Bali, Indonesia is Asia’s leading destination for travel tattoos. Awesome! That’s that’s why we’re here.
At Tattlas Bali Tattoo Guide, we are not here to take the fun out of going home with a new tattoo. Maybe there’s a story about doing it at a beach or bar too.
Please don’t jump in line for anything, whether it’s a mighty lion or a micro skin sticker, without a basic understanding of safe and unsafe tattooing practices.
Please don’t rock up for a face tattoo (just saying) if that wasn’t a desire before coming here.
“Remember who you are.”
Mufasa, the ancestral celestial version, in Disney’s ‘Lion King’ said that. (If you happen to have a Bali tattoo of the scene I’m referring to, that would be great thanks). What we do have is a beastly collection.
You are not Peter Pan and this is not a fictional island. Most of us are more of an Ariel, right?
Dreams can lift us sky high, yet regrets can sink so deep.
We aim to empower your decisions so that the Bali body art community buzzes and every piece created has a chance to be loved with no strings attached.
For your safety and satisfaction, let’s explore some topics and concerns which may be on your mind as foreign visitors before getting tattoos in Bali.
Nervous? Santai (Relax).
What to Expect:
1. Research your dream tattoo.
2. Choose a tattoo artist at a studio near you.
3. Make an appointment and pay the deposit.
4. Get your tattoo done safely.
5. Learn about tattoo care and settle the bill after your session.
It’s 2019 and tattooing as a global industry is bigger and safer than ever before. That’s good news because no one wants to read or write a tattoo nightmare story (except us! Tell us everything). Our mission: improve, empower and promote tattoo tourism in Bali.
There are no excuses for getting shitty tattoos. It’s easy to find an expert in the tattoo style you want, so don’t settle for less. Many old tattoo truths are now myths, so don’t believe everything you hear. At TATTLAS Bali Tattoo Guide, we do the research for you (and we always double-check and cite our sources, too).
#1 Decide on Your Tattoo Design
What do you want, exactly? Are you sure?
Step one is a big part of our mission at TATTLAS. To help you make informed decisions about your body art, we try to give you tons of inspiration in our blog, and we share plenty of fresh ink on our social accounts.
#2 Find a Tattoo Studio
Who is the best tattoo artist in Bali?
The best tattoo artist in Bali is different for everyone. Just like how your favorite nasi goreng or your favorite place to stay in Bali might not be the same as your friend’s faves.
Who is the best tattoo artist in Bali FOR YOUR tattoo?
Your mission is to find an artist who meets your criteria:
- with experience making tattoos in the style you want
- who works with safe tattooing practices
- at a tattoo shop where you’ll be comfortable getting inked
- available for the dates and rates that work for you
Which is the most hygienic tattoo studio in Bali?
Even if we could answer that question, it likely would not remain the correct answer for long. Safety is paramount and we have a wealth of information about that in the next sections. For now, let’s focus on the artwork that you want on your body, you know, for the rest of your life.
Where to look for a selection of tattoo artists and studios?
In terms of Bali’s regencies, Badung is where ink’s at! Within the borders of Badung is the whole south-west coast of Bali which tourists know so well. Say hello to 200+ tattoo parlors in Kuta, Seminyak and Canggu.
Badung also includes the southern Bukit peninsula, but there are only a couple of tattoo studios around Jimbaran and Uluwatu (we’ve also struggled to find any established tattooers in Bali’s northern regencies and other rural areas).
On Bali’s east coast, there is a tight-knit community of less than 10 tattoo studios in Sanur on the main tourist streets near Sanur beach.
Don’t forget Gianyar regency near the middle of the island, where you’ll find a legit collection of 30+ professional tattoo studios in Ubud.
If you’re thinking about travelling to Bali for a tattoo, why not search the whole island for a studio and artist you love?
#3 Appointments and Prices
How much does it cost to get a tattoo in Bali?
Make an appointment online or in person. For up to two weeks after getting a new tattoo, your art cannot go underwater; that means no surfing and swimming, so plan ahead to get your tattoo and care for it properly. A lot of tourists schedule tattoo appointments during their last couple days in Bali.
When making your appointment, you will be expected to pay a deposit. The remainder of the price is paid to the studio manager after the tattoo is done. Pay with Indonesian rupiah (IDR) in cash; only some studios accept other currencies, and very few studios in Bali have a credit card machine.
There may be no need to schedule an appointment for a small tattoo which can be done in minutes. The studio will negotiate a flat rate or charge a minimum price to cover the costs of materials and pay the artist. The standard minimum price tends to be around 500,000 IDR.
