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Guide to COVID-19 Travel Insurance for Canadians

COVID-19 travel insurance has become a necessary evil when you consider travelling outside of your home country. For a variety of reasons, purchasing a policy that covers all of the possible risks when travelling is more important during a pandemic than ever before.

Today, let’s explore your options for COVID-19 travel insurance as a Canadian traveller.

What Is COVID-19 Travel Insurance?

If you’re an adult, you are probably familiar with purchasing insurance. Whether it be for your car or home, when you become an adult, it becomes an added expense that is just part of life.

While COVID-19 travel insurance is optional, it’s probably a good idea to have based on all of the stories we’ve heard recently of people being forced to quarantine in a foreign country due to a positive COVID-19 test.

Unfortunately, when that happens, you are personally liable to cover all of your additional accommodation and food expenses – and that’s where travel insurance helps.

While there is insurance to cover illness and emergency medical emergencies while on vacation abroad (typically called emergency travel medical insurance), COVID-19 travel insurance only covers issues directly related to COVID-19.

So, if you fall and break your leg while on vacation and you only have a policy that covers COVID-19 related expenses, you wouldn’t have a valid claim with the insurance company.  

At the time of writing, most of the COVID-19 insurance policies also include emergency travel medical insurance, but you should never assume it does and always read over your policy carefully. 

What Does COVID-19 Travel Insurance Cover?

What you are purchasing is trip interruption insurance directly related to COVID-19. Some of the items covered with this type of insurance typically include the following:

  • Return travel home: In the event that you are forced to stay in a country for longer than expected due to quarantine requirements, you will need to change your flight plans. While we have heard of airlines being somewhat flexible in rebooking your flight, this insurance provides some added coverage to pay for a return flight home.
  • Accommodation and meal costs: You may be required to quarantine up to 14 days depending on the country you are visiting. This rider in the COVID-19 policy covers your expenses related to accommodation and food costs while quarantining. 

There may be additional coverage included, especially if your policy also includes emergency travel medical coverage. Effectively, what you are purchasing is peace of mind in the event that you contract COVID-19 while abroad and need some help paying for your trip home or the quarantine hotel you are forced to pay for.

Mystique Santorini

What Doesn’t COVID-19 Travel Insurance Cover?

Each policy is going to differ, but there are some common exclusions related to any type of insurance and some specific ones that are directly related to COVID-19.

It’s important to read your policy carefully and not to make any assumptions, but here are some common exclusions that I have seen across multiple policies:

  • Pre-existing conditions: A common exclusion is a pre-existing health condition. This includes, but is not limited to, heart and lung conditions that require medication or equipment to keep under control. This is typically an exception directly related to emergency travel medical insurance and not the COVID-19 policy.
  • Quarantine at home: If you are forced to quarantine while in Canada, those expenses are not typically covered.
  • Travel under “Avoid all travel”: The Government of Canada issues four levels of travel advisories. Currently, all countries are listed as Level 3 Avoid non-essential travel, but this will be downgraded to a Level 2 – Practise special precautions as of February 28, 2022. If the Government of Canada issues a Level 4 Avoid all travel notice, your policy will not be valid if you choose to travel. For most policies, insurance is valid for Level 3 and Level 2 notices, but be sure to read your policy to ensure that this is the case.
  • Cruises: Most policies have a special exclusion for cruises, so any COVID-19-related expenses that you incur while on or after a cruise are not covered. 

There can be more exclusions depending on your policy, so be sure to go over your policy with care and seek the advice of the insurance company before making any decisions.

Things to Look for in a Policy

The largest expense you will incur on a trip that is affected by COVID-19 is your quarantine hotel and associated food costs. With costs running in the thousands of dollars, this is an expense that many people simply cannot afford, so it makes a lot of sense to purchase a policy that provides you with the most coverage possible.

Most policies seem to have become standardized with an offering of $200/day to cover accommodation and food expenses for a maximum of 14 days.

If you are travelling as a family, that stretches to $400/day, assuming that all of your family members are on your policy. This means that the maximum coverage provided to you is $5,600 if you are a family that has been affected by COVID-19 and needs to quarantine abroad. 

In many cases, this amount should be sufficient, but if you are planning on quarantining at the Ritz-Carlton, this probably won’t cover your 14-day stay. 

