Canada & Alaska

Michele & Stephen's trip in 2013

Entering the USA

On our way to Skagway we had to cross the border between the Yukon (Canada) and Alaska (USA).

Some countries require that you have a visa before you can enter. To obtain a visa you usually have to fill in a form giving your passport details, date of birth, reason for visit etc. and pay a fee. When granted the visa normally specifies how long you can stay, and what you can and cannot do in the country.

Luckily because of the special relationship between the UK and the USA we do not require a visa.

However, we do require a "visa waiver".

To obtain a "visa waiver" we had to fill in a form giving our passport details, our date of birth, our reason for visiting the USA and confirm that we had never been convicted of moral turpitude. We also had to pay a fee of USA$6.00 each.

In addition we had to have have our fingerprints taken and our irises scanned. When granted our "visa waiver" specified that we could only stay in the USA for 90 days and must not work.

On entering Alaska we also had to declare any agricultural products we had in the van. As a result our single tomato was politely confiscated.

As well as a lecture on the importance of the work of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (Service) we also received a fascinating leaflet "Bringing Agricultural Products to Alaska from Canada" I won't spoil the plot, but should be coming this way in a motorhome and are partial to herbal medicine containing sliced deer antler or bird's nests then you had better read it.

Quick summary: best not to have any fresh fruit, only commercial packaged vegetables and no firewood.

Since we left Vancouver the number of tourists we have encountered has been limited by the number of people prepared to drive thousands of kilometers on relatively remote roads. Now however we are within range of the tour buses carrying American cruise ship passengers from Skagway.

When we stopped for lunch in no-man's-land between Canada and Alaska there was no one around, five minutes later there was a bus load!

Before the gold rush of 1887 both Skagway and neighboring Dyea were insignificant places, today Dyea is an archaeological site and Skagway is a theme park run by the cruise lines. Admittedly quite an enjoyable theme park. The population is said to be around 900, plus (on the day we arrived) about 30 motorhomes and four large cruise ships (say 6000 people?).

Most buildings in Skagway are "reproduction" rather than restoration.

This lady is advertising The Days of 98 Show that claims to have been running for 90 years (since 1923). Just down the street, one of the few original buildings, the Red Onion Saloon is still operating (as a real saloon and a mock brothel).

The Firearms Prohibited notice outside a Federally funded museum is real even if some of the Native American Artwork is not.

Also real...