Tattoos have been a stigma, a taboo in many cultures, especially in Asian countries where they would often be associated with mafias and bad people. However, the world has changed, and so has Vietnam. These days, along with the booming popularity of tattooing internationally, tattooing in Vietnam is flourishing as well.
Now, the obvious choices in Vietnam are good food, breathtaking scenery, and rich history…How about tattooing?
Tattoos in the Vietnamese Culture
Contrary to the negative viewpoints towards tattoos that many Vietnamese still hold, tattooing is, in fact, one of Vietnam’s most ancient customs, along with the black teeth trend. Born 2000 – 3000 years ago, and lasting until late XIII century – early XIV century, tattoos were believed to protect humans from the deadly attacks of sea monsters, demons, and accidents… On top of that, tattoos were such an integrated part of the Vietnamese lifestyle that at certain times, they acted as a sign of patriotism. During the Mongol invasions of Vietnam, tattoos were the way soldiers and citizens showed their patriotism and support in the fight against invaders.
Tattooing was an ancient tradition that died out and its good virtue was forgotten
Fast forward a few centuries, tattooing was no longer a popular practice, and, along with cultural influences from Asian giants like China (black societies) and Japan (yakuza), tattooing became what only bad people do. But as the world evolves, and thanks to the exposure to Western cultures, Vietnamese are much more open-minded nowadays. Tattoos can be a long-lasting “fashion” statement, an expression of oneself, or a mark of one’s meaningful events… In the city, such as Ho Chi Minh City of Hanoi, the tattooing scene is burgeoning. People in their 20s and 30s, white-collar workers, and students are among the lovers of this art form, which has contributed significantly to clearing its name. Still, Vietnamese aren’t completely free of prejudices against people who get tattoos, so expect some looks when you’re in a community or trying to land a job, typically in the rural areas of Vietnam.
Read more about Vietnamese Culture
3 Reasons for Getting Tattoos in Vietnam
Besides commemorating your far East adventure, what other reasons should you consider getting tattoos in Vietnam?
Price and quality
Vietnam can be considered a hidden tattooing gem for the price you pay and the quality that you receive. Partly owing to the difference in Vietnamese currency value and others, the price for getting inked here is quite low if you compare it to prices in other countries such as America, Australia, England… and even Eastern ones like China and Japan. For example, while a full sleeve will probably cost you US$ 500 – US$ 3000+ in other countries, in Vietnam, you only have to pay half the price. But don’t let the numbers fool you, Vietnamese artists are just as skilled. Whether old-school, blackwork, Japanese, or cute illustrative style… artists here cater to a wide range of tastes. So get going and the results might wow you more than you expect!
Instead of going with some common designs that you can get inked anywhere else, how about a symbol/mark that represents Vietnam for your trip? Surely you can get a conical hat tattoo in LA too, but it would certainly carry more weight if it had been done in Vietnam right? Besides, artists here would have a better understanding of national symbols like ao dai, lotus, or Dong Son drum…They can also provide helpful advice on how to select ones that will not appear offensive should you opt for symbols of different ethnic groups and religions.
A tattoo inspired by Dong Son drum
Nowadays, tattooing isn’t that much of a taboo in Vietnam anymore
Getting tattoos in Vietnam can be an outlet for presenting one’s statement and emotional support. What better way to forever remember your loved ones, a momentous day, or your life motto than to have it on your body? Vietnamese are now more accepting of tattoos, mostly small ones, which are perfect if you want a tattoo of personal meaning.
Before You Ink – Tattoos Safety
Getting tattoos is fairly dangerous as you may be infected by contaminated inking tools, the inking process, and the ink itself. You will need to take cautious steps before getting a tattoo.
- Make sure the tattoo equipment is sterilized. They should also be single-use only and untouched by others after sterilization.
- Ask for the ink origin as you need to know what is in it, whether you are allergic to the components, or whether the components are contaminated or not.
- Go to parlors that are fully licensed. The shops, along with their equipment, must be clean and their process is not messy. You should consult with people who have their tattoos done in the same shops as well.
