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FAQs-All About Alaska

How do I get to Alaska?

There are three main modes to get to Alaska:

Alcan Highway:   The Alaska Canadian Highway the road conditions are better then most people expect. About half of it is surface asphalt.   It usually takes between 4 to 7 days to get to Alaska from the border of  the continental US and Canada.   The Milepost is a fantastic guide to help you plan your trip. It is the " Legendary Alaska trip planner and Alaska travel guide to the highways, roads, ferries, lodgings, recreation, sightseeing attractions and services along the Alaska Highway to and within Alaska, including Alberta, British Columbia, Northwest Territories and the Yukon.

Find trip planning help and frequently asked questions about highway travel by RV, auto, caravan or motorcycle, ferry and fly/drive travel to Alaska and Western Canada. Since 1949, The MILEPOST® has been the most trusted and complete Alaskan travel guide and Alaskan trip planner for highway and ferry travel to Alaska, the Yukon, British Columbia, Alberta and Western Northwest Territories. Updated annually, The MILEPOST® gives you nearly 800 pages of detailed information on everything from the famous Alaska Highway system to cruising Alaska's Inside Passage. " 

Marine Highway:   From the "lower 48" the most common cruise routes start in Vancouver or Seattle. Because most communities in the Southeast Region are only accessible by boat or plane the "Inside Passage" communities rely on the water ways to keep them connected.  This is one of the most popular ways to see Alaska for good reason, it's beautiful. 

By Air:   If you want to fly to Alaska there are only really 6 major airports.  They are in Anchorage, Fairbanks, Juneau, Ketchikan, Sitka, Yakutat.  Some people may not consider Ketchikan, Sitka, and Yakutat a major airport in fact they are all tiny, but large planes do land there!  Most Alaskan communities are accessible only by plane.  However don't expect an in-flight movie most of the planes are what we refer to as puddle jumpers 2-12 passenger aircraft.  1 in 5 people who live in Alaska have their private pilot's license.

Should I worry about bears?

Within reason, yes. Black, brown/grizzly and polar bears make their home in Alaska. Bears are sited on the main streets of many Alaskan Communities, but it is a rare occasion. I personally have had bears in my backyard. That said, if you use reasonable caution you can think of traveling in bear country as a privilege.   They are curious, intelligent, and potentially dangerous animals.  Respecting their territory and learning a bit about their territory will ensure a safe visit.  

1) During salmon runs, avoid brushy areas along stream banks. When berries are ripe, use the same caution while picking, and never approach a carcass of a dead moose, caribou etc. (often indicated by heavy raven or magpie activity.)

2) When hiking in any of the above situations, or anywhere in bear country, travel with groups if possible and make noise. Bear bells, singing, whistles etc. can all be helpful. Most bears will gladly avoid you if you let them know you're around.

3) Never attempt to feed a bear.

4) Keep a clean camp, Prepare and store food well away from your sleeping area, and don't eat in your tent. Wash dishes (again, well away from camp) immediately after meals.

5) Never approach a bear, particularly a sow with cubs. If you see a bear, alter you're route to give it a wide berth.

6) Don't camp on bear trails or in areas with fresh bear scat, tracks or other signs of bears.

When can I see the Northern Lights?

Winter.  The Northern Lights are out 24 hours a day, but cannot be seen due to light obstructions.The best times to see them are November through March.  

What kind of clothes do I need in Alaska?

Information taken from Alaska.org---Dress in layers. From spring to early fall in Alaska, be prepared for temperatures in the 50-70 degree range, always with the possibility of a little rain and wind thrown in there. Your best bet is to dress in layers and bring a backpack—you'll stay warm and dry when it's chilly or wet, and you can peel off layers and stow them as the weather changes.

Rain or shine, many day tours—flightseeing, cruises, bus tours—offer access to shelter. And while you may spend 2-3 hours outdoors hiking, fishing, or rafting, you can generally expect that your tour operator will provide any specialized gear you need. However, it is always good to be prepared. 

