The Complete Guide to Travel Insurance for Canadians - PolicyAdvisor
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The complete guide to travel insurance for Canadians

SUMMARY

While travel insurance is not mandatory for Canadians travelling abroad, it is highly recommended. The cost of medical emergencies and other unforeseen events can be very expensive when you are outside of your home country. Travel insurance gives you peace of mind while you are away and financial protection from medical expenses in another country.

By Mark Cluett
Director of Content
14 min read
IN THIS ARTICLE

Travel insurance offers several different types of protection to Canadians leaving the country. For example, if you have a medical emergency while travelling, travel insurance will cover the cost of your treatment. Additionally, if you need to cancel your trip due to an emergency, some travel insurance policies can reimburse you for any non-refundable expenses.

While travel insurance is not required by law in Canada, it is highly recommended, as the cost of medical emergencies and other unforeseen events can be very expensive when you are outside of your home country. Therefore, making insurance part of your travel plans can give you peace of mind while you are away.

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What is travel insurance?

Travel insurance is a type of insurance that helps to cover the cost of medical care if you become sick or injured while travelling. It can also protect you from financial loss if you have to cancel or interrupt your trip.

What are the different types of travel insurance?

Canadians leaving the country or their home province have the option of getting two main types of travel insurance: travel medical insurance and trip cancellation/interruption insurance.

Travel medical insurance

Travel medical insurance can help to cover the cost of medical care if you become sick or injured while travelling. It can also help to cover the cost of travel if you need to be transported to a hospital in another country. This emergency medical coverage is the most common type of travel insurance. It can sometimes be referred to as travel accident insurance or travel health insurance.

Trip interruption insurance (aka trip cancellation insurance)

Trip cancellation and trip interruption insurance can help to reimburse you for the cost of your trip if you have to cancel due to an unforeseen circumstance. This can include illness or bad weather, or other situations that may delay or cancel your trip (lost baggage, transportation delays, etc).

Some insurance providers also sell comprehensive travel insurance policies that include both of these types of coverage.

Learn more about the difference between travel medical insurance vs. trip interruption insurance

Why should Canadians make travel insurance part of their travel plans?

If you plan to travel outside Canada ‒ even for a single day ‒ you should buy travel health insurance before your trip or vacation.

There are a number of risks you face when travelling, and travel insurance can help protect you from financial loss in the event of an emergency. If you need medical assistance while abroad, travel insurance can help cover the cost of your medical bills and care. And if your trip is cancelled or interrupted, travel insurance can reimburse you for non-refundable expenses.

Travel insurance is an important consideration for any trip, and it’s especially important if you’re travelling to a country with high medical costs or risks.

Where can you get travel insurance in Canada?

Canadians can obtain travel insurance for a trip away from Canada through several different avenues:

  • Travel agent
    The travel agent through which you booked your trip may have access to travel insurance plans as well. Most travel agents deal with a single provider so they don’t typically offer the most choice of plans.
  • Employee or group insurance provider
    Your group benefits provider may offer the ability to purchase additional travel insurance through your group plan. Again, one downside to this approach is you are unable to compare the prices and plans of different carriers.
  • Credit card coverage
    If you booked your trip on your credit card, you may also be entitled to some insurance coverage. Check the details of the policy before your trip so that you know of any limitations to your coverage. You typically cannot buy supplementary travel insurance through this plan, as it is an added benefit of your credit card agreement. Learn more about credit card travel insurance and its limited coverage.
  • Insurance broker
    An insurance broker (like PolicyAdvisor) can present you with several different choices of policies, providers, and premiums so that you can choose the coverage that would best suit your trip and budget. They can also offer insight into the claims process and guide you to which company would work best for the type of vacation or travel away from Canada you plan on making.

What should travel medical insurance cover for trips outside Canada?

No matter where in the world you are travelling, there are 3 basic medical expenses your travel health insurance policy should always cover: medical evacuation from your travel destination if required, coverage for any pre-existing conditions you have, and repatriation (covering the cost of transporting your remains should you pass away during your trip).

Every travel medical insurance policy is unique, as one has many options when applying for coverage.

Most travel medical insurance policies typically cover:

  • Emergency medical treatment for illness or injury
  • Prescription medications
  • Emergency dental treatment services
  • Essential medical equipment (crutches, wheelchairs, slings, braces, etc.)
  • X-rays and other diagnostic laboratory procedures (bloodwork, ultrasounds, etc.)
  • Required ground, air or sea ambulance services
  • Follow-up post-medical appointments with health care providers
  • Medical evacuation
  • Ambulance travel to the nearest hospital
  • Meal expenses and accommodations while waiting for medical care
Travel insurance protects you from the unforeseen costs of medical emergencies and trip delays when on a trip outside of Canada.

