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Alaskan Scheduled Flying Services -- Companies include Air Excursions (www.airexcursions.com), Bering Air (www.beringair.com), Era Alaska (www.flyera.com), Promech Air (www.promechair.com), and Wings of Alaska (www.ichoosewings.com).

Area Codes -- All of Alaska is in area code 907. In the Yukon Territory, the area code is 867. When placing a toll call within the state, you must dial 1, the area code, and the number.

Automobile Organizations -- Motor clubs will supply maps, suggested routes, guidebooks, accident and bail-bond insurance, and emergency road service. The American Automobile Association (AAA) is the major auto club in the United States. If you belong to a motor club in your home country, inquire about AAA reciprocity before you leave. You may be able to join AAA even if you're not a member of a reciprocal club; to inquire, call AAA (tel. 800/222-4357; www.aaa.com). AAA has a nationwide emergency road service telephone number (tel. 800/AAA-HELP [222-4357]).

Business Hours -- In the larger cities, major grocery stores are open until late at night and carry a wide range of products (even fishing gear) in addition to food. At a minimum, stores are open Monday through Friday from 10am to 6pm and on Saturday afternoon, and are closed on Sunday, but many are open much longer hours, especially in summer. Banks may close an hour earlier, and if open on Saturday, hours may be short.

Car Rentals -- Some small towns have only local car-rental agencies.

Drinking Laws -- The minimum drinking age in Alaska is 21; ID is often checked, even for the elderly, and in many places every single customer making a purchase in a liquor store must show identification. Most restaurants sell beer and wine, while some have full bars that serve hard liquor as well. Packaged alcohol, beer, and wine are sold only in licensed stores, not in grocery stores, but these are common and are open long hours every day. Under state law, bars don't have to close until 5am, but many communities have an earlier closing, generally around 2am. Open containers of alcohol are not allowed in your car or, with few exceptions, in any public place outside a bar or restaurant. Don't even think about driving while intoxicated, which in Alaska carries mandatory 3-day jail time for the first offense. More than 100 rural communities have laws prohibiting the importation and possession of alcohol (this is known as being "dry") or prohibiting the sale but not possession of alcohol (known as being "damp"). Before flying into a Native village with alcohol, ask about the law or check a list online (go to www.dps.state.ak.us/abc and click on "Dry/Damp Communities"). Bootlegging is a serious crime, and serious bad manners, in Alaska Native communities that are trying to address the damage of alcohol abuse.

Electricity -- As in Canada, the United States uses 110-120 volts AC (60 cycles), compared to 220-240 volts AC (50 cycles) in most of Europe, Australia, and New Zealand. Downward converters that change 220-240 volts to 110-120 volts are difficult to find in the United States, so bring one with you.

Embassies & Consulates -- The following nations have consulates in Anchorage: Canada, 310 K St., Ste. 220 (tel. 907/264-6734; www.anchorage.gc.ca); Japan, 3601 C St., Ste. 1300 (tel. 907/562-8424; www.anchorage.us.emb-japan.go.jp); Korea, 800 E. Dimond Blvd., Ste. 3-695 (tel. 907/339-7955; http://usa-anchorage.mofat.go.kr/eng/am/usa-anchorage/main/index.jsp); and Mexico, 610 C St., Ste. A 7 (tel. 907/334-9573).

All embassies are in the nation's capital. If your country isn't listed below, call for directory information in Washington, D.C. (tel. 202/555-1212), or check www.embassy.org/embassies.

The embassy of Australia is at 1601 Massachusetts Ave. NW, Washington, DC 20036 (tel. 202/797-3000; http://australia.visahq.com). Consulates are in New York, Honolulu, Houston, Los Angeles, and San Francisco.

The embassy of Canada is at 501 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, Washington, DC 20001 (tel. 202/682-1740; www.canadainternational.gc.ca/washington). Other Canadian consulates are in Buffalo (New York), Detroit, Los Angeles, New York, and Seattle.

The embassy of Ireland is at 2234 Massachusetts Ave. NW, Washington, DC 20008 (tel. 202/462-3939; www.embassyofireland.org). Irish consulates are in Boston, Chicago, New York, San Francisco, and other cities. See website for complete listing.

The embassy of New Zealand is at 37 Observatory Circle NW, Washington, DC 20008 (tel. 202/328-4800; www.nzembassy.com). New Zealand consulates are in Los Angeles, Salt Lake City, San Francisco, and Seattle.

The embassy of the United Kingdom is at 3100 Massachusetts Ave. NW, Washington, DC 20008 (tel. 202/588-6500; http://ukinusa.fco.gov.uk). Other British consulates are in Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Cleveland, Houston, Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco, and Seattle.

Emergencies -- Generally, you can call tel. 911 for medical, police, or fire emergencies. On remote highways, there sometimes are gaps in 911 coverage. If you can find a phone, dialing 0 will generally get an operator who can connect you to emergency services.

