Driving from Mexico to Alaska

The I-5, the ALCAN, and the Great Alaska Highway are all parts of the same massive stretch of road. Starting in Tijuana, Mexico and cutting a huge swath directly up the West Coast of North America, it is a long, incredibly taxing drive that passes through most of the major sights and cities that constitute the “West.” It’s also best not to merely hit the road without a plan, so here’s a couple tips on driving from Mexico to Alaska.


Driving from Mexico to Alaska
Driving from Mexico to Alaska

First of all, if you’re going to make this drive, have a plan. You don’t have to stick to the plan, and you probably shouldn’t, as there are some great detours along the way. However, customs and border control like knowing that you aren’t going to get lost, or break down and not have the money to fix your vehicle. If a customs agent asks how much money is in your bank account, this is why.


Also, be conservative in whatever you say is the duration of your drive. While it might be nice to say you’re going to make it from the border of Alaska to the southern border of Canada in three days (and it’s technically possible) but most border guards have heard that before, and know it’s not going to happen. Always make it sound like you have a plan when speaking with border control.


Second, besides the obvious advice of bringing an ample supply of snacks, emergency gear, and a tent that you can pitch in the dark (if you’re looking to save money on lodging), try to avoid buying alcohol in Canada. A couple beers at the end of a long day is a road trip staple, but the alcohol in Canada is wicked expensive. Stock up anywhere else.


In addition to beer, keep at least 5-10 gallons of gas in your car, especially if your tank doesn’t have an exceedingly long range. In the rural areas of Canada, gas stations are few and far between, and some of them are only open seasonally. It is impossible to trust signs reading “Next Gas 130 Kilometers.” The next gas station could realistically be double that distance, because the gas station mentioned by the sign was shut down for the season. Running out of gas in the middle of nowhere means you might be waiting for hours to hitchhike to the nearest town, fill up, and hitch back.


This is another reason to make sure you have a functional supply of food and water—it’s not so much for emergencies, but in small towns, stores and restaurants close early, and there’s nothing worse than pulling up to a truck stop late in the evening looking for a bite to eat, only to have the attached store closed for the night.


Lastly, have fun. Driving from Mexico to Alaska is a Herculean endeavor, and there is a ton to see along the way. If you’re pushing for time, understandably you’re going to miss a lot. But if you’re doing the road trip as a vacation, or you have time to travel around, enjoy everything the drive offers. Between some of the most interesting metropolitan areas in the world, world-renowned national parks, and a spectrum of small towns ranging from fascinating, to quaint, to downright weird, you could spend a month on this drive and still wish for more time.

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