I may not be covered from head to toe in tattoos, but I do love them. Every time I travel, I find myself yearning for a permanent souvenir from the local tattoo parlour.
Unfortunately, most of the places that I have traveled to always seem to pose some sort of dilemma, preventing me from getting that tattoo. Whether it be drastically over priced services or a questionable environment that seems severely un-sterilized, there’s always something to keep an eye out for while dealing with ink on the road.
The first time that I ever got a tattoo while traveling was during the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, British Columbia. I had just crossed the country, from Toronto to Vancouver by train, and was looking for something to remember the occasion; a permanent souvenir.
My friend, Kathleen, and I dropped off our bags at the hostel, and proceeded to wander the busy streets of Vancouver, in search of the perfect tattoo parlour.
We settled on different shops. First, I got mine done at Sacred Heart Tattoo. The first place we stopped at said that my wrists were too tiny to apply my design, so I just wanted to check with one more shop. We walked in to Sacred Heart, and there was a female artist working, with equally small wrists. She said that it would be no problem, and booked me in.
I ended up with this lovely world map on my wrist, that I am still in love with to this day. (the hearts are drawn on for this photo!)
Next, Kathleen booked herself in at Adrenaline, just around the corner. We felt entirely comfortable with the surroundings in both shops, because everything was clean and sterilized. Vancouver is probably one of the world’s cleanest cities, so we were at ease.
Kathleen ended up getting the design of a fish that we saw on one of the Native art decorations in the street; she had personal reasons for getting a fish, but also just loved the idea of it being a souvenir from our trip.
I spent a lot of time exploring the back alleys of Taksim in Istanbul, searching for a suitable shop. I was given plenty of warnings before hand, about the conditions of the parlours, but wanted to take a look for myself.
Each shop was worse than the last, and I never ended up being able to find one that looked clean enough to my liking. Most of them were simply small booths in the corner of small indoor malls, with no sink or walls.
Suffice it to say, I never ended up getting a tattoo in Turkey, though I would have loved to get one if I could have found a clean shop.
Each time that I was in Trinidad and Tobago, I asked around about tattoos. I saw a few random wooden signs pointing to small shacks that were “tattoo parlours” that I didn’t even want to venture in to.
On top of the iffy appearance, I was told that tattooing was quite expensive in Trinidad. Looks like I would have no luck here either.
Finally, I booked a trip to Iceland. Knowing that Iceland is a country that prides itself on being clean, I knew that I would be able to find a sterile environment with no problem. I would be getting a tattoo in Reykjavik, and that’s all there was to it.
Or, so I thought. When we arrived in Iceland, we learned that it was going to cost about $400 for a very small and simple piece of work. Seeing that I had just spent $200 on a Lopapeysa and another big chunk on souvenirs, I wasn’t in the position to spend that much on a tattoo that would likely cost around $100 at home.
One of these days, I will go back to Iceland, and I WILL get a tattoo!
This past summer, I made a quick trip to Niagara Falls, here in Canada. Going to Niagara Falls is not exactly an exotic destination for me, as I grew up rather close to it, but I still think of it as traveling.
Knowing that Gina (of Live For Travel) and I would be meeting for the first time and exploring the city, we decided that we wanted to get tattoos!
We both have a love for tattoos, and had each saved up a bit of extra spending money. So, thanks to the suggestion of Lacey, we booked appointments at Dawg Pound Tattoos and excitedly awaited the day.
We arrived at Dawg Pound and were very happy with the environment. Everything was clean and sterile.
There are a number of things that you want to look for in a good tattoo parlour and I asked artist Jason “Jay” Hesse what my top standards should be, at home and abroad.
should have a barrier over it or on it.
Needles should be opened and disposed of in front of the customer
(seriously–ask for this!)
3. Tubes and grips should also be properly sterilized,
opened in front of the customer,
and properly disposed of following the tattoo.
4. A record of spore tests results are always a definite plus,
but vary due to numerous health board regulations
in different provinces, states or countries.
These are four things that I will always keep in mind during the rest of my travels. I certainly plan to continue looking for good places to get tattooed abroad, and eventually get a nice collection going. Has any one started a travel blog about tattoos around the world yet? :p
We got a chance to talk with Jay about other customers during our appointments. He told us that they get a lot of customers from other areas, and some from around the world.
Niagara Falls is a big tourist destination, so chances are probably higher for them to draw in international customers. I think that it’s great luck for those customers, because Jay and his other artists are really amazing at what they do!
Gina ended up getting an awesome compass on her forearm, after they came up with a design together in the shop. Gina told Jay what she wanted and made it personalized. It turned out perfect.
I ended up getting the GPS coordinates (I know this is a cliché tattoo for many people, but I am a geography major specializing in GIS, and I am just plain obsessed with maps and all things travel, if you hadn’t noticed) of the place that I grew up and the first place that I ever traveled to (Italy).
I only ever managed to get a photo on my iPhone.
In the end, Dawg Pound Tattoos was the perfect definition of what to look for in a tattoo parlour while traveling. I will continue my quest in tattoos around the world, and I will always reflect on my experience in Niagara.
I’d love to hear about your traveling tattoo experiences too, especially the not-so-good ones! :p
More on Travel Tattoos:
My Travel Tattoos
Getting Tattooed While Travelling
Travelling With Tattoos
Getting Tattooed by a Buddhist Monk