Getting a tattoo in Thailand is safe — you just need to think about these few things before you do
Thousands of people who travel to the Land of Smiles every year end up getting a tattoo in Thailand. Thousands more think about it. This is because Thailand is one of the world’s most popular places to get a tattoo as, not only does the country have the usual modern, high-tech tattoo parlors, there is also a tradition of getting Buddhist tattoos at temples – tattoos often created by Buddhist monks themselves.
Getting a tattoo in Thailand is just about as safe as the next country, if you go to the right tattoo parlors, but there are some things you should consider first.
What Type of Tattoo Do You Want? – Before getting a tattoo in Thailand, think carefully about what you want. In most tattoo parlors in Thailand, you will have a choice of modern, Japanese, tribal or a traditional Thai or Buddhist tattoo.
Either way, you should know what style of tattoo you want before you get there and, preferably, take your own design with you rather than having a stock tattoo half of Bangkok is wearing.
What Style of Tattoo Is the Tattoo Artist Known For? – If you are looking to get a particular style of tattoo in Thailand, you don’t want to choose a tattoo artist that isn’t known for that style.
After all, just like any type of artist, tattoo artists are known for particular designs. That means, if you want a traditional Buddhist tattoo and you choose a tattoo artist who is known for his modern Japanese stuff, you are not likely to get a tattoo you will be happy with.
Do some research on different tattoo artists before you choose one. Go through their books and look at photos of past tattoos they have already created, to see if any fit in with the style you are looking for. If not, keep checking out tattoo artists until you find one that does.
Choosing a Tattoo Artist by Recommendation – Thailand has thousands of tattoo artists. They range from young guys who have just set up their first shop to famous tattoo artists visited by celebrities (Angelina Jolie travels to Thailand to get tattooed by a certain Thai monk). From unknown Buddhist monks who spend their tattooing time drawing tattoos on local Thai guys, to famous Buddhist monks people from all over the world come to see. (see video below about Ajarn Noo Kanpai, one of Thailand’s most famous tattoo artists)
If you have no information about a particular tattoo artist, before you arrive in Thailand start asking around on the Internet to see which tattoo artists other people have used. In a short time, you will often find one or two tattoo artists’ names will pop up more often, particularly for those in Bangkok.
Then, it is just a case of finding them on the internet, as most of the larger parlors have their own websites with photos of their work.
Pick out two or three artists you think you will like and, when you arrive in Thailand, visit their shops to meet them and check out their work. A tattoo will be on your body for the rest of your life, so at least make sure you like the artist and his work before getting one.
Don’t Fall For Style Over Substance – Thailand, more than most countries, has a problem with style over substance. That means, in the tattoo world, the best tattoo artists are not always the ones in fancy shops.
One I know in particular has a tiny shop in Chatuchak Weekend Market, nothing more than a wooden shack that he works in on weekends. Yet, Thais come from miles around to get their tattoos done by him as he is one of the best for one particular style of Thai tattoo.
A fancy Bangkok salon is one thing, but do the people working there do the best work? Or do they only look like they do?
Real or Fake Yantra Tattoos – Know The Difference – Many visitors to Thailand come specifically to get a traditional yantra tattoo. A yantra tattoo, or sak yant tattoo, is a Thai tattoo used for centuries to ward off evil, so is often sought out by people who want protection from something.
In modern day Thailand, you can get a yantra tattoo at a tattoo parlor but, most Thais will tell you, that is not the real thing. If you want an authentic yantra tattoo, only a Buddhist monk can create one for you, and it usually requires using traditional tools, ritual scarring and an elaborate ceremony at a Buddhist temple.
Personally, if a yantra tattoo was the one I wanted when getting a tattoo in Thailand, I would make sure my tattoo was the genuine article and not something that looks pretty but with no protection powers whatsoever.
Spell Check If You Want Thai Script – Finally, if you are getting a tattoo in Thailand that will be written in Thai script, make sure it is spelled correctly before you ask the artist to do it, and check his work carefully before letting him ink it in.
I know one westerner who was very pleased with his Thai script tattoo only to have a Thai friend tell him it was misspelled so didn’t mean what he thought it did.
Ask a couple of Thais to check it for you before going to get the work done. The tattoo will be on your body until the day you die. It would suck if, instead of “Don’t worry” (the popular Thai saying) it said “New worry” now wouldn’t it?
As for a Bangkok tattoo salon I would recommend? I had mine done at Tattoo O’d Studio, (see photo above), which is one of the top tattoo studios in Bangkok. I was very happy with not only having the tattoo itself done (it didn’t hurt at all), but how beautifully it came out.
Bangkok.com also recommends six tattoo studios in Bangkok (as you’ll see the one where I had mine done is one of them), so you may find one there you like.