TORONTO – As tourism around the world resumes, experts say buying travel insurance is essential if Canadians want to stay safe and enjoy traveling abroad.

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Wendy Paradis, president of the Association of Canadian Travel Agencies, told Granthshala.ca that it is “always important” to have adequate coverage when traveling outside Canada, but even more so during a pandemic because health conditions and travel restrictions can change suddenly. .

“It’s important to work with a professional travel agent to make your travel arrangements and to make sure you have the coverage that’s right for you, as the do’s and don’ts vary with each insurance provider. Absolutely different in the time of COVID,” Paradis said in an email on Thursday.

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Martin Firestone, president of Travel Secure Inc., a Toronto-based company specializing in travel insurance, told Granthshala.ca that Canadians should not leave the country without insurance.

“You need it [for] God forbid anything other than slipping and falling for something as simple as a car accident, heart attack, stroke or stomach flu,” he said in a telephone interview Thursday. “You can’t go on without it.”

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Unlike at the start of the pandemic, insurance companies are now providing COVID-19-specific travel insurance for medical expenses, including quarantine after a positive test, but Firestone says this coverage is dependent on the traveler’s vaccination status.

“If you are fully vaccinated, most insurers are now going to cover you for COVID without a rider or extra cost,” he said. He said that companies have not capped the amount they will cover and for this the policy prices have not increased.

“[COVID-19] Being treated as any other unforeseen medical emergency. This alone tells you that the insurance companies are basically saying that the risk is not what it was,” Firestone said.

For those who haven’t been fully vaccinated, Firestone said some companies are offering COVID-19 add-ons or riders for medical expenses related to the virus. He added that this is an added expense to one’s travel insurance policy and is capped at a fixed price range, unlike those who are fully vaccinated.

However, Firestone said, most countries require travelers to be fully vaccinated in order to travel.

“It defeats the purpose,” he said. “I can get you insured but if you’re not fully vaccinated, I don’t think you’re going anywhere.”

While most insurance policies are now covering medical expenses related to COVID-19, Firestone said not all policies are covering travel disruptions or pandemic-related cancellations.

Manulife has various travel insurance options, while WestJet is offering complimentary COVID-19 travel insurance for passengers to use their services. However, some insurance companies, such as TD Insurance, have coverage waivers in place advising Canadians to avoid travel.

“If the reason you’re going to cancel is related to COVID, then from a travel insurance perspective, trip cancellation is still an issue,” Firestone said.

He added that many insurers still have COVID-19 listed as a “known cause,” meaning the traveler is responsible for any cancellations or border closures as governments have made it clear that Countries can shut down without notice.

“So your trip cancellation policy that you bought to cover your money, which has been exposed, will not pay you if your reason is that I cannot go, our borders are closed, Italy Not accepting visitors, and so on,” Firestone said.

He said this is still a “big hesitation factor” for Canadians in resuming travel and will likely not change until the federal government takes its advice to avoid all non-essential travel.

However, Firestone said some policies may cover the cost if the airline, hotel, Airbnb, or tour company has a refund or credit travel disruption policy due to a change in government travel advice. He said it varies between companies.

Firestone said Canadians “should be careful” when choosing a policy because coverage for interruption “has not yet caught up with Medicare.” He said insurers are still looking at COVID-19 as a “problematic scenario” when it comes to cancellations and disruptions, with claims being paid.

Canadians looking to travel

With many countries opening their borders, travel remains top of the line for many Canadians.

Beginning November 8, the United States will open its land and sea borders to non-essential fully vaccinated Canadian travelers for the first time since March 2020. Air travel to the US has been allowed with certain conditions.

The reopening of the land border means Canadians can drive into the US to visit family or take a day trip, something Canada has allowed fully vaccinated Americans to do since August 9.

While other international destinations have also opened their borders to Canadian tourists, the Public Health Agency of Canada continues Canadians advised to avoid non-essential travel Take extra precautions if they have to travel in and out of the country.

Will McAleer, executive director of the Travel Health Insurance Association of Canada, told Granthshala.ca that Canadians should follow three “golden rules” when choosing a travel insurance policy.

McAleer said in a telephone interview Thursday that Canadians should evaluate and understand their health status before booking travel insurance.

If Canadians have any pre-existing health conditions, McAleer said it is important that insurance policies address them to make sure they are covered should they need to go to hospital abroad.

After selecting a policy, he said, Canadians should familiarize themselves with what is written in the policy and contact the insurance company if they have any concerns.

“Understand what you are covered for or not related to COVID. You also want to make sure you are covered for [health] condition that you may have, and if you have any questions, ask,” McAleer said.

Finally, McAleer said Canadians should take into account what they plan to do during their trip, such as any high-risk sporting activities, including bungee jumping or hang gliding, that cause injury or damage. cause, and choose a policy that meets those needs. He added that this type of coverage may vary from policy to policy.

“Many of us we haven’t been able to travel for a while… that means [they] May carry some additional risk,” he said. “So you want to make sure that that policy is going to cover you in all cases.”