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Can You Buy Travel Insurance After Leaving Canada?

Sept. 22, 2021
4 mins
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This article has been updated from a previous version.

The COVID-19 pandemic isn’t over yet, but many Canadians are already eager to travel abroad. If you count yourself among them, getting a travel insurance policy before jetting off to your destination has never been more important.

That fact appears to be resonating to a degree, as a RATESDOTCA-BNN Bloomberg survey conducted in May 2021 found 52% of Canadians say they’ll purchase a travel policy before leaving home. An earlier survey conducted by Leger in February 2020 found only 40% of Canadians who travelled abroad between 2017 and 2019 bought a policy.

But what if you’ve already departed Canada and neglected to buy a travel policy? Is it too late? Or can you buy a travel policy even if your travels are already underway? The answer is “yes,” you can still get some coverage, but there are exclusions.

Many providers will offer you emergency medical coverage if you are already outside of Canada but wish to purchase travel insurance. But be advised it could be subject to a delay of typically 24-48 hours before the policy is active. The reason for that delay is to prevent someone who has been injured or hospitalized from acquiring a policy after the fact. Plus, know that you won’t be able to buy trip interruption or cancellation coverage as part of that policy if you’re already outside of Canada.

How expensive is a travel insurance policy?

It is a common misconception that a travel insurance policy is too expensive to be worthwhile. That isn’t the case. For example, the cost for a week’s worth of all-inclusive insurance coverage (a bundle of emergency medical, trip cancellation, and baggage protection coverages) to the U.S. for a 45-year-old male who doesn’t smoke and has no pre-existing conditions is approximately $40.

In comparison, if you visit the U.S., break your arm, and are treated in a hospital but don’t have a travel policy with emergency medical coverage, you may end up with a medical bill of US$25,000 or more.

Think about that $40 investment in a travel policy this way: the average retail price for a medium-sized cup of coffee in Canada is approximately $1.79 before tax. If you were to buy a cup of joe every day for a month, you’d be spending $53.70 (pre-tax).

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Do you need a travel policy to travel within Canada?

Is it necessary for a Canadian who travels to another province or territory to purchase a domestic travel insurance policy? Yes, it is. That’s because your provincial or territorial health insurance program may not cover the cost of any medical expenses you incur if you are hospitalized or need emergency care. And depending upon the severity of your medical emergency, the medical bill could easily run into thousands of dollars.

Are you planning to travel to Canada?

As of September 7, the Government of Canada opened its borders for discretionary travel by fully vaccinated travellers from any country who meet specific entry requirements. Discretionary travel falls into five categories: shopping, family or personal business, visits with family or friends, social or recreational gatherings, and travelling for medical or dental purposes. Non-discretionary travel refers to business purposes or to attend a post-secondary institution.

Additionally, Ottawa began allowing fully vaccinated American citizens to enter our country for discretionary travel on August 9. If the entry criteria are met, fully vaccinated people will not have to quarantine upon arrival to Canada. Canada’s land border with the U.S. will remain closed until at least October 21.

To be eligible to enter Canada for discretionary travel based on vaccination status, travellers must use the ArriveCAN app or web portal to ensure all mandatory requirements are met before departing for their trip. Some provinces and territories may have their own entry restrictions in place. It’s advisable to check and follow federal and provincial or territorial restrictions and requirements before travelling.

For international travellers considering visiting the Great White North, it is prudent to ensure you purchase a travel insurance policy for visitors to Canada before arriving in the country. The Canadian health care system does not extend free coverage to visitors from other countries. For international students travelling to Canada to study, look at getting international student travel insurance instead.

Liam Lahey

Liam Lahey is a versatile, seasoned writer and editor. He worked as both a staff writer and freelance writer for many business and technology publications as well as for several newspapers. He writes about home, auto, and travel insurance, and is a media spokesperson for RATESDOTCA.

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