21 Things to Know Before Moving to Alaska
Alaska is a place like no other. Expats here can enjoy beautiful snowy landscapes, see wildlife up close and personal, learn about the state’s interesting history and incredible culture, and eat seafood until their heart’s content.
But before you head to The Last Frontier, brush up on your knowledge of the state by reading our list of things to know.
With views like this right on your doorstep, Alaska will be perfect for any nature enthusiasts
1. You can get paid to live there
Yes, you read that right – if you move to Alaska, you’ll actually get paid just for being there.
The Alaskan government has provided these payments since 1976, which are funded by its oil royalties. The payments are divided up evenly among citizens, with the amount varying each year. Citizens received $1,606 in 2019, $992 in 2020, and $1,114 in 2021.
To be eligible for the Alaska Permanent Fund Dividend, you must be an Alaska resident for at least a year, not be a convicted felon, and be physically in the state for at least 185 days of the previous calendar year.
2. Daylight hours are extreme
People can go days, weeks, or even months without any daylight in Alaska – although, the amount of daylight depends on the exact location.
The town of Utqiaġvik (the northernmost town in the US) experiences a ‘polar night’ every year, which means that once the sun sets in November, residents don’t see daylight for two months.
But Alaskans make up for this lack of daylight – and then some – during the summer. From April to August, Alaska experiences the Midnight Sun Season, which is when the sun never seems to set. Technically, the sun does set below the horizon, but only slightly, so it still stays light outside throughout the night.
3. There’s plenty of wildlife to see
Alaska is an animal-lover’s paradise. Across this enormous state, people can admire whales, bears, caribou, moose, wolves, red foxes, mountain goats, and lynx. You might even get to see an Alaska-Yukon moose – the largest species of its kind.
Unlike some other places around the world, you can see these animals up close in Alaska, which might not always be a good thing. Let’s just say you might want to be aware of the 40,000 grizzly bears roaming about – but more on that later.
4. Healthcare can be expensive
If you’re moving to Alaska, it’s worth looking into the healthcare options that are available to you.
Unlike many other countries, the healthcare system in America is completely privatized, which means the network of hospitals and doctors surgeries across the nation are all run by independent companies.
Once someone has received treatment, they’re left with a bill, which is usually pretty hefty – this is where insurance companies come in. 91.2% of Americans have some form of medical cover to pay for these pricey bills.
If you've already decided that you need private medical cover in the US, we recommend the services of Cigna. With 95 million customers worldwide and four different pricing plans, they'll be able to sort you out with just the right cover. Start building your customized plan today with a free quote from Cigna.
5. There’s a lot of native heritage to explore
Alaska is home to 227 federally-recognized indigenous tribes. Want to learn more about Alaska's indigenous culture? Check out the Alaska Native Heritage Center in Anchorage, which “promotes the active observance of Alaska Native culture and traditions”.
The centre hosts a range of permanent collections and life-sized village sites, and also puts on immersive educational programs.
You can also enjoy a number of events during Native American Heritage Month in November. And you can’t miss the World Eskimo-Indian Olympics, which celebrates indigenous skills that have been around for thousands of years.
6. It’s truly beautiful
Nature enthusiasts will fall in love with the breathtaking scenery in Alaska – think dramatic coastlines, luscious woodland areas, barren stretches, and rocky mountains.
Some of the most stunning nature spots in Alaska include:
- Denali National Park – This park stretches over six million acres, making it the third-largest National Park in the US. The area of natural beauty offers broad river valleys, high alpine ranges, and glacier-draped mountains
- Tracy Arm Fjord – This dramatic fjord lies within the Tracy Arm-Fords Terror Wilderness of Tongass National Forest. Here, you can see waterfalls gushing down rock walls, as well as the famous twin Sawyer Glaciers. You might even get to see brown bears, moose, whales, and seals
- Kenai Fjords National Park – Visitors come to this national park for some of the best panoramic landscapes in Alaska. Witness glaciers in the 700-square-mile Harding Icefield and explore the uninhabited coastline. Like many other Alaskan parks, you’ll also find a lot of large brown bears here, which feed on fat-rich salmon
Despite having acres of nature to explore, expats can also settle down in some of Alaska's thriving cities
7. Alaska is huge
Alaska is the largest state in America. Its total land area of 1.723 million km² makes it larger than California and Texas (the second- and third-largest states in America) combined.
This state is so big that if it was a country, it would be the 33rd-largest in the world, falling between Nigeria and Venezuela.
8. The cost of living is high
Although there are a lot of positives to living in Alaska, one of the main downsides is how expensive it is.
Overall, Alaska is the sixth most expensive state in the US, which partly comes down to how big the state is. Although Alaska’s size means there’s more to explore, it also means it costs a small fortune to ship food, fuel, and other goods to stores.
Expats should also consider the price of property in Alaska, which is slightly higher than the US average. The US’s average property price is around $344,000 (as of May 2022), compared to Alaska’s average price of $378,929.
9. There are plenty of jobs about
Whether you’re looking to go into the hospitality, energy, or healthcare industry, there are plenty of jobs on offer in Alaska.
Although there are some tourism jobs in the rural areas of Alaska, you’re more likely to find jobs in major cities, such as Anchorage, Juneau, and Fairbanks. Expats will also find it easier to get a job here if they have experience in one of Alaska’s most popular industries:
- Oil and gas
- Leisure and hospitality
10. Jobs pay well
Although the cost of living is high in Alaska, employers make up for it by paying their workers more than the national average.
