Do I need a car in Anchorage?
Anchorage car hire advice – Anchorage has been one of the great surprises in doing research for Carornocar. The natural starting point is that Alaska is a vast open state with such spectacular scenery that the only way to do it justice is by car.
Further research shows that although there is no question about the scenery, but that the best way to get around is anything but by car!
Instead, because the area around Anchorage offers such a rich variety of excursions that include hiking, biking, bus shuttles, train journeys with panoramic coaches, and of course cruise ships and ferries, getting a rental car should actually be a long way down the priority list for anyone who wants to see Alaska at its best.
As far as any question about getting a rental car goes, anchorage and indeed Alaska in general really is a destination of the most ultimate of extremes!
Firstly, you have the extreme geography – Alaska is one of the most northerly destinations with any notable levels of tourist traffic, and this comes with extreme terrain and extreme weather, although the southern parts of the main Alaskan landmass can actually be surprisingly pleasant in summer.
Then you have the prices that come with this remote and rugged terrain – due to a combination of the high costs involved with making rental cars available and the higher cost of the kind of SUV or equivalent vehicle you might expect to rent, Anchorage is one of the most expensive major car hire destinations in the world, and if you instead choose to continue onwards to any other possible rental location in the state, then you can expect to pay even more! Yet any other transport option you look at for covering any kind of distance is going to be extremely expensive to, whether that’s one of the very few available scheduled coach services, the Alaska Railroad or ferry services via the Alaska Marine Highway.
But the real extreme factor when considering whether or not to rent a car in Anchorage, or indeed when trying to work out how to get around by any means is the sheer lack of roads in this part of the world. Even if you are looking at travelling by train instead, then there is really only one major rail route which runs through Anchorage, and the Alaska Railroad roughly parallels the highway anyway between see Ward/Whittier and Fairbanks – although in places the 2 corridors can be several miles apart.
So what does all this mean when it comes to actually making a choice about whether or not it’s worth renting a car in Anchorage, or whether there are enough ways to get around without a hire car?
First things first, given the extremely high daily cost of car rental in Anchorage, you might also be considering getting hold of a hire car for a part of your stay, and then using other transport options for the rest of it. Even if there are some service fees which are fixed regardless of the length of rental, this might well still be an option worth exploring, especially if your intention is to stay in and around Anchorage, rather than to try and do any kind of road trip, for which options are extremely limited anyway.
Alaska without a car
You might well notice that directly in front of the main terminal at Ted Stevens International airport in Anchorage, there’s quite a new looking railway station, and it would be logical to presume that this might provide some kind of shuttle linked to the downtown area, but sadly this isn’t the case. Anchorage is one of the few airports in the world to have an active railway station which doesn’t provide such a shuttle service. Instead, the airport is the local terminus for some of the services on the Alaska Railroad, including trains which head from Anchorage to the cruise port in Whittier, thus providing a very useful connection if you are simply here to head straight on to a cruise package.
However the more impressive route on the Alaska Railroad is the one which heads inland from Anchorage up towards Fairbanks, although this full journey actually takes over 12 hours, given that the trains have to negotiate so many sharp bends.
It’s also possible to take the train part of the way towards Fairbanks and to hook up with a coach service on the way back, but the corridor used by the Alaska Railroad is also about as far as any long distance you cana kindly let me you are road transport gets in this state.
Within the city of Anchorage itself and the small communities which are immediately around it, then you will also have the choice of regular urban bus services, together with local cabs, including Uber.
But Alaska really is one part of the world where any decision about what to see and how to see it really isn’t just about road versus rail or hire car versus bus or taxi, because there are 2 other major considerations – firstly the idea of getting somewhere by private air charter, or simply chartering a small plane for the day to see various different places (also known as flight seeing), and secondly because you don’t have to be a cruise ship passenger to enjoy some of Alaska’s stunning coastal scenery by boat, because there is also the option of the Alaska Marine Highway together with a couple of small local ferry services.
Given that there are so many air taxi services in this part of the world, this might well be an option which shouldn’t immediately be discounted on cost grounds!