List Of Countries Where Tattoos Are Banned

Tattoo restrictions around the world: Where to think twice before getting inked.

Written by Pahul Nanra, BA (English Hons)
Edited by Shatabdi Bhattacharya, BSc
Fact-checked by Manjari Uppal, MSc  • 

In certain corners of the world, the freedom to express oneself through tattoos faces unique challenges. Tattoo-banned countries refer to a list of places where the practice of body art encounters legal restrictions. As tattoos continue to be a globally embraced form of self-expression, it is intriguing to explore the cultural and legal landscapes that lead some countries to impose bans on this age-old tradition. In this article, we will delve into the list of countries where tattoos are prohibited and attempt to understand the various reasons behind such restrictions as well as the implications for individuals who seek to adorn their bodies with ink. Let us uncover the diverse attitudes and regulations surrounding tattoos across the globe.

Countries Where Tattoos Are Illegal

1. Iran

Tattoos are prohibited in Iran
Image: Shutterstock

In recent years, the act of displaying tattoos or getting inked has become a sensitive issue in Iran, where leaders and government officials openly associate tattoos with devil worship and consider them symbols of Westernization, vehemently opposing such practices. The country has implemented a ban on tattoos and spiky haircuts, considering them in direct contradiction to Islamic regulations. Visitors to Iran are strongly advised to exercise extreme caution in revealing any form of ink, especially if it holds religious connotations, as authorities rigorously enforce strict interpretations of Sharia law.

2. Türkiye

Tattoos are prohibited in Turkiye
Image: Shutterstock

While tattoos are not against the law in Türkiye, the country’s leading authorities have grown more unfriendly toward body art lately. The top religious body in Turkey has issued a religious ruling, known as a Fatwa, advising Muslims with tattoos to either get rid of them or ask for forgiveness from God if they cannot remove them.

The Religious Affairs Directorate of Türkiye, referred to as Diyanet, stated in its declaration that all types of body art, such as tattoos and the removal of facial hair or eyebrows, are prohibited according to the teachings of Prophet Muhammad.

Even though tattoos are popular in officially secular Türkiye, particularly among young people in urban areas, there is increasing disapproval from top officials and religious authorities.

3. United Arab Emirates (UAE)

Tattoos should be covered in the UAE
Image: Shutterstock

In the UAE, especially in Dubai, there exists a diverse expatriate community. Although tattoos are not strictly prohibited, guidelines emphasizing public decency are in place. Some public spaces may necessitate covering tattoos, and certain designs, particularly those featuring religious or offensive symbols, might lead to complications. While foreigners are generally not penalized for getting tattoos under the Islamic dress code policy in the UAE, the General Authority of Islamic Affairs and Endowment views tattooing as a form of self-harm and permits it only when performed by a licensed doctor. Furthermore, tattooed tourists who violate federal laws in the UAE risk a potential lifetime ban from visiting.

protip_icon Quick Tip
Connect with your country’s embassy in the destination country for guidance on local laws and to stay informed about any potential changes in regulations.

4. North Korea

Tattoos in North Korea must adhere to local political ideologies
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While certain tattoos are permitted in North Korea, there are strict rules to follow. Any visible tattoos in the country must either express admiration for the Kim family (leaders) or have an approved political significance. If you have tattoos that don’t meet these criteria, you might face deportation or even be given a sentence of hard labor in prison.

5. South Korea

Tattoos are considered illegal in South Korea
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In South Korea, there’s more freedom compared to North Korea, but both countries have similar rules about tattoos – technically, they are considered illegal. According to local laws, only doctors were allowed to do tattoos, but now, certified beauticians can also apply permanent make-up tattoos due to recent changes.

6. Sri Lanka

Tattoos are considered offensive in Sri Lanka
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When traveling in Sri Lanka, it’s essential to be mindful of tattoos featuring Buddhist symbols, as they can be considered offensive. Tattoos depicting elements of Buddhist culture or the Buddha himself may be seen as culturally insensitive and blasphemous, leading to serious consequences, including arrests. Sri Lanka holds strong Buddhist beliefs, and the government is particularly sensitive to any perceived defacement of their religion, especially when it involves outsiders displaying tattoos with significant cultural and religious symbolism.

