From when to visit and how to book, to what to expect and wear on the day, these these tips will help you plan your Hot Air Balloon Bagan experience.
If you’ve decided to go hot air ballooning in Bagan, then well done! It’s one of the most amazing things I’ve done on my travels, and I have such incredible memories for the each of the 5 times I have done the Hot Air Balloon Bagan!
It’s rare a day goes by without some dreamy photos popping up on Instagram of the skies above Bagan filled with more than 30 hot air balloons. But while it’s an amazing experience, it’s one that takes careful planning. You need to consider timings, companies, prices and safety. In this post, I’ll share when I think is the best time to visit, how to research the various companies and what the experiences include.
18 Tips For Your Bagan Hot Air Balloon Experience
1. Book in Advance – at least 3 weeks.
With limited number of balloon companies operating in Bagan (4 at this moment: Oriental Ballooning, Balloons over Bagan, STT Ballooning & Golden Eagle) and limited numbers of balloons which can operate on daily basis: no more than 31 balloons can be in the air in day it’s very advisable to book your balloon ride in Bagan at least 3 to 4 weeks in advance or even more during the peak season of the month of December (20th December to 10th of January). With a total seats of around 400 per day available and with an increase of number of tourists each year in Myanmar, especially from Asia don’t expect to find a good deal or available seats 1 or 2 days in advance.
2. Have a Good Sleep
Bagan rides in Bagan are only for the sunrise. There are no balloon rides in the evening during the sunset ( early sunset time in Baga, difficult to find the landing spot in the evening or heat and wind direction are the main factors why balloon rides are not available for the sunset). In order to be able to be in the air when the Sun will rise pick up time is quite early in the morning. Depending on the sunrise time in Bagan during the balloon season from October to April, pick up time usually starts around 4.30 to 5.30am. Bagan being simple a village at this moment there is nothing happening after 9pm in the evening so your sleeping time it would be early anyway.
3. Flight Duration is minimum 45 minutes to 1 hours.
We all want to stay in the air longer and take as many photos as possible. Don’t blame the balloon company or the pilot. It’s all about the wind direction and the landing place. Compared with the balloon ride in Cappadocia where you can land almost anywhere, in Bagan landed stops are limited due to 2 reasons. First is the number of pagodas: with more than 3000 pagodas, pilots are not allowed to land close to it and secondly pilots can not land on locals land which is already being cultivated with local crops. That leaves not too many options and sometimes the riverbanks is one of the best options to land. Which takes us to the next tip for the balloon ride in Bagan.
4. Book a late flight & have your departure in the afternoon.
Landing on the riverbanks in Bagan will mean extra time to get back to your hotel in Bagan. A boat will have to come and pick you up and then after the light breakfast the car will take you to your hotel and might take a while to drop off all 10 to 12 persons in each car. If your flight is a morning one – around 8 & 10 am and landing is on the riverbank there are good chances not to catch it! So plan well ahead!
5. Plan a longer stay in Bagan
Many tourists when they want to book the balloon ride in Bagan are not flexible in terms of their days & length in Bagan. Most of them either stay 2 nights with an early departure the next day. That leaves them only 1 option to do the balloon ride in Bagan! And if there chosen date is already fully booked they will leave disappointed Bagan and Myanmar without taken the balloon ride!
6. Choose another destination for the balloon ride in Myanmar.
Bagan, a World Heritage Unesco Site is the pearl of Myanmar and the most reconganzilbe destination of Myanmar mainly due to the balloon ride. But did you know that you can do the balloon ride in Inle Lake (where the duration can take up to 1 hour and 30 minutes and there’s a possibility to land on the water?.
Second option is at the pristine Ngapali Beach. Foggy mornings, amazing views and wildlife as elephants can be seen from above. Balloons over Ngapali starts a bit later on 21st November. Oriental Ballooning is the only company which operates in Ngapali. Highly recommend to book it in advance due to limited availability – only 1 balloon.
Mandalay is another great option for the balloon ride in Myanmar. See Mandalay Hill & hundreds on Monasteries from above and the Ubein-Bridge it’s a great start of a day in Mandaya. Again Oriental Ballooning is the only company which operates in Mandalay.
Loikaw is a new addition of the Balloons over Bagan. There flights are due to start to operate in January 2020 in Loikaw the area best know for the long neck women. Highly recommend to book it in advance due to limited availability – only 1 balloon.
