Wanting peace of mind from unexpected costs, we always buy travel insurance when travelling outside of Canada.
I recently spent a lot of time researching travel insurance for Canadians, primarily for an upcoming four month long multi-destination trip.
It was a much longer process than I initially expected! This post provides a shortcut to the results of my research.
I also felt it was important to list some specific travel insurance considerations for Canadian travellers that I don’t often see mentioned.
Insurance is never going to be an exciting topic but I hope I can help reduce the amount of time you spend thinking about it!
Published February 2024. There are affiliate links in this post. If you make a purchase via one of these links, we may receive a percentage of the sale.
Travel insurance basics
Before delving into the specifics of travel insurance for Canadians, I’d like to quickly touch on some insurance basics.
If you’re new to buying travel insurance, the terminology can be a little confusing. And since there is a lot of small print involved with every policy, it’s essential to understand what you are actually purchasing.
When searching for insurance as a Canadian, you’ll soon notice two types of coverage:
- Emergency medical
- Trip cancellation, interruption, delays and lost baggage
As you may guess, the first type provides coverage for emergency medical expenses while travelling outside of Canada. I always buy a policy with at least $5 million of coverage.
Emergency medical policies usually also include coverage for medical evacuations to Canada and repatriation in case of death (the return of your remains).
The second type of insurance provides coverage in the event you need to cancel the trip, return early, or stay longer than planned.
This kind of insurance typically also includes coverage for baggage that is lost, damaged or stolen during your trip.
The cost of trip cancellation travel insurance is usually tied to the overall cost of your trip. It can be purchased separately or bundled together with an emergency medical insurance policy.
Single, annual/multiple-trip or long-term?
- Single-trip travel insurance covers one trip to a destination (or destinations) and ends when you return home
- Multi-trip travel insurance covers multiple short trips (usually 30 days or less) within 12 months. It is also referred to as an annual travel insurance policy. Multi-trip policies can be a money saver for people travelling twice or more a year
- Long-term travel insurance has a loose definition, but it generally refers to a policy that is between 30 days and 1 year in length (or longer)
Travel insurance providers usually exclude pre-existing conditions from coverage.
So if you have medical conditions or are currently going through a diagnosis process, be aware that you may not be able to claim for any potential medical costs related to your pre-existing condition.
Some insurers do cover pre-existing conditions, as long as there have been no recent changes (i.e. the condition being treated and is considered stable).
Policies that cover pre-existing conditions are usually more expensive than those that do not. Always contact the insurance provider if you’re unsure.
Depending on your age, you may need to complete a medical questionnaire when applying for travel insurance.
A deductible is the amount of money you will have to pay before the travel insurance provider will cover the balance of the claim.
The lower the deductible on a policy, the higher the initial purchase price. The ductible is sometimes referred to as an ‘excess.’
I prefer to buy insurance with the lowest deductible possible. We are lucky and have only ever had to claim for small amounts on travel insurance (less than $1,000). I like knowing that these ‘small amounts’ are covered as they can add up, especially on longer trips.
Important considerations: travel insurance for Canadians
There are some unique considerations to keep in mind when searching for travel insurance as a Canadian.
As a relatively new Canadian citizen, I would have no idea about these issues if I had not read the small print of travel insurance policies!
Provincial healthcare eligibility
Most Canadian travel insurance policies require you to have valid provincial healthcare coverage for the length of your intended trip.
If you do not have provincial healthcare coverage and purchase a travel insurance policy that requires it, it is unlikely that you will be able to claim for emergency medical costs.
Each province and territory has different eligibility criteria for provincial healthcare coverage.
For example, British Columbia requires residents ‘to be physically present in BC for at least six months in a calendar year.‘ There is the possibility to extend this time, but only on a limited basis (up to 24 months once in a five-year period).
If you are Canadian but primarily resident in another country (and hence not covered by the provincial healthcare system), I would suggest researching insurance providers in the country you currently live in.
