Tarantulas have been a relatively popular pet now for several years. They are unique, quiet, and need little space, and keeping tarantulas as pets can make a fascinating hobby. However, they aren't the best choice as a pet that you will be able to handle very much, largely due to stress and danger to the spider rather than danger to the handler. There are many species available in the pet trade in a vary of sizes and appearances, and they are usually easy to care for, but that depends a bit on the species. Because the needs for housing and care will vary for different species, it is important to understand the species being considered as a pet. There are over 800 species of tarantula, belonging to the family Theraphosidae. They are native to many areas and climates - arid, subtropical and tropical. They are roughly divided into two groups: "old world" (from the eastern hemisphere) and "new world" (from the western hemisphere).
One of the more popular species kept as a pet is the Chilean rose, a hardy, easy to care for spider native to Chile. They do bite, and their bites are venomous. However, for most species, the toxicity of their venom is much like that of a bee or wasp. It is most likely to cause a nasty local reaction including pain, redness, swelling. However, people can have an allergic reaction to spider bites in the same way that some people react to bee stings, and this reaction can be fatal. Also, there are few species which have a stronger venom that could potentially be fatal, or at least make the bite victim quite ill. So while tarantula bits are unlikely to be fatal, you still want to avoid being bitten, and the best way to do this is to learn about spider behavior and treat the spider accordingly. Tarantulas are wild animals, and need to be treated with respect. As a rule, however, most spiders would rather retreat than bite.
Another concern with regards to handling tarantulas is irritation and itching from special hairs found on some new world tarantulas. These tarantulas possess what are called "urticating" hairs on their abdomens, which they can release by vigorously rubbing their abdomens if threatened. These tiny hairs are barbed and can work their way into the skin and cause itching and irritation. If these hairs get into the eye they can easily penetrate the eye and cause inflammation, so it is very important to make sure the hairs do not get into the eyes. Be very careful not to rub your eyes after doing anything with the spider and it's cage until washing your hands and don't get in too close to look at your spider. If you get some hairs on your hand you can try blotting with tape and then washing well and topical cortisone cream might help with the itching.
There are many species available in the pet trade, which vary in how difficult they are to care for. In general the best "beginner" tarantulas are the ground dwellers or burrowers, as they tend to be a little slower moving. The pinktoe is often cited as a good first arboreal tarantula, but not a good first tarantula. In general, arboreal species are more challenging to care for, and the pinktoe is quite fast and agile, making handling more difficult. As a pet, a female is usually the better choice simply because females tend to be much longer lived than males.