- Consult with your doctor if you find any signs of allergy or infections after the inking. Some of them include red, swollen, rash, and fever if you are seriously infected.
- Take a tetanus shot before getting a tattoo. See what other vaccinations you need when traveling to Vietnam.
- Prepare cash – Vietnamese use cash in pretty much everything, so some parlors may not accept credit cards.
- Prior booking may be expected at some parlors so do contact the artists beforehand for the price, design, and making appointments.
- In most tattoo shops in Vietnam, there’s also a piercing service. You can read more about Getting Piercings in Vietnam here.
Additional reading material: All you need to know about Tattoo cover-up
Tattoo Aftercare While Traveling
Now that you’ve gotten a tattoo, what’s next is aftercare – a crucial, if not more important than getting inked, part of your tattooing journey. It is certainly hard to take care of your tattoo while you’re on holiday because it needs to heal, and well, traveling isn’t the most convenient time for hygiene. So remember these if you want no regrets:
- Leave the cling film wrap on your new tattoo as long as you’ve been told. You may think that it’s healed but a little more protection from dirt and pollution will do you good.
- Put on bepanthen (nappy care ointment) if you can keep away infection.
- Don’t ever scratch or pick any scabs because that can pull the ink out and probably leave scars.
- When the tattoo’s healing, keep it out of the sun as much as possible. After it has healed, use sunscreens with high SPF for more long-lasting, vibrant colors.
- You can get the tattoo wet for cleaning, but never soak it in water, such as swimming or taking a bath.
Your new tattoo is basically an open wound, so treat it with utmost care
Where to Get Tattoos in Vietnam
In big cities like Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, there are several tattoo shops for you to choose from. Just a few streets in the center of District 1 such as Pham Ngu Lao, Nguyen Cu Trinh, and Cong Quynh, create an area called “town of tattooing” with a dozen famous art tattoo studios in Ho Chi Minh City. They are friendly with excellent artistry and also speak English fluently.
Ho Chi Minh City
Address: 234A Huynh Van Banh, Phu Nhuan District
Opening hours: 10 AM – 8 PM
Founded in 2009 by Bo Toee, the one and only member of Cheyenne Tattoo in Vietnam, Saigon Tattoo Club has earned a considerable amount of attention among tattoo art lovers. They are a team of 8 tattoo artists and the only studio in Vietnam being sponsored by Cheyenne Tattoo Machine Manufacturer and Radiant Colors Company.
Address: 26 Tran Hung Dao, District 1
Opening hours: 9 AM – 10 PM
It is one of the best-known tattoo studios in Ho Chi Minh City. The founder, Danis Nguyen, has won many prizes from competitions and conventions nationally and internationally. Saigon Ink owns a team of 9 talented artists with their own specialization.
Address: 83/1 Pham Ngu Lao, District 1
Opening hours: 11 AM – 7:30 PM
Using the knowledge and techniques from Japan, Mr. Trung Tadashi returned to Vietnam and opened Tadashi Tattoo in 2007. Besides the founder Trung, who is skilled in changing your idea into ink on your body perfectly no matter what personality you have, there are 5 other artists with high professional skills for you to choose.
Tadashi Tattoo – a reputable parlor in Saigon with various recognized prizes
Another Tattoo (when in Hanoi, check out these guys)
Instagram page: Link
Address: 94 Xuan Dieu Street (2nd floor), Tay Ho District, Hanoi
Opening hours: 11 AM – 8 PM
Another Tattoo takes walk-ins on a first-come-first-served basis. They accept cash & credit cards.
Another Tattoo is best known as the most professional tattoo studio in Hanoi with many years of experience
Address: 26B, Duong Thanh Street, Hoan Kiem District, Hanoi
Opening hours: 9 AM – 6:30 PM
Conclusions on What You Should Know Before Getting Tattoos in Vietnam
Getting tattoos in Vietnam can both be a fun souvenir to your adventure in Ho Chi Minh City or Hanoi, and an art form you can keep to yourself evermore. Besides low prices and good quality, it can also be a unique way to get to know Saigon’s other side – where people are more accepting of unconventional ideas. Just remember to get inked with care and consideration.