Does travel insurance cover pre-existing conditions?

Most travel medical insurance policies do not cover a pre-existing medical condition by default. One should always check the wording on their policy to see if a pre-existing medical condition may or may not be covered during trips outside of Canada.

In some cases, if you have shown no symptoms or diagnosis of a pre-existing medical condition for 180 days prior to the effective date of the policy and have not had treatment for the condition during that time, it will not be considered a pre-existing condition during your coverage period.

Some conditions may get excluded from your travel medical insurance coverage during the underwriting process. A pre-existing condition exclusion could include:

  • cancer
  • heart disease
  • diabetes
  • high blood pressure

They can also include relatively mild conditions for which you have taken prescription medication such as:

Insurance providers will look at the specific state of your illness or condition to evaluate the risk associated with the pre-existing condition. They then make their decision accordingly for your travel insurance plan.

Some providers offer policies that will cover pre-existing conditions, though the premium will be higher to compensate for the added risk.

One should request an explanation of the limitations and restrictions on any pre-existing medical condition, tests, and treatments they may have had.

How do I ensure I keep my universal public health insurance if I am taking a trip outside of Canada?

Depending on the length of your trip and the province or territory you call home, a long absence from Canada can result in your universal public health coverage lapsing.

For instance, for Ontario residents, if one plans to be outside Canada for more than 6 months, your Ontario Health Insurance Plan (OHIP) can lapse and you won’t regain your coverage until after you’ve spent several consecutive months in Ontario.

To ensure one retains OHIP status, they need to:

  • Have a valid health card
  • Make Ontario your primary residence
  • Be physically in the province of Ontario for 153 days a year in the two years preceding your time away from Canada

The rules for medical plans in Canada’s other provinces and territories differ slightly but are generally the same. Check with your region’s territorial health authority to see what rules you need to follow to retain your provincial or territorial health plan status before you leave for your trip.

Which is the best travel insurance company?

At PolicyAdvisor, we partner with the country’s best travel insurance providers to present you with the most choice and best option for your insurance needs. Whether you are vacationing abroad or sponsoring a super visa application for a loved one, we’re here to help guide you to the best provider.

Some of the best travel insurance companies in Canada include:

Manulife

  • Up to $10,000,000 CAD in coverage up to age 85+
  • Several different plans for trips outside Canada or lower-cost options for trips within the country
  • Robust options for multi-trip plan policies
  • Can include Emergency Medical Insurance, Baggage Loss, Damage & Delay, Flight Accidents and Travel Accidents, and added discounts for a travel companion

Tugo

  • A Canadian travel insurance brand managed by iA Financial Group
  • Does not require medical underwriting until age 60
  • Offers Emergency Medical Insurance, Trip Cancellation & Trip Interruption Insurance, Accidental Death & Dismemberment Insurance, Non-Medical Packages, All-Inclusive Holiday Packages, and more options within those categories

Group Medical Services (GMS)

  • Offers up to $5,000,000 CAD in coverage and up to $500,000 for COVID-related emergency medical expenses
  • 24/7 worldwide support available in several different languages.
  • Direct payments: GMS can directly pay service providers instead of you paying out of pocket
  • Virtual medical services available for minor emergencies that don’t require in-person care

Allianz Global Assistance

  • Allianz Global Assistance is one of the world’s largest travel insurers
  • Largest network of global medical providers
  • Can help you navigate healthcare options in several different geographic locations
  • Offers up to $10,000,000 CAD in coverage

MSH International

  • Canuck Voyage travel plan offers up to $7,000,000 CAD in coverage up to the age of 79
  • Different plan options for visiting the US, international destinations, and within Canada
  • Discounts for travel companion
  • Partial refunds possible if you decide to voluntarily cut your trip short

Destination Canada

  • Annual, Multi-Trip, and Daily Rated Plans available
  • Up to $5,000,000 CAD in coverage up to the age of 74
  • Accommodates return of vehicle for trips taken over Canada’s land borders.

Who needs travel insurance?

Besides vacationers leaving Canada for trips abroad, some specific groups also require travel insurance.

