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The best travel insurance for Canadians in 2021

We know that travel is especially difficult right now. But alongside the latest Covid-19 travel advice and updates, we want to continue to inspire you with new travel content so that when the world opens its doors again, you'll be ready.

Stuck wondering what type of travel insurance works for you and your trip? This guide from our experts at Skyscanner outlines how to get the best travel insurance in Canada and worldwide, including ones that cover you for Covid-19 while travelling so you can plan better in 2021.

What is travel insurance?

Travel insurance is a type of protection that will cover the costs of sudden or unforeseeable events on your trip. These circumstances can range from small expenses, such as lost or delayed luggage, to more expensive services like a visit to a clinic or hospital. Typically, travel insurance plans provide protection for health and medical needs on any single or multi-city trip, as well as trip cancellation or disruption costs.

Travel insurance is essential for everyone, including Canadians. It’s something you should factor into your travel budget just as you would food and accommodations. Whether you are travelling outside of your home province or territory in Canada or taking an international trip, it’s important in 2021 that you are covered.

What does travel insurance cover?

This is probably the most complex area of travel insurance and the bit you need to pay the closest attention to.

While all travel insurance plans are different, virtually all policies should cover certain basic risks up to a specified level, and also be subject to certain conditions.

The key things you would expect to see in your travel insurance plan are emergency medical coverage if you get sick while you’re travelling, personal liability coverage, damage to your personal items and loss of luggage, as well as some element of flight cancellation and missed departure coverage.

Different travel insurance providers will cover these risks up to a variety of levels – often very distinct – and they’ll also vary how much you might have to contribute towards any claim that you make under that category (the excess amount or deductible). So, it’s important to see what the coverage limit for each of these elements is, and how much you need to pay to make a successful claim (see excess below).

For example, if you’re planning on taking your iPad to binge-watch at the beach, make sure your policy limit would actually cover a single item of that value. The same goes for cameras, phones, sunglasses. Often the limit for a single item is much lower than you’d think, especially with lower-cost policies, or the excess can be very high. Be realistic about the value of the items you’re planning to take with you, and choose your policy based on that. Also, check if your home insurance policy would cover something that happens when you’re on your trip – often it will, and that might mean you can accept a lower cover limit and save money.

You should also verify that your plan has provisions for:

  • Pre-existing medical conditions
  • Flight cancellation, trip interruption, lost luggage, and document replacement
  • Medical evacuation
  • Coverage for ambulance fees or hospital transfer when you’re travelling out-of-province in Canada
  • Reparation in case of death
  • Coverage for Covid-19 (medical and trip cancellation expenses)
snowpeak mountain and cloudy sky
Best travel insurance for Canadians in 2021

Get extra perks with travel insurance

In addition to financial protection, many travel insurance providers also offer assistance services. These extra safeguards can come in handy should you need to recover a lost or stolen passport, find a translator, or locate the nearest hospital, for example. Some of the best travel insurance typically come with a 24/7 emergency services number, so make sure you have the number with you when you’re on your trip.

Since the Covid-19 pandemic began, phone appointments with doctors have become a common occurrence. As a result, “telemedicine” or virtual medical assistance services have been added to a variety of travel insurance plans for 2021. It might be a good idea to check if an insurance plan you are interested in purchasing involves phone-in appointments with doctors, so you won’t have to go into a hospital if it’s not necessary.

Where can you get travel insurance?

Travel insurance for Canadians can be obtained through a variety of providers. You can purchase travel insurance directly online via a company’s website or app, from your bank, credit card company, or an accredited or licensed insurance broker. It’s also worth checking with your employer to see what travel insurance coverage you have (if any).

Typically, companies require that you are a resident of Canada and that you are covered under your provincial government’s health insurance plan. And as always before any trip, make sure that your passport isn’t due for renewal.

If your place of residence is not currently in Canada, note that there are nomad or expat-friendly travel insurance providers available to Canadians. Packages range from weekly, monthly, or annual plans which offer global health coverage for yourself and any dependants that you are travelling with. See the tables below for more information on insurance for nomads.