Live in the UK or EU? Consider purchasing a policy with True Traveller. To buy a policy with True Traveller, you must have a residential address and the ‘unrestricted and unconditional right of entry’ to the country you currently live in.
Starting a trip from your home province
Another important condition featured in the ‘small print’ of most Canadian travel insurance policies is the requirement to start your trip from your home province.
For most Canadian travellers this clause doesn’t present any issue. The vast majority of people start their travel trip from home.
But if you plan to visit friends or family in another province or territory before leaving on your trip, be sure to find an appropriate insurance policy for you.
This is also important if you plan to fly internationally from a different province than the one you live in, especially if you need to travel a long distance to reach the airport (or stay overnight).
If you have already left home and didn’t purchase travel insurance, look for providers that sell ‘alredy travelling’ policies.
Live in Quebec? Unfortunately, there are a significant number of insurance companies that are not able to provide coverage to Quebec residents.
I believe this is related to how medical services reimbursement works in Quebec.
Notably, Quebec is not part of the reciprocal agreement allowing doctors to bill their provinces for care provided to travelling Canadians.
Options for travel insurance for Canadians
Read on for my research into the best travel insurance for Canadians.
Before purchasing a policy, please research each company to ensure that the coverage is right for you.
Read the full policy wording to make sure that you are covered for your circumstances and intended travel plans.
Credit card insurance
Leaving Canada for a short trip? Check whether your credit card has included travel insurance coverage.
Many credit cards include coverage for emergency medical services and trip cancellation/interruption/delays/baggage.
There are, however, some things to keep in mind:
- Policies usually only cover very short single trips, often 15 days or less
- In most cases, a significant (or total) portion of the trip has to be purchased with a credit card to be covered
- The coverage limits, particularly for baggage, can be low
- There may be a cap on the total number of trips allowed per year
- Pre-existing conditions are less likely to be covered
Needless to say, be sure to check the small print of your credit card travel insurance policy before using it to travel internationally.
Some credit card insurers allow the trip length to be extended for an additional fee.
BestQuote are travel insurance specialists, partnered with some of the largest and most reputable insurance providers in Canada.
With BestQuote, it is possible to review multiple travel insurance policies at once. This saves a ton of time and effort when searching for travel insurance as a Canadian.
We used BestQuote to research travel insurance for our four month long trip.
The emergency medical policy we eventually purchased through BestQuote is underwritten by Manulife, one of Canada’s most popular travel insurers. This was a huge selling point for me since we’ve used Manulife before (and we had a successful claim).
The policy sold through BestQuote had lower medical coverage ($5 million vs. $10 million) than the one listed on Manulife’s website, but the price was significantly lower.
Since we were going to SE Asia (where medical costs are lower), I was fine with the reduced amount.
Long-term travel insurance for Canadians
- SafetyWing – single trips up to 1 year, 4-week subscription policy also available. Can only buy after leaving Canada. Note the low amount of medical coverage.
- HeyMondo – single trips up to 1 year, policies can be started from abroad, multi-trip policies are also available for up to 60 days. They claim to offer no out-of-pocket medical expenses
- World Nomads – single trips up to 1 year (purchase multiple for a longer trip), policies can be started from abroad. More than 150+ activities are covered as standard
Other insurers offering policies for Canadians
I have ordered these travel insurance providers from low to high cost, based on our own quotes.
- TravelGuard – single trips up to 1 year, multi-trip policies also available
- TuGo – single trips up to 1 year, multi-trip policies also available
- Blue Cross – single trips up to six months, multi-trip policies also available
- Manulife – single trips up to 1 year, multi-trip policies also available
- Allianz – single trips up to 1 year, multi-trip policies also available
- BCAA – single trips up to 1 year, multi-trip policies also available (BC residents only)
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One half of the Canadian/British couple behind Off Track Travel, Gemma is happiest when hiking on the trail or planning the next big travel adventure. JR and Gemma are currently based in the beautiful Okanagan Valley, British Columbia, Canada