Should I have a piercing done whilst on holiday abroad?

Should I have a piercing done whilst on holiday abroad?

Holidays can be great times to “let loose and live a little”, but you should also practice restraint when you are traveling abroad.

People will often use a holiday abroad as a chance to do something that might normally be considered to be out of character and every year, thousands of British people choose to get a tattoo or a piercing whilst they are abroad. However, you should proceed with caution if you do decide that you would like to get a tattoo or piercing whilst you are away from home as body modifications such as these are permanent physical changes, and both types of modifications carry significant risks with them.

Language barrier

If you are travelling abroad to a destination where English is not the native language, you should consider the potential that the language barrier could cause communication issues.

Before you have a piercing, you should understand the procedure and the aftercare instructions. Differences in language may prevent these ideas from being conveyed adequately.

You should never sign anything if you do not understand what it means. This includes “consent forms” which you may be given to you by the piercer.

Never have a piercing when you are under the influence of alcohol. Alcohol reduces the ability of the blood to clot, which means that the wound may bleed excessively after even routine piercings.


Inadequate hygiene during a piercing can be a serious health risk. Piercing parlours abroad may not have the same hygiene standards that are expected of piercing parlours in the United Kingdom.

Some countries may not require piercers to hold any form of license or knowledge of hygienic piercing practices. This could put you are risk of infection. Before you have a piercing done, you should make sure that all of the equipment has been cleaned and sterilised. Parlours should use sterilized needles rather than piercing guns. Make sure that you are able to watch a clean needle being unwrapped before agreeing to go through with a piercing. Sharing a needle increases the risk of transmission for blood borne disease, including Hepatitis and HIV.

It is also possible that your piercing will make you more susceptible to unusual tropical diseases which can be harder to treat.

Medical Care

If you do develop an infection at the site of a body piercing, it is important that you seek adequate medical care. Many infections can be treated using creams and tablets that are available from a pharmacy, but if these products are not available then your infection could become worse and spread to other areas of your body. Untreated infections can lead to sepsis, toxic shock syndrome and other types of blood poisoning.

Seeking medical treatment abroad can be more difficult because of different national medical systems. Treatment could be very expensive for tourists and may be of a different standard to medical care given in the United Kingdom. Even if you have travel insurance for your trip, it may not cover you for medical conditions that have developed because of a body modification performed outside of your country of origin.

Holiday Activities

Many holiday activities are unsuitable for people with new piercings. Because it is important that the piercing is kept clean and dry, it I best to avoid swimming unless you have to.

Piercing sites are also more likely to become infected in hot and humid environments, spending time in tropical areas can be problematic. Wounds also take longer to heal in these conditions.

Beach trips are not recommended to people who have new piercings, because sand can work its way into the wound. If sand is in the wound when it closes up, it can cause repeat infections and could potentially cause an abscess to form.

Having to curtail or control your holiday activities because of your new piercing could really reduce your enjoyment of the trip. If you really want a piercing, it might be better to wait until you get home.

Reduced ability to claim compensation

If something does go wrong with a piercing that is done in the United Kingdom, you may be able to make a claim for compensation. This compensation can help to ease the pain and suffering that has been caused by the botched procedure.

If you have the procedure done outside of the United Kingdom it can be much harder make a successful claim. The legal system in your holiday destination may not allow tourists to make claims, or it could be hard to track down the piercer again after you have left the country.

It may be worth talking to a lawyer to see if they can help you but you should never rely on your right to make a claim, as this right cannot be guaranteed with procedures that have been carried out abroad.