Of course, this will depend on the type of job and industry you go for – you’re not likely to see these figures for a role in tourism or hospitality, for example. The country’s top employers (where you’re likely to see good wages) include Fort Wainwright Federal Credit Union, Bristol Bay Native, and Chugach Alaska.
11. There’s no income tax, sales tax, or property tax
No, your eyes aren’t deceiving you – not only can you earn a good wage in Alaska, but you also won’t be taxed on it. Personal income tax was repealed in 1980 after the country’s oil boom, and has not been reintroduced since.
Good news for anyone hoping to buy property in The Great Land – Alaska is the only state in the US where a large part of the landmass doesn’t have property tax. And, as an added bonus, the State of Alaska doesn’t have a levy for sales tax.
12. It has a great education system
Moving to Alaska with children? Rest assured that they’ll benefit from a thriving education system. In fact, Alaska’s education system was ranked 23rd out of all the US states, which mainly comes down to the fact that it has the second-highest public-school funding in the US ($20,640 per pupil).
If you’re moving to Alaska for higher education, you’ll also be pleased to know that there are a few good colleges on offer, including:
- University of Alaska Anchorage
- University of Alaska Southeast
- University of Alaska Fairbanks
They may look cute, but these grizzlies can be dangerous, so brush up on bear safety
13. Learn basic bear safety
With more than 40,000 brown bears and over 100,000 black bears roaming about, you might want to brush up on your bear safety.
The government suggests that bears generally avoid humans, but advise the following tips for anyone venturing out of the cities:
- Avoid surprising bears at a close distance
- Look for signs of bears and make plenty of noise
- Avoid crowding bears – respect their personal space
- Avoid leaving food or garbage about, as it will attract bears
- Plan ahead, stay calm, identify yourself, and don't run
It’s also probably a good idea to invest in a few cans of bear spray while you’re at it.
14. The road systems are pretty basic
Only 20% of Alaska is accessible by road, which means most of the country is untouched wilderness.
Transport options within Alaskan cities are reasonable, but are pretty rare once you travel to rural areas.
Even getting from place to place by car can be challenging, as Alaska only has 12 numbered highways. A key example of this is the state capital of Juneau, which can only be reached by air or water as there is no outside road access.
15. It’s a craft beer haven
The craft beer scene is flourishing in Alaska. Despite the rugged landscapes, you can find over 50 craft breweries dotted around the state, with at least 15 breweries in the Anchorage area alone, according to the Brewer’s Association.
Want to learn more about these unique beers? It’s worth taking a tour around one of the many breweries in Anchorage.
16. A lot of companies don’t ship to Alaska
If you’re thinking of moving to Alaska, prepare to part ways with some of your favourite shops.
The lack of roadway networks means it’s difficult – and expensive – for companies to ship products to Alaska. So whilst some companies, like Amazon and various clothing stores, ship products to Alaska, a lot of homeware companies, like Wayfair and IKEA, will typically avoid it.
17. It’s expensive to move there
Although moving to Alaska will be an adventure, it’ll cost you a pretty penny to get there.
Depending on where you're moving to in Alaska – whether it’s a rural or built-up area – it could cost you anywhere between a few thousand pounds and £20,000 to ship your stuff out there.
This hefty price comes back to the state’s basic road systems. Shipping to Alaska can also be affected by things like snowstorms and other natural disasters, which can make the journey more expensive.
18. It’s not very fashionable
Is fashion really worth getting frostbite over? Probably not, which is why most Alaskans choose function over fashion. The city of Anchorage even made an appearance on the list of least-fashionable US cities in 2021.
Expect to see locals sport the popular Carhartt jackets and rubber boots whilst going for a walk, running errands, or even popping out for some food at a restaurant.
19. Some towns shut down for the winter
Alaska has a handful of quaint towns that survive solely on tourism during the summer. Here, you can find a cluster of buildings with lodges for visitors, as well as a range of outdoor activity venues.
However, once the winter weather starts to kick in, the whole town packs up shop. Even the popular national parks close for winter and reopen in late spring.
20. Alaska is great for foodies
The cuisine might not be the first thing that pops to mind when you think of Alaska – but don’t be fooled, there are plenty of things to treat your tastebuds.
The most popular food in Alaska has to be fresh king crabs, which are caught locally, but you can also find caribou burgers, snow goose burgers, and reindeer sausage.
Feeling brave? Try Akutaq (also known as Eskimo Ice Cream) – an ice cream made of reindeer fat, seal oil, freshly fallen snow or water, fresh berries, and sometimes fish.
21. There’s plenty to do
If you’re an outdoorsy person, Alaska will be a perfect fit for you.
During the winter months, a lot of residents get stuck into hunting, fishing, as well as indoor hobbies like cooking and baking, but the summer months are really when the fun begins.
There are plenty of hiking routes on offer, biking trails for both beginners and experienced people, and an abundance of water sports in nearby lakes.
Some towns also host parades, talent contests, and art shows for local residents.
There you have it – 21 things you need to know about Alaska before packing your bags.
Hopefully you’re feeling more excited to start your life in The Great Land – all you need to do now is get your stuff together.
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From there, all you’ll need to prepare for the grizzly bears.