Insurance When Travelling: Protecting Yourself From the  Unexpected


Flight cancellations, health issues, water damage at home, car accidents . . . a lot can go wrong during a trip! To help prepare for the unexpected, you can look into travel insurance and check your home and car insurance policies before you leave.

Travel insurance

It might be worthwhile to buy travel insurance for your trip, depending on your situation.

In most cases, travel insurance offers different types of coverage including:

  • emergency health care insurance,
  • trip cancellation insurance,
  • baggage and flight delay insurance, and
  • compensation for serious injuries or death when travelling.

Many insurance companies let you personalize your travel insurance, which means you can choose certain types of coverage and not others.

Before buying any coverage, however, you should check whether you already have travel insurance without realizing it, such as travel insurance through a group insurance plan at work. Some credit cards also provide travel insurance. If your credit card provides such coverage, you can find out exactly what is covered and any conditions that apply.

If you do decide to buy travel insurance, keep in mind that the type of coverage, restrictions, and exclusions can vary a lot between insurance companies.

Emergency health insurance

If you receive medical services from a doctor outside Quebec, the Régie de l’assurance maladie du Québec (RAMQ or Quebec medicare) may refund certain amounts. However, it won’t pay more than the applicable rates in Quebec. Since medical care is often more expensive outside the province, you may end up with a hefty bill if you don’t have travel insurance.  

If you require hospital services outside Quebec, the amount of the refund depends on whether you’re travelling within or outside Canada. Hospital services are all the services you receive during a visit to a healthcare centre but do not include doctor’s, dentist’s, or optometrist’s fees. Nursing care, the hospital room, and medication administered while hospitalized are included.

If you’re travelling within Canada, the RAMQ will refund the cost of the hospital services. But if you’re travelling outside Canada, your hospital bill can be very expensive, and the RAMQ will refund hospital fees for emergencies only (for example, an accident or sudden illness), up to a maximum of $100 per day.

Travel insurance that includes healthcare outside of Canada usually covers the portion of the fees for emergency care that the RAMQ doesn’t cover.

Travel insurance sometimes includes services that the RAMQ doesn’t cover at all. For example, the RAMQ doesn’t refund you for medication bought in a pharmacy outside Quebec, nor does it pay for emergency transportation. Travel insurance may cover these costs, as well as the cost of getting you back home if necessary.  

Important! Let your insurance provider know if you’ve had surgery, experienced symptoms of, or received a diagnosis of a health problem before your departure,and you should ask whether your coverage will still be valid in the event of a complication related to this health problem during your trip. As a general rule, travel insurance only covers health costs in an emergency if you weren’t aware of the condition at the time of departure.

Note: If you are in a car accident, the Société de l’assurance automobile du Québec (Quebec automobile insurance board) may compensate you for costs not covered by the RAMQ.

Trip cancellation insurance

If you make your reservation with a travel agency in Quebec, you benefit from certain protections if the agency cancels the trip, even if you don’t have cancellation insurance:

  • The agency must provide a document explaining the cancellation terms; however, these terms can also be explained verbally if you buy your trip less than seven days before departure.
  • A travel agency usually can’t cancel a trip with less than seven days’ notice.
  • The Compensation Fund for Customers of Travel Agents may compensate you if something goes wrong. For example, they might provide a refund in the event of a strike or storm, if your travel agency files for bankruptcy or can’t provide what was advertised. To obtain a refund, you must have purchased your trip from an agency holding a valid licence from the Office de la protection du consommateur (consumer protection bureau) (link is in French only).

If you reserved a plane ticket directly from an airline and the airline cancels the flight, you can check the obligations of airlines concerning cancelled flights.

If you have to cancel your flight (for example, due to illness, a death in the family, if you change your mind) and you don’t have trip cancellation insurance, you generally won’t get a refund from your travel agency or the airline. To receive a refund, your contract or ticket must state that your situation entitles you to one.

You can buy cancellation insurance to cover financial losses resulting from the cancellation of a trip or a flight. This type of coverage may or may not be included in a more comprehensive travel insurance policy. You can check whether your cancellation insurance will compensate you for financial loss if you cancel your trip, as well as the maximum amount it would pay. This type of coverage varies between insurance companies.

Did you know?

