Travel Tattoo Ideas – and why they’re the best souvenir

The best souvenir in the world is a tattoo. YES! It's unique, it's lightweight, it's forever! Click for a few ideas!

A pin to make life easier!

We love Travel Tattoos – the best souvenir to ever exist. Angelo and I have been getting them since we were 19 and if they weren’t so expensive, we’d be all covered up by now.  They really are the best souvenir, as they don’t take any space, don’t weight, and they’re unique!

Then we started loving travel. And adding those 2 together wasn’t hard. And here’s the post where we talk all about tattoos!

 

 

– If you don’t like tattoos, you may want to stop reading now. It’s gonna be all about tattoos today. –

We’ve decided to make one small tattoo in every country we visit. It took us 3 countries to decide, but we did and we started there (in Uruguay) anyway.

To be really honest here, Angelo was doing it and I wasn’t. I’d do it IF I found something I loved enough about a place to do it. And then we were in Montevideo and I fell head over heels – I just had to. And then I loved the Andes, and Uyuni, and Bogota, and everywhere else. So now I also have it.

 

Santiago was one of the most troublesome places to have our travel tattoos done. But we did it!

Angelo, having his tattoo done in Santiago, Chile.

 

Let’s start with Angelo’s travel tattoos

He wanted to make a digital cloud-like tattoo with the names of every country he’s been. But then the first one (Uruguay), even though it was beautifully done, it wasn’t aligned with the tattoo bands he had and would end up crooked or weird. He even considered erasing them or covering with a black band. Haha.

After a lot of thought, he decided on letting the artists decide how, where (within a limit, of course), and the size of the country name and have it all sketch-like. It turned out pretty cool, in my opinion. At least, now that it’s full and all because it was a bit strange and incomplete in the first places.

It has colors, personality, and it’s just Angelo.

A hand-tapped tattoo is probably the greatest thing! Tara had hers in the Philippines!

Hali, from Tara Lets Anywhere says: ‘This tattoo means “karayan” or river. It was tattooed by Apo Whang Od, who at 100 years old is the last living mambabatok (hand-tapped tattoo artist) in Kalinga province, Philippines. The ethnic tattoos have a deep cultural significance in the local tribe in Kalinga.’

Then Thais’ tiny tattoos

I wanted to do tiny symbols of each place, but not what’s important, famous, or great, or even characteristic of a certain place, but what was meaningful FOR ME. So I fell in love with Montevideo and its beautiful Ciudad Vieja, so I really wanted the Ciudadela on me. After a lot of research on images, I came across the one I liked most on a sign in a public building. Well, it was faith and I’d chosen.

Then I had the Andes in Chile, a llama in Bolivia, Machu Picchu in Peru, Monserrate in Bogota, a maple leaf shaped maple syrup bottle from Canada, a sloth from Costa Rica, a turtle from Nicaragua, and a PASTEL from Brazil.

They’re all randomly colored and I love them.

 

My travel tattoos are tiny icons of every country we visit. I had this idea when researching for something Uruguayan that wasn't huge.

These are my travel tattoos. I love it, even though, OK, sometimes I get a bit tired of them.

 

How to choose a local artist

We start off with Google. We check the nearby places, their ratings, and we send a message with what we want and asking for a quote. It usually works fine – worked in most places. Reading reviews – the bad ones – is especially helpful.

In some places, we find a studio by passing by it – and entering, of course. Most times we did this, we had our tattoos done right then. Quick, easy, no hassle.

Natasha, from Meldrums on the Move, shares her travel tattoo with us!

Natasha from Meldrums on the Move shares her travel tattoo with us: ‘My travel tattoo represents freedom, and being able to go anywhere in the world, whenever I want. The hot air balloon is the world, showing I can float away to anywhere I want. The basket is actually a suitcase, which I live out of. It shows that I can live out of my suitcase and travel the world freely. I got it in Barcelona, Spain during a trip there with my Mother in 2017.’

Fewer times, though, we find a studio by asking people (our hosts, staff from the hotel/hostel, the waiting staff at the restaurant, etc). This is usually how we find the best places, but it’s not that common.

When we go for a visit, we look out for the hygiene, the artist’s designs, and we talk to them. If we like the place and the artists, then we do it. If we don’t, we just leave – no hard feelings, because it’s something that’s gonna stay on your skin forever, so you need to trust.

