Asia Travelling Vietnam

My Saigon Ink

Getting a tattoo while travelling. Great souvenir or terrible mistake?

Confident before going in.

Personally I think that it is a great idea and I had one done while I was in Vietnam. The downside of travelling for prolonged periods of time is that you don’t really get to pick up any meaningful souvenirs of the places that you have visited. Sure, you see a lot of great (and not so great) stuff in the shops and markets but everything that you buy is money off your budget and weight in your backpack. A tattoo on the other hand, is a permanent, lasting memory of the person that you were.

I have seen some great tattoos as I have travelled around and I wish that I had photographed them. Friends I have met have been tattooed in every country they have visited – I love the idea of becoming a living, breathing passport! I agree that getting a tattoo while travelling is not something to be taken lightly and certainly should never be the result of a drunken decision, dare or pressure from a friend. But as a well-considered decision, I think it is a great idea.

My tattoo is the result of a number of years hesitation and consideration. I had all the usual doubts. How much will it hurt? Will it compromise future job prospects? Will I grow to hate it over time? What will it look like as I get older? Can I still wear a nice top or dress? Finally I decided to take the plunge and celebrate the end of my life in Vietnam by getting a tattoo.

Smiling through the pain

There was just one problem. I could find very little information about getting a tattoo in Vietnam. Thailand is famous for tattoos and many travellers head to the famous artists of the Khao San Road to get the obligatory travel tattoo. When I visited these tattoo parlours I found them overpriced, touristy and somewhat seedy. I wanted my tattoo done in Vietnam, it had been my home for 3 years and I would always remember it with fondness.

Thankfully I discovered Saigon Ink through the recommendation of a friend. Located at 26 Tran Hung Dao, just a stone’s throw away from the backpacker district, Saigon Ink is a big player on Saigon’s growing tattoo scene. Clean and sterile, I certainly felt more comfortable booking an appointment in this shop rather than the dingy upstairs parlours along the Khao San road. I was greeted by a friendly girl at the counter who spoke good English and was only too happy to advise me on my design. Despite the fact that she informed me that the process would be ‘very long, very painful’ we agreed a time and price and I made my appointment.

My chosen design was of a lily – my favourite flower and a childhood nickname. I thought it would be appropriate and feminine. I decided to place it just above my left hip-bone where it would be covered most of the time but visible on the beach. The whole thing took about 35 minutes and cost me 1,000,000vnd (about £30). I was very happy with the result and do not regret it at all.

The end result.

Is getting a tattoo while travelling a good or bad idea? Please use the comments below to let me know your thoughts!

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  1. says:

    i’m currently travelling around Vietnam and intend to try and get a tattoo at saigon ink when i visit HCMC, when you got your tattoo did you have to book far in advance or is it more of a ‘drop in’ sort of thing? most parlours in the uk you have to wait at least 2 weeks so i was hoping it will be different here, especially if they encourage ‘tourist tattoos’. also did everything heal nicely for you even in the heat? thanks, sio

    1. As I was teaching in a high school I was restricted to a weekend appointment but I booked it on a Wednesday for the following Saturday so didn’t have to wait long. If you are travelling you may well be able to get an appointment the same day, or the day after but the parlour is getting more popular now so it would be worth going in on your first day in Saigon. Mine healed very quickly with hardly any crusting during the healing process. I was advised not to swim for a few days or expose it to the sun so it’s probably best not to arrange a trip to the beach for a couple of weeks after you go. If you get one done then post a picture on my Runaway Brit FB page!

  2. […] You got a pretty sweet tattoo in Saigon, Vietnam.  What advice do you have for those seeking an ink […]

  3. Hung says:

    Hey thanks for the good read, gonna get my first tattoo done there hopefully.

    1. Thanks for the comment Let me know how the tattoo goes 🙂

      1. Hung says:

        Yeah I will, its gonna be my first one hopefully everything goes good lol.

  4. says:

    I am ALL FOR getting tattoos while travelling. I got a couple of them in Thailand. A tattoo is kind of an awesome souvenir. It will always remind you of the experiences you had in that country. Just make sure the place is reputable (good and clean) and you’re good to go! Yours is gorgeous by the way!

    1. Thank you very much! I am thinking about where to get my next one and what to have 🙂

  5. Shaker says:

    Hello! I am writing this some 3 years after you posted, but thought I could add some input. I was in Vietnam on vacation a few years back and actually got tattooed at Saigon Ink! I have over 70 hours of tattoo work on my body and have been tattooed in 3 foreign countries. When traveling, look for these things in a prospective shop: Is it clean and well managed? Do you see an autoclav anywhere? Ask about ink and the needles they will be using. I booked my appointment at Saigon Ink when I arrived and got the tattoo on my way out of the country 3 weeks later. Why? Remember this always when getting tattooed..don’t swim in the ocean for 7-10 days after getting inked! I hope that your tattoo journey has been fun and enlightening!

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