19 Expert Tips For Safely Getting a Tattoo in Bali

Getting a tattoo can be both frightening and exciting at the same time. The rush of getting a permanent piece of art embedded onto your body can be triggered just by the thought of getting a tattoo. Whether it’s a simple quote, a minimalistic shape, an image in memory of someone, or a full-on sleeve, getting tatted is a big deal for most. 

When most critics think of tattoos, they picture heavy metal music, excessive piercings and a fully tatted shirtless junkie. But the negative image of tattoos is slowly fading away and the art form is becoming more accepted in social circles and in the workplace. 

One of the best places to get a tattoo in Asia is right here in our beautiful island of Bali. The island is home to a huge number of talented tattoo artists (or tattooers as some may refer to themselves) who all specialise in many different styles of tattoos. Due to the growing population of residents and the increasing number of tourists in Bali, more and more people of all ages and ethnicities and looking to get inked to either fit in or stand out.

Is it safe to get a tattoo in Bali?

One of the most common questions that people ask when visiting a foreign developing country and planning to get a tattoo there. This is often asked due to the misconception that developing countries have poor environments that are not safe for the average Westerner. But this is a completely valid question and should always be asked regardless of the country you plan to visit. The question of the safety of getting a tattoo in Bali often relates to the risk of infection. Therefore, you should always book your tattoo in Bali at a reputable studio with proper safety practices.

I’ve gotten tattoos in many countries across the world, including several places in Asia so I can vouch for most of the studios that I’ve gotten tattoos from here in Bali and confidently say it’s quite safe. But that could also be due to the fact that it might be easier for me to spot a safe and clean tattoo studio.

Many years ago, I was once very naive while in Chinatown, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. I was really adamant about getting a tattoo while there so I decided to accept the first offer I received. Chinatown’s tattoo studios are notorious for hiring many ‘scouts’ to look around the bustling atmosphere for potential customers and make a deal with them on the spot to schedule a tattoo session.

Fast forward about an hour later, I was sitting in a super small room ‘studio’ in the very back of an alleyway which seemed to be used only for garbage. I sat very conflicted on the plastic lawn chair as the ‘artist’ very horribly traced the stencil from the computer screen (I assumed it was a rough sketch only as a guide – most tattoo artists do this). As he started tattooing my forearm, I looked over to my right and spotted a very comfortable cockroach make its way up the wall, unnoticed. I immediately regretted the decision but stuck through it. Needless the say, the tattoo was as exactly as it looked on the paper, and did not heal very well and itched extremely badly.

Due to the tourism in Bali, you will find that many businesses, including tattoo studios, strive to improve their standards to compete with both local and Western tattoo standards. Therefore, you can come across tattoo studios who maintain a healthy, safe environment for you to get your tattoo done.

Getting a Tattoo in Bali

Why you should get a tattoo in Bali?

Just about every millennial has a tattoo these days. Gone are the days of the taboo of sporting your ink. Now, it’s all about the art or personal significance of your tattoos. Hopefully, you’re not just getting a tattoo for the sake of getting a tattoo. I’m not one to tell you how to spend your money, but I’m sure everyone who already has a few tattoos like myself would probably tell you the same. Then again, it’s your body, so it’s your rules. Here are a few reasons why you might want a tattoo in Bali:

You’ll be in Bali!
I couldn’t think of a better place to be to get a tattoo. You’re on an island that everyone around the world dreams of going to one day. Bali is on almost every travel bucket list yet only a small percent of those people will eventually make it here. And who knows, maybe you won’t get a chance to come back to Bali.

Perhaps you have a busy work and family life and can’t travel often. Or, you have other travel plans and bucket list items in the future and Bali doesn’t quite fit the schedule. Mark your trip by getting a tattoo in Bali to signify the time you were in the Island of the Gods. Get a tattoo that’ll everyone ask “Where’d you get that?” or “What’s the story behind that?” I’m sure you’ll make a few friends a bit jealous.

Some people get a tattoo in memory of something or something. And having that date, image, or symbol on your skin, reminds you and everyone that this is important to you. Whether it’s an image of someone close to you who has passed away or your parents, and maybe even your pet cat, a memorial / dedication tattoo is a good start for your first. I highly recommend against getting your girlfriend or boyfriend’s name or photo tattooed on your body. You will thank me later.

