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Insuring a Healthy and Safe Trip

If you plan to travel outside Canada, you should get the best medical insurance you can afford - hospitalization or medical treatment can be very expensive. Canadian provincial medical insurance rarely covers the full cost and does not pay up front.

Check with your provincial health authority
For people travelling outside Canada, provincial health plans cover only emergency health services given in connection with an acute, unexpected illness or injury requiring immediate or emergency treatment. Be aware that Canadian health insurance will only cover the amount that the medical service would cost in Canada - if it costs more in the country you're visiting, you'll be responsible for paying the rest.

Buy private insurance
If you're travelling outside the country, it's a good idea to purchase some private travel health insurance. Out-of-country medical care can often be very expensive. Travel health insurance can provide protection against medical expenses not covered by your provincial health plan. This may give you added peace of mind, so you can really relax and enjoy your holiday.

When you're buying private travel health insurance, be sure to ask whether your policy:

  • has an in-house worldwide, multilingual emergency hotline
  • pays foreign hospital and related medical costs and, if so, whether it pays up front or expects you to pay and be reimbursed later
  • provides for your medical evacuation (or any required medical escort) to the nearest place with proper medical care or to Canada
  • excludes pre-existing medical conditions - get any agreements in writing!
  • allows for cash advances if a hospital accepts only such payment
  • pays for the preparation and return to Canada of your remains should you die while travelling
  • covers premature births and related neonatal care
  • covers the countries or regions you plan to visit

Carry details of your insurance with you. Also, tell your travel agent, a friend or a relative at home, and your travelling companion how to contact your insurer. If you get medical treatment when you are abroad, make sure you have all the paperwork and invoices for your reimbursement claim - most insurance companies will not accept copies or faxes. Keep copies for yourself!

Find out about the risks and where to go for help
Foreign Affairs Canada produces Country Reports that outline reported risks or concerns for Canadians visiting different countries, available at www.travel.gc.ca.

When you travel abroad, make sure you know the location of the nearest Canadian embassy or consulate.
The Consular Affairs Bureau provides information and assistance services to Canadians living and travelling abroad. The Operations Centre of Foreign Affairs Canada operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week and is available to respond to emergency calls from anywhere in the world.

Foreign Affairs Canada offers a registration service for Canadians travelling and residing in a foreign country. This service allows the government to contact and assist you in an emergency, such as a natural disaster or family emergency at home, while you are in a foreign country. Canadians can register at www.travel.gc.ca.

Did you forget anything? Here is a quick checklist of things to do before you go:

  • Check www.travelhealth.gc.ca for any travel health advisories.
  • Get travel medical insurance - understand what it includes (your private health insurance may also cover travel).
  • Write down the emergency numbers you might need (e.g., Canadian consulate/embassy, insurance, credit card).
  • Pack any medications you need in your carry-on luggage, and bring extra in case you lose them.
  • Visit a travel clinic at least six weeks before leaving.
  • Buy alcohol-based sanitized wipes to keep wherever you go.
  • You should see your doctor if the following happens to you:
    • You were ill or felt unwell during your trip
    • You become ill or feel unwell after you've returned from your trip