Gasoline -- The cost of gasoline changes too quickly to list in this guide. You can find national and state price averages updated online daily at www.fuelgaugereport.com. Prices in Alaska range from a bit over the national average in Anchorage to much higher in rural areas, where they could be double or more. As elsewhere in the U.S., taxes are already included in the price quoted or on the pump. One U.S. gallon equals 3.8 liters or .85 imperial gallons. Fill-up locations are known as gas or service stations.

Legal Aid -- If you are "pulled over" for a minor infraction (such as speeding), never attempt to pay the fine directly to a police officer; this could be construed as attempted bribery, a much more serious crime. Pay fines by mail or directly into the hands of the clerk of the court. If accused of a more serious offense, say and do nothing before consulting a lawyer; tell the police you want an attorney. Here the burden is on the state to prove a person's guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, and everyone has the right to remain silent, whether he or she is suspected of a crime or actually arrested. Once arrested, a person can make one telephone call to a party of his or her choice. International visitors should call your embassy or consulate.

Mail -- At press time, domestic postage rates were 28¢ for a postcard and 44¢ for a letter. For international mail, a first-class letter of up to 1 ounce costs 98¢ (75¢ to Canada and 79¢ to Mexico); a first-class postcard costs the same as a letter. For more information, go to www.usps.com and click on "Calculate Postage."

You can receive mail addressed to you at "General Delivery" at the post office. Always include zip codes when mailing items in the U.S. If you don't know your zip code, visit www.usps.com/zip4.

Maps -- For most of the popular areas, there are excellent trail maps published by Trails Illustrated, part of National Geographic (tel. 800/962-1643; www.natgeomaps.com). They're sold in park visitor centers, too. The maps are printed on plastic, so they don't get spoiled by rain; however, they don't cover the whole state. For detailed topographic maps covering all of Alaska, the U.S. Geological Service is still the only place to go. Their map sales office in Anchorage (a fascinating place for anyone interested in cartography) is on the campus of Alaska Pacific University, the Earth Science Information Center, at 4230 University Dr. (tel. 907/786-7011; http://alaska.usgs.gov/science/esic/index.php).

Newspapers & Magazines -- The state's largest newspaper is the Anchorage Daily News; you can find its content and a lot of information useful for visitors at www.adn.com. Seattle newspapers and USA Today are often available.

Police -- Dial tel. 911 in an emergency. Nonemergency phone numbers for local police departments are listed throughout the guide.

Smoking -- In Alaska's cities, smoking is prohibited in most indoor public places. In Anchorage and Juneau, smoking is prohibited even in bars. Smoking is more common in small towns, where rules are usually less strict, but virtually all hotels and B&Bs are smoke-free, so ask about smoking areas when you book your room if this is a concern.

Taxes -- Alaska imposes no state sales tax, but most local governments have a sales tax and a bed tax on accommodations. All prices and rates are listed without tax unless otherwise noted. The United States has no value-added tax (VAT) or other indirect tax at the national level.

Time -- Although the state naturally spans five time zones, in the 1980s, Alaska's middle time zone was stretched so almost the entire state would lie all in one zone, known as Alaska Standard Time (AST). It's 1 hour earlier than the U.S. West Coast's Pacific Time, 4 hours earlier than Eastern Standard Time. Crossing over the border from Alaska to Canada adds an hour and puts you at the same time as the West Coast. The balance of the continental United States is divided into four time zones: Eastern Standard Time (EST), Central Standard Time (CST), Mountain Standard Time (MST), and Pacific Standard Time (PST). When it's 8am in Anchorage, it is 9am in Los Angeles (PST), 10am in Denver (MST), 11am in Chicago (CST), noon in New York City (EST), 5pm in London (GMT), and 2am the next day in Sydney.

As with almost everywhere else in the United States, daylight saving time is in effect from 1am on the second Sunday in March (turn your clocks ahead 1 hr.) until 1am on the first Sunday in November (turn clocks back again).

Tipping -- Tips make up a major part of the compensation for many service workers. To leave no tip in a restaurant is socially unacceptable and leaves your server unpaid. To leave a small tip is a powerful indication of displeasure for bad service; to leave no tip suggests you don't know any better. In restaurants, bars, and nightclubs, tip your server 15% to 20% of the check, depending on the quality of service. Tip checkroom attendants $1 per garment, and tip valet-parking attendants $1 each time you get your car. Tipping is not expected in cafeterias or fast-food restaurants where you order at a counter. In hotels, tip bellhops $1 per bag and tip the housekeeper at least $1 to $2 per day. Tip cab drivers 15% of the fare, and tip hairdressers and barbers 15% to 20%. Do not tip gas-station attendants and ushers at movies and theaters.

Toilets -- You won't find public toilets, or "restrooms," on the streets in most U.S. cities, but they can be found in hotel lobbies, bars, restaurants, museums, department stores, railway and bus stations, and service stations. Large hotels and fast-food restaurants are often the best bet for clean facilities. It can be a long way between any toilets on rural Alaskan highways.


Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.