The price for most tattoos in Bali is per hour and the rate differs depending on the studio, the artist and the tattoo design. From our experience, a fair hourly rate is above 1,000,000 IDR (or $100 Australian dollars). Many of the artists only earn a portion of the price you pay and do not earn a salary for their other time in the studio, so tipping is a nice thing to do! More on this topic coming soon.
#4 Hygiene and Safety
Is it safe to get tattoos in Bali?
Getting tattooed anywhere in the world comes with potential health hazards. Actually, getting tattoos does not cause infections, but certain pathogens can infect people through various methods of transmission.
Infections you really want to avoid:
- Staph infections including MRSA, an antibiotic-resistant skin infection
- Impetigo and other skin rashes caused by bacteria
- Syphilis, a skin infection caused by bacteria which can develop into a disease if untreated
- Tuberculosis (TB), a bacterial lung infection which can have a dire outcome
- Herpes virus
- Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) which leads to AIDS
- Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C virus
Many viruses can only live in a person’s body fluids such as blood, saliva and vomit, but other viruses can be passed through the air in a sneeze.
Skin rashes and TB are usually spread through physical contact, something as casual as a handshake or touching the same door handle as an infected person (the same way you would catch a common cold or flu).
Transmitting HIV requires people to mix body fluids by doing things like sharing tattoo ink or having sex. In some circumstances, viruses can be spread through contact with someone’s old, dried body fluids (not to freak you out or anything, but Hepatitis B can survive in dried blood for up to 2 weeks).
This information comes from a Bloodborne Pathogens Training Course by the United States’ Body Art Training Group.
Who is at risk?
Wherever you decide to get tattooed, there are always risks to your health and safety, and it’s up to you alone to make smart decisions that minimize your risks.
Most tattoo parlors in Bali operate with high safety standards and quality equipment. They follow routine practices to ensure a hygienic environment for body art on par with studios in Australia, America and Europe… but without the same regulations and inspections. More about International Safety Standards for Tattooing coming soon.
To significantly reduce your chances of getting a serious illness, avoid skin contact with everything and everyone who can’t show you clean results from a very recent blood test and STD screening. More realistically, educate yourself about the potential ways that pathogens are spread by tattooing, and how to reduce your risk of exposure. There is no way to protect yourself 100% from infections, even in countries with strictly regulated body art industries.
Tattoo Safety Tips
If you need to shave your hairy arm before getting inked, use your own razor at home before you go to the studio, or ask for a brand new razor. No new razor? A disposable plastic razor is less than a dollar at Circle K. Bro, please go buy one for yourself and while you’re there buy a bag of razors for the shop. Used razors and towels can spread bacteria that cause staph infections, impetigo and even syphilis.
Everyone at the shop, especially employees should wash hands frequently. You can expect the studio’s WC will have a toilet, tissue paper and antibacterial soap. Everyone should be washing their hands and drying them with disposable towels. If the studio has a cloth hand towel for drying hands, it’s not necessarily a red flag, but do you really need to dry your hands?
Check the Surfaces
You should see a sterilizer, which may or may not be 100% effective, and you should see the tattoo chair or bench cleaned thoroughly or wrapped with saran wrap. Most artists will wrap the tattoo machine and cords in plastic as well. This should all be done between customers. Arrive to the shop early and watch the set up take place for you.
Single-use Packaged Needles
The artist should present each new needle to you from a sealed package (some tattoos are made with various needles of different sizes). Professional artists will get your attention to make sure you witness this most important safety procedure.
Watch the Gloves
Your tattoo artist will wear disposable gloves. The artist should pretty much only touch you and the bagged tattoo machine. If they touch other supplies in the studio like pens and ink bottles, and then touch your skin again, whoa, just ask for a glove change right now.
Don’t be Shy
Speak up about whatever you need to protect yourself from being exposed to potential contaminants.
For insights from a qualified medical professional, we went to Siloam Hospital on Sunset Road, right next to Bali’s top tourist destination for tattoos, Kuta. There we met Dr. Martha, who answered all our questions about tattoo safety in Bali and agreed to let me share her wisdom here on our blog.
“During my 4 1/2 years of practice, I’ve seen maybe 2 people with poor hygiene who had secondary infections after getting permanent tattoos in Bali.”
Dr. Martha, Sp.KK, M.Kes
Medical Faculty of Udayana University, specialization Dermatology; certification Thread Lift Master of Health, Medical Faculty of Hasanuddin University (picture and qualifications from medicaldepartures.com)
What does this mean?
