Understanding Travel Insurance in Canada in a COVID-19 World

As countries try to return to some semblance of normalcy and kickstart their economies despite the ongoing COVID-19 crisis, many obstacles remain. Travel and tourism – which has been ravaged by the pandemic globally – is among the vital industries many countries rely on, including Canada, to provide jobs and contribute to economic growth.

In Canada, travel restrictions are in place to prevent any non-essential travel to the U.S. or other countries. Nevertheless, tourism within Canada is cautiously reopening, but there are many questions about the viability of travel during this time.

The Canadian government’s “avoid non-essential travel” advisory that was issued in March remains in place as a warning to Canadians to stick close to home for the foreseeable future. That advisory includes avoiding unnecessary travel to the United States. The Canada-U.S. border remains closed to non-essential travel until at least August 21, but that restriction may be extended.

Ignoring government travel advisories and leaving Canada as a non-essential traveller could result in being denied entry to the country upon your return.

Travelling Within Canada

While the rest of the world is currently off-limits to Canadians, their own country is open for business. That said, it’s worth noting many provinces in Canada still have travel restrictions in place. However, as the country tries to move forward in a COVID-19 world, the tourism sector is reopening and welcoming interprovincial visitors.

It is a cautious approach, and each province has different rules and restrictions on travel. You should remember that most regions in Canada still have states of emergencies in place and the threat of COVID-19 is far from over.

For instance, Alberta is open to travel from other provinces but advises against it. British Columbia says visitors can enter from other provinces but must adhere to social distancing and health protocols. Other provinces like Manitoba allow travel only from select provinces without restrictions. Then there’s Ontario, which still discourages all non-essential travel.

InsuranceHotline.com has compiled a detailed breakdown of travel restrictions by province in Canada.

Why Travel Insurance Is Important

Whenever you go on vacation or any other kind of trip, buying travel insurance is essential.

Canadians travelling within the country have some standard benefits through a reciprocal agreement between provinces to cover medical costs for visitors. For example, the Ontario Health Insurance Plan (OHIP) will provide coverage for residents with a valid Ontario health card if they need care at a walk-in clinic or hospital in another province.

But there are limitations to what your home province’s health care plan will cover in other provinces. For example, it does not include coverage for prescription drugs issued outside of a public hospital, ambulance services, home care, or private clinic health care fees. Non-medical costs will need to be covered by supplemental coverage. For instance, if you cancel or experience an interruption to your travel plans unrelated to COVID-19, or if your luggage is lost or stolen, a policy with travel cancellation or interruption coverage and baggage protection may help recoup some of your costs. Moreover, OHIP is not honoured in Quebec.

If you visit another province without travel insurance and require emergency medical care, you may have to pay the cost of that treatment on your own.

What Travel Insurance Covers

A basic travel insurance plan in Canada will cover many bases, but in the COVID-19 world, there are numerous variables. During this fluid situation, things change rapidly, and your insurance needs may change also. To understand what policy you need, talk to an insurance broker or insurer to find out what is included in your coverage.

Most travel insurance policies should include the following:

  • Emergency Medical. This type of coverage usually provides funds for emergencies including treatment, ambulance services, prescription drugs, hospital visits and more.
  • Luggage Protection. Losing baggage is annoying, especially if you don’t have insurance. If an airline loses your luggage, luggage protection may reimburse you for replacing lost items.
  • Trip Cancellation. One of the worst things about an interrupted or cancelled trip is the financial burden. Trip cancellation coverage protects against disruptions to your travel, such as if you are forced to cancel due to a medical emergency.
  • All-Inclusive. Instead of buying individual benefits on your basic travel insurance package, why not bundle them together? All-inclusive travel insurance combines emergency medical, luggage protection, and travel disruption into one policy.

Travelling Safely in Canada

During the COVID-19 pandemic, the emphasis on safe travel is greater than ever. If you are heading to another province, whether for essential trips or as a vacationer, be aware of the current health crisis. Arm yourself with adequate travel insurance, and take the following precautions to limit the spread of COVID-19:

  • Stick to social distancing measures and avoid large crowds.
  • Seek medical attention quickly if you feel ill.
  • Wear a face mask covering your mouth and nose in all public settings.
  • Research and learn the public health advice of the province you are visiting.
  • If you or someone in your family gets infected, seek medical advice, and begin isolation practices.
  • Wash your hands with warm water and soap for at least 30 seconds, or use an alcohol-based sanitizer if soap and water are not available.

Adapting to Life in a Pandemic 

While Canada looks to return to normal, it may be an unattainable goal. COVID-19 is not going away, and the world must now adapt to a new normal.

That is especially true for travel and tourism. While Canada’s tourism sector is cautiously reopening, it could all shut down again soon. It’s worth remembering current rules on travel restrictions can change quickly. If you are planning a trip, you will be at the mercy of the ongoing crisis. Furthermore, if your plans involve travelling abroad and you choose to disregard a government travel advisory and visit a country you are advised against going to, doing so can nullify your travel insurance policy, leaving you completely unprotected.

Travel insurance can help ease some of your concern by protecting you financially. Whether you are travelling for business and want medical protection or are looking to protect your investment in a vacation in the event you must cancel it, purchasing an insurance policy is your best option.