Alaska, the US’s largest and northernmost state, is home to the world’s largest Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, and even in a major city like Anchorage, wildlife abounds. If you’re moving to Alaska, you’ll soon find out that the state’s highways are few, and don’t connect all of the populated areas to one another. For example, Juneau doesn’t have any roads leading out of it! Instead, ferries, private boats, planes and seaplanes are preferred methods of transportation from the many seaports and airports. Our guide will help you find your way around this expansive state.
If you’re moving to Alaska, you’ll soon understand why it’s called “The Last Frontier.” The following tips will help you plan a successful move:
- Plan your move during the summer, from May to early October. Depending on your location, spring and fall can be rainy and winters are cold. You don’t want to track mud and slush into your new home, or slip while carrying moving boxes.
- Alaska doesn’t require moving permits and most areas have ample room for parking. However, if you’re moving to AK to a more populated area, such as Anchorage, Fairbanks or Juneau, check parking requirements ahead of time.
- If you’re driving, carefully map out your route. Check with the Alaska Department of Transportation to make sure all roads are accessible or call 511 for traveler information.
- Consider using car transport and self-pack containers that allow for easy storage and shipping while you fly out.
- Bring a well-stocked first-aid kit, toolbox and provisions, as well as a mobile phone and charger. It’s no fun to get stuck on the road or at home.
- Keep a list of emergency numbers and the nearest emergency services accessible.
- You can bring your pets with you by car, ferry or plane, but make sure to have a health certificate from a veterinarian before moving to AK.
- Make sure to have a source of income before moving to Alaska, as costs of living are high.
Cities and Metro Areas
Moving to Alaska means living in one of the most challenging, but beautiful regions on the planet. From Anchorage, where many corporate headquarters are located, to Kodiak, with its commercial fishing and adventure tourism, you’ll find a place to fit your professional and personal preferences. Other metro areas to consider when moving to AK include Fairbanks, with its rich cultural life; Juneau, the state capital; and Kenai, where many natural gas extraction companies are located.
See our detailed Alaska City/Metro Guide to find more great places to live. And don’t forget to change your address with USPS before moving to Alaska!
Cost of Living
Besides employment, housing and education (if applicable), the cost of living is an important factor when considering moving to another state. Sales taxes levied by states or cities can add significantly to your monthly costs, but there are other aspects that influence the price of food, consumer products and gas, such as local availability, the distance they need to be transported, and whether one single company has a monopoly on the market.
Highways and Public Transport
Transportation to and within Alaska relies on a combination of roads, ferry lines and air travel. In addition to location, weather plays an important role in accessibility. You can sign up for transportation updates by text or email at the Department of Transportation.
- Roads: Roads in the south are well-maintained and connect most municipalities. In the interior and the north of the state, routes usually only serve a community and don’t connect to the outside. Also, due to permafrost, roads in those areas aren’t paved. You can see an overview of average travel distances and times at Alaska.org. The Alaska-Canadian Highway is the only land route to and from Alaska. It connects the lower 48 states with Alaska through Canada.
- Railroads: The Alaska Railroad is primarily a tourist attraction and offers a scenic and historic way of experiencing the state.
- Alaska Marine Highway: This ferry service provides passenger and vehicle service to 31 communities in Alaska, as well as a number of locations in Canada, via two main routes: one covering Southeastern Alaska and the other covering South Central Alaska.
- Airports: The Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport is the most important hub for the state, while even small communities offer air taxis.
- Buses: Major urban areas offer public bus services within city limits.
With the high cost of living in Alaska, it’s crucial that you find employment before moving. Currently, the unemployment rate in Alaska is 8.3%, slightly lower than the national average of 9.1%, and the number of Alaska jobs has grown by 0.75% over the past year. With the influx of major companies taking advantage of government incentives to relocate their headquarters to the Last Frontier, it’s likely that Alaska job listings will become more comprehensive in the near future. See our in-depth report for a more complete breakdown of relocation resources for Alaska:
When moving to Alaska, be prepared for cold weather. Though the climate in the southeastern panhandle is oceanic, with mild winters and summers and heavy rainfall during the spring and fall, the rest of the state has either a subarctic or arctic climate, depending on how far inland and north you are. All of Alaska gets a lot of snow and cold temperatures in the winter. Summers bring as much as 21 hours of sunlight, while winters offer as few as 4 hours. On the bright side, after moving to Alaska, you’ll have a chance to see the norther
Compared to the rest of the US, Alaska is easier on those who suffer from pollen allergies, but there are still a number of plants and trees to watch out for when moving to AK. Visit Allergy Alaska for more information on pollen counts in your area.
If you’re moving to Alaska with children, you’ll be pleased to hear that overall, the quality of education is relatively high. In some areas, elementary, middle and high schools have as few as 20 students, while in more populated areas, schools can have up to 3,000 pupils. To combat “brain drain,“ the University of Alaska offers partial four-year scholarships to the top 10% of Alaska high school graduates. Here are some of the highest ranked schools and higher educational institutions in Alaska:
- Elementary Schools: Three of the top 10 elementary schools are Hermon Hutchens Elementary in Valdez, Pearl Creek Elementary in Fairbanks, and Kincaid Elementary in Anchorage.
- High Schools: Top-ranked high schools include Hutchinson High School in Fairbanks, West Valley High School in Fairbanks, and South Anchorage High School in Anchorage.
- Higher Education: Alaska is home to a number of excellent universities, including the University of Alaska Anchorage, University of Alaska Fairbanks and the University of Alaska Southeast. Alaska Pacific University is one of six private colleges that form the Eco League, an association of schools dedicated to the study of the environment and related topics.
- Vocational Training: AVTEC, operated by the Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce Development, offers quality vocational training programs.
The government of Alaska has a user-friendly website with clear information about numerous aspects of life in this state, as well as resources for moving to Alaska.
- Excise Taxes: Alaska doesn’t have excise taxes, but does impose a state property tax and a sales tax that’s collected by your local DMV when you register your car. You can find more information at the Office of the State Assessor.
- Tolls: Alaska has one toll road that leads through the Anton Anderson Memorial Tunnel to the town of Whittier, a port for the Alaska Marine Highway. Tolls cost from $12 for a regular motor vehicle to as much as to $300 for an oversized load.
- Voter Registration: Obtain voter registration applications at your local DMV, a voter registration agency or voter registrar, or use the Division of Elections’ online voter registration application form.
- Trash and Recycling: Alaska Waste provides recycling for Anchorage, Wasilla, Fairbanks, Kenai and Kodiak. In all other areas, contact your municipality for information on waste management.
- Vehicle Registration: After moving to AK, you have 60 days to register your vehicle with the Alaska DMV or 10 days after securing employment. Students and those in the military who actively maintain a registration in their home of record don’t have to register. Fees are $15 for a title, $15 for any applicable lien and $100 for a biennial registration for non-commercial passenger vehicles and motor homes.
- Driver’s Licenses: You can use your out-of-state license for up to 90 days, but after that, you must obtain an Alaska license. Commercial driver licenses must be obtained within 30 days of moving to Alaska.