The short answer is yes, you should get emergency medical travel insurance. However, the other types of travel insurance, like cancellation and baggage insurance, are optional, depending on your needs and tolerance for risk.
When you’re in Canada, your provincial health coverage looks after medical and hospital expenses. Because of this, Canadians rarely (if ever) see a hospital bill. As Canadians, our excellent health care coverage often means that medical insurance is something that we don’t think about very often, since we rarely see the actual costs of medical care.
When we travel outside of Canada (or even our home province), our provincial health care coverage can be limited. Only a fraction of medical of the cost of medical expenses may be covered if you’re sick or injured out of country.
Medical expenses in the United States can be especially expensive. Stories abound about travellers visiting the US without travel insurance, who end up getting stuck with an astronomical medical bill when they’re sick or injured. Travel insurance serves a specific purpose. It is designed to pay for unexpected costs that may come up when you’re travelling.
Medical travel insurance is really a necessity, even if you’re young and healthy. Though you’re less likely to fall sick than someone older, accidents do happen. And they probably happen more often to younger people, who are more prone to take risks.
What about the other types of travel insurance?
Though most people only think of medical travel insurance, travel insurance can also cover:
- trip cancellation
- trip interruption
- lost or stolen baggage
- accidental death insurance
- emergency transport back to Canada
- collision coverage for rental cars
While medical travel insurance is a necessity, whether you get other types of travel insurance depends on your needs and how much risk you are willing to take. If you’re debating getting travel insurance (beyond basic medical travel insurance), here are a few questions to ask yourself:
- What are the chances that you’ll need travel insurance?
- How willing are you to take risks?
- What is peace of mind worth to you?
Before buying travel insurance, check with your work health insurance plan and your credit card companies. You may have travel insurance included as a benefit on one of those policies. If you want insurance for your belongings, check with your homeowner’s policy, as you may have some personal property insurance while travelling.
In some situations, trip cancellation and interruption insurance is an especially good idea. These include:
- a trip planned far into the future
- cruises (known for having little or no leniency for cancellations)
- complicated travel plans
- especially expensive trips
- package deals that won’t allow you to change a portion of your trip
No matter what type of travel insurance you choose, shop around for the best deal. Comparison websites like Kanetix.ca can help you learn more or find the best deal. And if you happen to forget travel insurance until you’re on your trip, learn more from World Nomads, who often can insure you after you’ve left home.
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*As always, the information on this page is from one Canadian traveller to another. We have spent years abroad and have gotten to know the ins and outs of the industry however we are not travel insurance agents. If you have any travel insurance questions, please talk to a qualified travel insurance agent or broker. Finally, policies and plans can and do change all the time, without warning, so always consult your insurance policy since that is the legal document to which you are agreeing to.
*This article is only intended as general advice. Please check your own policy carefully.