Authored by Dan Hunter
To much of the developed world, especially in recent years, tattoos are seen as beautiful/trendy additions to one’s personality, with many tattoos succeeding in telling interesting stories about a person’s past.
But in some countries, tattoos are still seen as extremely taboo. Exposed tattoos in such countries can commonly result in arrests, and where a traveler is concerned, sometimes deportation.
So the following is a list of countries where you should be extra careful about flaunting your ink – otherwise you may end up in more trouble than previously thought!
Many countries in this list might not have an outright ban on tattoos, and in these cases we have explained exactly what you can get into trouble for (ie Nazi symbols will land you in hot water in Germany).
Illegal Ink – 11 Countries Where Showing Your Tattoos Could Get You Kicked Out!
Germany, France & Slovakia
Each of these three countries practice specific laws that prohibit the display of any tattoos symbolizing or otherwise glorying Nazi culture. Exposing any such tattoo can lead to arrest and potential deportation.
The attitude towards tattoos in Germany, France, and Slovakia in general is totally accepting, but if you have anything that symbolizes or even looks like it supports the previous Nazi regime, you’re going to find yourself in a lot of trouble.
Sri Lanka & Thailand
Sri Lanka has seen many arrests within the last decade due to travelers and expats exposing or showing their Buddha/Buddhist tattoos in public.
Sri Lanka as a country has extremely strong Buddhist beliefs, and as such, the government is very sensitive about their religion being defaced in any way – especially when an ‘outsider’ is seen displaying a tattoo that marks something so symbolic within the country.
Like Sri Lanka, Thailand is also cracking down on tourists who expose religious-themed tattoos. The Thai government states that they believe religious tattoos to be culturally inappropriate and that they erode the respect of the native religions.
Non religious tattoos in these countries are typically fine, and as both countries have established themselves as leading tourist destinations, locals are typically pretty accepting of foreigners who have tattoos.
Japan is surprisingly strict when it comes to tattoos, especially considering that it is often seen by many as one of the original birthplaces for the art form.
In recent history, tattoos have carried negative connotations throughout much of the country, and officials are strongly opposed to any exposed ink that can be perceived as being shocking or offensive. This is especially if it relates at all to any organized crime gangs within the country.
Many public areas within Japan ban entry if you have visible tattoos. Popular places that regularly ban tattoos include bath houses, gyms and resorts. A recent government survey discovered that 56% of hotels and inns actively ban tattooed visitors from their public bathing areas.
Although some tattoos are allowed within the country, they’re subject to very strict regulations. All tattoos exposed within North Korea must show praise towards the Kim (leaders) family or otherwise have some kind of approved political purpose attributed to them.
If you’re found to have tattoos unrelated to these specifications then you could potentially be deported or even sentenced to hard labor in prison.
Tattoos once had a stigma in Vietnamese culture; they were viewed as being associated with criminal and illegal activity, and operating or owning any kind of shop/studio within the country was banned.
But influenced by international trends, the Vietnamese people have become more receptive to the concept and the tattoo industry is growing fast.
If you’re traveling outside the main cities, and find yourself receiving negative attention for your tattoos, this could be a result of old mindsets and attitudes. Which still exist among older generations and more traditional communities. So have something on hand to cover up with if you have exposed tattoos.
If you’re travelling with a brand new tattoo, and the healing process becomes problematic, try and reach a specialized tattoo studio in one of the main cities. But always prioritize looking looking after your tattoo to prevent any potential infections.
Getting tattooed or showing tattoos in public has become a touchy subject in this country in recent years.
Government officials and country leaders have publicly stated that they believe the practice of tattooing is associated with devil-worshipping, and that being tattooed is seen as a sign of Westernisation, which is strongly opposed.
If going to Iran, be extremely careful about exposing any kind of ink – especially anything based around religion.
Although tattoos are not currently illegal within the country, Turkey’s top officials have become increasingly hostile towards body art in recent times.
Earlier this year for example, the top religious body in Turkey issued a request for all Muslims with tattoos within the country to either repent or have the tattoo surgically removed.
Tattoos are largely forbidden within Malaysia due to religious reasons.
Many government and public groups within the country believe that by getting tattooed, you are deciding to change the way that god initially created you – which is seen as a terrible sin.
Although tattoos can be seen as extremely positive means of self-expression in many areas of the world – you must remember that other countries dissimilar to the ones you know best may not see them this way.
Always be wary when travelling to new countries when carrying tattoos, and always do a little bit of research on how your ink may be perceived within any new country that you’re thinking about entering.
Have feedback or updates re the information in this post? Leave me a comment to let me know! I would love to hear about your experiences, and will happily make edits to reflect the most up to date information.
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