If you plan to travel outside Canada ‒ even for a day in the United States – you should buy travel health insurance before you leave.
If you’re flying, make sure you get insurance for trip interruption, lost luggage and document replacement. If you’re driving, make sure you have driver and vehicle coverage in case you have an accident.
Why you should buy travel health insurance
- Your Canadian health insurance may not pay your medical bills while you’re outside Canada
- Your provincial or territorial health plan may cover none, or only a small part, of the costs of your medical care abroad. It will never pay your bills up front
- Foreign hospitals can be very expensive and may require immediate cash payment
- In some countries hospitals and clinics will not treat you if you do not have enough insurance or money to pay your bills
- The Government of Canada will not pay your medical bills
You can buy travel insurance through your:
- travel agent
- insurance broker
- employer’s insurance provider
- credit card company
No matter where you’re travelling, your travel health insurance policy should always cover the following 3 things:
1. Medical evacuation
Make sure your policy covers medical evacuation to Canada or to the nearest place with appropriate medical care. The policy should also cover the costs of a medical escort to travel with you to your final destination.
2. Pre-existing medical conditions
Ask the company to explain the definition of, and the limitations and restrictions on, any pre-existing conditions and tests and treatments you may have had.
- Make sure you get a written agreement that your insurance covers your pre-existing medical condition, or you could find your claim “null and void” under a pre-existing condition clause.
- The agreement must also include a stability clause that says that if you’re to be covered for any pre-existing medical conditions for a specific period of time (stability period):
- you must have no changes to your medical condition
- you must have no new medical conditions, symptoms or medications during the stability period before your trip.
- The agreement should include:
- a compassion clause saying that an inaccurate statement may not invalidate the entire policy, and
- a change of health clause.
3. Repatriation in case of death
Make sure that your plan includes everything necessary to help your loved ones if you die outside Canada as the result of an accident or a sudden and unexpected illness. Make sure your insurance covers:
- The preparation and return of your remains
- Local cremation or burial outside Canada
- Reasonable additional expenses if someone needs to travel to identify your body
For more information, see our Death abroad page.
Choose the best insurance based on your needs
Carefully research your needs. Verify the terms, conditions, limitations, exclusions and requirements of your insurance policy before you leave Canada.
When assessing a travel health insurance plan, you should ask a lot of questions.
- Is there a deductible, and how much is it? Plans with 100% coverage are more expensive but may save money in the long run.
- Does the plan offer continuous coverage for the length of your stay outside Canada and after your return?
- Does the plan exclude or greatly limit coverage for certain regions or countries you may visit?
- Does it offer coverage that is renewable from abroad and for the maximum period of stay?
- Does the company have an in-house, worldwide, 24-hour/7-day emergency contact number in English and/or translation services for health care providers in your destination country?
- Does it pay for hospitalization for illness or injury and related medical costs at your destination?
- Does it pay your bills or cash advances up front, so you don’t have to pay them?
It’s your responsibility to know and understand the terms of your insurance policy. Read the fine print carefully and ask for help if you need it.
The information you provide must be accurate and complete. If you have any questions, contact the insurance company. Ask them to send you a written explanation.
Carry your insurance information with you while you’re travelling and leave a copy with a friend or relative at home.
Understand potential exclusions
Get approval from your insurer before you undergo medical treatment. Travel health insurance rarely covers routine health checkups, non-emergency care and cosmetic surgery. It may not cover mental health disorders, drug- or alcohol-related incidents, or extreme sports such as bungee jumping and rock climbing.
If you need to make a claim
Get a detailed report and invoice from your doctor or hospital before leaving the country where you received medical treatment. Trying to get the proper paperwork from thousands of kilometres away can be frustrating. Always submit the original receipts for medical services or prescriptions you received abroad. Keep a copy of the documents for your files.
Your insurance company may not pay your medical claim if the Government of Canada has issued a Travel Advisory for your destination.
Travel insurance is not intended for use when you are living for an extended period, or permanently, outside Canada. If you live abroad, or you’re planning to move to a different country, you should consider your insurance needs carefully. Local law may require you to have medical insurance, and you may have to include proof of medical insurance with your visa application.
If you study outside Canada or are planning to go to a different country to study, contact your educational institution or program administrator for advice on the coverage you need.