Tattoo and Piercing in Hoi An

Every legendary trip deserves an epic keepsake. For some, tattoos and piercings might seem like the best idea ever! Not only do they serve as unique souvenirs, but they’re often the highlight of travel tales for years to come. However, there are important things to take into consideration before getting under the needle, especially in a foreign country.

Luckily, Hidden’s here to help. We’ve gathered together everything you should know before going YOLO in paradise. So, if you are thinking of getting a tattoo or piercing in Hoi An, read on.

Vietnamese Tattoo Culture: From Ancient Tradition to Taboo

Interestingly enough, tattooing is one of Vietnam’s most ancient customs. Born 2,000 – 3,000 years ago and lasting until the 14th century. Tattoos were believed to protect fishermen against sea monsters. During the Li and Tran dynasties, Vietnamese of all classes, ages, and genders tattooed themselves.

Old style chest tattoo: Tattoo and Piercing in Hoi An
An old style chest tattoo depicting a traditional Vietnamese scene.

Tattoos eventually became a distinguishing feature of Vietnamese people that differentiated them from foreigners. In fact, tattoos were such an integral part of the Vietnamese culture that, at certain times, they acted as form of patriotism. Soldiers and government officials were tattooed to show their support in the fight against invaders. As soon as the Ming dynasty came in the picture, this mindset was wiped out and tattoos became a taboo.

From Taboo to Popular Art Form

So, up until recently, tattooing was what only “bad people” did. It had a reputation as a tell-tale sign of a gangster or prisoner. Especially among the authorities and older generations. However, over the last decade, internet access has allowed western culture to permeate the Vietnamese, making young people more open-minded when it comes to tattoos.

Today, more and more students, young adults in their 20’s and 30’s, white-collar workers and Vietnamese celebrities embrace this special art form. Tattoos are highly visible and probably the main reason for clearing their previous bad reputation. New tattoo joints are opening up every day and talented young artists are thriving at international conventions.

Tattooed arms of a young man: Tattoo and Piercing in Hoi An
The tattooed arms of a young Vietnamese man in Hoi An

Why get a Tattoo or Piercing in Hoi An?

The Price of Tattoos in Hoi An

Hoi An can be considered a hidden tattooing/ piercing gem for the price you pay and the quality you receive. As with everything in Vietnam, the price to get under the needle here can be quite alluring. Especially, if you compare it to western countries like the United States, Australia, United Kingdom or even eastern countries like Japan and Singapore. Depending on your home country, getting inked in Hoi An can cost anything from 20% less to half the price.

Hidden Hint: If you are price sensitive choose an independent tattoo artist, they usually have more flexibility to make you a better offer. Commercial chains tend to have more expensive and fixed prices than individually owned studios.

A Tattooist at work: Tattoo and Piercing in Hoi An
A tattooist at work in The Hangout Tattoo Studio, Hoi An

The Quality of Hoi An Tattoos

Don’t let the price fool you. You can get some great quality tattoos here. Hoi An artists are very talented, distinguished and have an amazing drive to excel their art. During our research, we were lucky to come across Ti, a 26-year-old, self-taught artist from Hanoi. Currently spending a few months in 1984’s branch in Hoi An. Ti just won “Best of the Day” category two days in a row, at the 5th Vietnam Tattoo Convention, competing with artists from all over the world. His designs are sick! Check him out here.

Hoi An’s Unique Tattoo Designs

Instead of having a common design, how about letting your ink tell the story about where you’ve been? Hoi An gives a lot of inspiration for a travel tattoo. From getting a conical hat and a pho bowl to mighty dragons and ethnic girl figures. There are endless options to choose from. Sure you can have these tattoos anywhere in the world. But having symbols like the ao dai or a lantern, actually, in Hoi An, carry greater weight. And of course, the artist’s understanding of their national symbols translates better in ink.

A conical hat tattoo: Tattoo and Piercing in Hoi An
A conical hat tattoo from The Hangout Tattoos

What do you Need to Know Before Getting a Tattoo in Hoi An?

Keep it Simple

If you’re not in Hoi An for long, this is not the time to get a sleeve or mural covering your entire back. Any tattoo is an open wound and should be treated as such. Bigger ones can take several hours or several sessions over a few days. Depending on how much detail is involved, they need extra care to heal. Unless you made this a tattoo focused trip, keep it fun and simple. This is not the time to go big. You’re here to have fun, not worry about aftercare and the hot tropical sun.

Timing is Everything

When it comes to vacation tattoos and piercings, be smart and plan ahead! Remember – you can’t step into the river, sea or pool for a couple of weeks. So find your artist, allow one to two days to agree on a sketch and make your appointment for the day before you leave Hoi An. Paradise can easily turn into hell, if you are forced to sit under the umbrella wearing a t-shirt, watching your friends having fun on the beach. Just because you got your tattoo or piercing on your first day here.