I try to find female artists because I feel we need to support women but it’s also not always doable.

 

 

The cleanliness

Is the space clean? Do they wrap everything in plastic wrap? Are the needles new and discarded after use? Do the artists wear surgical gloves? Do they wash their hands before and after a tattoo, after a break? The answer needs to be yes to all of those.

If the space has blood stains, the artist is sick, it smells bad, there are people smoking, drinking, and doing drugs (yes, it happens), or any of the questions above was a no, then you really need to leave.

You don’t need to ask any of these questions, just look around, see how they do with other customers, look at their tools. If everything is well cared for, then chances are – it’s fine. If not, then, consider finding somewhere else.

Choosing the design

Most of the times, we search the net for ideas. I knew I wanted small symbols so I searched for icons or vectors of whatever it is that I wanted. Then we’d take it to the tattoo artist, who’d tell us the changes needed, and that’s it. Some of the times, though, like in Colombia, I had no idea what I wanted to do, so I just asked the artist for an idea and he drew the prettiest Monserrate for me. In Brazil, I asked our friend Shamil to draw a pastel for me – which is just my favorite Brazilian food – and he made the cutest thing ever. In Canada, too, I asked Alexandra for something very Canadian and she drew a beautiful maple leaf shaped maple syrup bottle. I love how amazing the artists can be!

 

When we're abroad, we don't have the choice to just find a nanny or leave the kids at home. So we take them with us to the tattoo studios and we get our tattoos done. Most studios are very child-friendly anyway.

What about the kids? Well, they come with us since they were babies, so I think they’re pretty used to it. Besides, our travel tattoos are quite quick to finish. And they enjoy their extra phone-time.

 

You really shouldn’t be afraid of asking for what you want and ask for changes, anything. It’s your body, after all, and it’s gonna last forever, so it needs to be something you’re comfortable with.

 

The cost of the tattoos worldwide

The prices vary a LOT. The standards throughout the Americas and NZ are pretty much the same, but the prices are very different.

A very small tattoo costs around US$ 60 in NZ, while in Nicaragua, it costs US$ 30. In Japan, the smallest cost around US$ 200. In most places, if you’re gonna have more than one done (or like us, two people with the same artist), it ends up being a bit cheaper than that.

It really depends on which country, where in your body, the size and color(s), and the artist.

Travel tattoos are amazing souvenirs and they're available everywhere! We had ours all over the Americas, and the next will be in Japan.

Angelo having his Bolivian tattoo done in La Paz. Check how everything is wrapped in disposable plastic, the artist is wearing gloves, and everything is cool.

How to explain what we want when we don’t speak the language

I haven’t had much experience here since we’ve only had tattoos done in places that spoke one of the languages we speak BUT I always ask if they speak English. If they have an artist who speaks it, they send him/her to talk to me. A lot of people do nowadays. Secondly, I ALWAYS carry a picture of what I want. If the person doesn’t speak enough to understand when I want changes, I try to translate first on google or something beforehand. Or I just take exactly what I want.

Worst case scenario, use Google Translator. It’s not perfect, but it should work.

Do tattoos hurt?

Well, yeah!

The pain depends on where it’s being done, but it always hurts, even if it’s just a tiny bit. There are needles and blood involved, after all.

Choose wisely. Haha!

In my experience, the forearm is the least painful place – but Angelo disagrees. It’s different for each person, so try pulling a hair out of the place you plan your tattoo on and see how much it hurts.

Is it worth it?

YES!

I think tattoos are the best souvenirs in the world: they’re weightless, last forever, don’t occupy space in the bags, don’t break.

 

Travel tattoos, as with any tattoo, hurt. But it's not the end of the world and it will last forever!

Sometimes, when the youngest is a bit restless, we take her to see the tattoo in the making. She has a lot of fun, pays attention, and is very respectful. The artists often have fun with her too.

 

They hurt, and when they’re healing, they’re ugly – the same shell that forms when you hurt yourself happens there – all over the tattoo. When they start healing, they are itchy, and you’re not supposed to itch. Sometimes they even need a retouch.

If you have a travel tattoo, we’d love to see it!

 

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