Alaska : Safety by CityUnited States - safety as a country Alaska - state review
Anchorage, Alaska, is the largest city in the largest of the United States.
Surrounded by rugged mountains on two sides and water on the other two, this city touts itself as being “Urban & Wild.”
More than two million visitors come to Anchoring each year, with about half arriving on a cruise ship.
That’s not counting the numerous moose that wander the downtown streets.
You can tour the city by air, on two feet, by boat or train.
Let’s not forget the skiing, horse carriage, or dog sled rides too.
Whether you want to walk across a glacier, summit a mountain, or raft down a river, there’s as much to do in nature as there is for nightlife.
The massive Chugach State Park is on the west side of the area.
Whether you are visiting Anchoring for a day trip or a full week, it’s hard to take it all in.
There are plenty of history lessons about Alaska natives and the gold mining history that will make you still wonder, “Can I strike it rich here?”
If you’re lucky, you’ll win the jackpot with a perfect view of the Northern Lights, as only Alaska can show you.
Warnings & Dangers in Anchorage
OVERALL RISK: MEDIUM
There's a medium overall risk with consistently high crime rates. While you have an abundance of safe activities to do, there are dangers on the streets and in the wild. You can't just show up in Alaska and expect to be safe. It must be studied and prepared for well before you arrive.
TRANSPORT & TAXIS RISK: LOW
Anchorage has a public transportation system that runs throughout the city and more frequent routes downtown. Travel is also available to different parts of Alaska by seaplane, bus, train, and motorcoach. You can rent four-wheel drive vehicles to explore on your own. Anything that is connected to a tourist trip is going to be safer than relying on public transportation. While the risk will be low, you should avoid driving if you aren't comfortable handling a four-wheel drive vehicle in winter weather conditions.
PICKPOCKETS RISK: MEDIUM
There's a medium risk here. People come to Alaska loaded with goodies and cash and walk around mesmerized by things around them. 29 pickpockets were reported in 2020, and that was during a pandemic year. The year before, the number was 25% higher. You should always take as little as possible with you when walking around a city or going on tours, but just make sure you keep an eye on your stuff and secure it to your body somehow, either with a strap, under your coat, or around your waist. (Hey, fanny packs are cool again!)
NATURAL DISASTERS RISK: MEDIUM
Earthquakes, winter storms, blizzards, ice storms, and deadly cold temperatures are the biggest risks here. Flooding can also happen from excessive rain or melting snow and ice. Then there's the risk of tsunamis and wildfires. Ope - almost forget avalanches in the mountains. Animal attacks are also a risk with the number of wild creatures that run in the outdoors where people travel.
MUGGING RISK: MEDIUM
The robbery rate in Anchoring is more than 60% higher than the national average, and almost 40% of those robberies happen in public. While there is a storied history of domestic assault problems in Alaska, that doesn't mean a tourist won't be a victim. It is just less likely, since Alaska needs tourists to thrive.
TERRORISM RISK: LOW
Even though it's the largest city in Alaska, there are a lot of empty lands around. A terror attack wouldn't be out of the question in general, but there's not that sense of concern like a tourist might have in New York or L.A.
SCAMS RISK: LOW
The Anchorage FBI office gave safety advice to Alaskans as a rash of scammers targeted people who live there in 2021. Tourists are less likely to fake a scam as long as you realize YOU DID NOT WIN THE LOTTERY OR SWEEPSTAKES, okay? There will be people on the streets offering tours, trinkets, and tastes of Alaskan foods. Some might feel like a scam with high prices. Your smartest option is to book excursions through your cruise line or a travel agent, so your purchase is legit and your personal information is secure.
WOMEN TRAVELERS RISK: MEDIUM
Domestic violence and alcohol addiction are two big problems in Alaska, and they can lead to more attacks against women. This is not just the final frontier, it's a different world from most places on the planet with a whole new culture. Be sure to travel in pairs, never walk around at night alone, and don't go to a private place with someone you have just met.
TAP WATER RISK: LOW
The 2022 Water Quality Report goes into great detail about where the water comes from in Alaska and how it gets treated before being sent into the pipes for drinking water. All tests met or exceeded the required standards, and the water is safe for use.
Safest Places to Visit in Anchorage
It’s just impossible to list all the safe and exciting things to do in Alaska in this small space.
My best advice, especially if using a cruise company or travel agent, is to spend several hours – if not a full day – reviewing all the excursion options before making a decision.
