Tips/advice/comments on driving the ALCAN?
In January I will be driving from New Mexico to Anchorage Alaska to attend UAA. I will be driving in an '04 BMW 325xi, which is has all wheel capability, that kicks in automatically. Since this is my first time driving the ALCAN, I don't really know what to expect. I have obviously done research on it and it seems that I MUST pick up the Milepost book. I would appreciate any tips, comments, advice and just some general knowledge on this. Thanks!
- Anonymous1 decade agoFavorite Answer
I just made that trip a few months ago in a regular sedan.
First, you DON'T need to buy Milepost or any book unless you're paranoid.
There are sections of the Alaska Highway (no one calls it ALCAN anymore) in British Columbia and The Yukon Territory that are not paved completely but they're working on it and you won't have a problem driving those.
Most of the Alaska Highway, and all of it on the Alaska side, is paved, but with a non-traditional coating so it might seem annoying to drive on but you'll get used to it.
My rule, fill up every 2 hours and you won't need to carry extra gas like some others do. There are stretches of 250 miles between certain gas stations so the 2 hour rule is playing it safe.
In British Columbia, gas stations don't pump between 11p and 7a. You shouldn't be driving during those hours anyway.
There are bison (buffaloes are in Africa), moose, black an brown bears and tame horses near or on the highway, mostly in British Columbia and The Yukon. This is why you should not drive after dark on this beautiful highway.
Despite what some may think, you don't need an F-350 dually to drive the Alaska Highway. There are guys on motorcycles driving it so any car will be fine.
You don't need to carry Canadian dollars in cash. Credit/debit cards (Visa/MC) will work everywhere. You should call your bank to let them know that you will be charging your card internationally between such and such dates before you leave; however, some debit cards will still block your very first international transaction in Canada and you will need to then call that bank and let them know it's not fraudulent use, it's just you.
Depending on where you enter Canada, it may take you 4 days or more to cross the Canadian side of the Alaska Highway, which is most of it. You don't need to rent a room each night or sleep in a tent; sleep in your car and save money - just don't say that you'll be sleeping in your car to CBSA (Canada Border Services Agency).
Which brings us to crossing into Canada. If you've never left the US for international travel, know that Canada is a foreign country that DOES NOT HAVE TO let you into their country. At the international border crossing, you will be asked many questions, especially if you're travelling alone. Don't be alarmed or upset. This is routine. If you seem nervous, they will ask you to pull over and will search your car. Don't be a di*k since they can tear up your interior to look for drugs/weapons. Again, be nice to the CBSA officers. Have your valid, US passport, print outs of your most recent bank activity showing your balance, any paperwork showing they you're going to UAA as a student and your license / registration / insurance. If you bring your pet cactus or your live pet with you, be ready for some more questions. have your pet's health certificate, if any, with you. Don't carry large sums of cash with you or they'll scrutinize you even further. Canada is a beautiful and friendly country but their customs and immigration have and will turn away Americans if they suspect foul play. If you've ever been convicted of DUI, DWI, drug offences and are behind on child support, contact the nearest Consulate or Embassy of Canada since you will need to get a waiver to enter (they may or may not issue one to you). With such convictions, Canada won't let you in if you just drive up to the border. Don't bullsh*t CBSA. They have access to NCIC and other databases that they share with the US and Mexico and will pull any negative info on you and your car registration in moments.
Don't speed or drive tired on the Alaska Highway. Parts of it is on dangerous terrain and you should be alert at all times.
Please don't stop your car to bother the bison, moose, bears and horses. The wildlife is not in a zoo for stupid children's pleasure. Let them be, please. Oh and don't honk your horn at them. Drive around or wait.
The Alaska Highway seems to be world famous since you'll see folks from all over on it. It's beautiful, surreal and wild and you won't find anything close to it elsewhere. Enjoy it and if you're travelling alone, carry lots of music so you don't get bored. Oh and be careful since you'll be driving it in the winter and the conditions can get dangerous with snow and ice and you may even experience delays and road closures. Many gas stations are closed during the winter but you will be fine if you're overly cautious and follow the annoying 2 hour rule. Honestly, i tried the 4 hour rule for gas but at one point i got dangerously close to empty and i changed the rule.
And please, don't listen to anybody who exaggerates the dangers of this highway. Sure January is not the best time to drive it but you will be fine, seriously, it's not a highway in a Third World country.