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Travel insurance 101

Whether you're an occasional traveller going on a well-deserved vacation, frequent flyer, or a snowbird going away for the winter, all it takes is a few minutes to get travel insurance quotes from many of Canada's leading travel insurance companies and purchase your policy.

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Travel insurance is the easiest thing to pack and also the most important. It's there to protect you while on vacation. Imagine not having travel insurance and falling ill or breaking a bone while on your dream vacation. Throw in the costly medical bills and you have yourself a traveller's worst nightmare. The best way to prevent this nightmare from occurring, is to pack travel insurance.

Who Needs Travel Insurance?

Short answer: All travellers need travel insurance

Whether you're travelling by plane, train or automobile, whether it's a day trip, weekend getaway or week-long vacation, travel insurance is a must. The length of your trip does not decrease the chance of something going wrong and neither does the destination. If you're going somewhere tropical, on a European excursion, or cross-border shopping for the day, travel insurance should be going with you. Even if you're travelling out of province but within Canada it's worth it because your provincial health insurance plan coverage may be limited. Things like ambulance services and prescription drugs may not be covered and you could end up paying out of pocket for some of the services you need.

Frequently asked questions about travel insurance and coronavirus (COVID-19)

Coronavirus is an unprecedented international pandemic. Here’s how it might affect your travel plans, and your travel insurance coverage.

Does travel insurance cover coronavirus?

On March 14, the Government of Canada announced a global travel advisory advising Canadians to avoid all non-essential travel outside Canada until further notice, including cruise ship travel.

Travel insurance covers unexpected and unforeseen events. If you purchased emergency medical travel insurance and travelled to a destination before a COVID-19 travel advisory was issued for either your specific destination or the blanket global advisory, you would likely still be covered under your travel insurance if you were to contract COVID-19 abroad. At the time of booking, contracting the virus at a destination that was not included under the travel advisory may have been considered an unforeseen event.

Travel insurance coverage often excludes issues related to travel advisories. If you are embarking on travel plans now and travelling to a destination where the Canadian government has issued a travel advisory related to coronavirus prior to your departure, your travel medical insurance might not cover you for COVID-19 specifically because it might be considered a foreseen outcome.

If you’re planning to travel out of country, consult your travel insurance provider to find out if your coverage still extends to COVID-19 related outbreaks. If you were to contract novel coronavirus, the medical bills could be astronomical given the cost of hospitalization abroad and the quarantining that has been happening across the globe. Be sure to read your policy carefully so you fully understand your coverage.

Can I cancel my trip because of coronavirus?

If you purchased trip cancellation insurance, you might be covered if you decide to cancel your trip depending on when you purchased your policy. Many travel insurance providers are now excluding COVID-19 related cancellations for coverage purchased after a certain date. Each provider is different, so check your policy to find out if you can cancel your trip for this reason. It might not be too late.

If you’re worried about coronavirus and you’re currently making travel plans, consider purchasing trip cancellation coverage, but read the exclusions carefully. If covered, the extra cost could be well worth it should you decide to change your plans.

Also, be sure to check with your airline or tour company to see if they are offering any opportunities to reschedule your trip or get your money back. Many companies, though not all, are now making exceptions to their rules due to the coronavirus outbreak.

Does my credit card travel insurance cover me if I contract coronavirus abroad?

Many credit cards offer travel insurance, but not all credit card travel insurance is created equally. You’re going to want to ask a couple of questions first:

  • Does the policy include emergency medical travel insurance?
  • Does your policy cover just you, or your whole family?
  • Did you book the trip on that credit card?

Credit cards require you to have booked the trip on that card for the travel insurance to be valid. Depending on the credit card, coverage might only apply to you or it may extend to your family, so read the fine print to find out for sure. If it only includes you, you will likely want to purchase additional travel insurance for your family.

Credit cards rarely cover trip interruption or trip cancellation insurance, so you will likely have to purchase that coverage separately.

Do my employer benefits cover me for coronavirus?

If you have emergency medical travel insurance under your employee benefits, you might be covered.

