Alaska is the largest, and yet most sparsely populated state in the U.S., located northwest of Canada surrounded largely by the Pacific Ocean. The 49th state is rich with awe-inspiring scenery and preserved wildlife, with prolific fishing and oil industry. Home of the continent’s highest peak, Mt. Denali is so massive you can see it showing off a snow dress year round from several cities away. The region is immersed with Native art culture including totem carving, blanket toss, dancing, music, and more. It’s a place where you can see bears catching their fish dinner from a waterfall, cheer for famous dog mushers in a sled race, and dress up as a miner for the “Fur Rondy” celebration. From the ice glaciers to evergreen forests and bald eagles, Alaska is a rare icon for North America.
US citizens do not need a passport to travel to Alaska, as long as you have proper government-issued ID and your birth certificate. However, new restrictions at some state airports are requiring you to have a passport to travel, so it’s best to have a valid passport if possible. If you’re passing through Canada on your route to Hawaii, you’ll also need to present your passport. And, if you’re a citizen from another country, you will need a passport. You’ll also need a visa, unless your country is included in the Visa Waiver Program and travelling less than 90 days. Canadian citizens may also present a NEXUS card instead of a passport, if they are enrolled in the traveler program.
It’s not surprising that people assume Alaska is always cool, but they actually do enjoy warm temperatures in the summer months, especially in the interior region, ranging from 60-90F. Late August and September do start to see cooler temperatures as fall arrives early and they get fewer hours of sunlight. The winter is cool, however, and the average temperature for Fairbanks in the month of January is -1 degree Fahrenheit. It’s recommended that you dress in layers, being prepared for shedding top layers in the middle of the day.
Alaska’s currency is the US dollar. Although near Canada, they generally do not accept the Canadian dollar, so it’s best to bring your credit and debit cards, accepted in most establishments. ATM machines are also easily found. Traveler’s Cheques are widely accepted by banks there, but are rarely necessary if travelling from the U.S. British travelers should note that Sterling Travelers Checks are not accepted in Alaska.
Cell phone coverage can be a challenge in some of the remote areas of Alaska that are out in wilderness or not as populated. Check with your wireless carrier before you leave to see what your options are. The local provider GCI (www.gci.com) gets good coverage across the state in the populated areas, so you may want to arrange for a temporary plan with them if you need more reliable communication. In the larger cities, there’s plenty of wi-fi available at hotels, coffee shops, and libraries, although you may have more difficulty in remote areas or lodges.
Flightseeing is popular in Alaska, with many different carriers providing tours to see glaciers and the wilderness by air. Because there’s so much water and fishing surrounding the state, there’s plenty of travel by boat, ferry, and seaplane as well. Road travel on Alaska’s scenic byways is also popular, especially amongst motorcycle enthusiasts Many of the popular parks are primarily accessed by the highway, including Denali National Park and Kenai National Wildlife Refuge, so renting a car or RV allows you the freedom to see The Last Frontier on your own. They also have plenty of bus tours, and some incredible train routes with glass domed cars that offer 180 degrees of scenery!