Getting a Tattoo Abroad

Annika Rader
July 17, 2022
Tattoo shop wall picture

As someone with many tattoos, getting a tattoo while in Italy was definitely on my bucket list. Luckily for me, I found an opportunity to get two separate tattoos. One tattoo, I went in as a walk-in and told the shop what I wanted. The other tattoo, I went to a tattoo shop’s event where they were doing flash tattoos that you pick from a wall of sketches, rather than you deciding exactly what you want. Because both of these experiences were very different and even from current fellow IES Abroad students I had questions, here are some tips and tricks I used to make getting a tattoo abroad a lot easier:

1.) Do your research:

For my walk-in tattoo, I heavily researched different tattoo shops in Milan to make sure I would go somewhere that would suit me. Obviously, you should do this with anywhere you choose to get a tattoo, but I did this more heavily here because I was worried about a potential language barrier being an issue when it came to describing what I wanted. The way I found somewhere I felt confident in was their reviews, but also stalking their social media. The place I went to had their Instagram entirely in English, so I wasn’t worried and luckily, I had a great experience! My artist even helped translate the form I needed to sign to make sure I understood everything. If you find yourself in Milan and wanting a tattoo, Red Couch Tattoo Shop was extremely accommodating, and I didn’t have to worry about the language barrier at all.

2.) Plan out the timing:

Tattoos generally take two weeks to heal, which is two weeks it has to be kept out of a lot of direct sunlight and can’t be submerged in water. If you travel on the weekends to fun destinations, you need to make sure you aren’t laying out on the beach the day after your new tattoo. For me, this meant I planned to get my tattoos where the healing periods did not coincide with intense outdoor or water time. Along with this aspect of planning, going in as a walk in means you are entering the tattoo shop not knowing their schedule or availability. If you definitely want to get it that day, make sure you block out plenty of time in your schedule to be at the tattoo shop.

3.) Don’t be afraid to ask questions:

When I went to the flash tattoo event, it was very unlike my first walk-in experience. Because it was an event, there wasn’t a worker there to hold my hand and make sure everything was translated and made sense to me. While this was by far not my first tattoo so it wasn’t new information to me, a lot of things were in Italian and obviously that made things a bit complicated for me. To help, I asked someone else at the event for help and not only did she help me, but I made a friend because of it! Her help made the whole event much easier and she helped me translate what I didn’t know. Another important thing about asking questions is making your budget clear to the artist and asking questions how to keep it in a price range you’re comfortable with. This is true for all tattoos, but at least for me, being firm about that felt scarier in a foreign country, Also, tattoos are slightly more expensive here because of the conversion rate which is important to keep in mind.

4.) Cash only:

While I only went to two tattoo shops, it is important to note that both were cash only businesses. I did not realize this beforehand, so I ended up needing to go to an ATM to pull cash out. If you plan to get a tattoo abroad, it is very likely that they would also be cash only so just keep this in mind when you go to get yours!

Overall, my tattoo experiences while abroad were excellent and I ended up with two more unique pieces of art on me. One of my tattoos is even a Milan tattoo, dedicated to my time here and my love of the city. I would highly recommend getting a tattoo abroad, whether it’s your first tattoo or your 50th, it will be an experience you’ll always remember and you can be reminded of your time abroad every time you see it.

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Annika Rader

<p>Ciao! My name is Annika Rader (aw-nih-kuh if you're wondering how to say it) and I am a junior at University of Missouri Columbia. I study Textile and Apparel Management major (which is just a fancy way to say fashion) with a Business minor. I am a writing intensive TA for my department, which tells you my love for writing, and I also work in my university's historical clothing collection. I love to learn, I'm an avid reader, and I've never met a thrift shop I didn't like. I can't wait to merge my vintage and thrifted style into the chicness of Milan and document my experience through writing. I want to share the good, the bad, and the (hopefully very little) ugly of my time abroad and maybe inspire others to experience it too. Milan here I come!</p>

2022 Summer 1, 2022 Summer 2
Home University:
University of Missouri - Columbia
Cedar Rapids, IA
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