Self Expression
Tattoo art is frequently used as a form of self-expression. If you come across someone with many tattoos, you will find that their ink almost perfectly matches their inner personality. And if you ask them, you’ll most likely be in for a great story. Choose or design the style of tattoos you would like on your body and have it reflect who you are on the inside. Whether it’s anger, pain, happiness, individuality, love, or history, a picture is worth a thousand words.

Stand out from the rest
A tattoo can differentiate you from the average person. Whether it’s your own custom design or unique placement of an existing artwork, your tattoo art will be part of you and your visual identity. This can help you stand out from the crowd, and perhaps turn a few heads and get you some phone numbers.

Hide your scars
Although you should be proud of yourself and your body, you may choose to get a tattoo merely for cosmetic purposes. Some talented tattoo artists in Bali can incorporate a tattoo with your scar. Some of us have stretch marks, permanent scars, bruises, and skin imperfections that we are insecure about and covering them with a tattoo can be a creative way to bring back your confidence.

Because you’re a rebel
It’s natural for some of us to go against the flow of traditions, trends, and conservatism. Perhaps you’re a rebel that needs to make it clear that you don’t care what people think. Perhaps to rebel against your family traditions because you feel it’s holding you back from being who you are. Whatever it may be, I believe that getting a tattoo (or a few) can be a great statement of rebellion. However, I wouldn’t recommend a Mike Tyson face tattoo for everyone.

Getting a Tattoo in Bali

Why you probably shouldn’t get a tattoo in Bali

It wouldn’t be fair if I only mentioned the positives of getting some ink done in Bali without addressing a few potential negatives. Please note, this isn’t meant to scare you away from getting a tattoo, but to increase awareness about the risks that may affect not only your health but also other areas in your life.

Existing health conditions
Before you even think about getting a tattoo you should already be aware if you have an health conditions that may affect the safety of your tattoo procedure. People with serious conditions such as Hemophilia, HIV, Hepatitis, Epilepsy, and certain skin conditions should absolutely avoid getting a tattoo. Of course, it’s always best to consult with a doctor first if you have any conditions similar to these.

Potentially lowered chances of Employment
Though tattoos are increasingly being accepted in almost all workplaces, the stigma still exists to some degree. Certain jobs and professions (especially involving politics and law enforcement) may have policies that forbid visible tattoos. However, this doesn’t deny you of your need to get a tattoo. This just limits where you can have them. So, if you’re planning to become a politician, or move up the ranks in the corporate world. I would recommend getting your tattoos where you can easily hide them. Though a fully tatted president would be cool.

Culture, religion, and traditions
Your family is more than likely to speak against your tattoo if you’re from a conservative culture or religion. For example, many strict Muslim families will forbid their children from getting tattoos because it is against the Quran. Other counties such as Japan will ban anyone with visible tattoos due to common associations with Yakuza. If you’re from a family who is generally conservative, regardless of culture or tradition, you may also risk the chances of being disowned by them. In the end, it is up to you to decide what you value more and what you’re able to risk for your own individualism.

You can’t afford it
Don’t go broke trying to look cool. As someone who has gotten tattoos in all different financial situations, I can guarantee you getting a tattoo when you can absolutely afford it feels much better. This is preached often – don’t go for cheap tattoos because it’s easier on your wallet. It is better to save up (for your priorities first) and get a professional tattoo done. On the plus side, tattoos in Bali are generally cheaper than other countries, so this will probably not be an issue for you.

You’re a minor
Listen kiddo, I know it’ll look sick in front of your friends. But do I really need to address the fact that you might get grounded for the rest of your pubescent life? (Or in my case, would probably get my ass whipped.) Most civilised countries will have strict laws that forbid underage teens to get tattoos.

You’re pregnant
Getting a tattoo in Bali while you’re pregnant is always discouraged. With a developing child in your womb, your body’s immune system will be surpressed as it is working to provide coverage for 2 humans. Your skin may also become super sensitive, so it is recommended to wait until after your pregnancy and also your nursing phase to get your tattoo.