I went on a Mexican Riviera Cruise, and my friend and I were so excited about doing EVERYTHING we overplanned and had to scale back.
This can be the case in Alaska as well, because, for many people, it’s a trip of a lifetime, and you don’t want to miss anything.
The major areas to consider are as follows.
Museums & Culture
There is a wide variety of history, culture, and natural wonders to see before you even set foot in the snow.
- Alaska Native Heritage Center
- Alaska Aviation Museum
- Alaska Museum of Science & Nature
- Alaska Law Enforcement Museum
- Anchoring Museum
Try your panning skills out at the Crow Creek Historic Gold Mine, too.
Take sightseeing to new heights in a prop plane or helicopter.
There are places you just can’t get to in Alaska by car, and these small planes have long been the only way to get to and from the major cities.
A popular flight here is to land in Denali National Park, do some exploring, and then fly back.
Katami National Park is another flightseeing favorite, with a safe view of fishing bears and wayward moose.
You can also try Heli-Hiking, where you pay a helicopter pilot to drop you off in the rugged mountain wilderness and leave.
Well, actually, you probably mostly pay the pilot to come back and get you.
If you don’t want to risk facing off with a bear in the wild, visit the Alaska Zoo for a safe look at all the native animals of this beautiful land.
You can pay extra for a VIP tour at certain times of the year, but the zoo is open year-round.
There are tours available by local experts who know just where to go to spot a polar bear or spot a soaring eagle.
Bring your camera and make sure you’ve got enough storage space.
I cannot stop laughing as I review the Anchorage.net website for wildlife viewing.
Each of the many tour providers has pictures of bears in various positions, each one trying to “outdo” the other.
For a good laugh, look at Rust’s Flying Service.
Stroll the streets looking for unique Alaska goods with a bonus of NO SALES TAX!
Some of the stories, like Uli, have live demonstrations of how products are made.
Alaska Birch Syrup and Wild Harvest have samples available even for those just window shopping.
Places to Avoid in Anchorage
The odds are you aren’t coming to Anchorage to visit your best friend from high school or to visit the family during the holidays.
If you are, you probably won’t even read this because you already know.
This means there is little to no reason to go into the neighborhoods, away from the main tourist roads, or off a marked trail.
In a unique twist, I can’t tell you to avoid going out after dark, because there are times in the winter the city gets about 18 hours of darkness.
However, most cruises and visitors come in the summer, when you can enjoy up to 22 hours of sunlight a day.
From the crime data, the northern sections of the city have the highest crime rates.
Avoid any activities you aren’t healthy or brave enough to do.
I’ll be the first to admit, heli-hiking SOUNDS like so much fun.
I love hiking and I know how to dress for bitter cold weather.
In reality, I would be scared to ride a helicopter, breathing through a bag because of my fear of heights, and feel abandoned in the wilderness even though I paid someone to leave me there.
You have to be the best just of what is safe for you, even when the rest of your party wants to try something.
Be bold, but not careless.
Safety Tips for Traveling to Anchorage
- You can find the Anchorage Police Department (@anchoragepolice) on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. You still call 911 for emergencies, but you’ll use 311 for non-emergency information.
- Crime Stoppers of Anchorage take anonymous tips. The number is (907)561-STOP(7867). With alcohol and domestic issues being such problems here, locals or loved ones are less likely to report a crime. That might be for fear of retaliation or just an act of “love.” As a tourist, you can give an unbiased perspective on a dangerous situation and not have to get tied up with a police report or investigation.
- If you are going dog sledding, there’s no reason to be afraid of the dogs. They’ll run around at first, but then fall in line and do their work. Travel Hack: Ask the tour guide if there are mushing puppies you can play with before or after the ride. Be sure to check the bag policy of the mushing tour, because many won’t let you bring a backpack or purse.
- 511.alaska.gov is the best website to learn about road conditions in Anchorage and across Alaska. If you are going to be driving a rental vehicle, you can review your route on this website and see live cameras along the way. I always find that having a visual ahead of time is going to make me feel more comfortable behind the wheel in a new place.
- “MA! There’s a $&#&@ Moose!” The viral video (loaded with expletives, but SO funny) went viral as two moose fought in the driveway of a neighborhood in 2015. More than 1500 moose live in and around the city of Anchorage. It won’t take long to see one during your visit. There’s no need to call animal control or freak out. This is perfectly natural. You MUST enjoy the sighting from a distance. Don’t run toward the moose or try to feed it. Moose look like gentle giants, but are moody and spontaneous when they get aggressive.