COVID-19 Insurance Providers in Canada

Canadians have relatively few choices for COVID-19 travel insurance. I was able to find three companies offering this type insurance, and their unique coverages are as follows:

  • Manulife Cover Me provides emergency medical and COVID-19 insurance in one policy, but only on a per-trip basis. This means that you need to purchase coverage for each trip that you take. You can receive a quote online.
  • Goose Insurance is an app-based insurance policy that provides both emergency medical and COVID-19 insurance, but only on an annual basis. This means that if you are taking multiple trips in a year, you can make one purchase to ensure coverage for the entire year. Quotes are available through the app.
  • Allianz provides emergency medical and COVID-19 insurance in one policy, but only on a per-trip basis, meaning that you need to purchase separate coverage for each trip that you take. You must call in to receive a quote.

Fair warning, though – if you’re okay with getting your quote online and parsing the terms and conditions, you are all set; however, if you have any questions and need clarification, I wish you luck in reaching the insurance companies.

With Manulife, I made the mistake of believing that I could book an annual COVID-19 insurance policy as a Costco Executive Member. After going through the booking flow and making my purchase, I received my policy by email, only to discover that this only covered emergency medical and included no COVID-19 provisions.

It took me 1 hour and 33 minutes to reach an agent and for them to process the cancellation, which can only be done over the phone. I have yet to receive my cancelation notice, so I will watch my credit card statement to ensure that I did indeed receive a refund.

With Allianz, there is no way to receive a quote online, so you are forced to call and wait on hold. I’ve tried on multiple occasions to reach a representative and have been on hold for over two hours as I write this article.

Luckily, I have a Google Pixel 5 that waits on hold for me, otherwise I think I would have lost it. 

How Much Does COVID-19 Travel Insurance Cost?

The cost for a policy is largely dependent on age, health conditions, length of travel, and travel destination.

In my case, a 17-day international trip for my family (two adults and one child) priced out at $144.16 through Manulife and $425.00 through Goose Insurance. Keep in mind that Goose Insurance provides a year’s worth of coverage. 

(I wish I could tell you what Allianz charges, but I continue to wait on hold.)

Does My Credit Card Insurance Cover COVID-19?

While I continue to urge you to read your policy for a definitive answer, the usual response is “no”.

If you take a look at the insurance coverage on a premium card, such as the American Express Platinum Card, there is specific wording that states the policy is void if there is a government advisory to avoid non-essential travel

Even after Canada’s Travel Advisory is downgraded to Level 2 as of February 28, 2022, the major credit cards will begin to cover emergency medical travel insurance and other types of protection like trip cancellation and trip interruption, but not quarantine costs due to COVID-19. 

Other Things to Consider

The country that you’r travelling to may require you to have specific COVID-19 insurance to avoid passing on the potential cost of your care to their own taxpayers.

As an example, Costa Rica has a specific requirement for insurance coverage and requires you to upload proof prior to entry.

Keep in mind that this is a fast-changing environment and entry requirements change at the drop of a hat.

A week ago, I was strongly considering purchasing an annual policy through Goose Insurance, but considering that Canada is about to drop its requirements for pre-arrival molecular tests, the likelihood that other countries may follow suit has increased.

This calls into question whether I might face a requirement to quarantine in Costa Rica at all, as I won’t need to take a test prior to my return journey to Canada. I’ll continue to observe how things play out and mull over my upcoming year’s travel plans before deciding on a policy to buy. 

Conclusion

COVID-19 travel insurance, like all insurances, is designed to protect against worst-case scenarios. For a small amount of money, at least in comparison to the potential cost if you contract COVID-19 while abroad, you are given peace of mind that you won’t undergo financial hardship. 

It’s up to each individual to decide whether or not this type coverage is right for you. For our family, we will continue to monitor Costa Rica’s entry requirements and make a last-minute decision on whether or not we need the coverage and which provider to go with.

14 Comments
  1. Dave

    I have a few international trips coming up for the next 12 months. As I’m a member of BCAA (Automobile Club), I just used their online quotation to quote a ” Annual Multi Trips Travel Insurance ” (that includes Covid coverage: if test positive and need to quarantine, etc…). Their quote was $485 for multiple trips in a year (include USA trips and international trips). As I am 60 years old plus, so if you are younger than that, you should be able to get a cheaper rate and can also get their “Family coverage” package, that covers all household members under 59 years old. I think it’s quite reasonable. I also got a 10% discount as a BCAA member (equal to $47 discount, which almost cover my annual BCAA membership fee….). So if you join them as a member, then get their travel insurance, you literally can get the membership due (which covers your car’s roadside assistance expenses). I think this is worth exploring. I didn’t really compare with other agents’ quotes; as I think BCAA is a reputable entity, I don’t mind paying a little extra compares to other outfits. Again, go shop and compare with this BCAA quotes (if you are in British Columbia; or similar Auto Club in your provinces).

