Cover smallerNote: This post will help you ask the right questions to ensure you make the right balloon company choice…
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And now back to our post…

CONFUSED ABOUT THE CAPPADOCIA HOT AIR BALLOON OPTIONS?

For those who prefer video, I have video-ified this post. It is worth watching just for the photos:


To see all our posts on Cappadocia Hot Air Balloon rides, check out the CAPPADOCIA HOT-AIR BALLOON INFORMATION PAGE

Click to see a comparison of Every Cappadocia Hot Air Balloon Company

Historically the Cappadocian Fathers were Christian leaders who played significant roles in ensuring the orthodox teachings of Christianity were maintained.

They are best known for their tireless efforts against the Arians and for the doctrine of the Trinity: God is three in one – Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.
Cappadocia hot air balloon ride
1600 years later tourists visit this region and gaze upon the remnants of the early Christian community in the Cappadocia region. How things have changed!

For visitors today the Cappadocian trinity is inarguably the Göreme Open-Air Museum, the underground cities (Derinkuyu or Kaymakli are preferred), and a Cappadocia hot-air balloon ride.
The first two are hassle-free, all you need is 15TL and transportation. But for a Cappadocia hot air balloon ride, questions abound.

The problem is that you will most likely only do this once which means you have nothing with which to compare your experience. How do you know if your flight was better than another flight? You do not. In addition you are laying down a hefty chunk of change; expect to pay anywhere from 150 to 180 Euro for a 1 hour flight. How do the companies justify the price differential? And is it worth it? How much is a “once-in-a-lifetime” Bucket List experience worth to you?

I am here to make it easier for you. Here are 11 questions to ask when choosing your balloon company/experience. How you (and the balloon company) answer each of these queries will determine what kind of adventure you will have and how much you will pay.

(Disclaimer: I have ridden with Royal Balloons, Istanbul Balloons, and Turkiye Balloons so far and had a wonderful experience with each. In these questions I mention a couple of times what they offer, but I do not work for any company nor do I receive anything if you fly with them. They did not ask me to write this post nor pay me for it. The goal of these questions is not that you will choose a certain company but rather that you will be able to make an informed decision. I have friends that have flown with Kapadokya, Ürgüp, Assiana, Atlas, Air Kapadokya, Voyager, and Atmosfer – they all reported that they enjoyed their flights. Only you know your values. My hope is that through these questions you will be able to pick the company that most closely reflects your values.)

CAPPADOCIA HOT AIR BALLOON RIDE QUESTIONS TO ASK BEFORE BOOKING

1. Pilot: Experience? & Language? & Personality?

This may be one of the most important factors influencing your floating adventure. Of course, experienced pilots demand higher salaries. One way companies save money is by using new pilots. Generally speaking, experience matters for Cappadocia balloon rides. In many areas of the world a balloon ride consists of reaching a high altitude and getting a wonderful panoramic view of the region. In Cappadocia however, the heights should only make up a small portion of your flight. The best pilots will go high and then spend most of the ride dipping in and out of the canyons.

If you are an English speaker, is it important that your pilot speaks English? My guess is that most of the pilots do, but probably not at the same proficiency. This affects instructions that need to be given, answers to questions you may have, information about the area, and your general ability to connect relationally with your pilot. If this is important to you, ask about the English level of the pilot you will be flying with. You can ask which pilot speaks the best English (or whichever language) and request to fly with that pilot.

Also, if you are a people person, i.e. you like people, a gregarious pilot makes for a more enjoyable ride. I had two different experiences. My first flight with Royal Balloons‘ chief pilot, Suat Ulusoy, regaled us with stories from his many years of experience and kept the mood calm and upbeat with helpful information about the area we were traversing on our flight. He then continued to entertain us while we were drinking champagne after landing. On my second flight our pilot barely spoke the entire flight. And on my third flight with Istanbul Balloons the pilot was friendly but and had excellent English but did not offer much information unless asked. All three flights were enjoyable but the experience was different. Think about what you want and then ask for the appropriate pilot.

