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When you leave your country of origin, even if it’s just for the weekend, it’s a good idea to make sure you have proper insurance.

If you’re like most people, you’re probably wondering about the difference between travel insurance and health insurance. In Canada, they’re both important.

Each offers protection for a critical aspect of the travel experience and can mean the difference between spending thousands of dollars on unanticipated costs or paying a reasonable and expected daily, weekly, or monthly premium.

Today, let’s delve into the difference between health insurance and travel insurance for Canada and show you the situations where you may need to use each one.

What’s the difference between travel insurance and health insurance?

First, let’s define each of these types of insurance. While both travel insurance and health insurance are important, each covers a different type of trip.

Travel insurance is a type of insurance that’s designed to help defray unexpected costs that may arise if something goes wrong on your trip, or your itinerary doesn’t go as planned. This could include anything from a minor trip disruption like lost luggage to a major emergency like the repatriation of your remains if you were to pass away while on your vacation.

Health insurance is designed to cover the medical expenses of people who are in a new country. This could be anything from emergency medical care to something as simple as a prescription refill or annual checkup at a doctor’s office.

Both of these types of insurance are important, but they serve different purposes. While there may be some health coverage included as part of travel insurance, it’s designed to be used in emergencies only. Typically, travel insurance is recommended only for a maximum of 6 months.

Health insurance is something that’s designed for longer-term use. Many newcomers to Canada purchase health insurance before they arrive in the country, as many provinces require a waiting period of at least 3 months before they can access a Canadian health card. During this time, it’s a good idea to purchase private health insurance, which offers reimbursement for all covered medical procedures and costs.

When should you buy health insurance vs travel insurance?

There are a few situations where one type of insurance is more appropriate than the other.

You should buy travel insurance:

  • If you’re going on a short visit abroad, like a vacation or business trip
  • If you’ll be away from home for less than six months
  • If you intend to return home after your trip

Related: Our Canadian travel insurance guide for newcomers travelling outside Canada.

You should buy health insurance:

  • If you’re moving abroad for more than 6 months or permanently
  • If you’ll be travelling back and forth from your home country to Canada frequently
  • If you would like the security of being able to be flown or transported home in the event of a serious medical emergency

Key considerations when buying travel insurance for Canada

Now that you know the purpose of travel insurance, let’s talk about it in greater detail. There are a few key considerations and coverage details that you should be looking out for before you make a purchase.

Medical emergency

While it’s not technically health insurance, most travel insurance offers some coverage for medical emergencies. This cannot be used for routine care or any medical treatment related to a pre-existing condition.

Trip disruption

Anyone who travels frequently knows that trip disruptions are common. If you miss a connecting flight or have to deal with a flight cancellation, trip disruption insurance helps to cover things like a hotel for the night, food, or even a new flight.

Baggage and personal effects

No one likes dealing with lost baggage. However, having to pay out of pocket for these expenses is even worse. Lost baggage coverage typically offers a set amount of money for the replacement of your baggage if it’s lost, and can even help you purchase necessities if your baggage is delayed.

There may be other benefits offered by your travel insurance policy as well. Be sure to read through the policy carefully before you make a purchase to find a plan that works for your needs.

Buying the right health insurance for Canada

Making sure you have the right health insurance plan for your move to Canada is extremely important. After all, this insurance offers protection from having to pay out-of-pocket for medical expenses, which can be extremely costly.

We recommend two companies to get started with when researching travel and health insurance:

  1. Cigna provides free quotes to newcomers looking for international health insurance. Get your free quote here.
  2. BestQuote compares health insurance and travel insurance options from multiple companies, all for free. Compare quotes for free here.

Here are some considerations you should keep in mind when purchasing private health insurance for Canada.

Extended healthcare

The key difference between the health coverage offered as part of a travel insurance plan and regular private health insurance is its extended healthcare benefits. Short-term travel insurance typically does not offer coverage for preventative or extended healthcare like prescriptions, medical supplies, and non-urgent doctor’s visits. This is one of the most important aspects of private health insurance coverage.

Evacuation and repatriation

Not all plans cover evacuation insurance, which provides reimbursement for emergency medical transportation costs, as well as repatriation if you need to return home for treatment. Some plans even cover compassionate visits, which means it won’t be as challenging for your loved ones to come see you in Canada if the worst occurs.

Vision and dental

Many provinces in Canada do not offer any reimbursement for vision and dental coverage. Having this as part of your private health insurance is so useful that you may want to keep it even after you get access to your Canadian health card!

Coverage area

Make sure to check your coverage area before you make a purchase. Many companies offer specific health insurance for Canada, while others sell plans with worldwide coverage. These are often more expensive, so make sure you do your research before you buy.

Whether you’re going on a quick trip to Montreal or Vancouver for a family visit or moving to Canada permanently, you should always make sure you have the right insurance before you go.

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Citation "Travel Insurance for Canada vs Health Insurance for Canada: What’s the Difference?." Moving2Canada. . Copy for Citation