What is the best travel insurance for Canadians?

Ultimately, the best travel and medical insurance for Canadians is the one that best suits your unique travel needs. No dream vacation looks exactly the same, and the same goes for travel insurance. Different providers offer specific advantages depending on a variety of factors, including your trip duration and your province of origin.

We’ve broken down the essential details for some of the best Canadian travel insurance companies. Take a look and see what’s right for you!

What does Allianz Canada travel insurance cover?

Maximum CoverageCoverage ExtensionsAssistance AvailabilityCoverage for Covid-19 (medical & trip cancellation)Coverage for visitors to Canada (including super visa travellers)
$10 millionNo (a new policy purchase is required)24/7NoYes

Formerly known as Mondial Assistance, Allianz Global is a worldwide leader in travel insurance that offers comprehensive packages for Canadians. With a global network of 75 countries, other perks include a 24/7 call line, an in-house medical team, and travel insurance coverage packages for visitors to Canada. Allianz Canada offers a TripWise travel insurance app for added assistance on-the-go.

Note that Trip Cancellation and Trip Interruption insurance related to Covid-19 will not currently be covered by Allianz as of March 11, 2020, because coronavirus was determined as a “known event.” Emergency Medical benefits related to Covid-19 will also not be covered on packages purchased on or after March 11, 2020 if a Global Affairs travel advisory is in place on your departure date. You can read more about this here.

What does Blue Cross insurance cover?

Maximum CoverageCoverage ExtensionsAssistance AvailabilityCoverage for Covid-19Coverage for visitors to Canada
$5 millionDepends on plan24/7Depends on your home province /territory) Yes

Depending on which province or territory you reside in Canada, you may be eligible to purchase travel insurance with Blue Cross that covers events related to Covid-19. Note that in most instances, you should apply for insurance coverage before your trip departure date and for the entire length of your trip. If your home province does allow you to be covered with Blue Cross Insurance for Covid-19 related events, specific rules will apply depending on your region. Check the Blue Cross Canada website to find the restrictions that apply to your region.

What does CAA insurance cover?

Maximum CoverageCoverage ExtensionsAssistance AvailabilityCoverage for Covid-19
$5 million Depending on plan24/7No
*Since inter-provincial travel is not officially restricted, coverage across Canada applies

The Canadian Automobile Association is a non-profit organization that offers roadside assistance, travel insurance, and other travel-related services to Canadians. While membership is not required to purchase travel insurance, members do benefit from a 10% discount on CAA travel insurance. Like most providers, CAA insurance packages vary by province, from BCAA (British Columbia Automobile Association) to CAA Atlantic.

What does Manulife: CoverMe insurance cover?

Maximum Coverage (Worldwide protection)Coverage ExtensionsAssistance AvailabilityCoverage for Covid-19Coverage for visitors to Canada
$5 million (non Covid) – $1 million (Covid-19 coverage, if eligible)Yes (Top ups available for annual plans) 24/7YesYes

Manulife CoverMe travel insurance offers some of the best Canadian travel insurance packages to choose from. Plans include family coverage for up to three generations (under the age of 60) and insurance coverage for students (up to 44 years old). Covid and non-covid related events are recognized in their updated travel insurance packages for Canadians, so check their website to get your quote today.

Air Canada has also partnered with Manulife, where travellers from Canada can receive complimentary travel insurance included with eligible round-trip flights on Air Canada, for trips made until April 12, 2021. Find out all the details here.

What does World Nomads insurance cover?

Maximum CoverageCoverage ExtensionsAssistance AvailabilityCoverage for Covid-19
$10 million Yes 24/7No

World Nomads travel insurance is a popular choice for backpackers, solo travellers, and budget-travellers. The company provides coverage for more than 200 adventure activities, and the Explorer Package offers up to $10 million in medical insurance.

two people with backpacks, hiking in the woods
Best travel insurance for Canadians

What does SafetyWing insurance cover?