Similar to credit cards, double check your policy to see if coverage applies to just you, or if it extends to your entire family. Many people opt to purchase additional travel insurance coverage when their employee benefits aren’t enough. As with credit card coverage, it’s unlikely trip cancellation is covered. If you want that type of coverage, you will have to purchase it separately.

Which travel destinations might not be covered by travel insurance?

In regard to coronavirus specifically, any destinations that the Canadian government has issued a travel advisory for might not be covered under emergency medical insurance if the advisory was posted prior to your departure.

As of March 16, 2020 at 10:00 am EST, the Canadian government's global travel advisory remains in effect. The Government of Canada has advised Canadians to avoid all non-essential travel outside Canada until further notice, as well as all cruise ship travel.

Advisories are updated daily. For the most up to date and accurate information on Canadian travel advisories related to coronavirus, please visit the official Government of Canada website..

Snowbird travel insurance

Snowbirds who like to escape the cold wintery weather for a few months will find that comparing snowbird travel insurance with RATESDOTCA can really save them a bundle.

Travel insurance for snowbirds doesn't have to be expensive, and RATESDOTCA will help you get the coverage you need. Whether it's emergency medical coverage, trip cancellation or an all-inclusive policy, you can use RATESDOTCA to easily help you find competitively priced travel insurance for snowbirds.

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Types of travel insurance plans

What's great about travel insurance is that it's not a one-size-fits-all type of coverage. Every type of travel insurance policy comes with different coverage options and benefits. This means you're able to purchase only the coverage you need.

Travel insurance type What it covers

Single Trip Emergency Medical Travel Insurance / Single Trip Travel Insurance

  • Most common type of travel insurance
  • Covers any of your emergency medical expenses that may arise during your vacation
  • Coverage for a single trip can be up to 365 days
  • You may need to complete a health questionnaire to qualify for the policy depending on how old you are
  • If you are planning one trip, it’s best to get coverage for the exact number of days you will be away
  • Provides up to $10 million in emergency medical benefits

Annual Emergency Medical Travel Insurance / Multi-Trip Travel Insurance

  • Emergency medical travel insurance that covers all trips taken over the course of a year
  • Best for people who take multiple trips in a year, and those who travel frequently for business

Trip Cancellation and Trip Interruption Insurance

  • Covers the full cost of your trip in the event it is cancelled, delayed or interrupted for reasons beyond your control
  • Trip cancellation and trip interruption insurance are similar insurance types, but the difference is that trip cancellation typically comes into play before your trip, while trip interruption applies once you have left for the trip
  • Best for travellers who have medical coverage through their employer's health benefits or credit card
  • Great for travellers who want additional peace of mind

Top-up Travel Insurance

  • An optional insurance coverage for travellers who already have coverage through an employer or a credit card, for example, but who are not covered for the entire length of the trip, or do not have enough coverage
  • Top-up travel insurance ensures that you get extended coverage for the full length of your trip

All-Inclusive Travel Insurance 

  • This bundles all of the most popular travel coverages including emergency medical, loss (or delay) of baggage, and trip cancellation/interruption insurance into one handy policy
  • Most expensive option, but also the most protection offered
  • Best for longer trips and/or travellers that prefer peace of mind.
  • A great option for you if you want to feel protected from any travel hassles while you're on the go

Frequently asked questions about travel insurance

Wondering about getting travel insurance? Here’s what you need to know.

Why do I need travel insurance?

Because sometimes, life happens while on vacation. Here are the top reasons to buy travel insurance:

  • It covers medical expenses that happen while you are outside of Canada
  • You might be in a country where hospital bills are expensive, and require upfront, immediate cash payment (e.g. the United States)
  • If you do not have insurance or the money to pay your bills, hospitals in some countries can say no to treating you. Countries like Cuba or Ecuador require you to show proof of insurance before granting you entry, while other countries like India, Philippines, Thailand, and Iran can detain patients until they pay their complete bills.
  • The Government of Canada will not pay your medical bills for an accident or illness that happens while you are travelling abroad.

