Cost of Living
No doubt about it—this place is expensive. Alaska ranks near the top in cost of living among all the states. Numerous factors conspire to keep prices high. Most consumer goods must be imported from the Lower 48, and transportation costs are tacked on along the way. In addition, the transportation and shipping rates within Alaska are similarly high, further inflating the cost of goods and services.
In more remote regions especially, lack of competition coupled with steady demand ensures top-dollar prices. And let’s not forget how long and cold and dark Alaskan winters are: The cost of heat and utilities is a hardship, and Alaska ranks first in per capita energy consumption in the United States.
Visitors to Anchorage and Fairbanks will be pleased to find that prices are not totally out of line with the Lower 48. Typical food prices in these two largest cities are around 25 percent higher than those in Portland, Oregon. Both cities have large discount-chain stores that help keep prices more reasonable. The big chains have also spread to Wasilla, Juneau, and Ketchikan, driving down prices in those areas (and squeezing local businesses).
Beyond these exceptions, the prices in the North are much higher than Outside, and are generally the worst in the most remote bush communities. Food costs in places such as Galena or Fort Yukon are more than twice those in Anchorage. Even in Homer—which is on the road system—food is 40 percent more expensive than in Anchorage. These financial realities apply to residents much more than to short-term visitors: If you’re well prepared and you provision yourself adequately in the major commercial centers, any time spent in the bush shouldn’t be too painful on the pocketbook.
© Don Pitcher from Moon Alaska, 10th Edition