How to Avoid a Bad Haircut Abroad


You know how it is… you meet the right someone, you build up some trust (a relationship even) but since you’ve always wanted to go travelling, you decide to take a break. You put it off as long as possible, maybe not wanting to cheat or maybe just not realizing how desperate the situation is getting, but you finally snap and (take a breath, ladies) ….you entrust your hair to a stranger.

Now obviously, this story doesn’t always end in disaster. Anyone who’s travelling somewhere they speak the language, or with someone who can interpret, could well be fine. Alas, it is an area fraught with pitfalls.

All I wanted was a trim – to get rid of the split ends and to generally neaten me up…Oh! My poor misunderstood hair. The first time I went to get my hair cut in China, I walked out looking like bad version of Farah Fawcett circa Charlie’s Angels. The second time, I somehow managed to leave with a lopsided do and hole in the front of my hair. Not a great look. After this experience let me recommend you to visit to find a salon near your location and boo and appointment.

So, how do you avoid a haircut disaster while travelling? Here are some ideas:

Take photos of yourself into the hairdressers with hair you’re happy with – front and back! Then they can see what you really want. A second best is a picture of someone with hair you like/want; like you’d do at home.

If you don’t speak the language, remember your phrase book, or (if it doesn’t have hairdresser vocabulary) get someone to write down/teach you some key phrases:

  • How much for a wash and haircut?
  • I need a Beard Trimmer for men
  • I’d like a trim please
  • Please don’t cut it too short
  • I’d like some layers
  • Can you just trim my (fringe/bangs)?
  • And don’t forget queries specific to your hair type – for example if it’s curly, or if you’re getting it dyed, or having it all shaved right off!

If you’re desperate and putting your faith in a fellow traveller wielding the scissors, make sure:

a) You’ve told them exactly what you want them to do, and b) don’t hold a grudge if their hand slips/they’re inexperienced!

Make sure you have hair pins and/or something to tie your hair back with while it grows into its new cut if you’re not completely happy with it.

A sense of proportion – after all, it’s only hair and it grows back! This could be a great time to show respect for the culture around you by sporting some local headgear – sombrero anyone?!

Have you ever had a horrible haircut abroad? Tell us… or show us, in the comments below!


About Author

England is a very small country, and Clare's got some big ideas and even bigger plans for her twenties (aka the "Decade of Adventures"). So far she's volunteered in a South African township, got her degree, interrailed around Europe, done a triathlon, taken the Trans-Mongolian Express and lived in China... but that's just the start. Right now she's working in a chocolatier, having UK based shenanigans and planning her biggest adventure yet. Mount Everest and Australia had better watch out! Check out her blog at


  1. I was half way through my 5 months of South American travel and reaaaaally needed a hair cut. With my very basic Spanish, at the time, i gestured for a trim and sat and watched while my curls were all cut off… I left the shop with three inches less hair. I will never forget THAT haircut.

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