people think.
Consider the impact of getting tattooed
The next step to take before getting tattooed is to consider the impact that your tattoo might have on your life. As much as we might consider tattoos to be beautiful forms of art, there are still plenty of people and organizations who are biased against people with tattoos. This could be due to cultural stigmas, religious influences or simply a personal distaste.
Perhaps you work in an industry where tattoos aren’t allowed to be visible, for example. This will obviously affect where you can get the tattoo, and it’s worth noting this to your artist.
Something else to consider is ‘extreme’ tattoo placements. Tattooing in places like hands, necks, and faces can have a huge impact on how people treat you and your personal life in general. Many reputable studios will try to dissuade people from getting tattoos in these areas, specifically if they don’t have many other tattoos.
They’re so visible and can be tricky to tattoo as well. If you’re set on getting a tattoo in one of these areas, please make sure that you go to a reputable studio and work with somebody that you trust to do a good job.
A final thing to consider is whether your tattoo could be taken to be offensive or not. Sure, getting a tattoo of a curse word may be a funny joke between the people you’re on holiday with, but how will your colleagues or family react? Additionally, consider whether symbols or iconography you’re using could be taken to be offensive.
Many people like to argue that swastikas are okay to be tattooed, for example, as they used to be thought of as a peaceful symbol before the nazis. Be that as it may, they are still associated with an incredibly upsetting and harrowing part of history, and evoke a negative reaction in people. Thus, it’s not a wise decision to get this design tattooed, and any reputable tattoo should refuse to do this.
Research the history and significance of the chosen design
If you’re going down the route of getting a traditional tattoo, make sure you do your research into what the symbols actually mean. There’s nothing more cringeworthy than seeing a tourist get a tattoo that they think is super meaningful when it actually means ‘picnic table’.
If you can, go to a temple and work on your design with a traditional master or teacher. This will help make sure that the design is both meaningful and tailored to you in particular.
Also, make sure that what you’re getting tattooed isn’t going to offend or upset local people. A common example of this is tattoos of Buddha or tattoos below the waist. Both of these things are considered offensive, and should not be something that you aim to get. If you do want a Buddha tattoo, for example, please don’t aim to get it in Thailand. Even if it’s meaningful to you, you don’t want to risk upsetting somebody’s beliefs.
Find a great studio to go to
Once you’ve got a wonderful design planned out, the next step to take is to find yourself a great studio to work with. This is where your research skills will be needed. Trying to find a popular, safe and talented studio can be difficult, depending on where you are exactly.
Customer reviews are always an important part of checking out how trustworthy a studio is. It’s very easy to portray your studio as being successful nowadays, especially with the rise of social media and digital marketing. If you can, try to speak to other people or look on their personal social media pages to see how their experience with the studio was.
Make sure that they have reputable artists working at the studio, too. Take a look at their portfolios and flash work if possible, and ask to see some healed work as well. Don’t worry about seeming ‘fussy’ or ‘rude’, these are all very important things to know before you get any sort of body modification done.
Get a consultation before getting tattooed
Consultations are incredibly important when it comes to getting tattooed, as they allow your artist to understand what it is that you’re hoping to get from your tattoo and they also allow you to get to know your artist as well. A good studio should encourage consultations, and this should be available to read about on their website or social media.
When heading to your consultation, be prepared to take some requests or adjustments to the piece from your artist. Take any references or sketches that you’d like them to look at, and be ready to have a nice chat about the piece that you’ve been dreaming of. Consultations are nothing to worry about, they’re informal, fun and very helpful.
Make sure that your studio has great health and safety practices
This will be something that you will get from your consultation, and from understanding other people’s experiences with the studio.
At the consultation, ask them about their health and safety practices, to get a feel for how the studio operates. If you get a bad feeling about their safety practices, trust your gut, it’s better to be safe than sorry.
Additionally, speaking to previous clients is a great way to understand how the studio operates in more depth. If your chosen studio has a lot of reviews saying that they dropped equipment, smoked in the studio or reused needles, run and never look back. There’ll be a much nicer, safer option out there for you.
Prepare yourself on the day appropriately
Before you head into the studio, make sure that you’re in the best state possible to get tattooed. Don’t go and get tattooed if you’re hungover, drunk or high. It’ll be unpleasant for both you and the artist, it’s incredibly harmful to you and it won’t heal well either.
Make sure you eat something filling before you go in, and take some snacks with you if you know you’re going to be sitting for a long time. Drink plenty of water, and try to avoid heavily caffeinated drinks so that you don’t have an energy crash halfway through the piece!
Wear comfy clothes, and make sure that you’re going to be able to reach the area you want to be tattooed with little issue i.e. don’t wear skinny jeans if you want your knees tattooed. Also, make sure that you’ve showered and you’re wearing deodorant. As you’ll be sitting with this person for a long time, it’s important to practice good personal hygiene.
Try to enjoy yourself
This can seem like a tricky piece of advice as tattoos can seem intimidating, but try to enjoy yourself! Make sure you feel as comfortable as possible on the day. Take some headphones and choose a nice podcast to listen to, if you’re planning to zone out. Charge your phone, bring a snack and prepare to settle in for a relaxing session.
Look after your tattoo properly
This is incredibly important to think about if you’re getting tattooed. A tattoo artist’s job isn’t just done straight after you hop out of the chair. Their job includes making sure that your tattoo doesn’t get infected or heal in a strange manner, so make sure that you listen to all of their advice regarding healing where possible.
If they offer an aftercare solution, we’d suggest buying it. The tattoo artist will know how their tattoos heal the best, so trust their experience and go with what they’re saying. You should be able to contact them with any questions about healing later on, too.
Try to be sensible with your tattoo, too. Stay out of the sun where possible, and avoid having baths (showers are fine) or going swimming too. As tempting as it can be, don’t scratch or pick at it. This will damage the tattoo in the long run and can cause infections.
Additionally, be prepared to get a touch-up or rework of the tattoo if needed. Sometimes color can fade or lines can go soft, so it’s important to be prepared to do this if the need arises. This is something that’s worth discussing at your consultation.
To sum up
Overall, Thailand can be a wonderful place to get a tattoo if you’re looking to get one that stands out from the crowd. Whether you live locally or you’re traveling, it’s one of the best places in the world to find beautiful, eye-catching body art. There are an incredibly vibrant history and culture surrounding body modification present in Thailand, and it’s a worthwhile visit for any dedicated ink fan.
If you are going to get a tattoo whilst visiting Thailand, it’s worth doing your research. Plan out your design accordingly, and if you’re going for a traditional tattoo then make sure you understand it’s symbolism. Check out your options for studios, and make sure that you’ve looked into how other people’s experiences with them was. Look into preparation beforehand, and aftercare as well- this will help preserve your tattoo and keep it healthy.
Are you looking for more information about tattoos in Thailand? Do you want to find a wonderful studio to get tattooed at in Phuket? We would be more than happy to help. Pitbull Tattoo is host to a team of industry experts, and we’re dedicated to making sure that our customers get the best tattoos possible.
If you’d like to find out more, get in touch with a member of our team by using our contact form, over social media or phone. We’ve got artists that cover every style of art, and we’re happy to help design any custom pieces that you might fancy.