- Even when the snow starts to melt in Anchorage and you want to hit the trails, you’ll still need waterproof and sturdy boots. The snow melt can make some of the trails literal mud pits. Be careful with each step to avoid twisting an ankle or knee.
- Bring a sleep aid, like melatonin, to keep a regular sleep schedule while you’re visiting. Your body might rage against sleeping in sunlight or twilight. Many tired travelers have fought the urge and had a sleepless trip to this unique place. Talk to your physician about the best way to acclimate to the sun being up at midnight.
- If you are visiting from September through April, you have a great opportunity to see the Northern Lights. Ask your hotel if they provide a “Northern Lights Wake-Up Call.” For summer visitors, the Northern Lights are still there, it’s just too bright to see them. You can see the films of the aurora at several locations in Anchorage.
- If you are wondering, “You told me to not carry valuables, but where am I supposed to put all this baggage?” You can store belongings at the Anchorage airport or at the Alaska Aviation Museum for as long as you need to during your visit.
- To make sure you are getting legitimate arts and crafts from Native Alaska crafters, look for the silver hand logo. This logo only comes on verified unique pieces of art, not ones mass made overseas and shipped. While not all vendors use the silver hand logo, the majority of them do.
So... How Safe Is Anchorage Really?
Anchorage has consistently been in the top 10 most dangerous cities nationwide.
Even with crime going down, it still has a violent crime rate nearly three times the national average.
Thefts are nearly double the national average, and robberies are 60% higher.
While much of the crime involves people who know each other, you should stay on the main roads and in tourist areas.
Those group tours are always going to be safer than wandering around alone.
Stay inside at night to avoid crime and the bitter cold of winter.
Here’s how the risks break down in 2021:
- Violent Crime: 1 in 84 risk
- Robbery: 1 in 714 risk
- Theft: 1 in 40 risk
You’ll lose part of the theft risk if you aren’t driving a car, as 30% of all thefts are related to car burglaries.
Another 36% of thefts are shoplifting, which lowers your risk even more.
Just don’t interfere in trying to apprehend a shoplifter.
38% of robberies happen in public spaces, so be aware of your surroundings at all times.
If a situation ever feels uncomfortable, trust your gut and leave.
Again, the people of Alaska need tourists to help keep the tax dollars coming in, and many businesses thrive off the tourist crowd.
Be sure to stay in groups, avoid places off the beaten path, and keep valuables out of sight.
You also need to study wilderness safety in this unique and beautiful landscape.
In 2022, a tourist literally danced with a bear around a sign as it kept trying to swipe at her.
It was her quick thinking and the smarts of nearby tourists that saved her life.
How Does Anchorage Compare?
|Santiago de Chile (Chile)||71|
|Hong Kong (China)||70|
You'll need a U.S. Travel Visa if you are visiting from outside the country, but if you are a U.S. resident, you don't need a passport or visa. U.S. residents WILL need a passport if they are going to Canada as part of their cruise trip or flight route.
The U.S. Dollar is still the only currency accepted. Most excursions are booked and paid for ahead of time. You can use credit cards for souvenir purchases. If you choose to use cash, be sure to keep it secured throughout your clothing. Don't keep it all in one place. There are plenty of ways to exchange currency at banks and Money Mart stores in the city.
You'll hear tour guides say, "it's surprisingly mild in Anchorage." They mean that by Alaska standards, not the ones you are used to. Summers can be in the 70s (F) and will have mostly sunshine all day and night. Winter brings temperatures below freezing with a lot of snow, so bundle up. See if a local outfitter in your hometown, like REI, can help you plan for base, medium, and outer layers in Alaska. There are also websites where you can rent winter gear if you don't want to pay the price for quality products. Just don't buy cheap gear. You will regret it.
Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport is on the west side of the city. Cruise ships will port in either Whittier (60 miles away) or Seward (120 miles away), and you'll have to drive, shuttle, or take a train to Anchorage. Cruises don't port in Anchorage.
You definitely want Alaska-specific travel insurance, and read the fine print on your cruise travel insurance to ensure you know what's covered. Make sure you either purchase additional health insurance or have a plan that covers an Alaskan adventure.
Anchorage Weather Averages (Temperatures)
Average High/Low Temperature
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Alaska - Safety by City