How to choose a tattoo studio / artist in Bali

There’s tattoo shops and artist in just about every corner of every street in Bali. Some areas in Kuta and Canggu are lined with endless tattoo shops begging for you to get your tattoo done there. So finding somewhere or someone to get some ink on you is not a difficult task at all. The real mission is finding the right one.

The reputation of a tattoo studio or artist will directly reflect from the moment you walk in and meet with them. A reputable tattoo studio/artist means great tattoo work and happy customers. It means that the tattoo artist will strive to maintain his/her reputation by exceeding expectations with his/her work and your overall satisfaction during and after the tattoo. More often than not, a bad reputation is closely linked to cheap tattoos and poor safety procedures. It is natural for us to gravitate towards saving a few bucks, even if there are bad reviews. Don’t be ignorant when it comes to this.

Your chosen tattoo studio should maintain the sterilisation and cleanliness of all their equipment and the environment. You might come across many studios in Bali that offers cheaper tattoos, but the environment and equipment are kept poorly. Take a quick scan during your consultation for any bugs, mould, dirt, and dust – all of which may affect your tattoo and even your overall health. 

I would recommend taking a look at their work and portfolio to see what quality of work they have done in the past. A tattoo portfolio would normally reflect the style of work that the artist has done, and even their personality. Make sure the portfolio contains actual tattoos that they’ve done themselves and not images from Google or Pinterest (which you will find often with the cheaper tattoo shops in Bali.)

Styles & Specialties
Some tattoo shops specialise in certain styles of tattoos and it may be best for you to choose the one that matches your own preferences. Tattoo styles range from traditional tattoos, Polynesian tattoos, tribal tattoos, realism, even Japanese style tattoos. If it’s your first tattoo, then I would recommend seeking out a versatile studio/artist that can do a bit of everything. If you already have tattoos, more than likely you might already have a certain theme on your body, which means you would be better off seeking out an artist that can replicate the style of art that’s already on you.

Certifications or Awards
Some tattoo studios in Bali will also have certifications and awards on their walls. This shows active participation in the tattoo community and also proves that they take their work and business quite seriously. Although this is not an important factor in choosing a tattoo artist or studio in Bali, it may help in your final decision.

What practices should I look for in a tattoo studio / artist in Bali?

They use Brand New Tattoo Needles
A new, clean tattoo needle is extremely important to the safety of getting a tattoo. Because the tattoo gun punctures your skin, there will be some bleeding and a reused needle might still have blood or other fluids that contain diseases like HIV, Hepatitis, and other terrible infections.

Most professional tattoo artists will give you a sealed needle for you to inspect and approve that it is brand new and has never been opened or used. If you have not been shown this, do not proceed with your tattoo until you have seen the needle being unpackaged from its box or packet, even if the tattoo artist has assured you that the needle is new.

Keep in mind that there is no such thing as a reusable needle and the only time a needle should be reused is on yourself during the same tattoo session. Should you return the next day to continue your tattoo (if it’s a big piece) your artist must use a brand new needle. If it’s a lengthy tattoo, needles can also go dull after hours of usage, so they are required to be changed.

They use Disposable Gloves
In some countries, wearing gloves is a legal requirement. I’m not so sure about Indonesia’s laws regarding tattoos, but there seems to be no strict regulations in Bali. Anyone involved in your tattoo, whether the artist or his/her’s assistant must maintain clean hands and wear disposable gloves to avoid contamination. Us human beings are gigantic carriers of some of the worst kinds of micro organisms and the hands are a huge red zone. Gloves will protect both parties from the transfer of any potentially bad infections or diseases.

They should also avoid touching other surfaces while they’re working on your tattoo. Whether they are on a rest break, toilet run, or greeting a friend or customer, their gloves should be removed and replaced when they continue to work on your tattoo. Even until the very end of your finished tattoo, the artist should be wearing a pair of disposable gloves. 

They apply Cling Wrap to all surfaces
Many professional tattoo artists in Bali also add an additional layer of protection to their workstation by thoroughly wrapping all surfaces with cling wrap (popularly known as Saran Wrap.) Frequently contacted surfaces such as the tattoo gun, spray bottle, power supply, and even the chair/brace should be freshly wrapped to ensure there is no contamination from a previous customer and prevents any future contamination cases.

