FAQ / Practical information

Since it was founded in 2007, Montgolfière & Châteaux has been rigorously working to prepare its flights to provide you with the very best the experience has to offer. These years of experience have enabled us to identify the most frequently asked questions and to answer them in such a way that will help you best prepare for your hot air balloon flight over the Dordogne Valley

When to fly?

When is the best season for a hot air balloon flight?
There is no particular season for a hot air balloon flight. Only the weather conditions of a given day make the difference. The reason that we don’t fly often in the winter time relates more to the conditions of the fields where we take off and land, which can be very muddy and even completely saturated. During the hottest days of the summer, we strongly recommend a morning flight, to enjoy the more pleasant the cool air of the early hours.
What are the flight times?
Take-off is conducted at dawn or dusk to avoid turbulence which can be dangerous for a hot air balloon. For technical reasons, we take off one hour after sunrise or two hours before sundown at the latest. The hours are vary according to the season. For flight safety reasons, the pilot cannot wait for late passengers.
Why only two flights per day?
The pilot requires tranquil aerological conditions in order to correctly handle the hot air balloon. These air stability conditions are only present at sunrise and sundown, when the sun is not heating the earth in such a way to create aerological turbulences, which can sometimes be violent. It just so happens that sunrise and sundown also often offer an exceptional quality of light, beautiful mist, and exquisite colours.
How long does a flight last?
Each flight lasts approximately one hour. The pilot must land the balloon in a field or on a path where it is possible to recuperate and fold the equipment without obstructions. If, after 50 minutes in the air, a good landing site becomes available, the pilot may decide to land, especially if he has not noticed any other favourable spots along the flight path. Likewise, the flight might stretch to an hour and ten minutes, if the pilot cannot find a suitable landing spot before that. In any case, plan on a three-hour experience for the full service, which includes inflation, flight, landing and recuperation, the traditional balloonist’s toast, and the return trip to the original meeting point in a 4X4.

Who can fly?

Is there an age limit for hot air balloon passengers?
Yes, there is a minimum age limit imposed by the civil aviation authority: six years of age. So those tiny tots will have to wait! However, there is no maximum age limit. Currently, the record for the most elderly passenger transported by our company is held by a person who was one hundred years old. The only requirement is to be able to stand up in the basket for approximately one hour and be in good overall health. Passengers who have mobility problems or fragile health conditions following an operation or an illness should choose a morning flight, since the conditions are optimal for taking off and landing with a gentle touch.
Are there any medical contraindications for flying?
There are no medical contraindications for riding in a hot air balloon. However, since your safety is our priority, we reserve the right to decline passengers who have recently undergone surgery, as well as pregnant women. 
People suffering from back, hip or knee problems, or who have a prosthesis or a physical or mental handicap are required to inform the receptionist of this condition when reserving. If you have any doubts, please consult a doctor.
Any person who reveals a medical problem at boarding time will not be admitted without a medical certificate of aptitude. Moreover, the admission ticket will not be postponed or refunded.

Where do we meet?

Where is the meeting point?
We are based at our reception office, which is located on the car park on the riverbank directly across from the post office of Beynac-et-Cazenac, 10 km / 6 mi southwest of Sarlat. View the location on Google Maps
You will be informed of the meeting time the same day before 4 p.m. for an evening flight, or the previous evening for a morning flight. To find out, please call us at +33 (0)6 71 14 34 96… And don’t be late!
What are the meeting times?
Generally, we set a meeting time for our passengers one hour and 15 minutes before take-off in the case of an evening flight and 45 minutes before take-off in the case of a morning flight. You will be informed of the exact meeting time 4 p.m. for an evening flight, or the previous day for a morning flight. To enable us to make the most of these rather precise flight opportunities, we thank you for your punctuality.
From where do we take off?
From our reception office, we will transport you in one of our Land Rover 4X4s to the take-off location that has been meticulously selected by your pilot. All our take-off platforms are located within the area of the listed villages and castles. As you’ll see, the show begins even before lift-off! To meet any specific requests (group rides, privatised rides, etc.), we can also take off from the location of your choice if the terrain is appropriate.
Where do the hot air balloons land?
The direction of the hot air balloon depends on the wind orientation, and it is difficult and even impossible for us to determine the landing site in advance. As a general rule and whenever possible, the pilot will land in a spot that is sheltered from the wind, in a clear-cut field, with no livestock or electrical lines, that offers easy access to the recuperation vehicle.
How do we get back after landing?
The pilot remains in radio contact with a crew member on the ground, who comes directly to the landing spot to recuperate the pilot, passengers and balloon in a 4X4 equipped with a trailer.

The weather

What are the right weather conditions for a hot air balloon ride?
Tranquil aerological conditions are imperative for a hot air balloon flight: Low winds, no rain or risk of a storm, and moderate temperatures are all necessary conditions.
So why can’t we fly if the weather is clear?
There are several possible reasons for this: The wind is too strong… Winds over 20 km/hr / 12 mi/hr cause too much turbulence. The flight would be bumpy and too risky. Likewise, if the weather is too hot (at temperatures over 30°C / 86°F upon lift-off), the hot air balloon will be heated beyond its limits, which could cause damage to the aerostat and affect the comfort of the passengers aboard. If a storm is forming in the area or its surroundings, we may have to cancel the flight. In the case of a morning flight, the humidity of the Dordogne Valley can generate beautiful mist; however, if it becomes a thick fog that surpasses the peaks of the hills, it can also lead to flight cancellation. A blue sky does not always mean good flying conditions…
When is the flight confirmed in terms of weather conditions?
The day before the flight is scheduled to take place, the passengers may contact our team, but keep in mind that the pilot is the only person qualified to decide whether to fly. Changes in the weather can be surprising, and although the six weather forecasts that we continually consult might be precise, they are not always reliable.

