Tell us more about yourself.
My name is Alessia Ramponi and I’m 22 years old. I was born in a small city in the center of Mexico called Aguascalientes. I studied International Relations in Instituto Tecnológico Autónomo de México (ITAM) in Mexico. I love photography and traveling. When I have the time, I write blogs about my experience as a girl traveling alone to unusual destinations to encourage more women to do it.
You recently visited Pakistan, perceived by many as an unsafe country. What drove you all the way there?
In 2015, I was doing an internship in the Embassy of Mexico in China. When I finished, I wanted to travel around the country but instead of visiting the touristic spots I decided to go to Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region in the northwest of the country. This was my first contact with the Muslim world and I loved it. I arrived to the China-Pakistan border and I experienced a little bit of the Pakistani culture. In that moment I realized that I really wanted to cross the border and discover Pakistan. Finally, two years after that trip, I had the chance to travel to Pakistan.
Did you have any concerns while planning your trip?
My main concern of traveling solo to Pakistan was of course security. When I was planning my trip, I could not find any useful travel information or blogs about female solo travelers in Pakistan. Every time I told someone I was going to Pakistan they were scared and would encourage me to change my mind. The political media and even social media generally has painted the country as one of the most dangerous. I have no regrets about my decision to make the trip as I found Pakistan to be safe. More importantly, the people were extremely kind and caring.
You’ve got our attention. Tell us more about your experiences as a female traveler, alone, in Pakistan.
Fortunately I didn’t face any trouble traveling solo in Pakistan. Every time I needed some help with language or directions there was always someone willing to help me. The only problem was that in certain areas, roads are really bad so it took longer than usual to arrive at your next destination. However, my time flew really flew even when traveling on bumpy roads, as the landscapes around me were simply breathtaking. Note that there are many checkpoints in Pakistan, so be sure to carry your documents and at least 20 copies of your passport and visa, and you will not face any problems.
What was your most memorable experience while traveling Pakistan?
My favorite experience was definitely visiting the Kalash tribe in the north of Pakistan. The Kalash are an ancient tribe with a particular way of life, religion, and rituals. They believe that they are descendants of Alexander the Great. Women wear colored embroidered dresses and beaded headdresses called susutr.
A friend I made in the country, Rehmat Ayubi, helped me to get to this tribe. I will never forget my days living amongst them and experiencing a culture completely different. Beyond this experience, I had plenty more positive ones simply because the Pakistani people were so friendly. They offered to show me their city and always pointed me in the direction of the best food. Many a time I was offered free accommodation. If a family offers you a room to sleep, don’t feel shy and take the opportunity to experience the culture.
Did you meet any other solo female travelers while you were there?
Yes, I met other solo female travelers. One of them was from South Korea and had crossed the border from China. The other woman was from Ireland and she was cycling the Karakoram Highway which is said to be the highest paved international road in the world. None of them faced any problems during their trip and agreed with me that they felt very safe.
Some of your top tips please for other female travelers who might be keen to add Pakistan to their list of countries to visit.
I would recommend other solo travelers to put Pakistan right on the very top of their bucket list. The security situation in Pakistan is totally fine, so don’t let that be the factor that deters you. My reality was completely different from what the media has portrayed, so don’t let fear hold you back. Keep an open mind and take in the landscapes, nature, culture, architecture, and delicious food.
Dress decently and be respectful of the Muslim culture. It is like no other destination in the world. If you have any other doubts, you can reach out to me in the JOZU community and I will be happy to answer your questions.