What You Should Know Before Getting Tattooed in Thailand
If the title of this blog caught your eye, presumably you’ve given some thought to the idea of getting a tattoo at some point during your trip to Thailand. We’ll tell you everything you should know of the history and realities of getting a Thailand tattoo so the experience will be a safe one.
It will invariably cost a lot less to get a tattoo in Thailand than it will in your home country. But you should adhere to the same standards of hygiene that you would of a tattoo parlour at home. Being on holiday is definitely not the proper time or place to let your hygienic standards lapse. Don’t be coerced into undergoing any tattooing procedure just because “everyone is doing it”.
But before we get into the realities of tattooing in Thailand, lets discuss a little of the history of why and how tattooing is closely tied to Buddhism and the Thai culture.
The History of the Thailand Tattoo
Sak Yant tattoos are very popular and the Thais believe they’re a protection from danger, a symbol of man’s status and they indicate a man’s level of rank in the military.
‘Sak’ means “to tap”, or “to tattoo”, and ‘Yant’ is derived from the word “Yantra” meaning a mystical diagram. For most Thais, the symbols afford protection against danger or death and they also bring power, courage and luck.
The traditional place to get a Sak Yant tattoo has always been the local ‘Wat’ or temple, where they are administered by a monk by means of a long bamboo needle. The needles are used on a number of subjects and are only cleaned by dipping them into alcohol before being used on the next person, so you will be risking infection by undergoing this method.
Some Thailand tattooists offer Sak Yant tattoos using a modern electrical tattoo gun. So you can obtain a Sak Yant tattoo using more hygienic methods or the traditional method. It all comes down to whether you’re more interested in the image itself or the traditional experience. We just want you to be forewarned about the choices you have.
Buddhism Tattoos Can Be Offensive in Thailand
While we’re on the subject of ancient symbols, let’s discuss having a tattoo of the image of Buddha. While the tattooist may not warn you, you should still have an understanding about how Buddha tattoos may inadvertently offend people.
There are differing opinions about the acceptability of Buddha images as a tattoo. Some feel that they are acceptable and some Thais hate the idea. Keep this mind in your daily interactions with the Thais. If you are being treated badly in Thailand and have a tattoo of the Buddha, you might want to think about covering it up.
In Thailand, the head is considered sacred and the feet are considered to be lowly and disrespectful. So if you’re adamant about getting a Buddha tattoo, you should never get one below the waist.
Modern Thai Tattoo Parlours
Thailand is home to hundreds of tattoo parlours using the same equipment as tattoo parlours back home. You should practice the same level of care in selecting a tattooist that you would in your own country.
Look for pictures of the tattooist in action to prove they are actually the ones doing the desired image. Check out the hygiene levels the tattooist maintains. An autoclave on the premises of a Thailand tattooist is always a good sign that they take hygiene seriously.
Ask around to find the tattooist who is skilled in the particular type of tattoo you are looking for. Some Thai Tattooists are known for a certain style and quality of their tattoos and you should choose these well-known tattooists over lesser-known and perhaps lesser-skilled ones.
By using common sense and viewing getting a Thailand tattoo as more of a memento than a ‘walk on the wild side’ experience, getting a tattoo can be just as safe in Thailand as anywhere else.