About halfway through our trip in Anchorage, I realized that I should look into switching my driver’s license if I was serious about staying in Alaska for a while.
I don’t need a car in my village and my Minnesota license doesn’t expire for a couple of years. My permanent residency could stay my parents and none would be the wiser. But, there are some perks to being an Alaskan resident. There are hunting and fishing perks, there is the PFD, there are free bags on Alaska Airlines, and there are sales tax exemptions in some states. If I want to become a resident (which you can only do after a year of living in Alaska), it would be important for me to start moving in that direction.
One of those steps is to get an Alaskan State ID or an Alaskan Driver’s License.
That was how I found myself looking up license transfer steps on our penultimate night in Anchorage.
Let me just say, I thought about letting it go. I was fortunate to have brought both my passport and ID, I had proof of residency from my cellphone bill and it would only cost me $20. But, it also said that I would have to take a written and behind the road test.
A written test didn’t worry me. I was a little nervous because I don’t remember the exact distances needed to turn off my brights or park away from a fire hydrant, I just know what feels right. Although I know all about driving in inclement weather, what does one do when there is an avalanche?
The written test had practice tests and a handbook online, I was always good at studying things.
However, the driving test terrified me.
I drive just fine, I think. I parallel park just fine, by at least the second or third try. I didn’t want someone next to me, marking tallies on a sheet. I’d been driving for over 10 years without much problem to my record.
They also didn’t have any openings for the next month.
I talked to a friend or two that had made the move to Alaska and they mentioned not having to take the driving test, but I felt like the trip to the DMV would be a wash.
Thankfully, my traveler buddy, Emma, assured me that we should go. She was so patient and understanding with all of my errands, and because of her encouragement and support, I ended up at the DMV.
People say “Minnesota Nice”…which as a Minnesota native, I realize means a lot of passive aggressive fake nice that most out-of-staters mistake for genuine kindness. Of course, there is always a lot of genuine kindness sprinkled in.
Yet, even with “Minnesota Nice”, I’ve never had a pleasant encounter at the DMV…until Alaska.
Every DMV worker made the whole experience the most pleasant “customer service-type” experience, I’d ever had. I wasn’t expecting that.
We walked into a clean, fresh, bright, huge space with high-ceilings. There were tons of stations set up, nearly fully staffed, in a half moon around the room.
Our first stop, the information desk, started the journey off on a high note. The woman behind the desk smiled at us, was beyond friendly, and listened to my problems about lack of a real address. After telling me that I wouldn’t need to take a behind-the-wheel exam (perhaps because of my age), she set up the written test for me and sent me on my way.
I loaded some practice questions and studied for a bit and then just said “whatever” and walked over to the first step in my fate.
The test is 20 questions long, just 20. You have to get at least 16 right in order to pass. Most of the questions were universal and common sense. Some of the questions had come up on my practice tests. After each one, it told you the number you were on and if you got the previous one right or wrong.
Then I returned to the information desk, where I was informed that they would accept my housing application as proof of address.
Here’s something fascinating. There aren’t enough P.O. boxes for teachers to get a P.O. Box. Our address is either the name of the school or “General Delivery”, no street name because there are none, no house number because even though the village houses are numbered, it doesn’t matter.
How are you supposed to have an address on your license when all your mail goes to “McQueen School”?
More importantly: I often get my ID triple checked at concert venues when purchasing alcohol and there has been a time when I almost got thrown out because they didn’t believe I was over 21; I was 25 and my ID was real. Can you imagine the trouble I would find getting an ID from Alaska with the address “McQueen School”?
After I had taken a number and met with one of the friendly men to set up my ID, I expressed my concern. His manager came over and we talked about my qualms of putting the address that I know I can receive mail at, and another address that is more ‘real’ but that I’ve never tested before. They okayed the ‘real’ one.
Figuring out an address that doesn’t exist was a bit of a hassle, but it never became a frustration and everyone helping me was all smiles.
I hesitated a bit when I asked if my endorsements for Firearm Safety and Snowmobile Safety would transfer to my Alaskan license. The man laughed kindly before saying, “Yeah, you don’t need those up here.”
Then a few moments later, I went to get my picture taken and I was walking out with a paper copy of my new license, waiting for my card to arrive in the mail.
After talking to my coworkers, they too had made up addresses in the past because sometimes “General Delivery” doesn’t cut it. Funny to think that I live in a real place and on district property, but I don’t live on an address that exists to the rest of the world.
In summary, the State of Alaska DMV in Anchorage was a wonderful experience, I’d highly recommend it.
To transfer your license, you’ll need:
- To pass the written test
- There are practice tests and a handbook online.
- 16/20 questions correct.
- Proof of residency
- Out of state license
- Second form of ID (a passport will work here)
Here’s to hoping that I don’t get thrown out of drinking establishments in the lower 48 because of it!