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Tattoos on Women in Costa Rica

November 19th, 2007

The first time I received an email from a woman who expressed concern about her tattoos while visiting Costa Rica, I was about 40% sure I was being shined on a bit. I replied of course as that is not covered in either the REAL Costa Rica web site nor this blog. Later, she sent me photos, and she was for real.

Since then, I have received two more emails asking the same question, the most recent today. As I am one of those people who think for every person who will ask such a question, there are probably ten others who have not the courage to write.

So here is her letter and my reply for all those tattooed ladies coming to visit Costa Rica!

I have an odd question, I searched the entire site beforehand so as not to be a bother.. and wasn’t able to find any info on this topic (although this is probably the first time you’ve been asked about this, I’m sure). I am a 23 year old female student, and my concern is that my appearance may not be well received in some other countries, because I am quite heavily tattooed (arms and chest). I have never traveled overseas before, so I really don’t know what to expect. Also I’m sure it is a different outcome depending on which country you are traveling to. Anyways, your thoughts on those from Costa Rica’s attitudes/reactions towards this would be much appreciated. I’m a little nervous, but so excited to meet people and learn a new culture!

As I am not Costa Rican, I cannot give an opinion from their viewpoint, but I will generally speak in terms of North American women in general and what I have been told by a few Ticos male and female.

First, I think they will not care much, though of course you will be an oddity and be looked at with double-takes as I am pretty sure you are looked at now in Canada. Women with significant body tattooing are still not in the mainstream! I like tattoos, but I STILL look twice when a woman has more than just her “tramp stamp” on her lower back or a rose on her ankle or breast. A heavily tattooed women is going to catch attention!

Women here take their physical appearance FAR more seriously than NA women. Hands and feet are manicured (usually French), they dress to perfection, and even a trip to the mall gets the works. Of course in the country you do not see that as much. In any case, you almost never see a Tica walking around in sweats and tennis shoes if she is not actually exercising.

So saying this, most Costa Ricans sort of feel that NA woman really have no idea in the first place how to dress and appear in public (this more from the Ticas BTW). Thus my original comment that they probably won’t care very much. Clearly this also depends on where you are visiting… in the country. city, beach, or country.

I can just about promise this; No matter where you are, Ticos are FAR too polite to EVER say anything to make you feel bad or self conscious. That is simply not in their culture and they generally treat ALL people very well.

You MAY get a whistle or a comment, but THAT is the macho thing and is common, tattooed or not. All women get that!

If you wish to get tattooed here, there are many tattoo parlors. I do know they are regulated, but I do not know if they follow those regulations, so use common sense. Tough way to catch something serious!

Any Ticos reading this are welcome to comment below! Actually, anyone can comment!

13 Responses to “Tattoos on Women in Costa Rica”

  1. Cy Bolinger on November 20, 2007 11:44 am

    Without a doubt, you have the most well-done, researched, web-site (blog-site too) about Costa Rica on the planet. I am preparing to retire to Costa Rica next year, 2008, and your site gets looked at just about every day.
    In reply to the lady with the tattoos, I have declined hiring women in my business offices for large tattoos. I’m not sure this country (US) has accepted the art-form, at least not in business offices. As you said, neat little tattoos on arms, ankles and feet (maybe cleavage) are fine, but large body tattoos on bare arms, shoulders, neck or face are out of the question. This lady will definitely be looked at in CR as she would here (US). That being said, I’m sure she is a fine person and very attractive. Also, she is quite young and her generation is beginning to do the “tattoo thing”. I quite agree with you that Ticos and Ticas “will notice” but be quite polite about what they say. In my book they are 10 times more polite than we Canadians or Americans ever thought of being.
    Cy Bolinger

  2. Carol Chinchilla on November 21, 2007 10:41 am

    Hi! I am a Costa Rican woman. I want to say that tattoos are becoming more common in Costa Rica and people is beginning to accept them too. I agree that some people is going to look at you with surprise or curiosity, but I am sure no one will hurt your feelings or be impolite. Also, I know Costa Rica gets lots of tourism and this means that people from different cultures and different customs visit us. For this reason, Costa Rican people are used to see and respect uncommon behaviours or ways to dress from other cultures.

  3. Aimee Valle on July 19, 2008 12:32 pm

    It’s been so long since I’ve visited here!

    I think the responses everyone has given are correct based on what I know of Costa Ricans in general. While “they might not do it that way” they seem very accepting of everyone. Heavy tattoos on a woman will get a few extra glances but nothing too unusual from anywhere else really.