Thumbs up at 1984 Studio: Tattoo and Piercing in Hoi An
1984 Studio award winning tattooist Ti at work

Think Before You Ink

Tattooing involves needles, blood and can get messy. Don’t take it lightly just because you are on vacation, or this is your 5th tattoo. When visiting a tattoo studio, take a few minutes to look around before you commit. Ask them about their hygiene standards, check if they wrap their equipment and watch them as they tattoo someone else.

Hoi An’s studios, for the most part, meet all the safety requirements. Which means you are more likely to get a misspelled word than hepatitis. However, make sure to check both!

Checking a studio’s cleanliness and overall conditions is quite easy. Start by having a look at the studio itself. If it doesn’t look clean and well-maintained it certainly isn’t. Pay attention to the artist as well – is he wearing clean clothes and gloves while tattooing? Gloves will not only keep an artist’s hands clean from ink but also ensure proper hygiene stopping any possible infection entering your skin. Finally, but most importantly make sure needles are only used once, tattoo tubes are disposable, and ink is labelled for tattooing. Your artist should always open the tools and tubes in front of you, so make sure to pay attention.

The Hideout Tattoo: Tattoo and Piercing in Hoi An
A colourful mandala tattoo created by The Hideout Tattoo in Hoi An

Aftercare for your Holiday Tattoo

Once you get the tattoo you want, don’t get carried away and go on with your vacay like nothing happened. Aftercare is a crucial part of your tattooing journey. The last thing you want is to get an infection or ruin your design just because you pull at the peeling skin. Make sure you follow the aftercare instructions handed out to you by your studio. It is certainly more challenging to keep up with the hygiene requirements while travelling.

Expert Advice from The Hangout Tattoo Studio

Leave your bandage on as long as instructed by the artist. When removing the bandage wash the covered area with warm (not hot) water. This will remove the blood and ointment. Don’t submerge or soak your tattoo in baths, jacuzzis, pools, rivers or the sea, as they can harbour bacteria harmful to your tattoo.

Backpacker gets tattoo: Tattoo and Piercing in Hoi An
A backpacker gets a tattoo of a Vietnamese girl in a conical hat.

Hidden Hint: If you’re taking medication, please check with your studio before going under the needle. Certain medicine might lower your immune system, especially antibiotics that also kill your good bacteria.

After washing it, it is important to let it breathe. Don’t bandage or wear clothes that will rub on your new artwork. This can cause premature flaking and loss of colour. For the first few days, your tattoo may ooze and scab. This is all part of the healing process. Once the scab disappears a thin layer of skin will form and flake off like a sunburn. This is normal, however, it can be irritating. Don’t pick or scratch at it as this could cause scarring over the tattoo.

Lightly apply Bepanthen or A&D ointment, and take vitamin E & C to help the healing process. You can find all of these in a pharmacy in Hoi An. Also, drink plenty of water for the general wellness of your skin. Remember your tattoo artwork is forever, so protect it by taking the best possible care of your tattoo.

The Hangout Tattoo Studio: Tattoo and Piercing in Hoi An
The reception at The Hangout Tattoo studio in Hoi An

How to get a Tattoo and/or Piercing in Hoi An?

Find a Reputable Studio

The best way to find an reputable studio in Hoi An is through online search. There are a bunch of cool studios here, all with an online presence. So, Google, Facebook and Insta would be the perfect place to start. Go through their pages, have a look at their work, check their reviews, pick your favourite one and drop-by for a free consultation.

Decide on your Artist

After you decide on a studio, drop by to meet the artists. Do this in your first couple of days in Hoi An, so you don’t rush the process. Have a chat, tell them what you have in mind, and ask for their suggestions. If you are after something more specialised like realism or Japanese styles ask who is the best artist in the studio for your tattoo. Most artists tend to concentrate on a particular style they excel at and are confident doing.

It is very important to trust the artist you’re paired with and allow some room for creativity. Artists do their best work when they are keen on the design.

Hidden Hint: Check your artist’s work online. Most have a personal Instagram account or a page on their studio’s website.

Tattoo artist: Tattoo and Piercing in Hoi An
A tattoo artist at the drawing table in Hoi An

Leave a Deposit for your Sketch

Once you and the artist get on the same track about the design, you’ll need to leave a  deposit (from 500,000 VND (21 USD) – 1,000,000 VND (42 USD) depending on the tattoo’s size) to prepare your actual sketch. Most of the sketches are drawn on an iPad, but there are instances where the artists do it on paper. Allow a day for them to get back to you.

Hidden Hint: Bring cash! We didn’t find a tattoo studio in Hoi An that accepted credit/debit cards.

Get Stenciled

Drop in the next day to have a look at your sketch. Most places don’t send it to you just to ensure that you don’t take their sketch to another studio. If you like it, go ahead and have a stencil right where you want to have your tattoo. Otherwise, ask them for a new design, similar to the one you have or completely different. If you need some time to make up your mind, keep the stencil on for a few hours or days to see how you feel about it.

