Countries Where Tattoos Are Still Taboo

Before getting inked, you’re probably wondering how others will perceive your new tattoo. You may be curious about how your family and friends will respond, or about how your new look will be received at work. After all, in some environments, having tattoos can actually impact the trajectory of your career. Are there certain assumptions that people will make based upon the location of your tattoo or its overall design? One thing you may want to consider is how well your tattoo will be received in other countries. Should you ever choose to move abroad or indulge in pleasure traveling, it’s definitely something to think about. Following are several countries where having a tattoo is still considered taboo.


Japan has long been an inspiration for tattoos. The history of this influence spans hundreds of years. However, there are certain cultural associations with body ink that make Japan’s relationship with tattoos a fairly uneasy one. To denote the outsider status of criminals, these individuals were once tattooed with a special mark. This same practice was eventually adopted by gangs. Although Japan is becoming more relaxed in its attitudes towards tattoos, the criminal associations aren’t entirely gone. To date, there are still bans on having body art visible in some swimming pools, hotels, spas, and public baths.

If you’re a foreigner with tattoos, be prepared to acknowledge customs of any locale you visit. Japanese businesses tend to be more permissive in this area when it comes to serving people from other countries. In some establishments, however, you may want to respectively cover your tattoos up.


In 2015, tattoos were outright banned in Iran along with artificial tans and spiked hair. The belief is that body ink is associated with devil worship. Tattoos also represent a form of Westernization that Iran is not especially tolerant of.

United Arab Emirates (UAE)

In the UAE, tattoos are considered a form of harming one’s body or temple. As such, they are a violation of an important Islamic injunction. Although they aren’t exactly illegal, nationals don’t always view them in a positive light, even when worn by foreigners.


Tattoos are not favorably viewed in Turkey either, particularly in recent years. In fact, religious leaders in the country have issued a fatwa or ruling point in Islamic law against tattoos. Moreover, students are effectively banned by the Turkish government from getting them.


In China, tattoos have a strong and long-standing association with organized crime. If you visit China after getting inked, your tattoos may be perceived differently in different regions of the country. Shanghai, Beijing, and other large urban areas are most accepting of the practice, especially among tourists. However, in more remote, rural regions, bold tattoos can still incite a marked amount of unease.


Much like Japan and China, Vietnam has a history of associating tattoos with criminals and gangs. This is still very much a prevalent attitude, particularly in rural areas and among older residents. Ho Chi Minh City, however, has a robust tattoo culture that’s currently on the rise.

Sri Lanka

In Sri Lanka, it’s not so much about having a tattoo as it is about the type of tattoo you have. For instance, designs with Buddhist imagery can be culturally offensive. Although some countries tend to be more lenient towards tattooed tourists than they are to tattooed residents, one British visitor was actually arrested because of her tattoos. This just goes to show that these violations are quite a serious matter to authorities in Sri Lanka.

Getting Ready to Travel With Tattoos

If you’ve got ink and want to see the world, it’s best to start your travel planning by educating yourself. Understanding the local customs, cultures, religions, and general attitudes towards specific body modifications can help you avoid problems. To be on the safe side, you can even get in touch with local authorities to learn more about any laws pertaining to tattoos. When traveling into a new area and in doubt, keeping your ink respectfully covered could be the safest bet.

If you plan on relocating to another country or have gotten tired of having your body art affect your travels, you can also consider having your tattoos removed. Laser tattoo removal can effectively eliminate bold, dark-colored, and large-sized tattoos for more comfortable travel overall. After laser tattoo removal, if you visit an area where body ink is considered offensive, you won’t have to worry about keeping your skin covered.