7. Thailand

Thailand has strict policies against religious tattoos
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Similar to Sri Lanka, Thailand is becoming strict with tourists displaying tattoos related to religion. The Thai government considers religious tattoos culturally inappropriate and believes they disrespect native religions. However, non-religious tattoos are generally acceptable in both countries, as they have become popular tourist destinations, and locals are usually welcoming and accepting of foreigners with tattoos.

8. Vietnam

Tattoos are viewed negatively in Vietnamese culture
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In the past, tattoos in Vietnam were linked to crime, and having a tattoo shop was banned. However, influenced by global trends, attitudes have changed, and the tattoo industry is growing. In rural areas, older mindsets may still view tattoos negatively, so covering up might be wise. If your new tattoo has healing issues while traveling, seek a specialized studio in major cities to prevent infections. Despite past stigmas, Vietnam is becoming more accepting of tattoos, especially in urban areas influenced by international trends. Always prioritize taking care of your tattoo to avoid potential problems during your travels.

protip_icon Quick Tip
When traveling in a foreign country, learn basic phrases in the local language to help navigate potential interactions related to your tattoos and express your intentions respectfully.

9. Denmark

Denmark laws discourage visible tattoos
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In Denmark, there is a strict rule: avoid getting tattoos on your face, neck, and hands. This law has been around since 1966 to prevent people from having visible or unattractive tattoos in these areas. The government is worried that tattoos on these parts might give an unprofessional appearance, affecting social life and job opportunities. However, there’s a movement to change this long-standing law, led by the Social Liberals. Some people are already getting tattoos on their faces, necks, or hands, or they travel to neighboring states to get inked in those areas despite the existing ban.

10. Germany

Tattoos related to the Nazi regime are restricted in Germany
Image: Shutterstock

In this country, there are strict tattoo laws against showing tattoos that represent or celebrate Nazi culture. If you have such a tattoo, you could be arrested and even deported. While Germany is generally accepting of tattoos, anything that looks like it supports the past Nazi regime can get you into serious trouble. It’s important to be aware of the specific rules regarding tattoos related to Nazi symbols to avoid legal consequences in this country.

Navigating the global landscape of self-expression through tattoos, the concept of “tattoo-banned countries” sheds light on places where legal restrictions challenge this form of art. The list of countries prohibiting tattoos, including Iran, Turkey, and North Korea, reflects a complex interplay of cultural, religious, and political factors. In Iran, tattoos clash with religious beliefs, while Turkey witnessed a shift in the attitudes of the authorities. The UAE and Thailand have not outright banned tattoos but imposed guidelines reflecting cultural sensitivities. Sri Lanka and Vietnam showcase restrictions tied to cultural and religious sentiments, emphasizing respect for local beliefs. Denmark and Germany, with nuanced regulations, illustrate the ongoing dialogue between personal expression and societal norms. The intricate tapestry of tattoo bans globally underscores the need for travelers to navigate diverse cultural landscapes with awareness and sensitivity.

Frequently Asked Questions

Which countries reject visas for having tattoos?

No official documentation from any nation explicitly declares visa rejection due to tattoos. Yet, it’s crucial to recognize that certain countries hold conservative views and attitudes towards tattoos, potentially causing complications in visa applications due to differing cultural perspectives on body art.

Are tattoos illegal in Japan?

Despite being considered a historical hub for tattoo art, Japan has surprisingly stringent regulations on tattoos. Negative associations persist, and authorities strongly discourage any visible ink deemed offensive, particularly if linked to organized crime. Numerous public spaces like swimming pools, hot springs, etc. in Japan restrict entry for individuals with visible tattoos due to cultural sensitivities.

Key Takeaways

  • Tattoos face strong opposition in Iran due to their association with devil worship and Westernization, leading to a ban enforced under strict interpretations of Sharia law.
  • Tattoos face disapproval in Turkey as the top religious body issues a fatwa advising Muslims to remove them, citing prohibition based on Prophet Muhammad’s teachings.
  • Tattoos in the UAE are subject to decency guidelines; certain tattoo designs may pose complications, and tattooing is permitted only when done by a licensed doctor, according to the General Authority of Islamic Affairs.

Discover the intriguing world of tattoo restrictions in Japan! This video explores the cultural nuances and places where tattoos are banned. Ready to unveil the reasons behind the ink taboo? Watch now and gain insight into Japan’s complex relationship with tattoos!

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