TATTOOS IN BALI: A COMPLETE GUIDE
Iconic temples, lush greenery, scenic beaches and rich culture — the small island of Bali is a tropical paradise. Whether you’re on an adventurous trip with your friends or simply headed for a peaceful getaway, Bali has a lot to offer to cater to a variety of interests.
Get in touch with your spiritual side by visiting the temples of Pura Tirta Empul in Uluwatu; experience the rich culture and art forms; or indulge in thrilling activities like scuba diving and rafting to get your heart racing. There are loads of things you can experience here in Bali. And one such experience is getting a tattoo. Given that Bali is on the travel bucket list of most people, the island sees a significant influx of tourists every year — which has also given rise to a flourishing tattoo culture.
Worried about the potential risks? Don’t fret. We’ve curated this handy guide to everything you need to know about getting a tattoo in Bali.
Why Get A Tattoo In Bali?
Fair question. Why would you get a tattoo in Bali when you can easily get it anywhere in the world?
Getting a tattoo can be a deeply personal experience, especially if it’s your first tattoo. You don’t want a barely thought-out tattoo that you’ll regret the next day or walk into the wrong studio and risk your health.
Tattoos are not a big part of Balinese culture, but they are integral to Balinese pop culture. Tattoo art is fast gaining fame and recognition in Bali, which is evident in the growing number of tattoo shops you’ll come across in many of the populated tourist destinations of Bali, including Kuta. This has also ensured that the tattoo culture thrives and continues to learn and evolve on this island.
Not convinced yet? Here are a few more reasons to convince you to get a tattoo in Bali.
Commemorate Your Trip
You’re in Bali — maybe on your first-ever international trip; maybe this is the trip that you’ve been planning for too long. Or maybe this was simply a random destination you chose. Whatever the reason, why not make the trip even more special?
A tattoo can make this glorious trip last forever. It will always remind you of all the hours spent planning, saving up, of arriving in Bali and being amazed by its tropical climate, and of experiencing the rich culture and thrilling adventures.
Besides, wouldn’t it be a cool thing to brag about once you return to your country?
An Endless Variety of Tattoo Styles
You will commonly see a religious and spiritual influence in the tattoo styles in Bali, including Balinese art and culture, Hinduism, gods and Balinese deities like Barong and Rangda. You may even come across native Japanese imagery like the Samurai, mythical dragons, and even tribal patterns from Polynesia. And if that’s not your style, you will easily find studios that create modern designs.
You can choose from a wide range of styles for your tattoo in Bali. Artists here can work with numerous styles such as fine-line, realistic tattoo, realism tattoo, dotwork tattoo, black and grey tattoo, colour tattoo, mandala tattoo, traditional tattoo, neo-traditional tattoo, Japanese tattoo, portrait tattoo, realism tattoo, blackwork tattoo, blackout tattoo, geometric tattoo, 3d tattoo, Chicano tattoo, lettering tattoo, minimalist tattoo, new school tattoo, pointillism tattoo, surrealism tattoo, trash polka tattoo, tribal, Polynesian, Maori, Hawaiian, watercolour, etc.
You skipped half of the names above, didn’t you? The list is exhausting but it also means there’s something for everyone.
Getting a tattoo in Bali will cost you less than in the first world. Of course, you’ll come across some rather tempting prices but not all cheap tattoos will be good. Like other places in the world, in Bali too, the cost of getting a tattoo will vary. But, it will still be significantly cheaper compared to the tattoo studios in your city.
Bali Tattoo Cost: How Much Should You Expect to Spend?
As mentioned before, getting a tattoo in Bali will cost you much less than getting it done in other places like Europe, the USA, Australia and New Zealand.
You may find local studios providing similar prices but they may not guarantee similar quality. And more often than not, the quality you get in a local tattoo studio in your city will be inferior to the quality of tattoo you’ll get in Bali at the same or lower price.
Although you’ll certainly get value for your money when getting a tattoo in Bali, always be aware of a “too good to be true” price.
There are also certain major factors that will dictate the cost of getting a tattoo in Bali.
1. Skill And Experience Of The Artist
The more skilled and experienced the artist, the higher their charges. Any professional tattoo artist who’s been working in the industry for a while and has got a few years of experience under their belt will quote higher prices. The cost will also be higher if the artist is experienced with the most intricate tattoo designs or excels in a wider variety of tattoo styles.
2. The Complexity Of The Tattoo
The design you choose will, of course, be a major contributing factor to the cost. You are, after all, paying for the time of the artist. The artist will be investing more time to create and perfect an intricate pattern than to write a simple quote, so they will charge you more.
The cost also depends on the technique you want to use. Say you want to experience the ancient way of getting a tattoo and choose hand-poking tattoos. This form of tattoo requires a different set of skills and takes more time compared to a machine tattoo, which will then increase the cost even more.
Essentially, studios in Bali will decide the charges based on the complexity and size of the design, and on the number of hours the artist has to invest.
