We were ready to come back from our city break. Then my mother tested positive

A trip to the Christmas markets resulted in a 10-day quarantine in Budapest hotel

As a frontline worker I have spent most of the last 20 months working continuously. I am not looking for sympathy, just giving background. I have been lucky that I've been able to work right throughout the Covid-19 pandemic.

Naturally I was excited, like most people, when the restrictions began to ease. Prior to the Covid-19 pandemic I was an avid traveller and had big plans to travel in 2020.

As the restrictions eased and we were able to travel, my mother mentioned a trip to the Christmas markets.

We saw that there was flight from Shannon to Budapest in Hungary. It was settled: we were going to go for Budapest for four nights to see the Christmas markets.


I had previously been to Budapest in March 2020 before the lockdown came into place in Ireland so I thought it fitting to go back as my first trip away after the lockdowns. My mother and I were excited to go and had been planning it for ages. Our travel date was the December 4th, 2021.

The uncertainty began as the Government announced new regulations at the end of November, which would require a negative PCR test 72 hours before or a professionally taken antigen test 48 hours before entering the State. This had us questioning if it was worth it, but we decided to go in the end.

I cannot tell you the shock when I saw that my test was negative but my mother's was positive

As an extra precaution I decided to get travel insurance to be on the safe side, and to say it was a great decision is an understatement. My mother and I went to Budapest and had a fantastic time. We organised, through our hotel, to have an antigen test the evening before our departure day.

We went to the clinic, had our test and they informed us we would have the results in about 20 minutes. While waiting on the results we decided to go on the nearby Ferris wheel.

As we were going around taking in the surround scenery of Budapest, I received the email with our results. They were sent by way of password-guarded PDF. I cannot tell you the shock when I saw that my test was negative but my mother’s was positive.

Instant panic hit me. My mother thought I was joking until I showed her the result. We got off the Ferris wheel and went back to the clinic for a second test just to be extra sure. My second test was negative too. I searched for the Irish embassy on my phone and we headed straight for it. We got speaking to the operator and were told we needed to find her somewhere comfortable for the next 10 days and sent us on our way.

They did not want my mother to stay in the hotel, 'as it would not be fair to the staff and other guests'

We went back to our accommodation and I got no sleep that night with the thoughts of what lay ahead. The next morning I contacted the reception to extend my mother’s stay in the hotel and disclosed the reason for doing so. The receptionist was polite and carried out our request. I got breakfast and brought it to the room. We decided that I would return home and that my mother would remain in Budapest until she tested negative.

While eating our breakfast the phone rang in our room, it was the receptionist saying that she had been speaking to the manager of the hotel and they did not want my mother to stay in the hotel, “as it would not be fair to the staff and other guests”. This was after my mother undertook to remain in her hotel room. They advised us to contact our embassy. The deputy head of missions at the embassy looked into the regulations and requirements and informed us that my mother was to remain where she was for 10 days. I informed the manager of the hotel of this and he stated that he spoke to his legal department and that we were not to stay. I told him that our embassy directed us to stay as per Hungarian government regulations.

Unfortunately my mother was the first person this happened to in Hungary and no one knew the correct procedure. The head of missions in the Irish embassy was fantastic and I know that if we had not been the first case this would have gone a lot smoother. When these regulations came in there was no process in place or even dedicated phone line for people to ring in this situation. I have no doubt in the past 10 days there are many people that have found themselves in this situation all over the world.

Thankfully, my mother returned to Ireland this morning 11 days after her positive test and was required to have a negative test to return even after doing her 10days. We were lucky that we got travel insurance, however, we had to pay out for everything first and then claim it back and deal with loss of wages, all of which will just add to the pressure of Christmas as money is needed for this time of year.