Travel and Insurance: Protecting Yourself from the Unexpected


A lot can go wrong during a trip: flight cancellations, health problems, accidents…so it’s a good idea to take some precautions before packing your bags.

Here’s some important points to check with regard to:

  • car insurance
  • liability insurance
  • home insurance
  • health insurance

Car Insurance When Driving Outside of Quebec

Whether you plan on taking your own car, or renting one, it’s a good idea to know some basic rules before hitting the road.

Insurance for Injuries

All Quebecers are insured by the public plan of the Société d’assurance automobile du Québec (SAAQ). The plan compensates you if you’re injured in a car accident. This is true even if the accident happened outside Quebec, and even if you’re responsible for the accident.

To get compensation for your injuries, your trip must be no longer than six months (182 days).

If you think the amount you received from the SAAQ doesn’t cover the full extent of your injuries, you can always sue the person responsible for the accident.


Suppose your injuries are evaluated at $400,000 but the SAAQ gives you only $250,000.

You could sue the person responsible for the $150,000 difference ($400,000 – $250,000 = $150,000).

But you can only sue the person responsible if 

  1. the accident happened outside Quebec,
  2. the law where the accident happened allows you to sue, and
  3. you inform the SAAQ that you intend to sue the person responsible for the accident.

If you get into an accident abroad, make sure to inform the SAAQ as soon as possible.

Insurance for Damage You Cause (“Civil Liability” Insurance)

The SAAQ doesn’t cover injuries and damage YOU cause while driving outside Quebec.

But if you own a car, Quebec law says you must have insurance for damage and injuries you cause (also called “civil liability” insurance). You must buy this insurance from an insurance company. So, if you cause an accident while driving outside Quebec and the victim sues you, your civil liability insurance can protect you.

The law says that your civil liability insurance must meet all these requirements:

  1. It must be for at least $50,000 for damage caused to another person during an accident, and
  2. It must cover you for accidents anywhere in Canada (including Quebec) and in the United Sates.

Important! $50,000 may not be enough to compensate your victim. It’s a good idea to get insurance that would cover at least $2 million if you plan on driving outside Quebec.

What if you plan on driving outside Canada and the United States?

Make sure your civil liability insurance covers accidents in the country you’re travelling to. Contact your insurer, or the Groupement des assureurs automobiles (association of car insurers) to find out what your options are.

Insurance for Damage to Your Car

Quebec law does not require you to have insurance for damage to your own car (called “two-way insurance”). But this kind of insurance is good if you plan on driving outside Quebec. It covers the cost of damage to your car, even if you’re responsible for the accident. And if you’re not responsible for the accident, it covers your damages so that you don’t have to sue the person who’s at fault. Trying to take someone to court outside Quebec can be a real nightmare!

What if You Rent a Car?

Most car rental companies require you to have insurance against theft and damage to the rental car.

If you have a car and insurance in Quebec, you can ask your insurance company to cover damage to a rental car. This extra protection—Endorsement Q.E.F. No. 27—protects you and your spouse, but only in Canada and in the United States.

Important! Check whether the maximum coverage for damage is more than the value of the rental car (for example, coverage of $50,000 for a car worth $35,000).

If you don’t have a car and don’t have insurance, you can get insurance through the car rental company. This is found in the contract under the section called “Collision Damage Waiver” (CDW). This option could protect you in case you damage the rental car in an accident.

Your credit card might also come with this protection. This usually means you have to use your card to pay for the rental. To avoid an unpleasant surprise, check with your credit card company to see if there’s anything they won’t cover. Also check whether there’s a limit on the amount of your protection. For example, there may be geographic restrictions (which countries you can drive in), and the coverage might not extend to certain types of vehicles (luxury cars, trucks, etc.).

Home Insurance: Leave Home Without Worry

You should tell your home insurer that you’re going on vacation if

  • you’ll be gone for more than 30 consecutive days, and
  • your house won’t be occupied while you’re away.

You should also take certain precautions before leaving. For example, if you’re travelling during the winter, make sure the pipes in your house won’t freeze while you’re away. Most insurance policies won’t cover you if your house is empty for several days.

Some companies might refuse to cover the cost of damage if

  • you’re away from home for more than 4 days, and you didn’t shut off the water and drain your pipes, or
  • you didn’t ask anyone to check your home every day to make sure there’s enough heat so the pipes won’t freeze.

Your home insurance might also cover lost luggage and other losses associated with your trip. Check with your insurance company!

Health Insurance

Emergency health insurance could give you peace of mind if you have unexpected health problems. This kind of insurance usually pays for the part of your expenses that exceeds the part covered by the RAMQ. It can also cover some services that the RAMQ doesn’t cover.

The RAMQ usually covers only part of the medical expenses for health care you receive outside Quebec. In addition, the RAMQ usually doesn’t pay you back for prescription drugs you bought in a pharmacy outside Quebec. It also doesn’t cover emergency transportation.

Going to a Doctor Outside Quebec

The RAMQ can refund the cost of professional services if you see a doctor in a clinic or hospital outside Quebec. The amount you get back depends on the going rates in Quebec. Going to a doctor in the United States usually costs a lot more than it does in Quebec. So, you might end up paying quite a lot.

Going to a Hospital Outside Quebec

If you go to a hospital in Canada, the RAMQ will refund your hospital costs. The refund covers the cost of all the services you get when you visit a health care center, such as nursing care. It also covers the cost of your hospital stay, the medicine you receive while in the hospital, etc. But, it does not include doctor’s, dentist’s or optometrist’s fees.

If you leave Canada, the cost of health care can be very expensive. The RAMQ will only pay hospital costs in case of an emergency (such as, an accident or sudden illness). In addition, it pays hospital costs only up to a certain amount. For example, the maximum amount the RAMQ will pay for a one day in a hospital is $100. This amount is only a fraction of the real cost of staying in a hospital in other countries, especially in the United States.

Note: If you are a victim of a car accident, the SAAQ will pay the costs not covered by the RAMQ.

If you make your travel arrangements through certain travel agents, you might be able to get a refund of the cost of your trip if you didn’t get what you paid for. To get a refund, your travel agent must have a licence from the Office de la protection du consommateur (the consumer protection office). Be careful, though, not all situations are covered!

For more information on the Fonds d’indemnisation des clients des agents de voyages (compensation fund for customers of travel agents), go to