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Alaska: FAQs

Our frequently asked questions about travel to Alaska. If you have any other questions, please contact your travel designer or concierge.

Do I need to get a visa?

Foreign travellers to the United States need visitor visas unless they qualify for entry under the Visa Waiver Program. To enter the United States without a visa, tourists must have an electronic passport with a digital chip containing biometric information about the passport owner with a machine-readable zone on the biographic page.

Visa-exempt travellers must all fill in an electronic questionnaire (health, criminal record, etc.) 72 hours before the date of departure; this can be done on the relevant embassy website.

Please visit www.dhs.gov/visa-waiver-programrequirements for the latest information.

Do I need travel insurance?

It is vital that you take out valid comprehensive travel insurance that covers medical repatriation, cancellation and curtailment for your trip to Alaska. This gives you peace of mind that you will not lose money should you be forced to cancel your trip due to illness before or during your vacation.

Please ensure that your insurance covers you for medical evacuation and repatriation both internationally and locally, and we advise that your policy covers loss and theft of your possessions.

It is your responsibility to ensure that your travel insurance covers you for all aspects of your vacation. You must ensure that you will be covered for activities such as walking, rafting, canoeing and horse riding.

Remember to carry your insurance details with you at all times.

What currency should I take?

ATMs are plentiful and the best way to obtain US dollars, colloquially known as the buck. All major cards are accepted across the country. Check with your credit card provider beforehand about their foreign transaction fee and let them know you’ll be travelling if you intend on using your card.

If you have a ‘chip-and-PIN’ credit card, you’ll find that it is nearly always treated in the old-fashioned way – i.e. the retailer swipes the magnetic stripe and you sign the printed slip.

Tipping

Tipping in America is commonplace and almost always expected. In a restaurant, tip 15-20% of the total bill and $1 per drink at a bar if inexpensive or 15%-20% of the total order.

For taxis, private car or limousine drivers 10-20% is expected and a $2-5 for shuttle bus drivers.

In hotels, tip $2-5 per bag if assisted and a similar amount per day for housekeeping.

For an outdoor or back-country guide we suggest $100 per person per night for exceptional service, although this is entirely at your own discretion.

What is the climate in Alaska?

Weather in Alaska varies dramatically depending on the time of year and the region. Most people visit during the summer months, from mid-May to mid-September, with the peak season from June 15th to August 15th. The peak period offers the most tour options, the best weather and the best wildlife viewing opportunities.

Alaska’s summer temperatures are surprisingly pleasant. Daytime highs range from 15°C-27°C (60°F – 80°F). Night time lows are refreshingly cool, dipping below 10°C (below 50°F). May and September are a few degrees cooler. Temperatures vary wildly depending on which region of Alaska you plan to visit.

June is the driest time to visit Alaska and offers the most hours of daylight (June 21 is the longest day of the year, with 19 hours of daylight in Anchorage, 22 in Fairbanks, and 18 in Southeast) and all throughout the summer months, days are considerably longer than at lower latitudes.

September sees cooler temperatures, more rain and darker nights (and a better chance to see the Northern Lights).

Winter is long in Alaska with some extreme temperature drops and plenty of snow, though Anchorage and coastal regions don’t drop too far below freezing even in January when days are around 6 hours long. You’ll find the locals embracing the season with dog mushing, northern lights viewing, snowboarding, skiing, snowshoeing, snowmobiling and a full roster of cultural events.

What should I wear?

With the weather so variable and unpredictable, the key to dressing in Alaska is layers. For spring, summer and autumn, we suggest the following:

• An inner layer, such as long underwear, the top half of which can be worn alone on a hot day.

• A middle insulating such as a fleece jacket, or even a sweater. For both, synthetic materials usually have the edge over wool or cotton because of their lightness and warmth.

• 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.

• Depending on the activities you have planned, waterproof trousers are a good idea. Thin gloves and Gore-Tex socks are also recommended.

• Bring swimwear for dips in lakes and hot tubs.

• Footwear is also key, and a pair of worn in hiking shoes or boots are essential for any adventure in Alaska twinned with good quality hiking socks. Trainers or tennis shoes are worth bringing for wearing around lodges.

• Bring a lightweight, brimmed hat for sun and rain, sunglasses, and sunscreen.

• A small, comfortable backpack or daypack to carry things such as water, camera equipment and unworn layers.

• For those visiting in the winter, a down filled jacket is essential, as are insulated boots, fleece gloves to be worn under mittens, thermal underwear and a winter hat or balaclava.

• For photographers, it’s worth bringing extra batteries as cold weather can greatly reduce battery performance.