A couple people who got skin infections after getting inked went to Siloam about it. Secondary infections are skin infections caused by contact with bacteria or other external factors, rather than from swapping bodily fluids. Most are treatable with antibiotics.
For healthy hygienic individuals, getting tattooed by an experienced tattoo artist in Bali (who may or may not have professional certification or much medical training…) is not a particularly risky thing to do.
Your chances of getting serious injuries or contracting diseases from getting a permanent tattoo are better odds than the risks from getting henna tattoos, riding motorbikes, injecting drugs or having unprotected sex. That’s true in Bali and most parts of the world.
According to the Australian Department of Health
more people in Australia get Hepatitis B from injecting drugs than tattoos or piercings
CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)
get vaccinated against Hep B before getting tattooed
Western Australia Department of Health
on safe body art
ECIPP (Exposure Control and Infection Prevention Plan)
in compliance with the United States’ Occupational Safety Hazard Administration’s Bloodborne Pathogens Standard
#5 Tattoo Healing and Aftercare
How do you take care of a new tattoo?
Special thanks to Simon and the experienced team at West Coast Ink Bali in Seminyak for sharing their wisdom and letting us record some video clips.
The post-tattoo saran wrap serves to prevent infection and can be removed pretty quickly…
As soon as 30 minutes to an hour later, allow your tattoo to air out in a clean environment.
Do not put the tattoo underwater. Take quick showers and use a clean tissue to pat dry the tattoo afterward.
About three days after getting inked, or as soon as a fresh tattoo has naturally become dry…
Moisturize the surface with a thin layer of non-scented lotion or a product specifically for tattoo aftercare. You can do that a few times each day, but still do not get the tattoo too moist.
Scabbing is a normal, healthy part of the tattoo healing process. It’s often very itchy and uncomfortable.
- DO nothing (nothing extraordinary should be needed during the first few days)
- DO let your tattoo dry out naturally in fresh air
- DO use bottled water or baby wipes to clean your new tattoo after exposure to stuffy or polluted air or questionable water or rain showers
- DO pay attention to anything unusual
- DON’T use soap or creams right off the bat and especially avoid scented products
- DON’T wear tight clothing over the tattoo
- DON’T go swimming or immerse your body in water (showers are fine)
- DON’T cover your tattoo with sunblock until it’s fully healed
- DON’T scratch or pick at the tattoo
Visit their blog for more information or click below to view the two-page info sheet provided to their customers. Tattoo Aftercare PDF
To avoid any skin issues that may arise from getting tattoos, Dr. Martha shares this advice:
- Always keep freshly tattooed skin clean and dry.
- Don’t use antiseptic.
- Shower quickly with cold or lukewarm water and mild soap or body wash.
- No swimming until the tattooed area has peeled and fully healed.
- After playing sports, sweating or getting caught in the rain, directly have a shower.
Getting too much sun exposure on a new tattoo doesn’t pose serious health risks but sunburns can cause colors to fade and cause skin dryness which is uncomfortable.
And is there special advice about looking after very large tattoos?
Yes, Doc M. says taking a full course of antibiotics after getting inked is a safe extra precaution to avoid infection (approximately 3 days and no boozing).
For me, she recommended Ceptik 200mg, but you should consult your doctor for your own medical advice.
“Ceptic is a drug used to treat respiratory infections, skin and soft tissue infections, as well as urinary tract infection (isc) and genital. Ceptic contains Cefixime, a third generation cephalosporin antibiotic that is active against gram-negative bacteria and gram-positive.”Translated to English from: http://www.farmasiana.com/cefixime/ceptik/
The most important thing about taking care of a large tattoo is to avoid letting your open skin stay moist, which creates an environment in which bacteria can thrive.
Questions / Concerns?
Oh no! Do not hesitate to consult with your tattoo artist and/or get examined by a physician.
Maybe a second opinion is in order? Not quite ready to shell out for personal care or get out of bed at all?
In Bali, we often seek online resources in English from Down Under. The Western Australia Department of Health website offers this comprehensive government-approved advice about tattoos and piercings:
“Taking Care of Body Art”
Or, for a particular predicament not covered above, looking for insight from an industry leader like Tattoos.com is likely a wiser starting point than using a search engine or forum of unqualified strangers. This help?
“Help There’s Something Wrong with My Tattoo” http://www.tattoo.com/blog/help-theres-something-wrong-my-tattoo
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