Maximum CoverageCoverage ExtensionsAssistance AvailabilityCoverage for Covid-19
$250,000Yes 24/7Yes

SafetyWing is another insurance provider designed for digital nomads and long-term travellers which works on a subscription basis, renewing each month. Annual plans are also available if you’d like better overall travel insurance rates. For monthly plans, the cost is $40 USD a month if you’re between the ages of 10-39, so this one of the best travel insurance options for nomads or if you’re planning to do long-term travel.

If you are a Canadian who is living abroad at this time and you are not covered by your local employer, then nomad-friendly travel insurance is essential at this time. Always check if you are covered, and know that insurance packages are available to you.

Please note that annual plans are available with most of the travel insurance providers mentioned above. While they can offer comprehensive coverage, refunds for purchased annual travel insurance plans are not typically available.

Travel insurance through airlines

Many Canadian airlines, including Air Canada, WestJet, and Air Transat, are currently offering complimentary travel medical insurance on eligible round-trip flights during the Covid-19 pandemic–most up to 21 days. You can read more about those in our Coronavirus travel information guide.

How to choose which travel insurance is best for you

Since every traveller and every trip differs, coverage needs can vary as well. Every traveller has specific needs and requirements, so it’s important to consider what type of traveller you are and what kind of trip you are taking. This will make it easier to pick the best travel insurance for you.

Things to consider when choosing the best travel insurance:

  • Are you an adventure-seeker?
  • Do you have a pre-existing medical condition?
  • Will you travel with a lot of luggage, including expensive items?
  • Do you plan on travelling while pregnant?
  • Are you a snowbird?
  • Are you travelling on a gap year?
  • Do they cover Covid-19?

For many, travel also means adventure. It can be an opportunity to try new things and push your boundaries. From scuba diving to snowboarding, zip-lining to whitewater rafting, there are so many activities that thrill-seekers try while travelling in Canada or abroad. But these activities come with a degree of risk, which is an important factor to consider when choosing the best travel insurance for you.

It’s important to note that many companies that offer travel insurance include specific clauses for high-risk activities, so always read the fine print. For example, some insurance companies will cover trekking, but only to an altitude of 3,000 metres. Canadian travellers that plan to hike to a higher elevation should make sure their policy covers them. And they should prepare to pay a little more. Remember, if it’s a dangerous activity, it’s all the more important to ensure you’re protected.

When selecting a travel insurance provider, your best bet is call the 1-800 number posted on the insurance company’s website so you can speak with an agent and share as many details about your trip as possible.

Can I extend travel insurance while abroad?

It depends. It’s important for Canadians to check with their travel insurance provider before embarking on a trip. While some trips may be carefully planned, other travel plans can be open-ended. Not all companies allow you to extend your insurance policy after you’ve left the country. If you aren’t yet sure of your trip’s length, you should opt for an insurer that will allow you to extend your policy while abroad. Don’t worry, it’s possible!

A few things to keep in mind for coverage extensions:

  • It’s best to let your provider know as soon as you plan to extend your trip. If you call after your insurance period ends, coverage extensions may be refused.
  • Insurers may deny extension requests if you’ve already made a claim on your current policy. In some cases, you might need to purchase an additional insurance policy while you’re away from home to ensure that you’re, well, insured.
  • Insurance companies can also require you obtain an extension for your provincial health insurance plan.

Do you need travel insurance for the U.S.?

Yes. It may not feel necessary for a jaunt across the border, but even domestic travel requires insurance. As the Government of Canada warns: “A simple day-trip to the United States without insurance could end up being very costly.”

travel insurance paperwork
Choosing the best travel insurance requires some research

Travel insurance for visitors to Canada

If you are visiting Canada from abroad, it’s important to have travel insurance to cover any unexpected medical bills. If you’re looking to buy travel insurance for Canada, many of the same providers above sell insurance to visitors travelling in Canada including SafetyWing, World Nomads, and Allianz. Check the links posted above for further details.