  2. Andrew

    Thanks!

  3. Daniel

    For “trip destination” do you just put in the last country you’re visiting/coming home from? Asking for trip coverage on a multi-country trip.

  4. Nancy

    And this is exactly why it’s worth using a professional travel consultant! At my agency, we sell Manulife travel insurance, including the Covid 19 policy. You have direct access to your consultant without waiting on hold 🙂

  5. Annelaure YVR

    Of course! Blue cross, the various Caa clubs and TuGo do offer coverage for Covid without buying a supplementary Covid policy. Some providers would offer coverage for cruises too which may be helpful for Paul

    1. Laryngospasm

      I have a TuGo multi trip policy as well but found out that for COVID coverage aside from direct health effects (ie. additional accommodation and food costs), I needed an added “Trip Interruption” policy. It didn’t end up costing me too much more as a multi trip policy but the bottom line is read the fine print and ask questions. With TuGo the other nice part is if you buy a policy I think you have up to 5d to cancel it for refund. I wasn’t put on hold for hours to speak to a rep either. Not trying to sell the policy and I honestly didn’t do much other research as historically I used them in the past. The Goose sounds interesting.

      1. Annelaure YVR

        It’s a common misconception that travel arrangements are covered when suffering a medical emergency. Travel medical covers you for the emergency itself but associated costs like new flights etc that falls under trip cancellation or interruption
        In this market the providers offering Covid coverage as part of their medical plan won’t generally cover non medical costs unless you buy a specific plan or option. It is evolving do much too it can be hard to know which coverage to buy!

  6. Gary K

    The Goose Covid policy has served us well as an annual plan. Their customer service is excellent with both online and phone access.

  7. Paulk YYZ

    Timely article Jacye, appreciate your research. We are cruising over the March Break and both our platinum amex credit card policy and supplementary all inclusive policies specifically excluded COVID-19. Clicked on your Manulife link and arranged COVID-19 coverage for three people for 9 days and was quoted $123, took 5 minutes. Got the policy so now covered.

    1. Jayce YYC

      Glad the article was helpful, Paul, but please read the terms carefully. You mentioned you were going on a cruise and I believe that cruises are excluded from being covered in the policy. If that’s the case, you have some time to cancel the policy.

      1. Paulk YYZ

        I had a look at the Manulife terms and conditions of the policy around cruising, and it appears that vaccination status comes into play. It seems to indicate that if you have received a full course of vaccinations, the COVID-19 policy is valid while afloat.
        Here is what it said:

        Exception: Important information about cruise travel – If
        you have not received the vaccine, this policy does not provide any
        coverage for Coronavirus (COVID-19) and related complications on a
        cruise or at any destination included in your cruise itinerary.
        This exception for cruise travel does not apply to children 11 years
        old or younger who are not eligible to receive the vaccine, when
        travelling with at least one parent or guardian on the same cruise
        booking who has received the vaccine.

        —–and the following update of November 18, 2021—–

        Exception: This exclusion does not apply for claims due to Coronavirus (COVID-19) and related complications that you suffer
        or contract while you are on a cruise or any destination included in your cruise itinerary if you have received the vaccine.
        Children 11 years old or younger who are not eligible to receive the vaccine, are covered when travelling with at least one
        parent or guardian on the same cruise booking who has received the vaccine.

      2. Paulk YYZ

        I will certainly have a look. The confirmation had no mention of this exclusion, just the pre-existing condition boilerplate.

  8. Annelaure YVR

    Keep in mind too that quite a few providers are offering Covid coverage on their main travel insurance product. This means you are covered for Covid medical expenses and other emergencies. Some au even cover you for trip cancellation and interruption should you or your travelling companion get Covid.

    1. Jayce YYC

      Annalaure, can you provide some specific examples of policies that include coverage for COVID related expenses as part of their standard travel policy?

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