Author Lanette Kauten took a solo trip to Pécs, Hungary while researching for a novel. Read her tips for solo travel in Hungary in this week’s Women Who Travel Solo.
How did you get started traveling?
My mom worked as a reservationist for an airline during half of my childhood. This afforded us trips to England, Ireland, and several US destinations—like Hawaii and California. As an adult, I haven’t had as many opportunities as I’d like because of financial and other responsibilities, but I do try to grab opportunities when I can.
Why did you decide to take a solo trip to Pécs, Hungary?
I decided to write a novel about a woman who visits Hungary to learn more about her grandpapa as a child, but while there becomes entangled with a Romani family. I looked up as much information as I could find about the city of Pécs and its people, but I found the information lacking. As part of my research, I bought a phrase book because those books can often give small but important details about people communicate with each other. When my husband saw it, he assumed I planned to go there and reluctantly gave me his blessing.
Tell us about your experience with solo travel in Hungary.
I was terrified at first. I’d never traveled alone, and certainly not to a country with a primary language other than English. I landed in Budapest, which went smoothly because just about everyone under thirty speaks English there.
Getting on the right train to Pécs proved to be challenging because many didn’t speak English. I also discovered that most of the people in Pécs, even though it’s the fifth largest city in Hungary, didn’t speak English. But I actually enjoyed the smaller town because everyone was so helpful and patient. I kept my phrase book with me, and there was never a time when I felt hopelessly lost.
Pécs is set on the side of a mountain in southern Hungary and is such a beautiful, historic city with a rich culture. I went in the summer, which is the best time to go because they have festivals every evening from May until September (I think).
What recommendations do you have for solo travelers in Pécs?
I stayed at a hostel just north of the city’s ancient wall. It was very quiet with only a handful of people staying there. Being the only woman there, I had an entire room to myself. Many places there don’t have air conditioning, but the hostel I stayed in was modern and so well insulated, all I needed was a fan to stay comfortable. The city also has some nice-looking hotels, including one next door to where I stayed, but I don’t know anything about them.
Pécs has a lot of gelato stands. It’s a good thing the main part of the city, which is marked by pieces of the ancient wall, is primarily for walking because it would be easy to gain weight on the gelato and all the rich, heavy foods Hungarians eat. When not snacking on gelato, I recommend the restaurants along Király utca or the Cellarium. Cellarium had the best food of all the restaurants I tried, plus there’s a special beer brewed in Pécs that’s only served at that restaurant. The beer is so good, it’s almost worth the trip just to try.
What was the best part of your solo trip to Hungary?
This is the hardest question. I loved everything about the trip except taking the train from Budapest. There is much culture and history in that one city, yet much of it’s unknown to many in America. They manufacture porcelain and leather products of such high quality, but are known mainly in Europe and Lady Gaga—some of her leather comes from Pécs. I think the best part was attending the festivals. Several musicians performed every night, and I used that part of their culture to deepen my novel.
What was the worst part of the trip?
Apart from feeling panicked about not finding the right train because of a language barrier? I lost the key to my room and slept on the bench in the lobby one night. Then I had to pay ten thousand forints ($50 at that time) for the lock to be changed.
Even that turned out to not be so bad. I used the computer in the office to send the owner an email, which he didn’t see until the next day, and discovered Hungarian keyboards are different from ours. I used that bit of information in the novel and broke through a block I’d had.
Are there any safety concerns for women traveling alone to Hungary?
None that I saw. The city of Pécs is very safe. Larger cities might have more problems, but that’s true of larger cities in general. Even still, I would advise all the normal safety precautions—don’t keep all your money and ID on you, but make sure what you do carry is close to your body; know where the embassy is; be aware of your surroundings, etc.
What advice do you have for women who are traveling alone?
Learn as much as you can about where you’re going and plan all the important details, but leave time for spontaneity.
Do you have anything else to add to inspire women solo travelers?
Just do it. Don’t let fear hold you back from one of the greatest experiences you’ll ever have.
About Lanette Kauten
Lanette is happily married with two children. In her previous career she was a clinical research nurse and specialized in kidney disorders. She currently write novels and homeschools her eleven-year-old son. Learn more about her first novel, House of Thistles or follow her on Facebook.
Women Who Travel Solo
Women Who Travel Solo is a weekly column that shares the stories of women’s solo travel adventures in hopes of spreading the message that traveling alone is not only safe, but wildly rewarding. Inspire other women to travel solo by sharing your story with Something In Her Ramblings. Email Lauren at email@example.com.