Related to this is the pilot’s knowledge of the area. “How long have the pilots lived in Cappadocia?” is a question that may give a clue to this. Be sure to ask specifically about the pilot you will have as the different pilots in a company may be quite different.
Cappadocia hot air balloon

This is a 16 person basket meaning that 4 people fit in each corner. Smaller and larger baskets are used and impact your view of the scenery as you are next to other people and may not always be able to be on the edge of the basket- another point to consider when booking your flight.

2. Size of basket?

How many people you travel with impacts the price. My understanding is that the small baskets hold 12-16 people and the large baskets have a capacity of 20-25. You can imagine that standing in a corner of a basket with 3 people is better than being crowded next to 5. How much would you pay for this advantage? Is it worth 20-30 Euro? Only you can answer that for you.

The more expensive balloon companies ask you what a once-in-a-lifetime experience is worth. This is not a dinner at McDonalds. If you are only going to do this once, is it worth spending more to have the best experience possible? How much more? Again, only you know your budget and taste for adventure/comfort.

3. Length of flight?

60 minutes or 90 minutes? The 90 minute flight is going to run you up to 80 Euro more. Do you have to have the newest gadget? Do you only drive late model cars? Are you competitive? Do you want to separate yourself from the masses? If the answer is yes, you will probably want to do the 90 minute flight. I have only done 60 minute flights, but on my second flight we had to go farther afield to find a place to land and ended up being in the air for 90 minutes. The extra 30 minutes had a significant impact on the experience, but given my budget limitations, I would not have paid for it, i.e. it was not worth it to me, but it may be to you.

4. Navigation: High or Low?

I mentioned this before, but it needs its own consideration. The more experienced pilots mix it up, but they will spend more time in the valleys giving great views of the fairy chimneys and rainbow-colored tufa hills. As I watch balloons fly by our house every morning I notice that some stay high while others are going up and down. Ask the company what their practice is on this feature.

The reality is that most companies understand this reality and encourage their pilots to mix it up. You may want to ask this question just to see how they answer and try to read between the lines.

5. Breakfast?

I flew with Royal Balloon and enjoyed a delicious full buffet Turkish breakfast in their comfortable headquarters before our flight. When I flew with Istanbul Balloons, on the other hand, we had a basic breakfast of tea or coffee and a breakfast roll in their waiting room. Also my cousin flew a different company right after we moved to Cappadocia in 2011 and was offered breakfast rolls in a field while awaiting his flight. And yet another friend flew with a company that took their guests to a local restaurant for a buffet breakfast. Is this important to you? How much is it worth? Asking these questions will give you an idea of how much the companies think their guests value these things. Some say that a big breakfast that early in the morning right before getting on a balloon where bathrooms are not an option does not make sense. Others say that guests should have the option of choosing what they want for breakfast. Personally, I really enjoyed the big breakfast. You will have to decide what you prefer.

Royal balloon buffet breakfast

Fill up your plate and have some hot chocolate, tea, or coffee along with some orange juice at Royal Balloons’ buffet breakfast.

6. Take-off flexibility?

The winds in Cappadocia change regularly. Just last week the wind was blowing a different direction each day of the week. The different companies have more or less flexibility as to where they begin their flights depending on the size of their fleets (more balloons equals less flexibility). This may or may not effect your experience. If the wind is “normal” (south to north) then take-off flexibility is not as important, but if, as is often the case, the wind direction changes, flexibility could mean seeing valleys and fairy chimneys versus plain open fields. Most of the companies have a good bit of flexibility although some of the bigger ones are a bit limited. You can ask about this and see what they say. I have found that some companies use their flexibility to distance themselves from the other balloons in the area. You can ask about this as well. Often times you learn more from what they do not say then what they say.

7. Transport vans?

All of the companies will pick you up and drop you off at your hotel. I have found that most of the companies use comfortable vans but only a few use “branded” vans, i.e. their company name is prominently shown on the van. Why is this important, you may ask?
It probably does not seem important until it is 5am and a few different vans show up at your hotel to pick up different people, and you are not sure which is yours. That may be stress you do not want to deal with. I have heard of a few people who got in the wrong van and ended up at the wrong company. You do not want this to happen.
Another issue here to ask about is whether the van drivers speak English and whether they have a list of names of the people going with their company. This is rarely an issue but can give an added bit of comfort as the time for your flight approaches.
If this is important to you, ask about it. It is another feature that can affect the price.