Students

Students attending school outside the country may need the protection of a travel medical insurance policy. Many colleges and universities (and student unions) provide access to extended medical care through their group benefit plans. However, this coverage is sometimes only in effect during the school year or fails to offer the same protection as an independently owned policy you can secure before leaving Canada.

Athletes

Amateur athletes leaving Canada for competitions or training should also secure an independent medical plan for the duration of their trip.

Snowbirds

Snowbirds are typically retired Canadians who spent the cold winter months abroad, or at the very least outside their home province. They should also ensure they have financial protection secured for the duration of their trip given the higher risk for medical emergencies at their age. Learn more about travel insurance for snowbirds.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do I need travel insurance coverage for trips inside Canada?

As government health insurance plans vary among the provinces and may not provide emergency return home benefits, you should consider travel accident insurance for trips both inside and outside of Canada.

Provincial and territorial health insurance plans may have limits on the reimbursement of the medical emergency expenses incurred while in another province. For example, ambulance services, emergency dental treatments, and prescription drugs might not always be covered by insurance plans outside your province of residence, so you may need to pay out of pocket for these services.

To protect yourself from any unexpected medical emergency, illnesses, or injuries, you should always buy additional health insurance coverage for emergency medical even when you’re travelling within Canada.

What is the average cost of travel insurance in Canada?

The cost of travel insurance is determined by many variable factors including the type of insurance you purchase, your age, the duration of the trip, and the amount of coverage you are getting. A rule of thumb is travel insurance should typically cost 5% of your trip. Of course, these costs can elevate for extended stays outside of Canada, such as a long vacation, or if you are studying abroad or working for an extended period in another country.

Another way to save money on travel insurance is to purchase policies together if you have a travel companion. Some providers offer a 5% discount on policies purchased in tandem and even offer a family policy if you are travelling with your family as a group.

Can Canadians get travel insurance coverage for trips to the USA?

Yes, trips to the United States of America are one of the most common reasons Canadians purchase travel insurance. If you’re planning a trip to the US, travel insurance is a good idea. While the country has excellent medical facilities, travel medical insurance can help cover the cost of an unexpected medical emergency.

Some of the reasons to consider travel insurance to the USA are:

  • The elevated costs of emergency medical coverage and procedures
  • The high costs of prescription drugs
  • There are no reciprocal agreements for healthcare between the USA and Canada, so your provincial government health insurance plan will not be accepted
  • The cost of accommodations in major US vacation destinations. You or your travelling companions may need to spend time at your destination recovering before you are ready to travel home

Can I get travel insurance after I have left Canada?

Yes, it is definitely possible to find travel insurance options once you’ve left Canada. However, there may be exclusions on your plan.

Policies purchased after the start of a trip generally won’t take effect until 48 hours after you buy them. The waiting period is designed to prevent someone from purchasing and utilizing a policy after they have been injured or hospitalized with an illness.

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Does travel insurance include COVID-19 coverage?

Most travel insurance policies cover aspects of medical emergencies and setbacks that may arise if you contract COVID-19 during your trip. This can include the cost of quarantining after contracting the virus or the cost of cancelling a trip because one has contracted COVID.

With that in mind, each policy is different and you should examine your policy documents before you make any assumptions about the virus’ effect on the trip that you are covered for.

Read more about travel insurance and COVID-19.

Should I buy an individual policy for each trip I have planned or an annual travel policy?

If you travel outside of Canada often (more than twice per year) it may be worthwhile to purchase an annual travel policy. Many of the providers we partner with offer annual options for their travel medical insurance policies that grant policies for unlimited trips during the coverage time period.

This can help you in two ways:

  • You save money on premiums
  • You eliminate the need to arrange separate insurance policies for each trip you take or each leg of a multi-trip journey

Speak with our advisors to see if an annual travel insurance policy makes sense for your plans.

Can a travel advisory affect my travel insurance?

Typically, travelling from Canada to a destination that has a travel advisory will not be covered by travel insurance if the advisory is in place before you depart. If an advisory is placed by Health Canada or other governmental departments after you’ve arrived at your destination, your coverage will be intact.

KEY TAKEAWAYS

  • There are two types of travel coverage: travel medical and trip interruption/cancellation
  • Travel medical insurance is considered more crucial as medical bills and expenses in a foreigh country can grow substantially during an emergency while you are abroad
  • There are several comprehensive options for travel coverage from some of the biggest insurance providers in Canada

By Mark Cluett
Director of Content
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