Hidden Hint: Remember having a tattoo takes a few days and healing takes a few weeks. Impromptu, last minute and/or drunk tattoos are good movie stories but the reality is quite different.

Book your Appointment

Once you are 100% certain on the sketch, colours and placement, agree on a price and schedule your appointment. We recommend doing it the day before your last day in Hoi An. This way you can have your new tattoo and still enjoy some beach time with your friends!

1984 award winning tattooist Ti:Tattoo and Piercing in Hoi An
Ti from 1984 tattoos places the stencil before beginning to tattoo

Hoi An’s Best Tattoo and Piercing Studios

We backed up our online research with some on the ground fieldwork and word-of-mouth research. After extensive research – we’ve narrowed it down to three places

1984 Tattoo Studio

Website – Address: 274 Cua Đai – Opening Hours: 9:00 a.m. – 11:00 p.m.

1984 is a tattoo studio chain with a presence in Hoi An and Hanoi. Their Hoi An branch is the biggest tattoo studio in town, located just a few metres from the popular Vietnam Backpackers Hostel.

But, 1984 is more than a successful tattoo chain, it is a meeting point for tattoo enthusiasts. In this two-story building, you are welcomed by a proud tattoo family of young artists. This place is hip, chill and very hygiene-oriented. In a few words the perfect place to have your tattoo. There are four tattoo artists here and two piercing specialists. Check out their portfolios on the 1984 website.

There is a beautiful terrace where you can sit with your friends and wait for your turn. You can also order something to eat and drink from their restaurant downstairs. It’s fairly priced and has a decent selection of local and western dishes. Finally, if you would like to buy a cool memorabilia from them, they sell their own 1984 t-shirts featuring sketches from their artists.

1984 Studio's tattooist, Ti: Tattoo and Piercing in Hoi An
1984 Studio’s award winning tattooist, Ti, with Hidden Hoi An’s own Katerina after her first tattoo

The Hangout Tattoo and Barbers

Website – Address: 91 Ba Trieu – Opening Hours: 9:30 a.m. – 8:00 p.m.

Hangout is the new player in town. This stylish tattoo studio is service-oriented and committed to making your experience as pleasurable as possible. Downstairs is a hip barbershop that can cut any kind of hair, straight, curly or afro (sorry girls this is only for guys). On the top floor is a brand new, well-equipped tattoo studio, complete with a cool sitting area and a small balcony. The tattoo area is in a separate room, visible from the sitting area. So you can see someone getting a tattoo. Above all, hygiene was paramount here. Everything was wrapped, protected, clean and disposable!

Hidden Hint: If you are staying at Vietnam’s Backpackers Hostel text them for a taxi pick up. It’s free to all Vietnam Backpackers Hostel customers!

You can find their work at @thehangout.hoian Instagram account. One of the cool things they have here is what they call “Hoi An flash” filled with unique tattoo designs from Hoi An. We’re talking pho bowls, conical hats and coconut boats. If you are keen on getting a souvenir tattoo, these are your guys! They also offer probably the most extensive list of body piercings.

Costs start at 200,000 VND (8.5 USD) and can reach 700,000 VND (30 USD), depending on the body part that will be pierced and the earring used.

The Hangout Tattoos: Tattoo and Piercing in Hoi An
The Hangout Tattoos stylish shopfront

Faifooink Tattoo

Website – Address: 257 Nguyen Duy Hieu   Opening Hours: 10:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.

Faifooink is a one-man show – Viet’s. Viet is a passionate tattoo artist with five years of experience. He has recently moved into a new tattoo studio on Nguyen Duy Hieu Street. His studio is well put together, but fairly basic in comparison to the others we visited. Don’t expect a trendy setting, Viet lets his artwork do the talking.

Viet is very responsive, highly committed and pays excellent attention to his customers. Of course, being all by himself, he cannot cater to multiple clients at a time, but he will direct you to fellow tattooists if he cannot help you.  

He has a good reputation among expats and locals, an edgy style and competitive prices. Take a look at his Instagram page, his designs are vivid, with clear lines and a smooth finish. Once you see them, you’re going to want to meet with him. Just keep in mind to send him a Facebook message first to arrange a meeting, because he might not be available if you just drop in.

Hidden Thoughts

Getting a tattoo or piercing in Hoi An is a great idea. The prices are highly competitive, the artists very talented and studios keep high hygiene standards. Just be well-informed about what you’re getting yourself into. What you think is a great story to share when you get back home, can easily turn into a great fuss while you are on the road.

So yes go for it, treat yourself and have a long lasting memory of Hoi An. But make sure you sign up for both the lifetime commitment and the two weeks or more of aftercare. Tattoos are awesome, but we wouldn’t want you to miss out enjoying the sun and the sea in this tropical paradise.

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