A Breakdown of Necessary Layers -The Inner Layer

The inner layer is what we think of as long underwear, such as Capilene from Patagonia, or any other thin material that absorbs moisture from your skin. On a hot day, you can also wear this alone instead of a cotton shirt—it'll dry much more quickly. The only drawback is that some of these materials also absorb odor, so you might consider buying new stuff before coming up. If you’re just walking around town or enjoying the ship’s deck, there’s no need for specialized active-wear. But you might be more comfortable if you pick up a few basics at a sporting goods store. 

The Insulating Layer

The middle insulating layer could be expedition-weight long underwear, a fleece jacket, or even a sweater. Synthetic materials usually have the edge over wool or cotton because of their lightness and warmth.

The Outer Layer

The outer layer is the one you really need to get right. You want a shell that's waterproof and breathable to stay warm when it's windy and dry when it's rainy.  These thin, outer jackets can be tucked into in the outer compartments of your suitcase and should be fully waterproof. In my experience, water-resistant clothing only delays the inevitable. Brand doesn’t matter matters much, but an outer shell made of Gore-Tex® material (including a hood) will keep a wet day from turning into a miserable one. If you’re going to be doing any hiking or kayaking, pick up a pair of nylon pants (some have zip-off legs to convert to shorts) so that your legs will dry faster if you get rained on or splashed. Synthetic fabrics have the added perk of being pretty wrinkle-proof, so you can roll them up tight in your bags.

Extras-Sun Protection

Bring a lightweight, brimmed hat for sun and rain, sunglasses, and sunscreen. Interestingly, the intensity of the sun in Alaska on a peak summer day is probably equivalent to a spring day in the Lower 48, because of the lower angle of the sun in the subarctic regions. But due to the long summer days, there are twice as many hours of daylight, so you definitely want to protect your skin.


Even on a warm summer day, it can get pretty chilly when your ship pulls up to a glacier. While you won’t need a parka or anything winter-weight, a cheap pair of thin gloves will be worthwhile. If anything, you’ll be able to spend more time out on deck taking great photos.

Proper Footwear

Never bring new shoes to Alaska—you’ll be walking a lot, and don’t need blisters. I’d rather see you in old tennis shoes that are well-worn than fancy boots that have never been taken out of the box. If you want waterproofing, look for Gore-Tex socks that can slip over your regular, non-cotton socks. If you're going to invest in hiking shoes, we advise against old-fashioned heavy hiking boots. They're heavy, stiff, and can cause blisters. Instead, get yourself a comfortable pair of lightweight hikers with good traction—two pairs, actually, in case one gets wet. And break them in before you come!

Are the Mosquitoes as bad as I've heard?

Yes, if you're fishing or hunting, or driving be prepared.  The best bet if you're driving or fishing lakes/rivers bring a headnet and plenty of strong insect repellent (look for something containing diethylmetatoluamide, commonly knows as DEET), and loose-fitting long clothes that cover your arms and legs. If you're not driving or fishing don't worry it's not as bad as the rumors. 

How do I know which products are actually made in Alaska?

MADE IN ALASKA CERTIFICATION If the product you buy is marked with the polar bear or the silver hand you are insured a authentic Alaskan product.  If you really want to support Alaskans look for these symbols.

MADE IN ALASKA emblem with the polar bear is issued to a product where the applicant:

  1. locates and maintains the handicraft or product making or manufacturing operation with the state;
  2. produces a handicraft in the state or a product in which the value-added processes were accomplished in the state;
  3. Uses Alaska resources and materials in the manufacturing or production of the product or handicraft, or provides documentation that the raw resources and materials do not exist with the state either in the form, quality, or quantity required for the production of the product or the handicraft;
  4. Has a current Alaska business license.



An AUTHENTIC NATIVE HANDCRAFT FROM ALASKA  emblem with the silver hand is issued to a product where the applicant is a Native Alaskan and is Handcrafted. 


What do I need to know to cross the US/Canadian Border?