    When I visited last November I was there for the first time with my nose pierced. I’m not pierced up all over or tattooed but a few of the younger girls decided that they wanted their noses done too after seeing mine. Of course dad said, “not until you’re 18” but that is what you’d expect from most places.

    The younger folks will be more accepting or interested and generally overlook it more than older people but that’s the way with people everywhere.

  4. Mario Alexander on December 19, 2008 3:51 pm

    Hello Iยดm 26 years old and costa rican and I think that I personally would prefer to have a lady with no tatoos BUT, my genartion and yourger kids are more into the tatooing althougt they are not very wide accepted yet, I dont know what will happen in the future but for now the ones that are haevily tatooed here are usually girls that go to rock bars or stuff like that. I hoped this helped ! BTW I like your blog !

  5. Marzena on March 2, 2009 7:38 am

    I would like to leave a first hand comment here.
    I am a 45 yrs old Canadian woman and I have a few tattoos including one covering my arm (shoulder to elbow) and a big one on my calf.
    I have lived in a small town in Costa Rica for 3 yrs now and my experiences regarding tattoos have been great.
    People stop me on the street admireing my tattoos, Que lindo, they say and ask if it hurt and how much it was. Sometimes they want to touch it. I am very open to that behavoiur, some Canadians might feel like their space is being invaded. I also have a pierced nose. If I see people looking at me disaprovingly, I just smile at them and they smile back (most of the time).
    A smile goes a long way anywhere in the world.

  6. Thor Dickinson on May 19, 2009 7:04 pm

    Hi, I’m going down to visit Costa Rica this summer and was wondering if anyone knew the age limit for being tattooed down there. I’ve looked for the answer to this question everywhere and still cant find it. Im thinking of getting inked at the lovely Tattoo 506. Thank you for your help if you can find it!

  7. Tim on June 13, 2009 12:17 pm

    If you have to ask… you are probably too young ๐Ÿ™‚

  8. gioconda on August 6, 2009 10:35 am

    I believe somehwere in some law or practice there is a restriction on tattoos, my father is a universitiy professor and he had commented on it when I got my tattoo (I’m costarican)… but believe me: it is nothing that is observed. Also: we are known very well for being welcoming of prettu much… everything. Depending on the place you visit and on the type of tattoos you have you might be getting a bit more attention that what you might like, but its not like you will feel freakish. Actually a huge amount of people in CR have tattoos, it is no longer tabu; planes are filled with people of all ages that have all sorts of piercing and tats. So really: dont worry, get on that plane and enjoy volcanos, mountains and parrots here, dont worry about your skin drawings ๐Ÿ™‚ … come to think about it: you might feel pretty comfy around some areas in which you will just be one more with a bunch of tattoos (university areas in the city, north pacific beaches)

  9. Howard G. Workman on December 27, 2009 10:39 pm

    Hey I am a retired teacher in the USA and I really have enjoyed your website.. My son and I will be down for a visit in late April and will stay in contact with this site to make arangements for a 2 day tour..I just spent a short trip there a month ago and wow it was great..I do have 1 question and I hope someone can answer it.. What city in Costa Rica has the biggest Gay population in Costa Rica.. I really want to live near the water, no further that 20 minutes from the ocean but which city would I most likely find gay people.Thanks…Howard G.Workman

  10. Jaudon Sunde-C.P.C.T-L.M.T. on July 1, 2010 8:23 am

    I am a very successful permanent makeup tech. in America. I have 3 Dr. Offices here. Where I do medical scar camouflage for women who have had reconstructive breast surgery from breast cancer. As well as lost their eyelashes and brows from chemo., women with vision problems or people with any reason medically where they are inhibited from applying their own makeup.
    My husband and I would love to relocate to Costa Rica to live. Is there a market for what I do ? If so what area is best for these type of services?

    Jaudon Sunde

  11. Kat Katrawitz on September 10, 2010 12:07 pm

    I often get comments on my tats. although usually it is just curiosity. In India I received a lot of complements. The only negative remarks I have had have been from my family! They think that they are ‘common’, in other words, for the ‘lower-classes.’
    I live in UK and it is very common here to see tattooed women of all ages.

  12. kristie on May 23, 2011 1:57 pm

    I lived in C.R. over 20 years ago and felt the locals to be respectful of my and my mates tattoos

  13. mike-cr on April 16, 2012 4:05 pm

    I’m a costa rican myself and I know lots of girls with 2 full sleeves and all their legs cover with tattoos, of course this happens mostly in the Central Valley, but costa ricans are the only central america country where people do not associate tattoos with maras, most inked costa ricans use a lot of full-color tattoos to make a statement than they are proud central americans with tattoos but they are not criminals.