Traveling with Tattoos


Traveling is a thrilling adventure, a step outside of the comfort zone, one that often propels people to make spontaneous decisions. One of the most common ‘spur-of-the-moment’ decisions people make while traveling is getting a tattoo. Unfortunately, when it comes to tattoos, either you come up a winner with a souvenir you’re happy with forever or go home with something you wish you could have left behind.

The Health Risks of Getting a Tattoo While Traveling

The biggest danger when getting a tattoo is to run into health complications. These are usually due to contaminated inks and unsanitary needles. Make sure to do your research to find a well-established tattoo studio which follows basic hygienic procedures such as the use of gloves and proper needle sterilization processes. Also, always ask what type of ink is being used. Like most products in the world, there are various levels of quality and low-grade inks can sometimes have impurities and contaminants.

Complications can also occur due to improper care after the tattoo was created. As tattoo artists will tell you, there are some critically important rules to follow after getting inked. Most important: keeping your new body art clean, covered and avoid sun and water while the skin is vulnerable to bacterial infections.

In June 2017, a 31-year-old man died after developing an infection upon swimming in the Gulf of Mexico five days after getting a new tattoo on his right calf. After being admitted to a hospital, he showed signs of necrotizing fasciitis, an infection caused by the vibrio vulnificus bacteria commonly found in the Gulf waters. Because of pre-existing health conditions, the man’s immune system was not able to recover from the infection and he suffered septic shock a few weeks later.



Do Your Research Regarding Cultural or Religious Symbols

Besides health risks, a tattoo may also get you in trouble for cultural or religious reasons. For instance, in many countries around the world, the mistreatment of religious symbols and artifacts is a serious offense.

In 2014, an English woman was arrested and deported from Sri Lanka after authorities noticed a tattoo of a Buddha on her arm. More recently, a Spanish tourist visiting a Buddhist temple was arrested after monks noticed a tattoo of a Buddha on his lower leg. He was taken to a detention center before being released. Local authorities still advised him to leave the country as his safety could not be ensured.

In other countries, tattoos also suffer from a bad reputation and are unwelcomed in a lot of public places. In Japan, tattoos have commonly been associated with criminal gangs and some restaurants and shops don’t hesitate to turn away customers with visible tattoos.


At Which Point Should You Commit to a Tattoo

Always keep in mind that once the tattoo is done, you will need to pay close attention to it for a while. As mentioned earlier, you should follow some basic care instructions during the healing process which lasts between 7 to 14 days. With all these directives in mind, if you decide to go for it, make sure the tattoo doesn’t keep you away from all the fun activities that are available to you during your trip. The last thing any traveler wants is to stay poolside and under the umbrella for the remaining of the vacation, isn’t it?


The lesson is not that you shouldn’t get a tattoo souvenir while traveling, but to always have a safe plan. Do your research, plan for it when building your travel itinerary and finally, closely care for it during the healing process.

In case of a travel emergency during your next trip, make sure to download the Global Travel Plus Mobile App. With just a tap of a button, you can be connected to our 24/7 Operations Team. The app also includes many features that may be helpful during your travels such as Pre-Trip Information, U.S. Pharmacy Locator, and Global Embassy Locator.
Posted: 1/31/2020 9:00:00 AM