Alaska is a beautiful and mysterious part of the United States, situated in the frozen north western region of North America.
A popular tourist destination, known for its miles of beautiful wilderness, spectacular opportunities for adventure, and its unique slice of idyllic, rural living, Alaska receives 2.26 million visitors every single year.
But with any form of air travel, there are always specific rules and regulations involved that must be adhered to – one notable rule being a passport. Which begs the question: do you need a passport to enter Alaska?
The largest US state in terms of surface area, and known as the ‘Last Frontier’, Alaska was initially a Russian colony (in the 17th century), taking its name from the Russian Alyeska, which in itself was derived from the native Aleut word alaxsxaq, meaning ‘the mainland’ – or more specifically, ‘the object towards which the action of the sea is directed’.
With any foreign travel, or indeed international travel, there are specific processes in place to keep people safe, and to get people where they need to be in as quick a time as possible.
But of course, these regulations differ greatly, depending on whether you are traveling internally from within the United States, or if you are arriving from abroad.
Internal US Travelers
United States citizens do not require a passport to enter Alaska from any of the other 49 states, however they will be required to provide a valid form of identification that proves they are who they say they are.
However, this changes if the passengers in question are driving to Alaska, or if they are traveling there as part of a cruise ship that makes stops in and around Canada.
This is because, as Canada is a different country, they will technically be leaving, arriving in another country (Canada), and then reentering the United States.
The same goes when driving, as the only way to reach Alaska by car is by traveling through Canada – a route that usually takes you through British Columbia and the Yukon Territory.
As with any form of foreign travel, tourists from other countries will need a passport if they are to successfully enter Alaska.
This applies even if the country of origin is an ally of the United States, or indeed if they are from any province in Canada.
Alaska: Travel Facts
Due to its northerly setting, there are several things that set Canada apart from the rest of the United States – not to mention the majority of North America.
While cities like Anchorage are relatively milder than other regions – due to its proximity to, and protection from the Chugach mountains – many regions of Alaska can be cold and unforgiving.
The central region of the state is subarctic, and has some of the coldest weather in the area.
However, many areas by the coast – particularly those bordering with the Bering Sea and the Gulf of Alaska – have varying weather that can range from cold and wet, to surprisingly mild (by Alaskan standards).
In most people’s minds, Alaska has an image of snow and ice, but this only really occurs in the arctic regions to the north of the state, such as the city of Utqiagvik, which has long cold winters, and short cool summers – where even on the mildest day can remain as low as 1 degree celsius.
The unique location of Alaska also means that the traditional day to night ratio doesn’t really apply.
During the summer months, much of the region has 24 hour periods of sunlight, whereas through the dead of winter, much of the area remains in perpetual darkness.
This makes living there tricky for those who are not used to this phenomenon, and can also pose certain health risks – such as vitamin D deficiency – due to the lack of sunlight experienced through much of the year.
For many tourists, wildlife is an important draw to the state, second only to the breathtaking views, and within Alaska, there are countless species of animals that have become synonymous with the area.
With brown bears, black bears, wolves, caribou, moose, dall sheep, bald eagles, humpback whales, orcas, gray whales, puffins, sea otters, muskoxen, polar bears (to the north), and walruses, Alaska is an animal lovers dream, and there are a number of great tours that can take you up close and personal.
As well as the wildlife, Alaska has a number of local activities and pastimes that are attractive to both tourists and locals alike.
For adventure lovers, there are numerous activities to take part in, such as ATV tours, ecotour experiences, kayaking, rafting, water sports, dog sledding, ziplining, and sustainable tourism.
Fishing and hiking are also incredibly popular, and offer some of the best experiences in the world.
Fans of culture can also explore the indigenous history of the state, taking in the native American culture of around 28 different tribes, and there are countless interactive activities and tours that fully explain the region’s diverse pre-colonial history.
There are also art museums, history museums, food and entertainment, sightseeing, tours, and of course, the Northern Lights, which is a popular draw for people from all over the world.
And there we have it, everything you need to know about how to enter Alaska, depending on where you are traveling from, and a little about the rich culture of the region itself.
It’s true that Alaska is a beautiful and mysterious place, full of breathtaking scenery, fascinating local traditions, and countless species of animals that are native to the region.
It really is easy to see why so many people return year after year to immerse themselves in this amazing, varied country that has so much to offer.
Why not visit yourself? Something tells me you won’t be disappointed!