By Rental Car

Driving is the most practical way for most independent travelers to tour the main part of Alaska, and the location of Anchorage at the hub of transportation networks makes it the handiest place to start. Having a car vastly improves a visit to Anchorage, as the city is spread out and public transportation and taxi service are far less practical. Most major car-rental companies operate in Anchorage, largely from the car-rental facility next to the main terminal at the airport. A compact car for $50 a day, with unlimited mileage, is a bargain. Taxes and airport fees add as much as 40% to the rental price. You can cut that approximately in half by renting off-site. One agency with a downtown location is Avis, at 5th Avenue and B Street (tel. 800/230-4898 or 907/277-4567; www.avis.com). If you're not interested in driving around Anchorage, you may also be able to save time and money by flying on to your next destination, such as Kenai or Fairbanks, and renting the car there. Use a website to comparison-shop with taxes and fees included. In any case, reserve ahead, as cars can sell out in summer.

Car Wheels on Gravel Roads -- Contracts for most car-rental agencies do not allow vehicles on gravel roads, and none of the name-brand companies' agreements does. Pavement will get you to all the major places tourists go, but some magnificent back roads are unpaved, such as the Denali Highway or McCarthy Road. Violating the rental contract places you at risk of paying out of pocket for repairs and the rental agency's lost business if the car is damaged. In Anchorage, High Country Car and Truck Rental (tel. 888/685-1155 or 907/562-8078; www.highcountryanchorage.com) does rent for use on gravel highways (although not the Dalton Hwy.). They rent one-way to Seward and Whittier, too, for the convenience of cruise or train passengers. I've also located a couple of agencies in Fairbanks that offer the service.

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By Rental RV

Several large RV-rental agencies operate in Anchorage. High-season rates for a midsize unit are around $1,610 to $1,820 a week, plus the large amount of fuel RVs use and taxes; a truck camper (the kind of unit that is on a pickup truck) rents for close to $200 a day. ABC Motorhome Rentals, 3875 Old International Airport Rd. (tel. 800/421-7456 or 907/279-2000; www.abcmotorhome.com), charges no mileage fee.

By Bus

In a city as spread out as Anchorage, city buses will always be a slower and less convenient choice than cabs or rental cars, but the People Mover system (tel. 907/343-6543; www.peoplemover.org) is well run and perfectly practical for destinations that are served by direct routes from downtown. A new website (http://bustracker.muni.org/InfoPoint) uses a map to track the exact location of each bus and the actual time it will arrive at any stop, making the system easy to use for a novice. Bus fares all over town are $1.75 for adults; $1 for ages 5 to 18; 50¢ for those 60 and older, those with disabilities, or those with a valid Medicare card; free ages 4 and under. The transit center bus depot is at 6th Avenue and G Street. Buses generally come every half-hour, hourly on weekends; you will need to go online and figure out your route and timing in advance.

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By Bike

The network of bike trails is a great way to see the best side of Anchorage, but not a practical means of point-to-point transportation for most people. The Tony Knowles Coastal Trail starts right downtown. Good street bikes are usually for rent near Elderberry Park downtown, at the start of the Coastal Trail, from Pablo's Bike Rental, a booth in the parking lot near the corner of 5th and L (tel. 907/250-2871; www.pablobicyclerentals.com). Rates are $12 for 3 hours, $30 for a day. A bike-rental shop with a wide choice of equipment is in the blue 4th Avenue Marketplace at 4th and C: Downtown Bicycle Rental (tel. 907/279-5293; www.alaska-bike-rentals.com). Rates start at $16 for 3 hours, $4 each additional hour, max $32 per day. The shop also carries tandems, kids' bikes, and trailers, and clip in shoes and pedals for advanced cyclists. The shop also offers a hikers' shuttle to the Glen Alps parking lot, the trail head for Flattop Mountain.

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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.