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Travel insurance for Canadian students studying abroad

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Jordan Lavin

If you’re planning to study outside of Canada, you need the right insurance coverage to make sure you won’t face any major, unexpected expenses while travelling away from home. Learn more about what you need in this guide to travel insurance for Canadian students studying abroad.


What is travel insurance?

Travel insurance protects you financially against risks that go along with travel. If something goes wrong, your policy will pay for some or all of the expenses.

Travel insurance coverage can extend to the trip itself, reimbursing you for the cost of problems like delayed flights and lost baggage. More importantly, it can also step in for your provincial health care plan, covering your medical expenses in case you get sick or injured while you’re away from home.

You can purchase travel insurance from a variety of providers, and may also get automatic coverage if you book your trip using your credit card.


What does travel insurance cover?

Travel insurance covers most of the major expenses that can arise if something goes wrong while you’re travelling. Common coverage includes:

Trip cancellation/interruption. If you’re unable to travel for reasons outside of your control, or something goes wrong with your trip like a cancelled flight or lost bag, travel insurance will pay your expenses.

Emergency care and hospitalization. If you require emergency care for an injury or illness, your travel insurance will pay for your costs. This includes the cost of an ambulance and paramedical services.

Repatriation of bodily remains. If you die while outside the country, your travel insurance policy will pay to bring your remains back to Canada.

Return home of children and travelling companions. If you’re hospitalized while travelling, travel insurance may pay for the cost of your children and/or travel companions to return home. Some policies extend this coverage to pets as well.

Additional expenses. Many travel insurance policies also cover other expenses like meals, extending a hotel stay, and phone calls.


What isn’t covered by travel insurance?

There are a few things travel insurance doesn’t cover:

Pre-existing conditions. Travel medical insurance does not extend to any pre-existing conditions unless they have completely resolved. For example, you won’t be covered for a heart attack if you take blood pressure medication. 

Expenses outside of your coverage window. This includes expenses that occur before and after your coverage dates, as well as outside of the specific geographic area to which your policy applies.

Expenses above your coverage limit. While most policies are very generous with limits of up to $10-million, you won’t be covered for any expenses in excess of your limit.

Non-approved expenses. Except in extreme circumstances, you will need your insurance company’s approval before receiving medical treatment.


Do I need travel insurance to study abroad?

While travel insurance isn’t legally required for Canadians studying abroad, it is strongly recommended as most provincial health plans offer no coverage if you need medical care outside the country. Without proper insurance, you may be forced to make serious compromises on necessary health care. 

Especially in the United States, the cost of emergency care can be catastrophic. According to the US-based healthcare cost comparison website MDsave, the average cost of kidney stone removal is $14,532 USD, appendectomies average $17,897, and surgery to repair a broken arm runs $21,808 USD. In the US, you can even be refused treatment until you can prove your ability to pay.

Wherever you’re planning to study, note that you may have access to health care and/or more affordable health insurance as an international student. If that’s the case, travel insurance may not be necessary for you.

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Do I need travel insurance to study in another Canadian province?

If you’re planning to attend post-secondary education in another province, you likely don’t need travel medical insurance. Thanks to provisions under the Canada Health Act, each province and territory must continue to provide coverage to residents while they’re temporarily away from home. As long as you’re studying at a recognized post-secondary institution within Canada, you will likely be exempt from any time limits or waiting periods.

You should, however, look into coverage for extended medical needs like dentistry and prescription drugs. If you don’t have adequate coverage under a family member’s plan, you may be able to get coverage through your school.


Can I use my credit card’s travel insurance coverage?

Many rewards credit cards offer emergency medical insurance when you book the full cost of a trip using the credit card. However, this coverage is intended for short-term vacations and isn’t likely to provide adequate coverage while studying abroad. For example, the Scotiabank Gold American Express Card offers travel emergency medical insurance for up to 25 consecutive days, while the TD Aeroplan Visa Infinite Card covers travellers for a maximum of 21 days.

Your credit card may, however, provide adequate trip cancellation insurance for your travel to and from school. Both of these cards offer excellent trip cancellation/interruption insurance that extends to flight delays and lost baggage.

VISIT: The best travel credit cards in Canada for 2022


Do I need travel insurance as an international student in Canada?

If you’re planning to attend university in Canada, you likely don’t need travel medical insurance because local programs are available that provide excellent coverage.

In Ontario, international students are required to enroll in the University Health Insurance Plan, a not-for-profit health insurance plan created by Ontario’s universities. In British Columbia, study permit holders are assessed a monthly fee to participate in that province’s Medical Services Plan.

Check with your school for more information about what insurance coverage is available to you as an international student in Canada.


The bottom line

Travelling abroad for school is an exciting journey, but doing so without adequate insurance can limit your access to care and jeopardize your long-term financial health. Make sure you have the coverage you need before leaving home.


Also read

Baggage insurance in Canada – what you need to know

How to set a student budget (template included)

How to save money as a college student

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