How to make a travel insurance claim

Before setting out on a trip, make sure to ask your insurer what they require for a claim. Here are a few best practices you should know before you go:

  • Carry details of your insurance policy with you. Tell your travel companion and/or someone at home how to contact your provider.
  • If you need medical attention, contact your insurer as soon as possible.
  • Scan and safeguard receipts and paperwork from any unexpected costs incurred on your trip.
  • If an airline loses your luggage, report to the airline and your insurer right away. Be sure to read the airline’s baggage rules, too.
  • In the event of theft, make sure to report it to the local police within 24 hours. This is good practice if you are a victim of any type of crime. Also, if you ever feel unsafe, it doesn’t hurt to contact your local Canadian Embassy or Consulate.

Travel insurance jargon buster

Do you know your ‘exclusions’ from your ‘excesses?’ If insurance jargon seems like a different language to you, don’t fret. We’ve decoded the lingo and explained travel insurance terminology, so you know what the terms mean before you choose your policy. 

Area of cover specifies the geographic locations in which your insurance policy applies. So, if your insurance says its area of cover is the United Kingdom, this includes England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland, Isle of Man and the Channel Islands of the UK. If it says ‘worldwide’, the world is your oyster. Watch out for exclusions in your area of cover.

Where you or your travel supplier(s) cancel all or part of your trip. This could be where the airline or tour operator has chosen to cancel, or where you’ve decided to do so, such as where you can’t travel anymore for a medical or personal reason.

A claim is when you ask your insurer to pay for something covered under your insurance policy.

Curtailment means if you have to cut your trip short because of specific reasons, including sudden, unexpected illness or injury or an ill or recently departed family member. These reasons will be stipulated in your policy, so be sure to check.

Excess (sometimes referred to as deductible) is the amount of money you, as the policyholder, pay towards a claim, stipulated in your travel insurance plan. A deductible is the amount your claim needs to exceed before any amount can be claimed, and only the amount above that is recovered.

Exclusions are things your travel insurance will not cover. These should be clearly set out in your policy documents. 

Financial failure of a supplier means bankruptcy, administration or liquidation.

Force majeure means an unexpected event, occurrence or disaster that happens outside of your control.

This is what you’re covered for if, for some reason, you incur a legal liability on your trip. For example, if you accidentally injure someone on holiday and they bring a claim for damages against you, this is what protects you.

A medical condition which the insured person has at the time when you took out the policy. You should declare any conditions you’re aware of at the time you take the policy out. This might mean you need to look at specialist insurers that will give you the cover you need. This would usually also include ‘undiagnosed conditions.’

If you become ill on your trip and your insurer needs to get you home for treatment. 

A medical condition you have at the time you take out your policy that’s either being investigated or not yet diagnosed. Unfortunately, if something happens while you’re away that relates to an undiagnosed condition, it’s also unlikely to be covered.

Travel insurance for Canadians: Frequently asked questions

Is travel insurance worth getting?

Although travel insurance may seem like an extra cost upfront, it can potentially reimburse you for thousands (sometimes many thousands) of dollars for unexpected medical bills and costs related to trip cancellation. It’s an investment worth making!

Can you purchase travel insurance after booking?

Yes, you can purchase travel insurance after booking your trip. That said, it’s always best to purchase travel insurance as early as possible or you may miss out on certain benefits.

Can I buy travel insurance while abroad?

Yes. You don’t need to be at home or within your country of residence to buy travel insurance. Many insurance companies allow you to buy it from abroad, but there may be a waiting period of a couple of days from the time you buy the policy until the coverage starts.

Best travel insurance Canada: key takeaways

At its best, travel insurance is not a glamourous cost to incur, and you might never need to use it. All the same, it is something that you shouldn’t travel without. One of the great joys travel brings is spontaneity, but that can manifest in unpleasant surprises too, so it’s best to be prepared. Before purchasing insurance, get informed on exactly what you need for your specific trip. You’ll thank yourself later.

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This page is meant for general guidance only, and all the travel insurance information posted here was up-to-date as of January 27, 2021. Remember to always check the latest government requirements before booking a trip.