If you're wondering why this article about Mexican tattoo studios is opening with a picture of the streets of Nepal – well spotted. This story does indeed start on the dusty streets of Kathmandu, where if you happened to look up at the right time, from the right alleyway, on the right day, you would've caught a glimpse of my legs dangling over the edge of the top platform. From the right angle, you might have seen my tattoo artist and his friends smoking next to me, perhaps even the shy kid trying to edge around and hand out the steaming cups of chai we'd ordered without spilling it. You definitely would've seen the loud English lad gesticulating about his new tattoo and adding an extra layer of danger to the poor kid's high-altitude chai distribution efforts.
At about the moment when you would've been running for cover as a wave of fat monsoonal raindrops began slapping my legs and thickening the dust below into mud, an idea bubbled up in my brain. It occurred to me that I had unintentionally collected tattoos from (at that time) four different countries. I wondered what story my skin would tell if I continued the trend, turning my body into a map of the path I was weaving through the world.
It's now a year and a half later, and I am in love with this developing project. There's something special about what happens when you find a tattooist you connect with. When their style matches your vision, you get to enjoy the incredible experience of watching them use your ideas and the canvas of your body as inspiration to create art. The best part is, you can collect as many pieces as you want without accumulating any excess baggage.
In Mexico, however, I've hit a problem. The talent here is so amazing that it's been impossible to stop at just one tattoo. With so many artists and studios to choose from, each with super-high ratings and gushing reviews, Google does little to help you figure out where you should go.
While Mexico City is overflowing with talent, the following three studios feature artists who each offer something truly unique. The studios are also clean and safe with super helpful staff – essential things to check on when travelling.
At Empty Project, you'll find friendly staff, some of whom speak English. They follow strict protocols when it comes to hygiene and are, in fact, the most thorough of any studio I've visited in this regard.
Though they do have plenty of lighter styles in their portfolios, the artists at GRIM certainly live up to their studio's name. If you love all things dark, sinister, and creepy, then this may be the studio for you. Once again, communication and hygiene are well up to standard, meaning all you have to worry about is finding an artist who suits your imaginative style.
An important note: in places like Nepal and Thailand, you can get amazing tattoos at super low prices (though you do have to be careful to ensure the parlour has adequate hygiene standards). In Mexico, for a talented artist at a good studio, the cost will be almost on par with what you'd pay in Australia or the US.
If you find a place that's willing to ink you at a super low rate, be cautious. You never want to compromise your health or the quality of your art for a "bargain" price. Just like a bad tattoo, some of the diseases you can pick up from an improperly sterilized needle will stick with you for life.