CROSSING THE BORDER-taken from milepost.com

Travel between the United States and Canada is fairly straightforward, although there are various documentation requirements and regulations pertaining to the importation of agricultural and/or wildlife products, commercial goods, alcohol, tobacco and firearms. All travelers and their vehicles may be searched at the discretion of the customs officials. When in doubt, declare it.

Following is a brief description of border crossing requirements for the U.S. and Canada. Regulations and procedures change frequently: Travelers are urged to check with customs offices for the most current restrictions and regulations prior to traveling. Visit the Canada Border Services Agency online for more information. Another helpful site is the Canada Welcomes You website maintained by a campground association that useful links to official sites and a goo FAQ page for U.S. travelers entering Canada. Access detailed information for both U.S. citizens and international visitors under the Travel menu on the U.S. Customs and Border Protection website.‚Äč

Entry into Canada from the U.S.

U.S. citizens may present one of the following to prove both identity and citizenship: U.S. Passport; U.S. Passport Card; or U.S. military identification with travel orders. Frequent land border crossers may use Trusted Traveler Cards (NEXUS, SENTRI or FAST) to expedite processing.

U.S. citizens who do not have one of the above documents must have BOTH a driver’s license or military identification card for identification purposes, AND a birth certificate, certificate of naturalization or citizenship, or similar document, to verify their citizenship. Social Security cards, driver’s licenses and voter registration cards alone are not acceptable.

If you are traveling with children under the age of 18, you will be expected to present a birth certificate. A parent traveling with his or her young child, without the other parent, should be able to present a notarized statement of custody, a copy of divorce/custody papers or written authorization from the other parent. Persons under 18 years of age who are not accompanied by an adult should bring a letter with them from a parent or guardian giving them permission to travel into Canada. Proof of sufficient funds to travel within and back out of Canada may be required.

Visiting motorists with previous Driving Under the Influence (DUI) convictions may be refused entry into Canada or may be required to apply for admittance permits and pay fees of up to $1,500. All national driver’s licenses are valid in Canada. 

All provinces in Canada require visiting motorists to produce evidence of financial responsibility should they be involved in an accident. Financial responsibility limits vary by province. U.S. motorists are advised to obtain a Canadian Non-resident Inter-provincial Motor Vehicle Liability Insurance Card. This card is available only in the U.S. through insurance companies or their agents. Check with your insurance company prior to entering Canada to find out what your current coverage includes.

What you can bring
Visitors may bring “personal baggage” into Canada free of duty. This includes clothing, camping and sports equipment, cameras, CD players and iPods, computers, vehicles, boats, etc. Alcohol and tobacco are admitted if the visitor meets the age requirements of the province or territory where they are entering Canada. You are allowed to bring the following amounts without paying duty: 200 cigarettes, 50 cigars or cigarillos, 200 tobacco sticks and 200 grams (7 oz.) of manufactured tobacco; 1.5 litres of wine or 1.14 litres (40 oz.) of liquor, or 24 355-ml (12 oz.) cans or bottles (8.5 litres) of beer or ale.

Canada has restrictions and limitations that apply to importing meat, eggs, dairy products, fresh fruit, vegetables and other food and non-food items. Details on these items may be found through links from www.beaware.gc.ca/. 

Canada also follows CITES guidelines regarding the import/export of endangered species of wild fauna and flora including parts or products. CITES restrictions and permits are detailed here

Personal exemptions from duty on imported goods for returning Canada residents is based on how long you have been absent: $50 worth of goods for 24 hours (does not apply to tobacco products and alcoholic beverages); $400 of goods for 48 hours; and $750 for 7 days or more.

Dogs and cats from the U.S. that are at least 3 months old need signed and dated certificates from a veterinarian verifying that they have a current vaccination against rabies and also a health certificate, issued not more than 30 days prior to crossing the border, and stating that your pet is healthy. Both certificates must clearly identify the animal in your possession. While these certificates are not always reviewed, the lack of them may mean you cannot cross the border.

Canada vigorously enforces its firearms importation laws. Border officials may, at their discretion, search any vehicle for undeclared firearms and seize any vehicle where such firearms are found. 

