Tourism has changed considerably over the past few years. Lockdowns, restrictions, geopolitical tensions, and inflation have all forced people to travel differently. These days, safety, affordability, and peace of mind are top priorities for travellers everywhere, and visitors to Canada are no exception. While it may present an up-front cost, Visitors to Canada (VTC) insurance is a critical piece in the savvy traveller’s repertoire and can sometimes be the difference between a fantastic voyage and a travel nightmare.
What is visitor to Canada insurance?
VTC is a type of travel insurance specifically designed for people visiting Canada from abroad. In essence, it gives travellers access to the equivalent of a Canadian provincial healthcare plan in the event of any covered medical emergencies and related expenses that they may incur while here. Think of it as your safety net, protecting you from the financial burden of medical treatments in Canada. Given the high cost of a hospital stay in Canada, and that billing rates for non-residents can be double or triple that, VTC insurance will provide reassurance and peace of mind while you’re off exploring the country.
Who is VTC insurance best suited for?
Newcomers to Canada, tourists, seasonal workers, and returning Canadian expats are all well-suited for VTC insurance.
“The exception would be International students, as they would be covered by a different policy,” says Ryan Beaulieu, president of Travel Guardian and AwayCare. Health and travel insurance for international students is not the same as VTC and differs by province.
“[VTC Insurance] would provide emergency coverage for the time the individual is in Canada without any other form of insurance,” continues Beaulieu. “Specific plan options when purchasing will help to differentiate between a Super Visa policy or one for a visitor coming to come see the fabulous Canadian scenery.”
What does VTC coverage look like?
Travel insurance policies vary by provider, but in general, includes emergency coverage for hospital stays, medical and diagnostic services, ambulance, dental work, and prescription drugs. That said, this coverage is limited and would not allow for elective procedures. It would also not extend to any care associated with pre-existing conditions. For this, you would need to purchase a plan that explicitly mentions pre-existing conditions. This type of plan is more expensive — but would certainly be more affordable than experiencing an emergency with no travel insurance at all.
Do I need VTC if I’m covered by credit card or group insurance benefits?
The short answer is, it depends, but probably yes.
While you may have some protection from standard travel credit cards, university programs, or a group benefits policy, it’s hard to say whether the level of coverage would be comparable to VTC.
Remember, VTC insurance is specifically designed for travelling in Canada. It’s used frequently and is familiar to Canadian healthcare providers. If you were to experience a medical emergency during your trip, for most travellers, a good VTC policy would save you plenty of time and hassle, so you can focus on your recovery instead of the finances.
How long does VTC coverage last?
The shortest VTC coverage period is usually a few days, which is perfect for short visits or weekend getaways. If you’re planning an extended stay, rest assured that coverage periods can extend up to a year or beyond. Depending on the nature of your travel and the type of coverage you’d like to have, there's bound to be an option to suit your needs. Just make sure you pick a policy that matches the duration of your stay in Canada to avoid any coverage gaps.
Should I buy VTC in Canada or at home?
You can usually buy VTC coverage both in Canada and from your departing country. Making that decision comes down where you’re coming from and the insurance provider you’re working with, says Beaulieu.
“Some foreign policies require up-front payment and get reimbursed when you return to the country of origin, while others have different limits and requirements,” he says. “However, the coverages purchased in Canada for VTC provide options, have good relationships with Canadian clinics and hospitals, as well as a proven record of success.”
In other words, while both offer coverage, you may have an easier time with a policy purchased from a Canadian provider due to greater familiarity, which may prove more reliable in the end.
How can I find a legitimate and reliable VTC provider?
Comparing rates online is an excellent first step. The more you know about what’s available, the better equipped you’ll be to find the best coverage for your needs. As you compare policies, be aware that not everything is about the price!
“Make sure you understand the policy limits and ask questions!” says Beaulieu. “Does it cover pre-existing conditions? What is the stability period if it does cover pre-existing conditions? What is your deductible? Is it per policy or per claim? What is the refund policy? And importantly, does it allow you to travel outside of Canada?”
As you prepare to embark on your great Canadian journey, don’t forget about VTC insurance. The peace of mind that good coverage provides cannot be understated, and given the alternative, the up-front cost could be a lot more affordable in the long run. Whether you decide to buy it from a Canadian provider or not, ensure you make an informed choice that aligns with your needs.
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