Do I need travel insurance if I’m travelling within Canada?

If you are travelling between provinces within Canada it is still be worth investing in travel insurance as not all incurred medical expenses are totally covered by your provincial health insurance when you’re out of the province.

Each province has a different system and the costs vary by province. Some of the expenses that are not covered by the Ontario Health Insurance Plan (OHIP), for example, include:

  • Ambulance service costs (transport and paramedic)
  • Prescription drugs
  • Dental emergencies
  • Cosmetic surgeries
  • Private hospital fees
  • Laboratory/Diagnostic services (outside of a public hospital)
  • Assistive devices
  • Long-term care, home care, etc.

Relying on just provincial health insurance coverage could cost you hundreds of dollars out of pocket for these services, leaving you with potentially huge financial repercussions.

What is Snowbird medical insurance, and why do I need it?

If you’re one of the many Canadians who travel south for the winter, you will need travel medical insurance. Also known as snowbird medical insurance, these policies are available to Canadians who choose to live in warmer climates during the colder months of the year and may need a wider medical coverage while they're away.

Your Canadian provincial health insurance coverage is not valid outside the country. Any emergency medical services you may need will not be covered. Healthcare in the U.S. is really expensive too, so make sure to compare travel insurance and find the best seniors travel medical insurance for snowbirds today.

As a snowbird, you can look for travel insurance policies and choose what suits you best: single trip travel insurance, multi-trip emergency medical insurance, or all-inclusive travel insurance policy (which provides the most comprehensive coverage). Some insurance companies may require you to complete a medical questionnaire to better determine your rates and premiums.

Can I buy travel insurance after departure?

Typically, no. Travel insurance needs to be purchased before you go on your trip. In fact, the best time to buy travel insurance is as soon as you’re done purchasing your travel tickets. If you realize you need travel insurance late and decide to buy travel insurance while on your trip, or after take-off, it most likely won’t be valid and thus won’t cover you for any emergencies.

Is travel insurance worth the cost?

Absolutely! Travel insurance protects you from travel related expenses that may occur due to unexpected trip cancellations or delays, theft, medical emergencies and accidents, all of which, can leave you with a hefty bill. Travel insurance is a small price to pay compared to the potentially huge medical costs typical of other countries.

What if I have a pre-existing medical condition?

If you have a pre-existing health condition, you can still find travel insurance coverage, it just might cost you a little more. The cost and coverage depends on the type of pre-existing medical condition you have, how long it has been stable for, and how long it has been since your diagnosis, among other factors. If you have a medical condition that makes you high risk, you could see higher premiums.

Insurance companies have a period of stability which varies from policy to policy (from 7 days to as long as 180), which requires your condition to have been stable for this period of time. Some medical conditions like a terminal illness may not be covered even if your conditions have been stable.

When you compare travel insurance plans on RATESDOTCA, you will be able to check out the pre-existing stability periods that different policies offer. If you have a pre-existing medical condition, make sure you mention it when you apply for travel insurance to ensure you’re covered. If the insurer finds out after the fact, they may deny your coverage.

Is there a difference between travel medical Insurance and trip insurance?

Yes, there is a difference between travel medical and trip insurance. Travel medical insurance covers medical emergencies and emergency evacuations, while trip interruption insurance provides coverage for inconveniences such as trip interruption, delays, accommodation problems and baggage issues.

Does my provincial health care plan cover me when I leave Canada?

The short answer is no. While some provincial health insurance policies provide miniscule coverage, most of them will have very limited coverage, if any. Emergency services are not covered, so it is recommended by the Government of Canada to purchase additional insurance whenever you leave the country to ensure that you have adequate coverage. Travel insurance is always recommended, regardless of how short or long the duration of your trip is.

Are my personal belongings covered with my travel insurance?

This is a common question, and travellers are often confused about whether your personal property is covered with your travel insurance policy or not. Here’s the thing: your personal valuables like computer, laptop, camera, phones, etc. are actually covered under your home insurance policy, and not your travel insurance! Your home insurance covers your personal belongings no matter where you are, including when you’re travelling.