Although still debated in the tattoo community, it is popular for Bali tattoo artists to cover your freshly done tattoo with plastic wrap. This ensures that your fresh wound does not come into contact with any other surfaces or particles while in the first phases of healing. Consult with your tattoo artist after getting your tattoo done as to what they think about wrapping the tattoo in plastic. Some say you should only leave it on for the first hour or two, while others may advise you keep in on and change it every day for the first few days. If you do plan to change it your self, please ensure that you follow sanitary methods with washed hands and in a clean environment.

They use Brand New Razors
Due to the placement of your tattoo, that part of your body might require it to be shaven. Tattoo artists would usually prefer to do the shaving themselves to make sure the area is fully clear of hairs that might interrupt the needle and potentially cause ingrowth. Like all other supplies, new shaving razors must also be used to avoid cross-contamination of any bacteria and harmful contagions.

How much Do tattoos in bali Cost?

As the saying goes, “Good tattoos aren’t cheap, and cheap tattoos aren’t good.” In Bali you will come across a range of prices with every studio trying to grab your attention (and a piece of your pocket.) During your tattoo artist search, you might come across some tempting offers that might even make think, “How come this guy in Kuta can do it for $50 when the other guy in Canggu is charging $200?”

As with many other similar arts and industries, the true cost of the tattooed piece will depend on the reputation of the artist, their studio, and the tattoo you’ll be getting. Here are a few examples of factors that affect how much you might pay for a tattoo:

  • Their Experience – how long have they been professionally doing tattoos.
  • Type of technique used – some tattoo techniques require more expertise than traditional forms of tattooing.
  • Type of ink used – not all inks are made the same. Good quality inks that last longer and brighter on your body may cost more.
  • Colour – will your tattoo be in black and white or coloured? Coloured ink tends to blend into the skin more than black ink, therefore you will need high quality coloured ink.
  • Design – a custom job obviously requires more work than a flash tattoo or something from the internet. Size and details also affect the cost.
  • Placement – depending or where you would like the artwork to be tattooed. Some places on the body may require more experience, patience, and caution.
  • Location of the studio – like other businesses, a busy location probably means higher prices.

Some tattoo artists in Bali prefer to charge a set hourly rate regardless of the complexity or specifications of the tattoo. This may be a better option for you if you’re planning on getting a big detailed piece done such as a full sleeve or full back tattoo. However, most tattoos artists in Bali will charge a flat rate for your tattoo, which is set during a consultation. For small tattoos, the tattoo studio will usually have a minimum fee, but you can expect to pay somewhere between $50 to $80 for a small cookie-sized tattoo and expect to pay $200 – $500 for bigger tattoos and up to $2,000 for a high-quality, full sleeve or back tatts.

Getting a Tattoo in Bali

Can I pay for my tattoo by credit card?

Most professional tattoo studios will accept internationally recognised credit card providers such as Visa or MasterCard. Amex and Discover are rarely accepted here so if you do depend on other credit card providers, it’s best to bring some cash or use an ATM instead. Check out this article on 10 rules for withdrawing money at ATMS in Bali.

It is common for tattoo studios and artists to require a non-refundable deposit as part of their business policies which usually range from 20-50% of the tattoo price. This is because some work needs to be done prior to actually putting you under the needle such as drawing stencils of your tattoo, with different sizes and styles to see what would suit your preferences best. A deposit is also required because the artist will reserve a time slot just to work on your tattoo and will have to refuse other customers during that time.

Keep in mind that a deposit means that it is a part of the price so you will be able to pay the rest as part of your final payment. It is also possible to pay for your deposit by credit card to reserve time with your tattoo artist and pay the rest with cash while you’re here.

Should I walk in or should I book online?

Many tattoo studios in Bali will welcome walk-in sessions – especially if you want a ‘Flash Tattoo.’ Flash tattoos are basically very simple and quick designs that you can choose from a book or portfolio and takes very little time – hence the name ‘Flash.’ These tend to be more common designs like a rose or a wing.

Tattoos of any other complexity levels would most likely be scheduled a few days ahead because the tattoo artist would need time to prepare his calendar and drawings for your session. Booking a tattoo session online is becoming more and more common since most people already have a good idea as to what they want for their tattoo.

