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If you’re coming to study in Canada from abroad, you may be wondering whether you need health insurance for Canada.

Canada has become a hub for international students who come to study at post-secondary institutions like the University of British Columbia, the University of Ottawa, and Dalhousie University.

As of 2023, there are more than 800,000 international students in Canada, with approximately 373,000 attending either college or university. This number has increased by 400% over the last 20 years, demonstrating just how popular Canada has become as an internationally-recognized destination for education.

Navigating the process of obtaining a student visa can be both exciting and intimidating. Before you leave your home country, you’ll need to ensure you have everything you need for your trip abroad. This includes a laptop or other device for school, luggage, and all identification and paperwork for your study permit.

It is also a good idea to review your options for health insurance. Too many international students make the mistake of traveling to Canada with just travel insurance. While buying travel insurance is a good idea, health insurance is a different type of insurance that will shield you from hefty medical expenses during your stay.

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

Understanding health insurance for international students in Canada is essential to stay protected while you’re away from home. While travel insurance and health insurance may be similar, they each offer protection for a different part of your travel experience.

Travel insurance

Most of the time, travel insurance is purchased to minimize the impact of trip-related mishaps like cancelled flights or delayed luggage. With flight cancellations and trip interruptions becoming more common, this coverage can protect you from paying out-of-pocket when dealing with these inconveniences.

Most travel insurance comes with a variety of coverage options, and travellers can pick and choose which to include in their package. Medical coverage is a common benefit offered by many travel insurance providers, but this insurance typically only covers emergencies.

Health insurance

In contrast, health insurance is intended to help cover the medical expenses of people who do not yet qualify for Canadian provincial health coverage. Using your private health insurance for Canada allows international students to avoid paying out-of-pocket for standard medical expenses like doctor’s visits and prescription refills.

Both types of insurance are important for international students, but health insurance for international students in Canada is absolutely essential.

Want to explore your options for travel or health insurance? We’ve partnered with Cigna, which offers new international students in Canada the opportunity to explore all their coverage options. Click here to see which plan is right for you.

What happens if you travel to Canada without insurance?

One of Canada’s best-known assets is its publicly funded, single-payer healthcare system. Each province administers its own healthcare, and citizens and long-term residents receive a health card that allows them to access many provincial health services for no out-of-pocket cost.

However, in a number of provinces, international students are not eligible for healthcare, or will need to be living in Canada for a minimum period of time to access a provincial health card.

This means that if you were to be injured or ill while studying in Canada, you would need to pay for all your treatment and medications out-of-pocket. For the uninsured, these costs can be exorbitant.

How you can get travel insurance for Canada

You could be out hundreds of thousands of dollars if you require emergency medical care and you’re not insured. That’s why buying health insurance as an international student in Canada is so important. Many post-secondary schools in Canada require it.

Some schools even offer their own group plans, so make sure you do your research before you make a purchase. Depending on where you enrol, you may be obligated to buy into their group policy or carry a specific amount of coverage.

If your school doesn’t offer a group plan, you can do a free instant price comparison of popular insurance providers from our friends at BestQuote. Their price comparison tool makes it easy to evaluate which plan is right for you, so you can stay protected 24/7.