Trip interruption and travel health insurance

If you plan to travel outside Canada—even for a day in the United States—you should buy trip interruption and travel health insurance before you leave.

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Where you can get trip interruption and travel health insurance

You can buy trip interruption and travel health insurance directly with an insurance company or through:

  • a travel agent
  • an insurance broker
  • an employer’s insurance provider
  • a credit card company
  • a bank

Why you should buy travel health insurance

If you encounter a medical emergency while abroad, you should know the following:

  • Your medical bills may not be paid by your personal Canadian health insurance
  • Your provincial or territorial health plan may cover none, or only a small part, of the costs of your medical care abroad including a medical evacuation, if needed. It will never pay your bills up front
  • Hospitals and clinics in other countries can be very expensive and may require immediate cash payment
  • In some countries, hospitals and clinics will not treat you if you don’t have enough insurance or money to pay your bills
  • The Government of Canada will not pay your medical bills

What your travel health insurance should cover

No matter where you’re travelling, your travel health insurance policy should always cover 3 things:

1. Medical evacuation

Make sure your policy covers medical evacuation to Canada or to the nearest place with medical care. The policy should also cover the costs of a medical escort to travel with you to your destination.

2. Pre-existing medical conditions

Ask the insurance provider 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, otherwise you could find your claim “null and void” under a pre-existing condition clause.
  • The agreement must include a stability clause that says that if you are to be covered for any pre-existing medical conditions for a specific period (stability period). You must have:
    • no changes to your medical condition
    • 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
    • a change-of-health clause.

3. Repatriation in case of death

Make sure that your plan includes everything to help your loved ones if you die outside Canada as the result of an accident or a sudden and unexpected illness.

Your insurance should cover:

  • the preparation and return of your remains
  • local cremation or burial outside Canada
  • additional expenses if someone needs to travel to identify your body

Learn more about what to do if a Canadian dies outside Canada.

Why you should buy trip interruption insurance

Trip interruption insurance is different from medical travel insurance. Trip interruption insurance provides coverage for situations that lead you to have to cancel a part of your trip once you’ve departed. It will reimburse the unused portion of your trip if you must return early, due to an unforeseen incident.

It’s also different from trip cancellation coverage, which applies only when you cancel your trip before it starts.

Choose the best insurance based on your needs

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? If so, how much is it?
    • Plans with 100% coverage are more expensive but may save you 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 limit coverage for certain regions or countries you may visit?
  • Does the plan cover medical treatment?
    • Travel health insurance rarely covers routine health checkups, non-emergency care or cosmetic surgery.
    • It may not cover mental health disorders.
  • Does the plan cover drug or alcohol-related incidents? 
  • Does the plan exclude coverage for activities such as mountaineering, skiing, scuba diving or extreme sports?
  • 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 provide cash advances up front, so you don’t have to pay them?

If you’re driving, make sure you have driver and vehicle coverage in case you have an accident.

If you’re flying, make sure you get insurance for trip interruption, lost luggage and document replacement. You may also want to consider trip cancellation insurance.

Meet the terms of your policy

It’s your responsibility to know and understand the terms of your insurance policy. Read the fine print 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 and leave a copy with a friend or relative at home.

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.

Effects of travel advisories on travel insurance policies

Many travel insurance policies will not cover you if you travel to regions where the Government of Canada has issued a travel advisory to “avoid all non-essential travel” or “avoid all travel.”

The Government of Canada is not responsible for travel insurance policies nor how Travel Advice and Advisories may affect travel insurance policies. The Government of Canada does not issue its Travel Advice and Advisories for the purpose of travel insurance coverage or refunds.

Canada’s Travel Advice and Advisories provide information and recommendations about safety and security conditions in destinations around the world to help you make informed decisions.

We issue travel advisories when the security or health situation in a country or region may pose a significant threat to the personal safety and security of Canadians travelling or living there.

As new information becomes available, we review the level of risk. A travel advisory for a destination may be issued, upgraded, downgraded or removed.

Before you book your trip and buy insurance, check the details of any insurance policy you’re considering and the travel advice and advisories for your destination.

If you live or work outside Canada

Travel insurance is not intended to be used when you are living outside Canada for an extended period, or permanently.

If you live abroad or you’re planning to, consider your insurance needs. Local laws may require that you have medical insurance, and you may have to include proof of medical insurance with your visa application.

If you study outside Canada

If you study or plan to study outside Canada, contact your educational institution or program administrator for advice on the insurance coverage you need.

If you need help while outside Canada

The Government of Canada is limited in the help it can provide you when you are outside Canada.

See the services available at our consular offices outside Canada.

Our travel advice and advisories provide recommendations about safety and security conditions outside Canada to help you make informed decisions. The decision to travel is yours and you’re responsible for your personal safety abroad.

Whether you are planning a vacation or living outside Canada, sign up for the free Registration of Canadians Abroad service so that we can notify you in case of an emergency outside Canada.

For help with emergencies outside Canada, contact the:

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