Some studios charge by the hour or the day, while other studios charge by the design.
We recommended studios that charge by the design; this way you know exactly what the price of your tattoo will be. If you are charged by the hour there is no certainty how much your tattoo will cost. What is the speed of the artist's work rate? Some artists are slow, some are fast. The design and style greatly determine the rate of speed. Some of the best artists are very slow and meticulous. This may land you with a huge bill you did not expect because your previous experience was with a fast artist.
3. Placement Of The Tattoo
Drawing a tattoo on different parts of a body requires different sets of skills and expertise. Depending on where you want the tattoo, the artist or the studio will quote different prices.
4. Studio Location
As with many other services, the location of the tattoo studio will also play a role in their prices. A shop located in a high-end or busy area will charge you more than others. (They do have to pay higher rent and other charges.)
5. Hygiene Protocols
If you come across a shop quoting a significantly lower price for a similar design or a shop that’s more than willing to haggle, walk away.
It’s highly likely that such tattoo shops will compromise on hygiene by using cheap needles and cheap ink with no proper sanitization of workspace and equipment. You’ll be at risk of getting serious infections like staph, herpes, hepatitis B or C, or worse.
It’s always safer to spend a few more bucks and ensure the studio maintains a hygienic space and follows safety measures.
Is It Safe To Get a Tattoo In Bali?
It’s as safe as getting a tattoo in any other place. You hop into the first tattoo shop you encounter and chances are you will regret getting a tattoo there. But, if you do proper research and select a good studio that ensures safety, you’ll have a great experience with a tattoo that you’ll cherish.
Nevertheless, Bali tattoo safety is still a major concern. It is, in fact, one of the most common questions tourists have when considering getting a tattoo on the island. As with every other place, the increasing popularity of tattoos has led to an unfortunate growth of numerous illegal tattoo shops near the busiest roads of Bali, waiting for you to make a drunken mistake and rip you off.
It’s best to avoid making rash, drunken decisions and choose a reputable shop instead, getting a tattoo in Bali is very safe.
Besides, the Bali Tattoo Industry has changed a lot over the past decade. Foreign-controlled tattoo shops have raised the hygiene standards. Even renowned local artists now provide high-quality services. The industry has improved so much that, today, Bali is among the leading tattoo destinations and is considered a hotspot for highly talented tattoo artists worldwide.
How To Choose The Right Tattoo Studio in Bali
Given the obscenely high demand for tattoo shops in Bali, it’s no surprise that there are numerous illegal and shady tattoo shops in Bali. The key to a safe and enjoyable tattoo experience is finding the right studio.
Reputation, Awards, And Recognition
A reputable studio will provide you with the best experience while maintaining the highest industry standards. Staff will want to maintain its reputation by providing you with more than what you bargained for and prioritising your experience over everything else. A cheap studio with lower tattoo standards will not have much of a reputation in the market.
Studios that have earned awards and have been recognized for their work in the field also show that they are authentic, provide a high quality of work, and are active members of the tattoo community. Even participating in tattoo events would suggest that they have a fair idea of the current trends in the community.
Once you shortlist potential tattoo studios, visit their websites and check out their portfolios. Their past work will demonstrate their skills and experience. You’ll also get an idea of what to expect and if their style matches what you are looking for. Make sure the work that’s posted is theirs and not stock images from the internet.
If you know any locals, you can also ask around to see their work in person and learn from their experiences.
Tattooing is a risky business — a little carelessness can cause irreparable harm. To avoid that, you need to make sure that the tattoo studio you choose follows all the safety precautions and maintains a clean and sterile environment in the studio.
Here are some of the most important safety protocols to look for while choosing a tattoo studio:
The needles they use are brand new and single-use needles.
All surfaces are cleaned and sterilised using alcohol or a cleaning solution.
Frequently touched surfaces are wrapped with plastic film prior to any job, and the plastic is discarded once the tattoo is done.
Staff use disposable nitrile gloves.
Staff use fresh linen for every customer.
The customer’s skin is cleaned and sterilised with alcohol prior to the tattoo process.
The new tattoo will receive a treatment of “Bactine” to help reduce inflammation and pain as well as speed up the healing process and kill bacteria.
The new tattoo will be covered with a tattoo-specific non-adherent, breathable film to prevent any germs from coming in contact with that patch of skin.
They use the best quality of ink and equipment.
Most of the studios provide almost all kinds of design and style options, but some tattoo studios are known for specific styles and techniques. If you are looking for a particular kind of tattoo or have a very niche idea in mind, it’s better to look for a studio that specialises in it.
Instructions To Follow When Getting A Tattoo
Everyone has their own reasons for getting a tattoo. Some get them to preserve precious memories, some to hide the scars, and some see it as a way to express themselves. Some want to flaunt it in front of the world while others want a secret of their own.