Some credit cards offer coverage similar to cancellation insurance. Credit cards sometimes only protect the cardholder, only cover trips of a maximum length, or specify a refund limit. You can check whether you’re covered by your credit card and how much they’ll refund before deciding whether to purchase travel insurance. You generally have to pay for your trip using your credit card to benefit from coverage under the card.

Insurance for flight delays and baggage issues

In Canada, airlines have obligations toward their customers in the event of flight delays. This means you might receive a refund or be rescheduled on another flight if your flight is delayed.

Travel insurance can cover flight delays even if the airline isn’t at fault (for example, you may have access to an airport lounge or be entitled to a hotel room).

There are also rules for lost or delayed baggage, and travel insurance can provide compensation in these situations. Some insurance also refunds the cost of replacing identification documents.

Cancelling your travel insurance

If you buy insurance online without going through an insurance representative, you can cancel it within ten days of receiving your contract and receive a full refund.

However, you can’t cancel your travel insurance in the following cases:

  • The insurance expires within ten days of buying the insurance;
  • You’ve already left on your trip at the time you wish to cancel the insurance.

Home insurance: peace of mind while you’re away

Aside from problems you may encounter with flight delays and during your trip, the unexpected can happen back home.

You must inform your home insurance provider if you’ll be away for more than 30 consecutive days and your home will be unoccupied during that time.

Even if you are away for less than 30 days, you still have to take some precautions to prevent problems during your absence. Most insurance contracts include exclusions that apply when your home is unoccupied for several days. For example, your contract may state that your home must be heated and that someone must stop by every day to check that your heating is on if you’re away during the winter. Your insurer may not cover water damage caused by frozen pipes while you’re away.

Driving outside Quebec

If you are planning to drive during your trip, you have to think about whether you’ll be covered in case of an accident. Several factors must be considered: Will you be driving your own car or a rental? If you’ll be driving a rental, do you have automobile insurance in Quebec? Does your credit card offer protection in case of a collision? What coverage, if any, does the car rental contract include?

Compensation for your injuries

If you live in Quebec, the Société d’assurance automobile du Québec (Quebec automobile insurance board or SAAQ) may compensate you for injuries from an accident that occurred outside the province, whether or not you’re responsible for the accident. To be eligible, you must not be away for more than six months (182 days).

Contact the SAAQ as soon as possible if you’re in an accident outside Quebec.

Injuries to others and damage when driving your own car

If you drive your own car in another Canadian province or the United States, your Quebec car insurance will cover injuries and other damage you may cause to another person in the event of an accident.

Important! If you should cause an injury to another person while driving outside the province, the coverage of your Quebec car insurance may not be sufficient, and the (SAAQ) does not compensate someone you injure while driving outside the province. (The SAAQ does provide compensation to victims for accidents that occur in Quebec.) The SAAQ recommends insurance coverage of at least $2 million when driving outside the province.

If you’ll be driving outside Canada or the United States with your own car, make sure you have an insurance policy that would compensate victims of an accident you cause. Check with your insurance provider or contact the Groupement des assureurs automobiles (association of car insurers).

Other injuries and damage when renting a car  

If you rent a car in the United States or another Canadian province, the car rental company usually provides compensation for injuries and other damage you may cause to another person. It’s important to check what your rental contract provides in this situation when you rent the car.

If you rent a car outside the United States and Canada,contact the Groupement des assureurs automobiles about the rules on compensation for injury and other damage you may cause to another person.

For damage to a rental car, the situation depends on whether you have a car in Quebec:

  • If you have a car in Quebec but rent a vehicle during your trip, you can ask your car insurance provider for additional coverage for damage to the leased vehicle. This additional coverage – called “Endorsement 27”  – protects you and your spouse in Canada and the United States only; however, you should check whether the maximum coverage for this type of damage is higher than the value of the rental car.
  • If you don’t have a car in Quebec, you can purchase a “Collision Damage Waiver” from the rental company. This option can avoid having to pay the rental company for damage you may cause to the rental car.
  • You can also purchase a Collision Damage Waiver if you have a car in Quebec but are renting a vehicle outside Canada or the United States.

Did you know?

Your credit card may offer a Collision Damage Waiver. Check whether you’re covered for car rentals outside Quebec.

If your credit card offers this option, you generally have to use that card to pay for the car rental to benefit from this coverage. You should also check any limitations on coverage offered by the credit card company, such as geographical restrictions (e.g., the countries you can drive in) or restrictions as to the type of vehicle (e.g., luxury car, truck, etc.).