Visas and Officialdom
Immigration officials are trained to be suspicious, particularly in this post–September 11 world. Expect heightened security measures at all border crossings, and even when boarding state ferries. Get a passport for each member of your family; you’ll probably need it. Never argue or get angry with an official—it doesn’t help, and they have the law on their side. The best approach is just to be as polite as possible.
Entry into the United States
All international travelers now need a passport to enter the United States; even U.S. citizens crossing the border from Canada into Alaska need passports or a similar document such as an enhanced driver’s license or trusted-traveler card. Most Western Europeans and Commonwealth residents can usually easily obtain a six-month travel visa from U.S. consulates, and citizens of some countries can get visas at the border. You must have an onward or return ticket. No vaccinations are required, and you can bring an unlimited amount of money (over US$5,000 must be registered).
Be aware that you might wind up crossing the Canada-U.S. border four times in each direction (Lower 48 into British Columbia or Alberta, back into Southeast Alaska, then into Yukon, then back into mainland Alaska). If you’re an overseas visitor, make sure you understand the requirements for reentering the United States. Regulations seem to be in a constant state of flux, so get the latest border info from U.S. Customs and Border Protection by visiting www.customs.gov.
Entry into Canada
No visa is required for visitors from Western Europe, most Commonwealth countries, or the United States. Americans and citizens of other countries can enter Canada only with a passport. For children, bring a passport or birth certificate. Travelers under age 18 must be accompanied by or have written permission from a parent or guardian to enter Canada.
Handguns and automatic weapons are not allowed into Canada, even if you’re simply driving through to Alaska or the Lower 48. A U.S. driver’s license is acceptable in Canada, but international licenses are required for residents of other countries. Get details at the Canada Border Services Agency (www.cbsa-asfc.gc.ca).
© Don Pitcher from Moon Alaska, 10th Edition