Whatever your story behind getting a tattoo, there is a certain protocol you must follow even when your tattoo is more of a spur-of-the-moment experience.
Here’s a helpful guide to the before and after-care involved when getting a tattoo.
Design and Placement
What do you want your tattoo to be? A quote from your favorite book, your favorite lyrics, or some artwork that inspires you. And where do you want it?
Have a basic idea about how you want your ink to look before you come for your appointment. You can discuss it with the artist and then finalise the design to give them a go-ahead.
Always do your research before you finalise any studio. Look up the studio online, try to visit it to see how they operate, then make your decision.
Book an appointment
Pre-book a date. If possible, request the main artist to work on your tattoo. Not all artists can produce the same level of art, so you’ll want to make sure that the artist is someone who can deliver the kind of ink you want.
You should also let the staff know if you are on medications or allergic to anything. It will allow them to choose inks and tattooing methods cautiously.
2. On The Day
Tattoos hurt. Specific areas on the body, especially where the skin is thin like the forehead, wrist and ankle, tend to hurt more than others. Prepare yourself to endure the pain.
Avoid getting a tattoo while you are intoxicated. Alcohol thins the blood, which may lead to excessive bleeding when getting the tattoo. It will also affect your body’s healing ability and may potentially ruin the artwork. So, try and stay sober at least 24 hours before your appointment.
Wear Comfortable Clothes
Wear clothes that are loose and expose the area where you are getting the tattoo. If that’s not possible, then wear something that’s easy to change out of. It will make the process a whole lot easier.
3. After Care
A fresh tattoo is an open wound, so you’ll have to care for it to avoid infections and to speed up the healing process.
Once the tattooing process is complete and you are all patched up, the studio staff will guide you about aftercare and provide you with an instruction manual that’ll contain all the required information. Follow it religiously.
Should I get a tattoo at the beginning or end of my Bali trip?
Most tattoo artists will suggest you get inked toward the end of your trip, ideally three to four days before you leave the island. This will allow you to still enjoy all kinds of adventures that Bali has to offer before you get your tattoo and avoid exposing it to any infections. Just make sure you don’t have sunburnt skin.
And if you plan to just relax and stay indoors for the majority of your trip, you can get the tattoo sooner.
Will the tropical climate of Bali affect my tattoo?
Yes. Not just the tattoo but your skin will also be impacted by the climate. If your body isn’t used to tropical climates, your skin is at risk of getting sunburnt. Use good quality sunscreen religiously and cover as much of your skin as possible.
Sunrays aren’t the best of friends with tattoos. So keep your tattoo covered as much as possible. Use the post-tattoo ointments recommended by the tattoo studio and use a sunblock of higher SPF.
Again, a smart option will be to get your tattoo near the end of the trip to avoid irritating your skin post getting inked.
Can I get the tattoo in my hotel room in Bali?
Some studios will offer you the option of getting your tattoos at your villa or hotel. While it may sound convenient to get a tattoo where you’re staying so that you’ll be comfortable, we will strongly advise against this.
Unlike professional tattoo studios, hotel rooms or villas cannot maintain the high level of sterile environment required and aren’t equipped to carry out intricate procedures.
Getting your tattoo done in a hotel room may turn out to be your biggest mistake.
Who should avoid getting a tattoo?
Please refrain from getting a tattoo if you are pregnant or have some existing health conditions like hepatitis or worse. If you still want to get one, always consult a doctor and seek their advice.
Can you make the tattooing procedure less painful?
To an extent, you can. You can choose a place where it hurts the least, but that’s not always doable (wrist and ankle tattoos are way too popular!)
The next best option is to eat a proper meal before your appointment. Our bodies handle pain much better when our stomachs are well-fed. Distractions work well, too. Listen to some songs or watch a movie – that’ll hold your attention and prevent you from thinking about the needle that’s rapidly puncturing your skin. Then there is always numbing cream as a backup option.
How much time will the process take?
It can take anywhere between a few minutes and a few days to get a tattoo. It depends on the complexity of the design that you’ve chosen and the amount of skin you want to cover. A simple quote on your shoulder will take much less time compared to a full arm or back tattoo. In the case of realism designs, the artist will have to keep adding details to make it more realistic, which will take way longer.
Over the years, Bali has become one of the most sought-after places to get a tattoo, with many travellers visiting the island specifically to get a tattoo. Given the variety of tattoo styles offered and the low cost, many tourists enjoy flying to Bali to enjoy a quick vacation while they get a stunning inkwork done.
Nevertheless, getting a tattoo is certainly a big decision. And no matter how big or small the tattoo, it is irreversible. (Well, you can remove it but who wants to go through that hassle?) So, think it through and make smart decisions.
Use this guide as your reference, do your research, choose a trustworthy studio, and make sure all the hygiene protocols are followed strictly. And once you’re sure, go ahead and get your tattoo! It will always be a happy reminder of the time you spent on the breathtaking island of Bali!