Before I got the tattoo I read up on some side effects, and some bad experiences which really freaked me out. Things about diseases spreading from unsanitary tattoo parlours, and some parlours reusing the needle. The first most important thing is to find a reputable tattoo shop, not only will your tattoo look better, but you have less of a risk of catching anything. I read tons of reviews before I went to the parlour I chose. If you feel comfortable go to the tattoo parlour act like you want to book an appointment, but pay attention as to whether they use new needles, and how clean the shop is in general.
Once you have decided on a location the second part is signing away your life. I am not sure if they all make you sign this paper, but the place I went to gave me a sheet before getting my tattoo about if I get any reactions, or diseases it is not the parlours fault. This part really scared me and made me reconsider, but I chose to go through with it.
After this you either have a consultation with your tattoo artist, and depending on the size of the tattoo the artist will stencil out the picture and you can ask them to change it until you get the design you want. Since my tattoo was not very large, and just a word my artist cleaned the area, and drew it straight onto my body. After that, he opened up a new needle placed it into the little tattoo machine, he took out some black ink and the process began.
I am terrified of needles, I actually recently was at the dentist's office, and when he came at my mouth with the needle I began to cry like the world was ending. It was not very fun for any of us. However, because the tattoo needle is so short and small, I was not at all afraid. The best way to explain what the needle felt like is just a very intense vibration. The places it sort of hurt was where there was a bone very close underneath, or when he went over an area that was already tattooed. I know many people say certain places hurt more like on the foot etc. I talked to lots of people before getting mine, and everyone had different opinions, and in my opinion the tattoo actually did not hurt much (of course mine was very small), it was a weird feeling, but I can not describe it as pain.
However, whether it is painful or not, people always seem to forget that part when the end outcome is shown. Since my tattoo was only 2.5 inches long and about 1 in high the process only took 10 -15 minutes. Once he was finished he cleaned up the extra ink, placed some ointment, wrapped it up, and I was supposed to keep it wrapped for a couple hours. I brought some ointment that they suggested I buy, and was supposed to place on the tattoo two times a day. I was told scabbing would start in a couple days, but it took me a week and a bit before it began to scab.
Since my tattoo was in a location where it rubbed against my shoes and socks constantly, I actually ended up with a couple faded places. I also ended up with some ink of my socks one time because of the rubbing. However, most tattoo parlours do offer to fix them for free as long as you have the receipt and it is less that a year since you got the tattoo.
Hopefully this clears up some questions you might have, but since I am not a professional the best thing to do is call up the parlour and ask all your questions. Always be careful, safe, and do not be afraid to ask questions.