It is possible to book a tattoo artist in Bali ahead of your trip and have him ready to go as soon as you’re all set. Most online scheduling will require a small deposit (which will be contributed to part of your overall payment.) Booking online also saves you time to do fill up the rest of your calendar with things to do in Bali. Regardless of how much time you plan to spend in Bali, whether 2 days or 2 weeks, you will want the freedom to spend that time however you please.

How long do tattoos normally take?

There is no single answer for the length of time tattoos can take. You can be in and out with cling wrap and tape on your wrist within 30 minutes or you can spend the next week going through several 4-hour sessions. Size is a common misconception when it comes to this. The size of your tattoo does not equal to the amount of time it will take.

The main factor is the details within the size of the tattoo. I have a huge shaded world map on my back which took me a few hours, but if I chose to separate each country and ocean, that would probably take about 6+ hours. Some tattoo styles, like realism, will take several sessions because of the tiny details that need to be added to make the tattoo look as real as possible. A friend of mine has a detailed full-sleeve (entire arm covered) on his right arm. His tattoo sessions totalled to 8 half-day sessions. On the other hand, Flash tattoos can usually take less than an hour.

You will likely be more able to answer your own question directly by taking a good look at the size and details of your artwork. If it’s someone’s face or a huge intricate design, then expect to sit down for several hours. If the artwork is primarily lettering or symbols, then it shouldn’t more than a couple hours.

Should I get a tattoo at the beginning or end of my Bali trip?

This decision will ultimately depend on how you plan to spend your time in Bali. Will you be tanning on Kuta Beach? Scuba diving in the Amed? Or alternating between relaxing in your Bali villa and heading out for some nightlife? Tattoos need a few weeks to completely heal, and certain activities you may want to do in Bali can affect the healing process or even make you uncomfortable.

Generally speaking, if you plan to have your tattoo placed in an area on your body that is seldomly covered, it may be better for you to get your tattoo closer to your departure. Like most places in Indonesia, Bali has an unforgiving, yet loving tropical climate. It is better for your tattoo to be completely covered if you do insist on getting a tattoo upon arrival to Bali.

Activities like tanning, swimming, and scuba diving can affect a fresh tattoo as well. But if you’re coming to Bali simply for therapeutic purposes and just want to unwind by the pool in your villa, then you can get your tattoo at any time you want.

Can I get a tattoo in my villa or hotel?

Probably one of the biggest perks of getting a tattoo in Bali is that you may be able to choose to get your tattoo right in your own villa or hotel. Some tattoo artists are mobile and are able to go through with your tattoo session while you’re in the comfort of your own sanctuary. Some of my earlier tattoos that were done in Bali were done while I sat at my dinner table sipping on a banana shake, working on my laptop.

Of course, your chosen tattoo artist should follow strict safety measures and procedures as any environment outside of the sanitary tattoo studio can increase your risk of infection. At the end of the day, this will be your decision. Outside of the potential health risks, there is no difference between getting a tattoo at your villa or in the tattoo studio. I would only recommend it if you’re tight on time and would rather your tattoo artist come to you instead.

Do tattoos hurt?

If you’re planning on getting your first tattoo in Bali, this is probably the first question you’ve asked yourself. If you already have a few, then you can go ahead and scroll past this section because you know what I’m about to say. Here’s a short answer: Yes, tattoos absolutely hurt. But the intensity of the pain really depends on several factors: 

Placement: Possibly the biggest factor in the painfulness of getting a tattoo. To keep it simple, certain areas on your body can hurt more than other areas due to body fat percentage, bone sensitivity, muscle density and skin sensitivity. For example, my chest tattoo hurt way more than my forearm tattoo did because I have less fat or muscle there. Maybe that’s a hint I should probably work out my pecks a bit more. 

Style: The style of the tattoo also plays a role in your pain. If the artwork has a lot of shading, it will require the artist to literally shade in the colour as if he/she is drawing and colouring on paper. Personally, I find this only painful for the first minute, after that, the area of your tattoo will become numb and you will barely feel the shading. 

Time: The length of your tattoo session will also determine how painful your tattoo will be. Some tattoos like a full sleeve will take several sessions of several hours each. While other small artwork can be done in an hour or even less. 