My ticket

Can I cancel my flight if the sun is not shining?
Sorry, that’s not possible. If the pilot considers the weather conditions good enough to go ahead with the flight, he will do so. Our hot air balloon flights are conducted when the air is stable and free of precipitation, and when the wind is low. The sun or a blue sky are not synonymous with safe flying conditions, and a few small clouds or a little mist often increases the aesthetic quality of the experience.
What happens if I wish to change the date of my flight or cancel it?
No problem, you may change the date of your flight up to 48 hours before its scheduled date. In case of a cancellation within 48 hours from the date, or for any passenger who does not arrive at the meeting point at the scheduled time, the flight will not be postponed or refunded.
My flight ticket is expired. How can I extend the date limit?

Don’t worry, you can purchase a 12-month extension of validity for your ticket.
Why is a hot air balloon ticket so expensive?
Considering the logistics that need to be ensured to serve you, and the hourly operation costs of a hot air balloon, it is not possible for us to lower our rates without affecting the quality of your flight. One solution that some hot air balloon companies offer is to propose flights aboard baskets with space for 16 to 32 passengers. However, that approach does not correspond with our choices, since we prefer the conviviality of a small basket.
Am I insured?
By virtue of civil aviation responsibility, coverage – up to a limit set by the regulation in force – is included in the price of your ticket (see general sales conditions). The Montgolfière & Châteaux company is a public transport provider qualified by the French Directorate General for Civil Aviation (DGAC), which has issued it an exploitation license.

In the hot air balloon

How many passengers can each balloon carry?
The baskets of our balloons are designed for 2 to 8 passengers. Depending on the number of people who have reserved for the day of the flight, the temperature, and the weight of the passengers, we can deploy one, two or three balloons to meet your needs. If you do not wish to share your flight, you may privatise your hot air balloon ride.
Is it possible to sit down in the basket?
Sorry, the baskets are not equipped with seats. All the passengers remain standing throughout the flight, and may hold on to the sides of the basket.
Is it cold in a hot air balloon?
No, the temperature is very similar to the ground temperature, and remember that the burners generate heat. You will not feel any wind chill, since the balloon floats along with the wind.
What clothing is recommended for a hot air balloon ride?
We recommend that you wear comfortable clothing, and that you avoid synthetic materials. In the summertime and wintertime alike, trousers or jeans are obligatory, and “all-terrain” shoes are useful in case of a landing in rough terrain. If you’re flying in the morning, don’t forget waterproof shoes or boots, since the fields are often dewy (especially in the springtime and autumn). If you did not bring this type of equipment along in your suitcase, you can always bring along an extra pair of shoes and socks if the ones you’re wearing get wet. Also bring a hat, since the burner is never far from your head, and it can get hot, especially on an evening flight in the summertime. And you might bring along an extra jacket for any chilly moments on the ground, before and after the ride.
Is it possible to bring a camera or smartphone along in the hot air balloon?
You are welcome to bring a camera or smartphone so that you can film or take pictures during your excursion. We even recommend that you bring one, since you’ll definitely want to capture these special moments aloft. However, since landing might be rough, remember that Montgolfière & Châteaux cannot be held responsible in case of breakage.
Do you get vertigo in a hot air balloon?
Actually, despite what you might think, you won’t get dizzy from vertigo in a hot air balloon. The balloon is completely untethered, and like electricity, vertigo needs a conductive wire!
Do you get airsick?
No, since the hot air balloon flies only in very calm aerological conditions; there is no major agitation, and the basket does not swing.
What are we going to see?
A hot air balloon is a suspended bubble of air that wanders with the wind. Only the wind can determine our trajectory, and that is why we knowingly select the most appropriate lift-off spot at the last minute in order to best reveal the Dordogne Valley to you. That is the essential reason why Montgolfière & Châteaux has several lift-off platforms located at the four compass points of the valley and at its centre, to ensure a ride over the most remarkable sites.

Flying a hot air balloon

What are the pilot’s qualifications?
Each pilot carries a hot air balloon pilot’s licence, renewable every two years by the Civil Aviation Authority; but each one must also undergo an annual skill test.
How is a hot air balloon guided?
A hot air balloon cannot be steered; it follows the wind. The atmosphere is made up of several layers of air, each one on top of the last, each with air of a different density, speed and direction. The pilot chooses the layer with the most suitable wind and then positions the balloon by rising or descending in order to head in the desired direction./stag_toggle]

At what altitude does a hot air balloon fly?
Our flight altitude varies between 150 to 2,000 m / 492 to 6562 ft; but we try to remain at low altitudes as much as possible to make the most of the scenery. The mass of air is not the same depending on the altitude, and the pilot makes the balloon rise or descend to reach a wind with a suitable speed and direction. Each flight is different. Each day, we adapt to the weather conditions, but we also must comply with the aeronautical regulations, which can impose various flying altitudes in certain places.
Is it dangerous?
Statistics show that a hot air balloon ride is one of the safest aerial sports. Safety is our first priority, and we make no compromise on this subject.
What are the risks of a hot air balloon ride?
The principal risk is that the flight will not be confirmed because of weather conditions. Our pilots are continually, meticulously checking up on the weather and its developments, making sure that each flight takes place in the best possible conditions. That is why your ride may be cancelled on-site, even at the last minute… Meteorology is not an exact science, and the slightest factor of doubt can cause the pilot to make a decision that might appear radical. Since we take such care, the most likely risk of this activity is that you will hurt yourself as you get in or out of the basket or vehicle.
What kind of gas does the hot air balloon burn?
The burner runs on propane, and the flame heats the air within the envelope.

If you did not find the answer to your question here, feel free to write us an email or to call us : +33 (0)6 71 14 34 96.


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