To most people, the thought of getting tattooed in Bali is synonymous with ten too many Bintangs and a lifetime of regret. Tell a friend you got inked on your recent trip to Kuta and their first response will most likely be “have you had your Hepatitis vaccinations?” But while we’ve all seen one too many Schoolies coming back from Bali with ‘YOLO’ or misspelt names eternally etched into their butts, it’s the drunken spontaneity and poor decision making of some that help give the idea of getting tattooed in Bali a bad reputation.
Too many booze buckets, lax regulations and cheap prices contribute to the bad name of the Bali tattoo industry, with Kuta’s main nightlife areas lined with tattoo shops attracting the young and drunken crowds. Stiff competition means artists will often tattoo patrons who are visibly drunk or drug effected, or without verifying their age first. It’s practices like these that led to a tattoo related HIV infection in 2013, along with several reported hepatitis cases. The last thing any tourists wants to return from a fabulous tropical holiday with is a blood borne infection to go with their suntan.
Sick of the bad wrap, many internationally ownedtattoo shops have opened in Bali, following strict hygiene and operational regulations to ensure tourists can enjoy a safe tattoo from a talented artist to memorialise their time on this awe inspiring island. Leading Bali tattoo artists have also banded together to reclaim the good name of this age-old tradition and are opening award winning shops, starting collaborations all around the island.
In reality, Bali can be a fabulous place to get a tattoo, but the standard of tattoo studios in Bali varies dramatically. Just as you should anywhere in the world, always do your research before letting a stranger permanently needle ink into your skin. Of course, scoping out cleaning equipment and quizzing tattoo artists on their qualifications is the last thing you want to do between cocktails during your Balinese adventure, so we’ve done the hard work for you. These impressive and creative tattooists are raising the bar on Bali’s tattoo reputation and giving leading international artists a run for their money.
Here’s a handful of Bali’s best tattoo studios and leading tattoo artists.
Suku Suku Tatau
STUDIO OVERVIEW: Saku Saku is a tattoo studio of a different kind, specialising in traditional Balinese tattooing and securing a reputation as the only tattoo studio in Bali to offer traditional Indonesian tribal hand tapping tattoos. If you’re not a fan of the traditional, that won’t be an issue, as Saku Saky Tatau also offers modern tattooing and other body modification services like piercing, scarification and even tongue-splitting (although the latter should definitely be given some deeper thought as a forked tongue is probably the last thing you want to wake up with when teamed with sunstroke and a hangover). Following strict safety standards, Saku Saku is considered the place to go if you want a truly unique, high quality tattoo done in Bali by genuine artists. This studio has received countless accolades for their traditional and modern methods. Booking ahead is highly recommended as appointments fill up fast.
STYLE: Everything from traditional tattooing, to modern tattooing, piercing and body modification. Specialising in manual, traditional hand tapping and hand poking tattoos.
PRICE: Depending on the design, traditional tattoos start around 1.5M IDR.
EXPERIENCE: Resident artist Albar Tikam hails from Jakarta and has been honing his craft since 2007. In 2011 he decided to shift his focus to the manual traditional tattoo style that the studio is now renowned for.
CLEANING STANDARDS: High international hygiene standard using autoclave, medical sterilizer, ultrasonic cleaner, sterilizer sealed single-use needle and an ultra-clean environment.
ARTIST’S FAVOURITE TATTOO: Albar’s favourite tattoo he has done is a free hand Mentawai style done by traditional hand poking, without the use of a machine.
STUDIO OVERVIEW: Altar Tattoo is a custom tattoo artist in Bali who has been producing the kind of detailed, grey scale, dot point body art that’s expanding in popularity throughout the world. Combining a love for illustration and design work with a passion for tattooing, Altar has built up an impressive portfolio of high quality work. As of May 2015, Altar will be joining forces with a fellow reputable tattoo artist to open Katarsis Tattoo Collective in Denpasar, a cooperative studio for high quality tattoo and art work. Tattoos are currently done by appointment only, helping to break the mould of spontaneous walk-ins that tourists are notorious for. Email Altar Tattoo to discuss your customised design and book an appointment.
STYLE: Specialising in custom tattoos, especially dot work, line work and black/grey techniques.
PRICE: Prices vary depending on the customer’s request and the complexity of the design. Each tattoo is fully customised and charged on a one-off basis. No design is ever used twice, ensuring each customer has a unique, one of a kind piece.
EXPERIENCE: Altar hails from Bandung, West Java, and has spent the last five years in Bali perfecting his unique tattoo style. He has been tattooing since 2009, where he underwent a year long apprenticeship.
CLEANING STANDARDS: Hospital grade hygiene standards utilised at all times, with seminar experience in medical cleaning.
ARTIST’S FAVOURITE TATTOO: While every tattoo Altar does is of the highest quality possible, his favourite tattoos are ones where he can truly take his time, working session by session to reach the final product.
STUDIO OVERVIEW: Tattoo Hut is one of Bali’s newest Aussie run tattoo studios, opening its doors in December 2014. The studio has already built quite a name for itself thanks to the revered reputation of resident artist, Jony, an award winning tattooist who has received several accolades for his work with colour ink. Tattoo Hut follows international standards, producing high quality work, strict hygiene practices and professional, friendly service.
STYLE: All styles and designs, specialising in Oriental and Balinese themed tattoos, well known for producing vibrant, detailed, colour work.
PRICE: Cost depends on the size, detail and colour involved, with a minimum price of $600,000 IDR. As an estimate, prices range from about $6-8M IDR for a half sleeve and $10-15M IDR for a full sleeve.
EXPERIENCE: Head artist Jony has been tattooing since 2004 and hails from the Canggu Villages in Bali, where he operated a successful tattoo studio from 2008 to 2014 before joining the team at Tattoo Hut.
CLEANING STANDARDS: The studio keeps extremely high hygiene standards, on par with any Western run studio. Single use needles are strictly used along with high quality American ink. All chairs and stands are wrapped with disposable protectants and changed for each customer.
ARTIST’S FAVOURITE TATTOO: Loves doing freehand work with some of his best work coming from a simple pen sketch.