Choosing the right travel insurance for Canadians

In Nomad Life by VirginieLeave a Comment

Choosing the right travel insurance can be very confusing. I know, I’ve been there. What kind of insurance do you need? What kind of coverage? Which company do you choose? Where do you find insurance for long-term traveling/expat?

I don’t promise I have all the answers, but I can help you a lot figuring it all out. This is made for Canadians.

I don’t guarantee that the information is accurate. Double check everything I say before buying insurance. The laws in provinces can change. It is your responsibility to make sure of that.

How long are you leaving for?

The first question you have to ask yourself is how long you will be leaving. From the time you leave your home province and when you’ll be back in your home province.

A Few Days

Consider looking at your credit cards. They can usually cover you for a short trip. I’m with CIBC and my credit card can cover me for 15 days for “out-of-province emergencies”. This is good enough for a two weeks vacation.

A Few Weeks

If you’re leaving for longer than what you are assured on your credit card, then it’s time to look at your bank. They have other plans to offer you, depending on how long you are leaving for. They are usually a good option. Make sure you take a look at what you are covered for. I’ll talk about this a bit later.

A Few Months

This is the part where it gets tricky for us Canadians. You will only be able to get a travel insurance if you are still under your provincial health care. Why is that? Because if you get sick/have an accident while you are abroad, your provincial healthcare is going to be the one paying most of the bills. The insurance company is only going to pay the extra.

Every province has different laws when it comes to know if you are still covered or not. It’s very important that you take a look at that before leaving. Even if you are covered for 95% of your trip, you probably won’t be able to get a normal travel insurance.

Here is how to know if you are covered or not:


Under the Alberta Health Care Insurance Regulation and the Alberta Health Care Insurance Act, a person is considered “temporarily absent from Alberta” if the person:

  1. Stays in another province or territory for a period that will not exceed 12 consecutive months, or
  2. Stays outside Canada for a period that will not exceed 6 consecutive months, and the person intends to return to and maintain permanent residence in Alberta on the conclusion of the stay outside Alberta

If you are physically present in Alberta for at least 183 days in a 12 month period, you remain eligible for continued AHCIP coverage. (Source)

British Colombia

Residents who will be absent from B.C. for six months or more in a calendar year, need to contact Health Insurance BC to confirm continued eligibility and discuss options for continued MSP coverage that may be available during an absence. (Source)


If you are planning to reside outside of Manitoba for an extended period for the purposes of vacation or an extended travel leave, you can be absent from the province for up to seven months and remain eligible for Manitoba Health, Healthy Living and Seniors coverage.  (Source)

New Brunswick

If you are an established New Brunswick resident, you may be temporarily absent from New Brunswick for up to 212 days (consecutive or not) in a 12 month period without it affecting your coverage, provided your intention is to resume permanent residence in New Brunswick. (Source)

Newfoundland and Labrador

To ensure that coverage remains intact while outside Newfoundland and Labrador, an Out-of-Province Coverage Certificate should be obtained from Medical Care Plan (MCP). This provides a maximum of twelve months’ out-of-province coverage to eligible beneficiaries, with the following qualifications:

  • Beneficiaries leaving for vacation purposes may receive an initial Out-of-Province Coverage Certificate for up to twelve months’ coverage. The normal four-month residency requirement must be met immediately following their return to Newfoundland and Labrador. Further Out-of-Province Coverage Certificate’s will only be issued to provide up to eight months’ coverage. (Source)
Nova Scotia

Once deemed a resident for MSI coverage and ordinarily present (physically present in Nova Scotia for 183 days in every calendar year), you may retain coverage while temporarily absent for up to one year, provided you intend to return permanently to Nova Scotia. (Source)


You may be out of the province for up to 212 days in any 12-month period and still maintain your Ontario health insurance coverage provided that you continue to make Ontario your primary place of residence. (Source)


The period of coverage will vary according to the circumstances surrounding your temporary absence.  For example, persons absent each year for winter vacations and similar situations involving regular absences, must reside in PEI for at least six months plus a day each year. (Source)


To remain covered by the Québec Health Insurance Plan, all persons who have taken up residence in Québec must be present here more than half of the year. The Régie conducts checks to ensure compliance. Specifically, your total number of days of absence in a given calendar year must be less than 183 (absences of 21 days or less do not count). (Source)


Under certain circumstances, you may retain limited coverage while away by providing you intend to return to Saskatchewan to live.

You are required to notify Health Registries when you will be on an extended absence of more than six months. (Source)

In most provinces, you can get a 1-2 years exemption every 5-7 years. Check out the websites to see if it’s something you can/should do!

If you are covered, then you are lucky enough to be able to get a standard travel insurance! If you aren’t, though, you’ll need and expat insurance.

Expat Insurance

Once you are not covered anymore by your provincial health care system, what you have to look for is Expat Insurance. It basically means that instead of sending the bill to your province, your insurance company is going to pay for everything. Which also means that it’s going to be more expensive.

Our Insurance

Since we were still covered for our trip to Costa Rica/Mexico, we choose to go with Ingle International. We were a bit last-minute when buying our insurance and it was very stressful to know if we were still covered or not by our provincial healthcare. We kept calling the ladies at the Customer Support and they were so nice with us. Another problem we had was that we bought it in Quebec. I was in my home province, so it wasn’t a problem, but since Chris was from Saskatchewan, he had to get another plan.

I am insured under the TU Freedom Emergency Medical.  With all our trips to the doctors, I am still waiting to see how much I am going to get back.

Read the fine prints


You are going to sign that contract and if you don’t read it, then it’s your problem.  You have to know what is covered and what is not. Here are some examples as of why you would want to read the fine prints:

  • If you are pregnant
  • If you already have a medical condition
  • If you are going to do extreme sports (like scuba diving, white river rafting, etc. It really depends on each plan.)

Also, you might want to be aware of the services you can receive. Do you have a dental coverage? Could you go to a chiropractor? How much are you covered for those services? Is that something that you want or not?

Most contracts are very similar, but make sure you pay attention to every detail and don’t assume that because two are alike that they cover the same things. There might be a line somewhere that makes your whole insurance invalid. So make sure you read it a few times over.

Other kind of Insurance

You might want to add a trip cancellation protection that includes baggage loss, or a rental car insurance. You will usually find those as adds-on with you main insurance company.

Again, you can already be covered with your credit card. I know mine doesn’t have a very good trip cancellation protection, so Chris buys our plane tickets.

Same thing with rental car insurance. We haven’t rented any car, but you can skip the extra fee if you have a good credit card and put the bill on it.

Credit cards are magical when it comes to travel insurance. If you plan to do a lot of traveling, I would definitely recommend getting a good one. The extra yearly fee is often much better than paying for all that insurance and you can get travel points and free flights!

I really hope this helps you choose the right insurance for you. It’s a big mess and it can get overwhelming very fast.

Which companies have you been using? Were you satisfied with them?