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Do I Need Travel Insurance for my Working Holiday?

Much as vehicle insurance is a useful thing to have when driving a car, travel insurance can be helpful to have when travelling. I personally wouldn’t travel anywhere without it!

Some countries, such as Cuba, actually require travelers to have travel insurance for the duration of their trip. 

Having a valid travel insurance policy is often mandatory to go on a working holiday too*. But this shouldn’t be the main reason you buy travel insurance.

*For the Canadian IEC program, for example, participants risk receiving a shortened work permit or being sent home if they do not have travel insurance for the length of their intended working holiday (and it does happen, people share their experiences in my IEC Fakebook group)

Do I need travel insurance for my working holiday? View of Vancouver city

The serious part: Life-changing illness and injury abroad

It is sadly not unusual to come across stories in the media of people who have had their lives drastically changed by accidents while travelling or working abroad (examples here, here and here). 

While you may be used to free or low-cost healthcare at home, medical treatment usually comes with a fee for temporary residents.

If you have an annual health care plan at home, it probably won’t have any coverage outside your home country. And that’s where travel insurance comes in.

Medical and repatriation coverage

Travel insurance policies typically include medical and repatriation coverage to help in the event of such life-changing incidents. The repatriation part refers to transportation home for those critically ill or injured.

In a worst-case scenario, repatriation also returns a person’s body back to their home country.

For this reason, buying insurance doesn’t just benefit you, but also your family if the worst happens.

No-one thinks that it will happen to them but the risk of a serious accident or incident is a part of life, both while travelling abroad and at home.

Avoiding adrenaline sports such as skydiving or rock climbing doesn’t necessarily eliminate the danger either. Don’t forget that everyday activities such as driving, cycling and even walking have risks too!

Do I need Travel Insurance for my working holiday? Climbing in British Columbia

Travel insurance: not just for emergencies

Experiencing serious injury abroad isn’t the only reason to have travel insurance.

Here are just a few real-life examples of less serious incidents that can happen while travelling and travel insurance can help with:

  • Elizabeth (name changed) was packing her suitcase in Canada, heading to a new destination. As can so easily happen, she stumbled while moving items and fell on a pair of scissors. The total cost of treatment for this relatively minor injury? A whopping $1115CAD! The insurer reimbursed Elizabeth for the full amount
  • My friend Linda from Retired and Travelling wanted an inhaler to help with potential low air quality in India. Back home in Canada, these inhalers usually cost around $30. One short visit to a cruise ship doctor and $400USD later, Linda had an inhaler sorted. Linda’s insurance company paid her back the full amount after a claim
  • While on a two year working holiday in Canada, Jason (name changed) had two separate incidents requiring medical attention. He first dropped a weight on his foot in the gym. The second time, he pushed back a chair to get up and the chair legs fell down a step behind him. Putting out a hand to stop the fall, Jason ended up breaking his wrist. A simple fracture but a not-so-simple $634CAD medical clinic bill. He was able to claim the full amount back
  • Over in Australia, Ross (from Ross the Explorer) had some of his walking gear go missing in a hostel. The equipment was worth around £100 and was potentially stolen. Not a huge amount but certainly an annoyance and inconvenience. After paying an excess fee of £35, Ross received £65 back from the insurance company
  • Only a quarter into her working holiday in Canada, Julia (name changed) has so far made three insurance claims. One was only a month after her move to Canada! A finger infection, a wisdom tooth removal and a filling later and Julia was already down around $1000. Dental treatment is not always covered in travel insurance policies (be sure to check!) but Julia received near full reimbursement for all three claims
Do I need Travel Insurance for my working holiday? - Skating at Apex Ski Resort

Examples of what to look for when buying travel insurance for working holidays and long-term travel

Each person mentioned above received some form of reimbursement from their travel insurance company. Learn from their experiences and consider the following when buying travel insurance!

  • When researching and comparing insurance companies, try not to fixate on the price. The cheapest may not be the best one for your specific trip. Something that is especially important is to read the reviews from customers who have had to claim from the policy, not just those who purchased and never had to use it. A cheap policy may save you money now, but prove to be useless later
  • If you’re heading out for a working holiday, keep in mind that a lot can happen while living abroad for a couple of years. Like Julia, dental attention may be needed. In a more serious scenario, a close relative may become seriously unwell or even pass away while you are living abroad. Some insurance policies cover return flights home in this instance while others do not
  • An excess is a contribution that insurers usually require customers to pay towards a claim. So in Ross’ example above, the excess on his policy was £35. He had to pay this amount before being able to claim any money back from the possible theft. Some insurers allow customers to pay an additional fee when purchasing the policy to waive the excess on any future claims. In some situations, this could be an instant money saver
  • Some insurance companies allow online claims. This can be very helpful for those travelling for a long time or living in another country on a working holiday. Gathering and compiling information (medical bills, proof of flights, police reports etc) can be tricky while on the road

For more tips about choosing travel insurance, check the links at the end of this article.

Do I need Travel insurance for my working holiday? - Calgary skyline

Insurance options for long-term travel and working holidays

There are hundreds (maybe thousands?!) of travel insurance policies available for people planning short trips of less than 30 days.

For anyone travelling longer, however, the options narrow down quickly. Working holiday participants (1 year +) have even fewer choices. Here are some examples of long-term and working holiday insurers:

Australian citizens

HeyMondo offers single trip policies up to 12 months in length. Coverage for Covid-19 is included as standard as well as up to $10 million for emergency medical and dental expenses.

2 x one year policies can be used as coverage for a 24 month IEC working holiday. For the second policy, you’ll need to tick the ‘already travelling’ box for it to be valid.

With Fast Cover, an initial 12-month policy can be purchased and then extended on the departure day for up to another 12 months

UK and EU citizens

True Traveller  Travel insurance policies are available up to 24 months in length and can be started if you’re already travelling.

Unlimited visits home are also allowed, with the insurance cover being suspended when in your home country. Winter sports coverage is available and there are no minimum residency requirements.

Other nationalities

Best Quote – Travel insurance specialist partnered with some of the largest and most reputable insurance providers in Canada.

For more on working holiday travel insurance, read these posts next

Insurance Options for Working Holidays in Canada

Choosing Travel Insurance for your Working Holiday

5 Myths of Working Holiday Travel Insurance

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Check out these other posts about working holidays in Canada


Monday 16th of July 2018

Nice and helpful article. Thank you


Tuesday 17th of July 2018

Thanks Nida!


Wednesday 31st of January 2018

Gemma, Thanks for tackling this submit of travel insurance. Everyone thinks it will never happen to them. Every trip we debate it and every trip we add it. Luckily my husband gets the first 40 days covered as part of his extended health coverage (the top up we pay on top of "free" healthcare in Canada !). So we only top up medical for our longer trips. I wish we could find a good multi-trip insurance in Canada that covers long trips. Thanks for including my tale in this blog post. It was one of the few times we have ever claimed and I was really surprised they paid the userous cost we were charged.


Friday 2nd of February 2018

Good multi-trip insurance for Canadians does seem hard to find, I'm having the same issue actually! I have tons of suggestions for other nationalities but not one of my own ;) Thanks so much for your contribution to this article and comment :)