Royal balloon van

You will not be in the van for long, but Cappadocia’s roads are quite bumpy.

8. Waiting area?

Where will you wait for your balloon to be made ready in the morning? This is more important if you are here during the colder months. Most companies allow you to wait in their facilities and then transport you to the balloons right as they are ready. Other companies will take you to the balloon, and you will wait there while they are filling it with the hot-air. You may enjoy watching the whole experience of filling the balloons or you may prefer a more comfortable waiting experience. Again, only you know you.

9. Balloon material: Nylon, Hyperlast, Silver-Coated Hyperlast?

This is an invisible feature that most likely will not be important for your flight. Which material a balloon is made of has no bearing on the ride. However, if there is a problem, the stronger material is less likely to tear. A company that spends more for better material will most likely charge more for your flight. Is the latest, safest technology important to you? If so, you should ask about this.
The companies are supposed to carry out regular “grab tests” on their balloons. They all say they do, but you may feel better asking about it to show that safety is important to you. They all should also have the latest GPS technology. Also, how often do they replace their balloons? They should say somewhere between 1000-1500 hours (depends on how the balloon was used). All of these things cost money which means the price is affected.
cappadocia hot air balloon

Is this picture from the top down or from the bottom up? Very cool optical illusion!

10. Insurance?

This is a hard one to gauge because you cannot know until something happens and 99% of the time nothing happens. Regardless, it is worth checking to see what insurance the company has. If this concerns you, ask them what happens if an accident occurs. Of course, this does not have to mean a fatal crash. What happens if you get hurt climbing out of the balloon or if the transport van crashes on the way to or from the balloon. If they are wary of answering your questions, you may want to choose another company. This is another factor in the price of your hot-air balloon ride. Insurance is not cheap. If your flight is cheap, this may be an area in which the company is skimping. What is your personality type? Are you a regular in Las Vegas? If so, no worries here.

11. Gas: LPG or Propane?

LPG is cheap and dirty. With LPG a filter is needed. Propane is clean, safer, and significantly more expensive. All the companies say they use propane so this is a question that over time I realize always receives the same answer. For this reason I am giving a couple of bonus questions.
cappadocia hot air balloon

The average 60 minute flight uses 200 liters of gas and clean, safe propane costs twice as much as LPG.

BONUS

Bonus 1. There are four ways to get customers- travel agents, direct phone/internet, hotels, and tour guides. How they get their customers determines a lot about how they view their guests. The reality is that most people do not even know which company they are flying until they arrive at the balloon. The choice was made for them. The real customer for the balloon company is the middleman. Of course, if the passengers are not happy, they will complain to the middleman and that company will change if they get enough complaints. However, the companies that get a big chunk of their guests through direct reservations (this is most of my readers) will be more sensitive to the opinions of their passengers. By asking and finding an answer to the question of how they get reservations, you will learn a lot about how the company targets their business. Let me say that all the companies want their passengers to have a good experience. I am just pointing out that some companies are focused on individuals and some are not.
Also, within this, your hotel will be willing to make a reservation with any company you choose. They usually have a company they prefer, but, if you give a certain company, they will honor your wishes. This generally does not change the price for you.
Bonus 2. Ask what sets the company apart from all the other companies. I asked this to each company and was surprised to hear their answers. Some of them have a clear vision and are able to articulate it well. Others do not. Beware of companies that answer this question by disparaging the other companies. I found that companies sometimes do this but rarely were they telling the truth about other companies. I am not saying they were lying but that the information they gave was usually not correct. For example, they would say how their pilots spoke English but the other companies’ pilots did not. This is not true. When I say they were not lying, I mean that I think they thought they were telling the truth, but they just did not know.

Each one of these features costs something. The high-quality companies charge more because they have spent more on each of these features. Maybe that is important to you, maybe not. But now you can make an informed decision.

Which features are important to you?


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Duke Dillard moved to Turkey with his wife and 6 children in 2007. He got an MBA at Bilkent University in Ankara, where they had their 7th child. After 4 years in Ankara the whole family moved to Cappadocia, and this blog was born. We love Cappadocia and Cappadocians and want to help visitors make the most of their time here. You can connect with Duke on Facebook, follow him on Twitter, and/or link circles on Google+. Click here to read more about Duke and his family.