Pindaya is as well an unknown location for the balloon ride in Myanmar. Not too many persons know about it but seeing the Shan plateau from above with all the colors possible will make the ride amazing as well! Oriental ballooning is the only company operating in Pindaya.
Hpa-An will be the next location available for the balloon ride in Myanmar. Balloons over Hpa-An will be operated by Oriental Ballooning from November 2020. Stay tune for more details!
7. Clothes to wear during your balloon ride in Bagan
Mornings are cold everywhere at 5am in the morning and especially during the winter months of December to February in Myanmar when the temperature can drop close to 10-15 degrees. Try to bring a light jacket or long sleeve.
8. Kids Age & Height limit
For the balloon ride in Dubai the kid limit is 5 years old but in Myanmar all the balloon companies have set the age limit at 8 years old (can not be alone in the basket and must to accompanied by a parent) or at least 137 cm in height ( in order for them to be able to see from the basket). As an insider tip: shoes does count so try to wear a higher shoe and even if your kid is 134 cm with the extra 3 cm from the show it can go in the basket. Rules are very strict due to safety reason & insurance policy.
9. How safe is to fly with the balloon ride in Bagan
Till these day – 100% safe! Since the first balloon ride in Bagan in 1999 operated by the pioneer company of Balloons over Bagan noone a single accident have happened in Bagan. None! Safety is the top priority of the balloons companies in Bagan and that’s why there are days with strong wind or no good weather conditions as rain when it get canceled. To compare it to Cappadocia where in the past, people have died in the past, Bagan never had not a single accident!
10. Pregnant Women not allowed.
You have planned the balloon ride 6 months in advance and recently found out we will have a child? Unfortunately we are not allowed to ride the balloon ride and must inform the pilots before if you are. If a bumpy landing will occur it might jeopoerizaty your pregnancy.
11. Up in the Air & Hold Tight!
UP is my favourite movie and one of the reason I have did the balloon ride, beside the experience. In Bagan the pilots must fly at least 600m above the pagodas and can go up to 2000 m or even more depending on weather conditions. In Inle Lake it can be even further up to 3000 meters due to different wind and currents. If you are afraid of heights, don’t worries! Everything is going to be OK!
12. Basket Size – Does it matter or not?
Different companies, different balloons capacity and different services. Of course different prices. With 8 seats in the basket 2 balloon companies does operate: Balloons over Bagan (which have a full breakfast included) and STT Ballooning. 12 seats in the basket is only Oriental Ballooning Operating. 16 seats in the basket are being operating with Balloons over Bagan and STT Ballooning (which are having newer and a bit larger baskets). Most of the of tourists would probably like to be in a smaller balloon with lesser people. But I think it’s important to choose depending on your budget, availability and company reputation. Our first call would be Oriental Ballooning which do have great pilots and services.
13. The Pilots
Pilots are mostly from UK, Australia and New Zealand. Most of them have hundreds or thousands of hours of piloting and have more than 25 years experience; most of them do then pilot balloon rides in Africa, USA , UK or Australia. So for there are no local pilots in Myanmar as there is no pilot school available in Myanmar and it would be quite expensive for them to go abroad and learn.
14.What if my hot air balloon in Bagan is cancelled?
Then you are a bit unlucky. Out of the 190 days available for the balloon ride in Bagan less than 10 per year are being canceled due the weather. This happens mainly in early October and some days when some unseasonal rains can happen in Myanmar. In these case there are 2 options. First one is to take the flight next day (if seats are available) and this is way important to have spend at least 2 or 3 days in Bagan. If not, we will be refunded entirely the cost of the balloon ride (banks fees and credit card usually are not refunded).
15. What camera to bring?
Go with something small. A GoPro won’t incomate the other persons in your basket. Of course you can bring your big lens camera (there is no restriction about it) but your basket colleagues might be intimidated it.
16.How many hot air balloons fly in Bagan each day?
At this moment the maximum number allowed is 31 balloons in the year. Some days it might be less depending on the numbers of person which have booked the balloon ride on that day.
17. Don’t eat too much cookies!
Beside the kid age limit, the pregnant women not allowed there is the weight limit as well. If you have more than 125 kg we can still do the balloon ride but we will have to pay double the price.
18. When is the best time to go for Hot Air Balloon Bagan?
Based on my person experience the best time is to fly in December & January when you have clear skies and excellent light for the photos. November is a good month as well because everything is green after the monsoon season. Amazing photos can be taken in early February when fog is present. March and April are still OK but due to the heat the light is not so good for the photos.