Firearms in Canada are classified as restricted, non–restricted and prohibited. ALL handguns are either restricted or prohibited. Visitors CANNOT import a prohibited firearm into Canada. They must be at least 18 to import other firearms. Restricted firearms are only allowed for approved purposes such as participation in target–shooting competitions.

Additionally, pepper spray is allowed only if it is clearly labelled as an animal repellent–for example, bear spray. “Mace” and similar products intended to incapacitate a person are prohibited.

Visit the Canada Firearms Centre online and go to Information for Visitors/Non-Residents and click on “I am a gun user visiting Canada” for details on classes of firearms and documentation required to lawfully import and possess firearms in Canada.

Entry into the U.S. from Canada

Canadian citizens may present either a Canadian Passport or Provincial issued Enhanced Driver’s Licence (when available) to prove both identity and citizenship. Frequent land border crossers may use Trusted Traveler Cards (NEXUS, SENTRI or FAST) to expedite processing.

Canadian citizens who do not have one of the above documents must have BOTH a driver’s license or military identification card for identification purposes, AND a birth certificate, Canadian Citizenship Card or Canadian certificate of citizenship.

A valid, unexpired passport and visa are required for all other foreign nationals. Nationals of countries participating in the Visa Waiver program may present unexpired machine-readable passports. Certain persons may require specific supporting documentation such as an employment petition, student authorization, or approval notice.

Foreign visitors entering the U.S. for the first time are required to pay a paper processing fee of $6 U.S. per person. (This fee does not apply to citizens of Canada.) This fee is payable in U.S. currency or U.S. travelers checks only. Have U.S. funds prior to arriving at the U.S. border. 

What you can bring
Visitors to the U.S. may bring in duty-free all personal effects (wearing apparel, jewelry, hunting and fishing equipment, cameras, portable radios, etc.), household effects (furnishings, dishes, linens, books, etc.), and vehicles for personal use and not for resale. 

Non-residents who are at least 21 years old may bring in, free of duty, up to 1 litre of alcoholic beverage (beer, wine, liquor) for personal use. Quantities above 1 litre are subject to duty and internal revenue tax. Tobacco products included in your personal exemption are 200 cigarettes (one carton) or 50 cigars or 2 kg. (4.4 lbs.) of smoking tobacco, or proportional amounts of each.

If you require medicine containing habit-forming drugs, carry only the quantity 
normally needed and properly identified, and have a prescription or written statement from your personal physician that the medicine is necessary for your physical well-being.

The U.S. Dept. of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) requires that travelers entering the United States from a foreign country declare all fruit, vegetables, plants and plant products, meat and meat products, animals, birds and eggs. This includes agricultural products of U.S. origin. Fruits, vegetables, meats, and birds taken out of the United States cannot always be reentered into the country. APHIS offers traveler tips for facilitating inspection at the international border.

Travellers purchasing Alaska Native arts made with wildlife while in Alaska who drive back through Canada to the Lower 48 with these items, should check for restrictions, permit and/or documentation requirements.  

Other restricted or prohibited items may include: Cuban cigars, liquor-filled candy; firearms and ammunition; hazardous articles (fireworks, dangerous toys, toxic or poisonous substances); lottery tickets; exotic pets; pet birds; obscene articles and publications; switchblade knives; trademarked items; wildlife and endangered species, including any part or product.

Personal exemptions for U.S. residents depend on: how long you have been out of the country; if you have been out of the country more than once in a 30-day period; and the total value of the merchandise you are bringing back with you, as well as its country of origin. Personal exemptions are $200, $800, or $1,600. There are limits on the amount of alcoholic beverages, cigarettes, cigars, and other tobacco products that may be included in a resident’s personal exemption. The differences are explained in the brochure, “Know Before You Go.” 

A valid rabies vaccination certificate must accompany dogs as well as a health certificate, clearly identifying your animal as healthy, and issued no greater than 30 days prior to border crossing. Dogs and cats must be in apparent good health.

Unless otherwise specified, all information contained herein is from




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