Your biological gender: Due to the difference in the structure of the male and female bodies, males might be able to generally tolerate more pain than females. This is not a major factor but there seem to be certain areas on the body where men seem to have less pain sensitivity. 

Your Pain Thresholds: Your personal overall tolerance for pain will be the final factor in predicting how painful your tattoo will be. Regardless of all of the above, some of us can’t handle pain very well, especially when it comes to anything to do with needles. 

Many people who’ve had their tattoos done in Bali report that getting a tattoo on your ribs is probably the most painful. But if you’re a heavy set person, this shouldn’t be a problem for you. According to most tattoo pain charts, the mid-chest and mid-stomach areas are quite painful yet common places to get tattoos. Other painful areas include the shins, feet, elbows, and the inside of your wrist. 

Getting a Tattoo in Bali

How Can I minimise the Pain?

Eat a full meal
This is an absolute must. Make sure you’ve had a proper meal, especially when you’re planning on sitting down for a few hours on the tattoo bench. This is because our bodies seem to handle trauma way more efficiently when we are well fed. 

Don’t get a tattoo while sick
Should you be unfortunate enough to catch a cold or flu during your Bali trip, it wouldn’t be the best time to get a tattoo. When we are sick, our bodies seem weaker on the outside because it’s busy fighting whatever illness we have on the inside. Our skin sensitivity also increases while we are sick. 

Choose a tattoo placement where it hurts the least
This should be fairly straightforward. If you’re not a fan of the pain, then you might be better off choosing a placement where it will hurt much less. It is very common for both males and females to get their first tattoos on their forearms since most of us have a decent amount of meat in those spots. 

Bring some friends
Having some friends around you to talk to you can distract you from the pain. However, some tattoo studios may forbid you from bringing friends as they may also distract the tattoo artist while he/she is trying to focus on perfecting your tattoo. Most tattoo studios will allow you to have at least one friend. Here’s a good tip: If you’re a male and worried about looking like a wuss, bring a few girls to accompany you during your tattoo session. I promise you, you won’t even flinch.

Watch a movie
Watching a movie on your phone or a nearby TV can also distract you from most of the tattoo pain. I would recommend putting on a movie that you anticipate watching so you’ll pay even more attention to it. A few of my first tattoos were done by a Mexican tattoo artist who was a huge movie fanatic. His tattoo ritual involved picking a DVD from his huge wall of movies.

Should I eat before getting my tattoo in Bali?

Regardless of your pain tolerance, it is recommended to have a big serving of food a few hours before going under the tattoo needle. The reason is that during your tattoo session, your body will tense up. This causes your body to burn much more calories than usual. I once ignored this rule while getting my back tattoo done. Because part of the artwork went over my spine, I was very stiff and was breathing harder. My heart rate also increased dramatically. About 2 hours into the tattoo session I was very close to fainting and once the tattoo studio staff brought me some JFC chicken, I rose from the dead.

I would also recommend eating full healthy meals several days leading up to your tattoo, including tons of protein and greens. On the day of your tattoo, if you cannot find or cook a protein-stacked plate, grab yourself a calorie-dense meal. Bali’s warungs seem to specialise in high-calorie foods so this will be an easy mission. Nasi Goreng, Nasi Padang, and even Bakso are good high-calorie choices if left with no healthier options. The main thing is, you have enough calories to burn during your tattoo session.

Can I drink alcohol before / after getting my tattoo

When in Bali, you’re bound to have at least a few nights out of fun with a few (or more) drinks. It was always recommended to never go for a tattoo while intoxicated or hungover. Getting a permanent piece of art on your body shouldn’t be a careless decision and a few drinks alone can impair your judgement, leaving you with potentially regretful decisions should you get a tattoo while intoxicated. Most professional artists and studios might even refuse to work on your tattoo.

Alcohol tends to temporarily thin the blood which can lead to a lot of unnecessary bleeding while getting your tattoo. Excessive bleeding during your session will dilute the ink and reduce the overall quality of your tattoo or make it look like a poorly done job. This excess blood can also lead to issues with the artist and his visibility while tattooing you as blood will smear over the intended artwork and potentially confuse the stencil.