However, you may not want to go through your home insurance for personal belongings lost in transit. For loss related to baggage while in transit, you will need to have purchased lost luggage coverage in order to make this claim, which is usually offered as part of a trip interruption policy.

How much does travel insurance cost?

We calculated a travel insurance quote on RATESDOTCA for a non-smoking, 35-year-old male traveller on a 10-day trip with no pre-existing health conditions, $2 million in coverage and a $0 deductible. The best average rate per trip for a single traveller was found to be $25.35.

Travel insurance is a small expense that can payoff if you need it. Your travel insurance quotes will vary depending on the type of coverage you purchase, as well as a few other variables. When insurance companies are calculating your quote, some of the factors they take into account include:

  • the number of travellers
  • the age of the travellers
  • the total length of the trip
  • the type of coverage

Comparing a wide variety of travel insurance options can help you smartly save money on travel insurance.

What travel insurance do I really need?

If you’re going on a trip, make sure you buy travel insurance before you leave. The Government of Canada recommends that your travel medical insurance policy cover four important elements:

  • Coverage for flight cancellation, trip interruption, lost luggage and document replacement for flight travels.
  • Limitations, or restrictions on any pre-existing medical conditions.
  • Medical evacuation coverage (either back to Canada, or to the nearest medical facility), with the policy covering the costs of a driver to travel with you in case of an accident.
  • Repatriation in the event of death, where the return of your remains to Canada is covered.

As with other insurance products, you should compare quotes and ask questions. It is important to read the fine print to verify what the conditions, benefits, and exclusions mean in your insurance policy. If you have questions, don’t hesitate to ask your insurance provider.

What to know before you buy travel insurance: a checklist

Here is a handy checklist you can reference when purchasing travel insurance. It is important to read the fine print and understand the policy and ask (a lot of) questions if you have any doubts. With travel insurance, it’s better to assume nothing, and ask those hard questions. Creating a travel insurance checklist should be your top priority.

Your travel insurance checklist

  1. Does the insurance plan have a deductible? How much is it?
  2. Is there continuous coverage for the length of my stay, and after my return?
  3. What are the exclusions in the policy? Are there any exclusions or limits in coverage for a certain country or region that I am travelling to? Are there exclusions for any sports or adventure activities?
  4. Is the coverage renewable from abroad where I am staying? Can I extend my insurance if I suddenly decide to stay longer than anticipated?
  5. Does the plan provide coverage for pandemics and epidemics? With the coronavirus outbreak, would I be covered for these health risks?
  6. Is there a travel advisory for my desired destination? If yes, am I covered? Sometimes insurers exclude destinations that the Canadian Government advises against. Check the Canadian Government's current travel advisories here.
  7. Does my plan offer emergency medical evacuation coverage, and repatriation expenses?
  8. If there was a medical emergency due to a pre-existing health condition, would the plan deny any benefits?
  9. Would the plan cover my hospital costs that could occur in the event of an illness or injury while I am abroad?
  10. Does the plan pay bills/out-of-pocket expenses upfront, so that I don’t have to pay them?
  11. Does the company offer worldwide emergency assistance 24-hours/7-days? How can I reach the company of there is a medical emergency? Who do I call? Are there translation services for providers in the country you are travelling to?
Your passport to stress-free travel

Whether you use it or not, travel insurance exists for a reason. Taking a chance and not buying protection for your trip means putting your savings and your health at risk. No matter what part of the world you are travelling to, and no matter how long you are going away for — your insurance will travel with you. Make sure you are prepared for anything by comparing travel quotes online and finding the best rates for coverage.

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*Based on the average savings found on RATESDOTCA for emergency medical travel insurance for a single traveller, age 30 with no pre-existing conditions travelling to U.S. for 10 days, as compared with the published rates of three financial institutions for their equivalent insurance. Actual savings vary depending on number of travellers, age, trip duration, medical conditions, and coverage selected. Based on research as of August 2020.

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