Drinking after you’ve gotten your new tattoo may also lead to issues with healing and longevity. Due to the thinning of the blood, your fresh wound may continue to ooze blood and plasma which delays the tattoo from scabbing and closing up any exit holes. You will also be at risk for more infections and not to mention some stained clothes and bedsheets. So for now, just stick to juices and water for a few days until your tattoo heals.

Will Bali’s tropical climate affect my tattoo?

With or without tattoos, the sun is probably the worst thing for your skin. On one hand, too little sun can lead to Vitamin D deficiency. And on the other hand, too much sun can lead to permanent skin damage and even skin cancer. Having tattoos just adds another layer of risk to the equation.

If you’re planning on spending most of your Bali holiday in the sun, then it is recommended that you keep your tattoo covered as much as you can (and also with post-tattoo skin care ointments.) As you may already know, the sun’s UV rays aren’t very friendly to fresh tattoos and can cause permanent damage during the healing process which may deform the final result. Using sunblock with SPF 30 or higher can protect your fresh tattoo from the scorching rays of the Bali sun.

If you’re worried about the Bali heat making you sweat excessively and potentially ruining your tattoo, don’t worry. Sweating is normal in any climate. Even if your tattoo is still very fresh, sweating will not affect the quality of your tattoo. However, excessive sweating every day may sightly slow the pace of your healing process.

What styles of tattoos can I get in Bali?

A “Style of tattoo” is basically the style of the overall “look” of the artwork. This is very similar to styles of visual art where certain artwork can fall under categories like Cubism, Pop Art, Abstract, or Floral. Due to the abundance of tattoo artists and specialities in Bali, you will have a great list of options for you to select the best style that fits your personality and body. Depending on what you would like to express, a certain style might suit your tattoo better than another style. Here are a few tattoo styles that are popular in Bali for you to consider:

  • Balinese tattoos have long been a strong part of Balinese culture. If you have seen photos or visited temples in Bali already, you will notice a certain style to their art. This art is also reflected in the tattoo imagery used. Often times, the mask of Balinese deities like Barong or Rangda is tattooed. It is also frequent to find images of Hindu gods as part of Balinese tattoo culture.
  • Japanese tattoo styles are not only popular in Bali but also throughout Asia. Known as Irezumi, the art form itself has a deep history that dates back more than 5,000 years and can be instantly recognised in any part of the world. This tattoos, usually very colourful, depict imagery native to Japan such mythical dragons, geishas, cherry blossoms or samurai and often signify strength, good luck, or wealth.
  • Polynesian tattoos have become more of an umbrella term that covers sub-regions within the islands of Polynesia. These include rich cultures like the Maori, Tahitians, Hawaiians, and Samoans. Their history of tattoos goes so far back that even the word “tattoo” is derived from the Samoan word “tatau” which means to mark made on the skin. This style of tattoos are often considered ‘tribal’ patterns and are normally placed on the chest, around the legs or around the arms. The artwork itself can be complex images containing a variety of small shapes, patterns, and animals that have their own meanings or can also be just a simple pattern with a singular meaning.
  • Realism is a tattoo style that aims to make a tattoo look as realistic as possible. This can include portraits of someone and emulating every detail from a photo or real life. This is considered a very difficult form of tattooing and should only be done by a skilled or experienced tattoo artist in Bali.
  • Microrealism, like Realism, depicts very realistic imagery on the skin. The difference is that it focuses entirely on making that imagery as small as possible, while maintaining incredible detail. It is a good choice for you if you’re looking to get a subtle, yet cool tattoo somewhere on your body. This style of tattoo should only be done by a tattoo artist in Bali who is experienced in doing Microrealistic tattoos.
  • A Geometric tattoo is when the artwork consists of many lines and geometric shapes to combine together to form an overall (usually symmetrical) shape. This style of tattoo is popular amongst those who are spiritual and believe in the deeper meanings of certain shapes.
  • Dotwork or Stick & Poke tattooing is a usually time-consuming technique that involves making up the tattoo entirely of small dots, as opposed to lines and shading. Dotwork has become a trend in Bali and is quite popular amongst girls. This style of tattooing can also be done by the hand poke technique.
  • Lettering tattoos are any tattoos that primarily depend on the use of letters, languages, and numbers. This can include quotes, dates, names, and even entire paragraphs.
  • Minimalism tattoos are fairly simply but have become trendy in Bali for those who don’t want to go through 100% of the pain of getting a tattoo. Minimalistic tattoos normally would leave out any shading and depend on the use of lines only.

What aftercare will my tattoo need while in Bali?

Always treat your fresh tattoo like a wound. You would not be messing around with a wound and you will more than likely be taking good care of it so it can heal properly. Standard tattoo aftercare protocols apply not only while in Bali but when you return home as well.

Apply the artist’s recommendation of lubricant or ointment
The tattoo artist will recommend a suitable type or brand of lubricant or ointment for you to apply to your tattoo several times a day to keep it from drying up and peeling too early. Often times you will notice petroleum jelly is recommended. Ointments specifically made for tattoo care also exist, but some tattoo artists may prefer more simple solutions like Vaseline or even coconut oil.

I use a plant-based tattoo balm from Leaf Juice Skincare (made in Bali) that made a huge difference.

Wash your hands before touching your tattoo.
I don’t really need to mention this, do I? In times like these, this should be clockwork after just about anything you touch. Our hands are disgusting mega-carriers of some of the nastiest bacteria. In the first week after your session, your tattoo will still have some open areas in the wound and you do not want to be dealing with your tattoo with unwashed hands. Wash your hands and in between your fingers and crevices in your palm thoroughly.

Gently wash your tattoo and pat dry
Washing your tattoo gently during your showers with antimicrobial soap helps clear your tattoos of any potentially harmful microorganisms that may have built up during the day. When drying, make sure to gently pat dry your tattoo with soft fabric. If you are too rough with it, it may peel off scabs and some ink, leaving your tattoo inconsistently coloured.

Do not let other people touch your tattoo.
While I absolutely support showing off your new tattoo to everyone around you, you must be careful when coming in contact with other hands. People will likely want to touch and feel your tattoo. It shouldn’t offend anyone if you say no by explaining that your tattoo is healing and you don’t want it to get infected.

Do not peel or itch your tattoo
Like most wounds and bruises, the skin on and around your tattoo will start to harden and peel. You may feel tempted to manually pull off the half-peeled flakes. You must resist this urge. These flakes may be attached to newly formed healthy skin, and peeling them off prematurely may result in re-opening the wound and lead to bleeding. You will also find that your tattoo will become itchy and you may be tempted to scratch. Avoid scratching at all costs.

Wear loose clothing
You will likely be wearing loose clothing anyway since you’ll be in Bali. Tight clothes can pull and tug on your fresh tattoo while you move about, leading to open scabs and maybe even bleeding. Loose clothes give your tattoo some space to breathe and avoid close contact with the skin.

What are some of the lesser known benefits of getting a tattoo?

Outside of bragging rights, there are some health benefits of getting a tattoo. Here are a few:

  • Tattoos reduce stress. Whether studied to not, every tattooed individual reports having reduced stress after their tattoo session. I’ve had full nights of deep sleep after getting almost all of my tattoos. According to a study done by the American Journal of Human Biology, tattoos seem to lower cortisol levels and overall ‘pressure.’ So tattoos may be therapeutic for you!
  • Tattoos may strengthen your immune system. According to that same tattoo study above, having multiple tattoos activates the immune response. Basically, when you’re introducing an unnatural substance to your body, the immune system acts as a system commander and releases antibodies to fight against it. The more your immune system does this, the more field practice it gets – leading to a much stronger immune system.
  • Tattoos can help you feel like an improved version of yourself. At least temporarily, having a new tattoo will improve your self-confidence because it is a permanent change to your body (and one that you chose to do.) Compare it to having a new car – you’ll want to be driving it around for no damn reason.

Bali has become my favourite place in the world to get a tattoo. The diversity of tattoo artistry on the island makes it easier for me to pick the technique, style, and design that I want for my body. The information above comes from my personal experience in dealing with tattoo artists in Bali and around the world as well – becoming somewhat of a tattoo connoisseur. I’m a huge advocate for anyone (of age) who is thinking of getting a tattoo. Especially if it is your first tattoo, it can a very exciting change you can look forward to.